Saab 94 – Saab Sonett Super Sport
Model Year 1956
The Saab Sonett was unofficially known as the Saab 94, even though this number had already been assigned to an aircraft project. Only six Sonetts were built, the cars being intended as either experimental or competition cars.
The story of the Saab 94 or Saab Sonett Super Sport began in 1954 when Rolf Mellde started sketching a sports two-seater. Saab management showed little interest. So work began in peoples spare time at a barn in Asaka, some 60km (37m) from Trollhättan.
Mellde designed a special stressed-skin light metal box, in preference to the tubular frames used in sports cars of the day. Mellde’s design weighed less than 70kg.
Sixten Sason made a model that was to be taken as an original from which the glass-fibre reinforced plastic body was moulded. Glass-fibre was an exciting and futuristic material in the 1950s and nobody at Saab had any experience of it. The assistance came from SOAB (Svenska Oljeslageri Aktiebolaget) of Gothenburg.
There is one story that says that the Sonett was so-named as Sixten Sason exclaimed “Så Natt” (So nice) when he saw it. As a story it is fine but not strictly accurate. Sason had, sometime before, proposed the name Sonett for one of his first sketches for the Saab 92, but the name was rejected at the time,
On 14 October 1955 at 2am the Sonett was ready to go. Mellde and his colleagues had constructed this car in secrecy and, until that point, only the chassis had been out on trial runs.
Saab Management felt that the Sonett would be a sensation at the forthcoming Stockholm Motor show of February 1956 and that it should remain under wraps until that time. The Sonett, with it’s light-metal chassis, plastic bodywork and a two-stoke engine tuned to deliver 57.5hp and giving a top speed of 210 km/h, was a sensation.
Four engineers were involved in the Sonett project: Rolf Mellde, Lars Olov Olsson, Olle Lindkvist and Götta Svensson. Sixten Sason styled the open top Saab.
Test runs with the Sonett were underway by Spring 1956 with the car covering over 5,000km by the autumn. The Sonett project now had the recognition and approval from Saab management and was designated the Saab 94.
The Sonett was much in demand by dealers and was shipped to the United States for the Saab introduction there in April 1956.
In November 1956 Rolf Mellde received an internal memo ordering that another five test cars be built. The barn in Asaka had been outgrown so the work was sub-contracted to Svenska Järnvagsverkstäderna (ASJ) in Linköping who, in turn, put the construction of the body out to Knossverkstaderna in Katrineholm.
The first Sonett was given the registration P14000. The chassis of Sonetts 2 to 6 were made of sheet steel rather than aluminium and were completed in the Spring of 1957.
In May 1957, Saab was looking to begin series production of the Sonett at Jensen in Britain. Jensen produced the P1800 for Volvo. A combination of Mr. Jensen’s reluctance to visit Saab in Sweden and the fact that British built cars were perceived poorly by the Americans (Saab’s intended major export market) led Svante Holm to award the contract to ASJ.
By November 1957 Saab intended to produce 2,000 Sonetts each year at the rate of 200 per month each with a light-metal body and a folding roof. However, no production resulted as just before 1958 competition rules were revised to permit the tuning of standard production cars. Saab no longer required a specific sports model.
The Saab Sonett Super Sport was assembled on an all steel box frame (aluminium on the first car). The Saab 93 748cc three-cylinder two-stroke was tuned to develop 57.5hp through a three-speed gearbox mounted forward of the engine. The rotation of the engine was reversed to give three forward and one reverse gears. The Sonett weighs only 500kg in full road trim.