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SkinnyG SuperDork
11/19/17 4:48 p.m.

I like it!

TED_fiestaHP Reader
11/19/17 5:58 p.m.

  I have always liked these little cars, somehow I have never owned one.  Maybe one day...  Watching your story, so I can learn more about these little cars.

Medchin New Reader
11/20/17 9:45 a.m.

Well for the first time in a long time I had fun working on this car over the weekend. Most of the time working on it is kinda miserable, but it finally feels like I'm making progress. 

After pictures first:

The best part of working on the engine is it's like a toy. I used a hoist but honestly, it's probably not needed. The trans-axle is easily a one person job to lift and carry. The engine two people could handle no problem.

Someone suggested on my blog the last time I had the engine out to just disconnect the lower control arm to swing the half-shafts out to make removing the trans-axle easier. This was an excellent idea, even more so now in hindsight that I realize all I had to remove were the sway bars, and not actually the entire lower control arm... Oh well.

Once all the engine stuff is disconnected you have to make sure the linkage is off the back of the trans-axle as well as disconnecting the trans-mount... which in the Sonett is a single 5/8" bolt... Guess since it sits on the pan that's probably fine.

This little tapered pin is what holds the linkage in. SAAB uses these in a bunch of random places around the car and they're quite aggravating because if you break of lose them good luck finding replacements. Not to mention they're threaded at each end, not really something to grab at the big end.

Another trick I've learned pulling this engine so many times is to remove three of the four steering rack bolts, and loosen the fourth, the you can pivot the rack so the hump for the linkage clears easier and you can lift the oil pan to clear the front frame brace.

Coming out... we only had to stop and disconnect stuff we forgot twice... an exhaust nut that took literally over 30 minutes to remove, because you can only turn it an 1/8th turn at a time and it's impossible to reach. And then like a genius I had P-clipped the battery cable to the bell-housing to keep it from dangling on the road (good idea), but forget to disconnect said P-clip (bad idea).

And out! The whole process start to finish took about 5 hours. We sort of cheated because I had already disconnected the alternator, belts, radiator, and other stuff that had to be removed to get the engine out before-hand.

Camera wasn't rolling for the hour it took to disconnect the trans-axle from the engine. Apparently while the starter is only joined to the trans-axle when you try to remove the transaxle with it attached, it pinches the oil pan and won't come off. That puzzled us for way longer than it should have.

But finally:

Validation! It's hard to tell in the picture but 5/6 weren't actually touching the mounting face of the fly-wheel. One is pretty obviously out about 3/16", and the rest were literally finger loose. I took out the one tight one with a wrench in the time it took my friend to take out the other 5 with his hand...

But that would definitely cause the problem I was having. So this was a fantastic relief to see an obvious problem and have a solution ready to go.

Over the coming long weekend I plan to re-clean the engine bay, clean the engine, get the new flywheel bolts loctite'd and installed (correctly this time), and install the new friction plate and pilot bearing/bushings. Then slap the engine back in and get her running! But probably what will actually happen: eat and drink too much and pass out for two days. Oh well.

tedroach New Reader
11/20/17 10:26 a.m.

Awesome project. It is great that you have stuck with it after so many years! Glad to see that you found the source of the knocking. That engine looks pretty clean on the internals. Can't wait to see that body put back on.

subrew Reader
11/20/17 2:35 p.m.

I didn't see you mention it in your post, but the flywheel bolts are torqued to stretch, and shouldn't be reused.  I've seen a quite a few loose flywheels when people reuse the original bolts.

Good luck with your project!  It is always nice to see fellow Saab nuts.

My current weekend warrior:



Medchin New Reader
11/20/17 8:41 p.m.

In reply to subrew :

I mentioned it in my blog, don't know if I mentioned it here. I know they're torque to strech, but figured since I knew the rules I could break them. Not the case. I know better now and have some ARP ones with real name brand Loctite to put back, doing it right this time.

But you would know, since unless I'm mistaken your father wrote the book I'm reading from... cause' you aren't another SAAB nut, you're THE SAAB nut aren't you? Cause that's Fast Freddy... plus your user name gives it away ;)

For those of you who don't know Subrew is kind of a big deal in the Sonett world...

Would now be a good time to ask about your refund policy? I've got a trans-axle neutering kit I bought that I never ended up needing since the new trans-axle was already neutered, it's still in the Ziploc bag you shipped it in if that helps. :)

Don49 HalfDork
11/20/17 9:35 p.m.


If you continue the black of the rocker panels to the bottom of the nose following the body line, it really changes the looks of the car and makes the proportions of the car better imop.

Medchin New Reader
11/21/17 10:04 a.m.

In reply to Don49 :

Sorry Don, that ship has sailed. I painted the car already and am pretty happy with the result. I've never seen a Sonett III painted the way you're describing and I'm not sure how it would look. The nose of the car doesn't really have a clear delineation at a body line, just the small section before the wheel arch.

And that body line is shared with the door, so painting it black I think would look kinda hokey.

Especially if you didn't carry the black to the same line on the door, and then it doesn't extend to the rear of the car. If you have any pictures I'd love to see what that would look like but I'm pretty happy with how my paint came out.

The idea for my paint scheme was modern interpretation of the classic style, same 3 part stripe but with 2 stage paint and crooked amateur line work. In hindsight I would have saved about a month of work if I'd just gotten vinyl stripes cut, and they'd be straight. Oh well this is cooler I guess and now I know for next time.

Don49 HalfDork
11/21/17 10:12 p.m.

I was. speaking of the area in front of the wheels and under the the front. It really changes the looks makes the front look less bulbous

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
11/21/17 11:04 p.m.
subrew said:

My current weekend warrior:

Sonnett III's are cool but I always lusted after the Sonnett II.  What a pretty little car.  

Medchin New Reader
11/22/17 8:45 a.m.

In reply to Don49 :


Don. My friend. I got no idea what you're talking about or how it would look reasonable. starting at the body line you're describing you'd end up with the whole front half of the car being black. but not the area where it meets the doors. It would look like it's jaw fell off! I painted the area inside the grille section all black because the cars I'd seen that were body color there looked goofy to me.

Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion but I've never seen a Sonett III anywhere with the paint scheme you're describing.

In my opinion the Sonett isn't "bulbous". The car's lines are basically two overlaying gentle curves from front to back. I like the way the car looks, that's like 60% of the appeal.

Woody MegaDork
11/22/17 9:24 a.m.

I don't sign up for many email alerts, but I do get pinged anytime someone lists a Sonett on Saabnet. I like the Sonett III, but I really want a Sonett II.


Unrelated crazy paint job:


New Hampshire Craigslist, car is in Florida...

Don49 HalfDork
11/22/17 3:32 p.m.

What we have is a failure to communicate. What I was trying to describe is looking at the car from the side, in front of the wheel well and under the side marker, blacking out the lower part of the nose. It makes the nose look narrower from the side and I have done it and it looked very nice. Your paint scheme looks great also!

garethashenden New Reader
11/22/17 11:50 p.m.

I think what Don means is this badly MS Painted image I just made.



Don49 HalfDork
11/23/17 7:15 a.m.



Medchin New Reader
11/30/17 1:44 p.m.

In reply to Don49 :

OK, that makes sense now. Don't know if I like that design but to each their own. Glad I can at least picture what you're talking about.


Anyway; despite the long weekend I didn't get much done on the Sonett. To busy eating til sickness, like ya' do. But I did go on and take apart the other trans-axle that used to be in the car. Partially out of morbid curiosity and partially because I want to use the input shaft as a clutch alignment tool and not pay for one.

I didn't take pictures while I was doing it but I'll take some of the parts out of the transaxle in their exploded state. I'll just say my assessment many moons ago that the freewheeling hub had failed was 100% correct. It does look like the transaxle will be fine after I dig out all the chunks of exploded hub, so I've still got a spare. The other issue is the good transaxle seems to be weeping around the seal joining the two halves. I'm not sure that's the case though, when then transaxle was coming out the clutch line leaked all over it, so maybe what I'm seeing is brake fluid slowly dripping off... gotta figure that one out before it goes back in the car.

I plan to detail the engine bay, clean up a bit of surface rust and get the car ready for the engine to go back in. Then it's put the fly-wheel back on, replace the clutch friction plate, rejoining the engine and transaxle. Then reinstall that little lump and get it running again. Definitely get some of that done this weekend... how much will be seen.

Medchin New Reader
12/1/17 12:15 p.m.

I come to read some GRM at my lunch break and what do I spot in the margins...

Well you gotta click on it.

Thanks Ed for the quick mention. It's cool to see people taking notice of the ludicrous stuff you're doing.

Smitty54 New Reader
12/18/17 7:09 p.m.

Thank you for saving this Sonett. You seem to be Keeping it very stock. What year is it? I thought those wheels only came on the Sonett IIs and V4s. Ineed those for my V4, interested in a trade? The Sonett IIIs usuallly had "soccer balls". My brother just sold his Sonett III, and still have my Sonett II V4, and 2 Sonett IIIs. That little space above the transaxle looks like it was just made for a turbo charger! I'll dig up some  pictures.  Smitty

Woody MegaDork
12/19/17 7:48 p.m.

In reply to Smitty54 :

Please post some photos of your Sonett II V4!

Medchin New Reader
12/27/17 12:36 p.m.

My car is a 71 (in the title man, duh!). I'm not 100% sure about the wheel availability on Sonett III's. Those were the wheels that came on my car when I bought it, and I know they're wheels there were available for Sonett's.

"Italian" style vs. Soccer Balls, I have a set of Soccer Balls that came off the parts car so I'm not interested in trading them. Plus I think I like the Italian look better than the soccer balls, plus they set the car apart from all the other Sonett III's with soccer balls. If you're searching for a set of those wheels there's a guy here in NC with like 30+ Sonett's in his yard that would probably have a set, don't know what it would cost you to have him find/pull/ship them but if you're desperate I can try to find his phone number again.

Apologies all for the slow down in this project, didn't have as much time over the holidays to work as I'd have like and now I'm sick as a dog and can't bring myself to actually go out to the garage and work.

The latest thing is the creation of this crooked monstrosity:

Shockingly nobody sells motor feet for V4 Taunus Motors. Weird, you'd think since there's such demand there would be tons of them out there... Well I need to have the engine off the traditional engine stand so I can work on the rear area (pilot bushing, flywheel, etc).

Well I built that thing out of scrap steel and bits of my old kitchen table, total cost: 0$. I've yet to make sure the engine doesn't fall off of it when lowered... that's a real concern since I chose to use the motor mounts to hold the engine to the stand. Except each motor mount is a single stud... right. So hopefully that doesn't end with the engine on the floor.

Rufledt UberDork
12/27/17 12:59 p.m.

I have nothing to add except sonnets are awesome and I’m envious of all of you 

Medchin New Reader
1/2/18 9:16 a.m.

Still getting over my sickness, I think I'm finally through the worst of it. Got frustrated not working on the Sonett all this time and forced myself out into the cold. I got about 2 hours of work done and a childhood friend I haven't seen in 2+ years came around to help. As it is with these things that turned into very very little work and lots of sitting, talking, and drinking beer. That's good too.

We did manage to get the engine onto my stand, my concerns with using just the factory motor mounts instead of bolting to the block were sort of founded. We originally left the rubber motor mounts on the engine and as soon as we took weight off with the hoist the engine rocked back like 45 degrees. So we removed the rubber mounts and just stuck a bolt through and the engine sits just about level. Good enough for what I need to do.

Another regret on the construction of my stand was the omission of casters, but I was being cheap/lazy. I also wish I'd have made some handles cause 2 people can pick up the engine and stand, it's just awkward.

Medchin New Reader
3/6/18 2:36 p.m.

Well two months later I'm busier than ever and the engine still sits where it landed. I did get the pilot bushing out and took apart the transaxle to check the seals because a tiny pool of gear oil was appearing underneath it sitting on the floor...

This is where the really bad news comes in. I suppose in some respects it's good news because I caught it now, not when everything was back in the car. These cars came with a freewheeling hub, a remnant of the two-stroke power-plants that came in the earlier Sonett II's. The generally accepted way to best modify the transaxle is to neuter this freewheeling hub, effectively locking it in the "engaged" position. Remove moving parts -> reliability/strength.

Well this transaxle that was in the parts car had been previously neutered, the process is adding a spacer to the input shaft to lock the the hub in the engaged position.

The critical part there is locking the hub. Well whoever neutered this transaxle REMOVED the hub.

The fact this is wrong should be pretty obvious to anyone confident enough to take a transaxle apart. Without the hub the input shaft becomes the proverbial hotdog down the hallway, and there's no way for that shaft to drive anything. Plus they removed the small needle bearing at the end of the input shaft... for some reason. This is all bad. Really bad. Because the problem with my previous transaxle was... the freewheeling hub exploded. So now I have 2 transaxles and no freewheeling hubs. 

The hub was never a "replacement" part, so there are no spares. Only other transaxles. So nobody ever manufactured them. Speaking to Subrew on the phone he had some thoughts on where to maybe get one; but even if we can it's not a simple fix. The hub is a bunch of roller bearings with springs behind them arranged in a circle, so without compression they go shooting out. So installation requires a special tool of which probably only one still exists (Subrew has it) but he's in Oregon and I'm in North Carolina, and he's not gonna loan me a tool that is essential to his restoration business (don't even remotely blame him for that).

I have a couple of avenues to explore to fix this problem.

  1. Subrew comes up with a new freewheeling hub, we design and fabricate some kind of single use storage/installation tool so he can send me said hub and I can put it in my car.
  2. I find ANOTHER transaxle to buy and hope that it's freewheeling hub is in good shape, nueter that transaxle, reinstall in my car.
  3. Design, build, and install some sort of replacement for the freewheeling hub assembly in it's entirity.

#1 is obviously the ideal solution, but parts for these cars are already made of unobtainum and that one is the mother of all parts so sourcing one may take a long time and be really spendy, as such:

#2 may be cheaper and faster, there's a guy in NC with a BUNCH of Sonetts and probably has some transaxles about an hour and change from me... but there is no guarantee whatever I buy is gonna be in good enough shape for me to use it. Also probably kinda spendy.

#3 seems like the best of all the worlds because it removes the hub as a weak point entirely and it's speed and price is pretty much dependent on my time/skills. I have two transaxles, so if I royally mess something up I'm not any more boned than I already am. Someone with more engineering/transmission experience can inject here and tell me why that wont work and save me some time.

All I can think is it moves the weak point in the transaxle from the hub to the axles or somewhere else. However my motor makes around 100hp in all likelihood, Subrew reckons these transaxles in stock form (neutered) can handle up to 120-130 and still be reliable, his race cars make more than that and they don't explode...

Bill Mesker
Bill Mesker Reader
3/6/18 8:28 p.m.

Hotdog down the hallway eh? Never heard that one before haha.

therealpinto Reader
3/7/18 2:00 a.m.

Isn't the gearbox and freewheel the same as in the Saab 96 V4? I would think so.

I have heard of people using zip tipes to keep the rollers in place when working with the freewheel hub.

I can't think it would be impossible to find a hub here in Sweden if need be. I might even have a contact that used to rally V4's, he may have some ideas. Let me know if I should check with him.


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