Can You Name this Car?

I love to play this game with friends, in which we try to identify a car based on a close-up of a distinguishing feature.

In this case from the odd-duck file I think any truly afflicted car nut will be able to name the vehicle by the wheel alone. After that I think the racing stripe gives it away.

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This rare Saab Sonett III turned up Sunday at Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, N.Y.

If you ventured deep enough into the well of obscure automotive models you came up with the Saab Sonett III. This one looks like a 1972 model – the last year before safety regulations mandated larger bumpers that marred the car’s already less-than-perfect shape.

The Sonett III was the final development of what began in 1955 as a two-seat open roadster, the Sonett I, which the Swedish carmaker designed for racing. The company shelved the motorsport plans two years later but the idea for a Saab sports car lived on and resurfaced with the Sonett II in 1966.

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The Sonett’s lines are more attractive from the rear. Aesthetically I put it in a group with the Opel GT, Triumph Spitfire GT and MGB GT of the same era.

While the Sonnet I and early versions of the II had three-cylinder, two-stroke engines, a later development of the II used a somewhat more conventional four-stroke V4 engine that carried over to the Sonett III. The engine put out 65 horsepower – less than many of today’s midsize motorcycles – and accelerated from zero to 60 miles an hour in about 13 seconds. But who’s really counting at that point?

The third version of the Sonett had a more attractive body with then-fashionable pop-up headlights. It fell short of a design tour de force but still looked good. The car also shed some of its predecessor’s quirks – Saab moved the shift lever from the steering column to the floor, among other tweaks – but it never caught on and was finished in the U.S. by the end of the 1974 model year.

The Sonnet III cost about $3,800 in 1972 and a nice example today can make an interesting entry-level collectible at $11,000 to $16,000.

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