Swedish Car Day – Saab Sonett V4

I’m going to feature a couple of the award winners from Swedish Car Day, held last weekend in Boston.

If you were getting your Saab serviced, wouldn’t you feel a little reassured knowing that your mechanic is as big a Saab nut as you? Or maybe even a bigger one? Such is the case at Charles River Saab, where a couple of the mechanics took away prizes in various classes.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking the awards were an inside job – one look at these cars and you’ll see the quality. There were plenty of great cars at Swedish Car Day, but the two that I’ll show you over the next day or so were worthy winners.

The first of the two cars I’ll show you belongs to Ralph Bockoven, one of the techs at CRS. It’s a 1968 Saab Sonett II V4 and whilst it looks sweet in virginal white, this car is far from innocent.

Ralph bought the car in 1989. It was far from the showpiece you see today and despite the low 58,000 miles on the clock, Ralph got it for a bargain $1,000 from a very sick owner who hadn’t had the time to restore it (the owner actually passed away the day before Ralph came to pick it up).

The original engine was yanked and replaced with a 1.7 from an early 70’s Saab 96. The rest of the build reads like an instructional piece from the Saab Sport and Rally catalogue.

The engine got a re-bore with slightly oversized pistons, raising the engine’s compression in the process. Intake and exhaust ports were also widened with hardened seats. A 40mm Weber dual through carby replaced the original single throat and a performance cam was added as well. The engine also has a 2-inch exhaust, lightened flywheel and electronic ignition.

All this work resulted in a car that has close to 130hp instead of the standard 65 or so. And with a body that weighs as much as a wet bath towel, that means fun, fun, fun.

I had the pleasure of driving this car the night before the show, when we had a BBQ dinner and get together at Charles River Saab. Ralph’s son was gracious enough to give me a little time in the passenger seat and then Ralph himself was gracious enough to give me some time behind the wheel.

When I drove Mike’s Sonett III in England last month, I was blown away by how mcuh fun the little car was to drive and the way it just stuck to the road in the bends. That was good, but with so much more power on tap, this ride in Ralph’s Sonett II was another level all together.

The engine is super-responsive, sounds fantastic and is very eager to push you along. If you’re a slightly larger dude (like yours truly) then you might worry a little about accommodation and driving comfort. Worry not, however, as there’s plenty of room and the driving position afforded by the magnificent seats is just superb.

Some Sonett II owners change the manual shifter, moving it from the column to the floor. Ralph has preserved this part of the car, however, and the column shift is a breeze to use, even for a relative newbie like me.

There are a few cars in the world that know little apart from making their owners smile. The Sonett is one of them and Ralph’s Sonett is one of the best of them.

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