Category Archives: Sonett

Three Invesment Cars – Part Two:Saab Sonett III

A bit back I identified three cars for investment based on nothing but my personal bias. I chose one car under $5k, one under $10k, and one under $20k.  In this post I’m going to look a little more in depth at my under $5k pick; a 1973 Saab Sonett III.

The Saab Sonett at the head of this post and below is my 1973 Sonett III from 1977.  It was my third car purchased after a 1969 MG Midget and a 1972 Datsun 1200.  I bought the Saab at my first duty assignment out of tech school in the US Air Force. It is the car I took my future wife home in the first time I met her, the car I taught her to drive in, and a car I had many wonderful experiences driving, camping in, and caring for.  From the photos you might not think it was well cared for, but all I could afford at the time was a Kodak 110 instamatic, so the pictures don’t do the car justice.

1973 Saab Sonett III rear view.
1973 Saab Sonett III rear view.

At one time Saab was primarily an aircraft manufacturer and that fact was heavily used in their advertising.  The picture of a Sonett with a Saab jet sitting behind it.  The Sonett II and III were produced between 1966 and 1974 and 10,219 of them were produced and a subset of that total of 8,368 Sonett IIIs were manufactured between 1970 and 1974.  The first Saab Sonett IIs had a 841cc three cylinder, two stroke engine that would run on ordinary fuel.  From 1967 to 1971 they were powered with a 1.5 liter Ford V4 engine and they have always been front wheel drive.  The V4 engine produced a whopping 65bhp.  In 1971 the displacement increased to 1.7 liters and the engine produced 75bhp and could now top 100mph, or by my speedometer at the time 105mph.   In 1970, Sergio Coggiola design of the Sonett III extended the fiberglass body of the Sonett II by five inches and used the original floorpan.  The Saab Sonett III was never succeeded by another sports car from Saab although they have had many fine sports sedans and coupes, not a car that completely embodies the qualities of a sports car like the Sonett.

First I wanted to make sure that you can get a Sonett for under $5000, so I went to Hagerty to see what the insurance marketplace values my pick at.  Here is what I found:

Saab Sonett III Value
Saab Sonett III Value from

So, as we can see…. you can get a condition 3 Sonett III for about $5k, but not a great one and you are going to have to negotiate a good deal.

Looking at the same chart it looks like the Sonett III values have actually stayed flat or even gone down in recent years.

Has the market stayed flat because so many Sonett III were made?  Well, in 1967 Porsche made 4141 901 models of various variants, many more than Saab made of Sonett III in any one year and the Porsche 901 models have skyrocketed in recent years.  And of course there are so many stories of cars collected at moon high prices because of their rarity.   It seems that the Saab Sonett III was never a highly desirable car, it was a nitch car, or curiosities at best in terms of value.

I’ll probably still buy another Sonett II or III eventually, mostly out of the feelings I have about them from my great experiences, but based on what I found out, I won’t be recommending them to my friends instead of a good mutual fund.  DON’T BUY!!!  (for a great investment anyways).

Saab Sonett III Technical Specifications

Sports Coupe, two doors, two seats, 800.6kg/1,765 lbs.

Vee configuration Four-cylinder longitudinally mounted, 90×58.86mm, 1498cc, compr: 9.0:1, 68hp @ 4,700 rpm, 11.7 mkp@ 2,500 rpm

Engine Structure:
Overhead valves, four cylinder, pushrod, central camshaft, gear camshaft drive, aluminum cylinder head, cast iron block, 3-bearing crankshaft, FoMoCo, water cooled. Transmission Front-wheel drive, four-speed gearbox, spiral bevel final drive, 4.76:1

Semi-monocoque welded steel and fiberglass body, independent unequal length arms, coil springs, rear beam axle, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, Front disc brakes, rear brake drums, twin circuit braking, rack and pinion steering, 60 liter fuel tank, 155SR15 tires, 4.5″ rim.

Wheelbase 212.3cm/83.6″
Front Track 123.4cm/48.6″
Rear Track 123.5cm/48.6″
Ground Clearance 15.2cm/6″
Turning Circle 9.39m/30.8′
Length 390cm/154″
Width 150cm/59″
Height 119cm/47″

Max Speed 103 mph/165 kph
18.1 mph/29 kph @ 1,000 rpm
Acceleration 0-60 mph 14.4 secs
Standing Mile 18.2 secs
Average Fuel Consumption 26.4mpg (Brooklands Books)






Three Invesment Cars – Part One

What: Three picks for investment cars
Where: USA
Who: Anyone with the money
When:  Now 

We’ve all done it, we’ve all said it.  If I had bought that car when I was looking I would have tripled my money by now.  I’m sure I’ve said it multiple times a week for a long time.  I bought my 1978 Lotus Esprit Series 2 for a song a couple of decades ago; it was low mileage and in pristine condition.  When I was ready to sell it I took it to Barrett-Jackson when they were at West World and after commission I made $9k in profit.  The sale earned a Sports Car Marketplace magazine  comment “well sold” and they said that it set the Esprit price going forward.  Well, the prices have gone up, but I think my buyer was someone wondering why they got such a cheap Ferrari and not any great insight of mine.  But, please don’t repeat that because I use that example every time I want a new ride.

So with this post and the following two I will choose three cars using my “special investment intuition”.  In this post I’ll pick my three car, one $5k or under, one $10k or under, and one $20k or under.  I’ll give you my thoughts on why I like them without additional research.  My next post will be what I have found out from researching these cars as actual investments.  Then my third post on the subject will be where I decide to head to the bank and make a withdrawal for the big buy or where I eat my words and stick with my ’78 Lotus story.

Okay, my first car will be a sound 1973 SAAB Sonett III.  First, there are not a lot of sports cars under my $5k limit, but I think I can pick up a Sonett in that range,


I could be wrong and I’ll find that out in the research.  Swedish cars are an acquired taste, not everyone will go for a front wheel drive fiberglass car, but don’t they look cool.  This pick may be a little biased in that I owned one and taught my wife to drive in it.  They have a little 1.7 liter Ford V4 engine in them and there are over 200 specialty tools to work on them.  The headlights are manual, so they always work, the car always runs, it’s fun to drive, and you can always count on it being fairly unique outside of a SAAB rally.   Five thousand dollars is almost pocket change for a car these days, so how could you go wrong?


Other cars I considered: an early Mazda Miata, a later MG Midget,

For $10k there are a lot more cars to pick from and since I’m not using any outside resources yet I hope I stay within budget.  I’m going to go out on another limb with this pick as well… a presentable 1969 Datsun Fairlady 1600.

Datsun Fairlady 1600
Datsun Fairlady 1600

The Datsun 1600 has dual Hitachi carburetors and a 1595cc engine from what I remember.  The top flops back with a single hand, much like a British MG, but when you turn the key it usually starts, not necessarily like a British MG.  This is a more proper sports car than my SAAB Sonett pick for under $5k with a front engine and rear wheel drive.  They drive nice on the curves and can keep up with traffic on the freeways.  They turn my head every time I see them, at first you think British then you see there are no oil leaks under it.  They are solid, well-engineered cars.  Other cars I considered: a nice Austin Healey Sprite MKIII, a presentable Triumph GT6, Porsche 914 1.7 liter, Fiat 850 Spider.

For under $20k the field really opens up, so let me say up front my pick will be 75% emotion and 25% everything else.  I’ll turn those numbers around in the next post when I do the real research.  My under $20k pick is 1969 BMW 2002 roundie.  This is the car that turned BMW around and gave them the real image of the ultimate driving machine, the 3 series before there was a 3 series.  Don’t be tricked into buying an automatic, a real classic sports car is a manual.  These cars have clean lines, the engines are bullet proof, and great performance for the era of the car and a 2.0 liter engine.  The round tail lights and the all chrome bumpers give it such a classic look.  The later 2002 Tii has much better performance, but not the classic look.  Other cars I considered are: Porsche 914 2.0 liter, Lotus Europa, early MG B, Lancia Fulvia, BMW Z3 M

This post reminds me that I am a bit short on my scaled car collection as well…. no BMW 2002.