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by Jay Traugott
Although its styling certainly wasn't for everyone, the Saab 96 was popular enough to remain in production for 20 years.
By now we all know that Saab as we once knew it is gone and will never come back the way it was. While Chinese automaker Youngman has reportedly struck a deal to revive the Swedish automaker, don't count on things going back to how they were during the automaker's heyday. During that time, Saab was not only making inroads throughout Europe, but specifically with UK buyers who weren't afraid of buying something different. No, these people (before the rise of the '80s era American "Yuppies") clearly dug quirky styling and innovative technologies.
The 96 debuted in 1960 as the replacement for the 93, both of which were based on a stretched version of the same 92 model chassis. Like its predecessor, the 96 looked like a demented jelly bean but that was part of its charm. The 96 was very similar to the 93 but Saab added more interior space, a larger trunk and improved visibility. When it launched, power came from a longitudinally mounted three-cylinder engine with just 38 horsepower. Within a couple of years power was increased to an equally unimpressive 57 hp, but in 1967 the 96 V4 model debuted.
After some internal company debate about whether to switch to a four stroke engine or stick with the old three-cylinder unit, the 96 V4 was introduced and it finally gave the car the extra power it needed. Also like its predecessor, the 96 took part in rally racing events throughout the world. The car also secured some major victories at the RAC Rallies as well as the Monte Carlo Rallies in the early '60s. More recently a 1966 96 set a land speed record in its category in 2011 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, topping off at 110.113 mph. Do note that it was in a class for stock body production cars with small 750cc engines.
Despite not being the most conventional car on the market, the 96 soldiered on until it finally ended production in 1980 with more than 547,000 units built. It was updated aesthetically inside and out somewhat during its 20 year life, but its unmistakable teardrop shape remained untouched. Now that Saab itself seems to be over and done with, this 1971 96 V4 caught our attention after it popped up on eBay Motors. This particular example has only had one owner who lived in California, so the car's overall condition is actually quite solid. Power comes courtesy of a 1.7-liter four-pot that's mated to a manual transmission.
The seller claims the engine is also in good condition without any leaks or smoke. Even the clutch and suspension are in excellent shape and with only 11,900 miles on the odometer, the "Buy it Now" price of $7,400 sounds reasonable. Painted white with a burgundy vinyl interior, this is one Saab model that every true fan of the brand needs to have in their collection.