The cars we loved.
The revamping worked. Still small but no so quirky looking, the new Sonnet III was a bit wider but still smaller than most anything on the road in America by the early 70’s. The biggest styling enhancement was the switch to pop up headlights. The mechanically lever operaterd lights gave the Sonnet a sleek appearance. The low drag coeficcent of 0.31 was almost unheard of for the time and rivals many contemporary cars of today. Despite the improvements, the Sonnet was still a compromise. It’s tall windscreen from the 99 dictated a tall greenhouse that when combined with the big wheels gave the car a kind of childs go cart stance. The added headroom was a necessary feature of the small spartan interior which came only in tan nylon courdury with vinyl trim, reguardless of which of the six exterior colors were chosen. Because of the long hang over up front, the engine bay was confined to a small area accessable by a cover under the hood. The back had recived a significant update with a large flat glass hinged hatch. Previous models had a kind of three sided glass hatch. The new design was reminicent of Nissan’s popular 240Z.
There was no confusing Z car performance with the Sonet. The Sonnet III had a only a 1.7 l Ford four cylinder to propell it. With up to 68 hp, the car could manage to get up to 60 from a stop in 13 seconds and go on to 103 mph. At less than 2000 lb, the Sonnett was very tossible, much like the Opel GT, it’s biggest competior. Also like the Opel, a floor mounted shifter and solid beam rear axle was more in line with American tastes. Thanks to light weight and a four speed manual transmission, the Sonnet was able to acheve an average fuel consumption of 26mpg. Unfortunatly it’s emissions controls would have been too expensive to update to the new regulations that were coming. In an attempt to prepare for strict safety rules after 1972, new black rubber bumpers marred the original Italian inspired design. Now a bit less attractive than before and facing new EPA regulations and a oil crisis in 1973, Saab decided to pull the plugg on the slow selling Sonnet and get back to what it did best: produce family sedans. Less than 10,000 Sonnet IIIs were built in total. Few survive today, but like other Saabs, they enjoy a strongly devoted if not small fan base.
In 2004, while under the ownership of GM, Bob Lutz suggested that there could be a new Sonnett. It would be based on the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky platform. It never happened, much much of the concept transferred to the Saab AERO-X concept car. Today Saab is completly free of GM’s control, so It might be interesting to see if another car bears the Sonet name, now that words sporty and Saab are closer to being sonommious than ever before in the minds of the public.