The seventh annual Swedish Car Cruise-in took place at the XXX Root Beer drive-in, in Issaquah, Washington, on Sunday, February seventeenth, with a rolling back-drop of rain and sun. The sun would come out for about an hour, and then the rain would start up, and then the sun would return in another hour. But it did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of a crowd of that included seemingly as many in their twenties, as well as more seasoned Swedish auto enthusiasts.
You’d never have known that SAAB no longer existed as an automobile manufacturer. Hunter Ross, a sales consultant, brought a like-new 2011 SAAB 9-3 sedan from his employer Park Place Ltd. It was
surrounded by a collection of SAABs that ranged from early series 96 models through some eye-catching Sonett sports cars and various models from the 1980s.
An estimated 100 autos and one Volvo military vehicle showed up during the day, with a 50-50 split between Volvo and SAAB. In years past, Volvo has been the dominant marque, but with the SAAB factory having closed in 2011, it seems to have just created more SAAB aficionados; those who were fans, are even more committed to the marque.
Michael Mihalik, of Woodinville, Washington, brought one of two, rare SAAB Sonett sports cars. His was a 1974 series III, painted black and featuring carbon fiber wrap-work on the body and interior. Its 1.7 liter V4 engine, backed up by a four-speed manual transmission, was bored out (exact displacement unknown by Mihalik) and fitted with a high-lift camshaft.
Michael Mihalik's Sonett's V4 engine featured modifications such as a high-lift camshaft. The displacement was originally 1.7 liters but he'd had the cylinders bored out to increase displacement to a size he couldn't recall. By the way, that's just rain on the bodywork. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
The Sonett name first appeared on a fiberglass-bodied, open sports car in 1955-’57. Only six were made and they used a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine of 748 cc that produced 57.5 horsepower.
The Sonett II started out using a two-stroke engine in the 1967 model year; but a V4 was installed for 1968, due to more stringent, proposed emissions standards in America (the Sonett’s primary market); that engine was sourced from Ford’s Taunus and featured overhead valves. Originally sized at 1.5 liters, by 1973, it was increased to 1.7 liters.
There were 8,368 examples of the Sonett III, made from 1970 through late ’74. Interest is being shown for them, at auctions. Most examples trade hands privately or through collector car dealers, with an average asking price of $4,210 (according to Collector Car Market Review). When they appear at auctions, their rarity and mechanical attributes garner attention – and bids.
For example, at an auction held by Classic Motorcar Auctions in Canton, Ohio last September, a 1971 SAAB Sonett III coupe, with 92,168 miles on its odometer and in good, original condition, sold for $9,288.00. Collector Car Market Review magazine has projected that the Sonett III will appreciate five percent overall; and could increase 20 percent in value, over the next five years.
But the most unusual Swedish vehicle on display was a Volvo Laplander C304 military personnel carrier; about 8,000 were made from 1974 through 1984. Of those, 75 percent were made for military use and the rest for civilian use. Propulsion came via a B30, three-liter, overhead-valve, in line 6-cylinder engine.
The gamut of Volvos ran from a 1953 Volvo 444 sedan, through a fine selection of 544 sedans, 122 Amazons, some 140 series cars up from Oregon, and several 240 coupes and sedans; some modified, but most restored to original specifications.
It was perhaps fitting that the C304 (whose owner we never did get to meet) drew more attention than most any other car there; since as many enthusiasts will attest, vintage Volvos were built like tanks. But then, that’s one reason they’re still on the road. -- Terry Parkhurst