Happy 50th birthday to the Saab Sonett, the Swedish company's two-seater sports car. It took its name from the Swedish expression s ntt, meaning "so neat."
The Sonett I Super Sport was first unveiled at the 1956 Stockholm Auto Show, making its North American debut later that year in New York. Originally designed to compete in a racing series that never materialized, Saab only built six first-generation models-all of which are still in existence today. Utilizing the 'high-performance' (57.5 bhp) version of the three-cylinder 750cc two-stroke engine from the Saab 93, the drivetrain was 'reversed' so the engine is behind the transmission and front-wheel drive is retained. The two-stroke engine rotates in the opposite direction from the production Saab sedans of the era to accommodate this reverse transmission layout.
Aimed primarily at the North American market, the sporting intentions of 1967's Sonett II were obvious-since the race-winning Model 96 Monte Carlo two-stroke engine (with three carburetors) was specified as standard equipment. With 0-60 mph times of 12.5 seconds and a top speed approaching 100 mph, only 258 Sonett IIs with the Monte Carlo-spec engine were built during the two years of production. A subsequent, more powerful four-stroke V4 version brought more horsepower, more speed and a total of 1,868 cars built over the next three years.
Launched at the 1970 New York Auto Show, the Sonett III car was significantly different from its predecessor. The V4 engine was tuned for more horsepower to compensate for increases in size and weight. Styling-wise, it benefited from contributions by Italian designer Sergio Coggiola, featuring bolder front and rear sections plus a new interior. The new treatment included manually-operated pop-up headlights.
1974 was the final model year, bringing the production total to 10,236. The last Sonett to leave the Arlv factory was bright yellow. It is currently in the Saab Automobile factory museum in Trollhttan near Gothenburg, on Sweden's west coast.