I remembered a college classmate having one of these quirky and iconic little cars. A couple of years ago a magazine article rekindled my interest in this model. I started my typical search on eBay and Hemmings, only to be surprised to find not ONE single model 96 posted for sale. In spite of literally thousands of these cars being manufactured, model 96’s are in very short supply in the US.
Ironically, during my initial search, I turned up a classifieds FOR SALE page on the SAAB owners website. It just happened that the seller of my car had posted it just the previous day, and, miraculously, the car was in Belton.. a little town not more than 2 hours drive from home. I immediately called the seller, told him to consider it sold, hooked up my trailer the very next day, and drove up and rescued it.
The car had belonged to a doctor in the area who had become quite a collector of this model, but whom sadly had succumbed to cancer, and the cars had to be sold:
“Sven” my model 96, was the last year (1967) of the truly quirky 3 cylinder, 2 cycle engine-powered models. This diminutive little engine of just 848cc capacity puts out a whopping 44 horsepower. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is sufficient to propel the 1,800 lb car down the road at freeway cruising speeds.
A four-on-the-tree shifter controls the manual transmission, which is equipped with a freewheeling mechanism.. the way this works is: anytime the driver lifts off the gas pedal, the car “freewheels”, allowing the engine to slow to idle speed. A byproduct benefit of this system is that all shifts other than starting or stopping to/from a standstill can be accomplished WITHOUT the clutch!
The car handles like a dream, with a tight rack and pinion non-assisted (none needed) steering.