By on October 1, 2014

12 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI see plenty of Saab 900s in self-service wrecking yards these days, but Saabs older than that have all but disappeared from the U-Wrench-It ecosystem. I did see a truly ancient Saab 92 at a yard over the summer, but that was in the heart of Saab’s homeland. So, it came as a big surprise to spot this Saab 96 three weeks ago in the San Francisco Bay Area.
06 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinYes, Rust Belt residents, this California car isn’t rusty at all.
16 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis car has the four-stroke Ford Taunus V4 engine instead of the two-stroke three-banger used in earlier 96s.
01 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe interior has been stripped pretty thoroughly, but a few pieces remain.
05 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinMy racer grandfather had one of these cars, which he ice-raced in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1970s. Rust killed it, of course.
10 - 1968 Saab 96 Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI have informed the Freewheelin’ Pikers Saab 96-racing 24 Hours of LeMons team about this car, and I hope they have sent their Bay Area-based minions to grab parts off this car before The Crusher eats it.

The Swedish car with aircraft quality!

Here’s another version.

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1968 Saab 96...”

  • avatar

    These look really fun.

    Would love to try to get one of those front tires to lift off the ground in a turn.

  • avatar

    It makes me sad to see one of these in a junkyard. The Saab 96 was some of the best fun on four wheels ever.

  • avatar

    Sport version called the “Monte Carlo” in Europe. Two cycle engines are more powerful for size and more energy efficient, you’d think by now they’d come up w/ a way to clean them up.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting point. I wonder how much work has been done with bigger displacements using two cycle vs four? Can you imagine an 8 cylinder two cycle?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t have to, I use one every year. It’s a diesel though. See Detroit 8v92T. They also made a V-12.

        Yes, they are awesome. Not too environmentally friendly though.

      • 0 avatar

        Same here… like were there any industrial or military applications where the consumer drawbacks weren’t pertinent?

        The 2-stroke bikes of yesteryear were sure impressive enough. Water Buffalo!

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        Electro-Motive Diesel (formerly General Motors Electro-Motive Division) still makes two-stroke, turbocharged diesel engines for rail, marine and stationary applications. These engines are available in V-8, V-12, V-16 and V-20 configurations. On the current EMD 710 models each cylinder displaces 710 cubic inches (11.6 liters).

      • 0 avatar

        There are plenty of modern direct injected 2-stroke outboards and snowmobiles, two market segments where a good weight-to-power ratio is very important.

        There are also plenty of four-stroke outboards of course. They’re quiet and reliable, but also heavier and more expensive to maintain. There has also been a handful of four-stroke snowmobiles using sportsbike engines.

        OMC (that’s Johnson/Evinrude to most people) did make a 2-stroke V8 outboard in the 80’s. I would love to hear one in real life. It probably sounds glorious at full chat. I don’t even want to imagine the fuel economy though.

    • 0 avatar

      By their very nature, you cannot clean up two-stroke engines. Or rather, you can, but you need to add two more strokes…

  • avatar

    Gosh in 68 this thing would have looked medieval in the US, next to American iron. Pulling up next to a beautiful Toronado or a contemporary Imperial.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that would be three different flavors of awesome in one place. (The older I get, the more I see the appeal of cruising sedately in an Engel-designed Imperial.)

      I can’t recall the last time I saw a 96 in the States, but someone in Bloomsbury, near my company’s UK office, was driving one of these at least as recently as ’05. I’d see it street parked near Tavistock Square every so often. It looked very beaten up but apparently was still kicking.

      Mike “‘old out yer ‘and” Brewer buys and sells a nice 96 survivor in the Wheeler Dealers: Trading Up visit to Sweden.

    • 0 avatar

      Amazingly, they were built well up into the 70’s. Appearance wise, they look positively 40s.

  • avatar

    I’d drive the hell out of a 2 stroke car.
    How’d the top ends last?

    • 0 avatar

      That one looks like the Ford Taunus V4, which was a sibling of the Cologne V6 – Both of which were 4-stroke engines.

    • 0 avatar

      Many early Saab 96 owners kept a spare 2-stroke engine in the trunk. They were very easy to change on the side of the road if needed. That triple was TINY. Durable they were not. The last time I had a ride in one, with my Saab mechanic, the motor seized due to the mixture being too weak. Luckily not much damage. But only 7 moving parts, so easy to rebuild! And I can pick one up by myself.

      Murilee – no pics of that 92?!? Those are MUCH cooler than 96s. And that 2-stroke twin sounds amazing.

  • avatar

    I owned a sand colored 96 in 1968 in Austin, Texas. My VW had been stolen and I bought the SAAB. Got a job in Waco and our pediatrician and us had the only two SAABs in town, It’s a way cool car. Wish I still had it.

  • avatar

    That commercial is fantastic, and did you notice how many US cars were on the roads in that European city?

  • avatar

    I have fond memories of riding with my uncle Erik in his various SAABs back in the’60s. One day we were blasting down a winding country road north of Stockholm when the road straightened and widened. “This is an runway for Drakens” he told me. How freaking cool is that? Not just airplanes, but *supersonic* airplanes operated off modified roadways made by the same company as the car we were in.

  • avatar

    2-stroke street bike survivor here.

    I recall these running around town smoking like most 2 strokes do. Saab recommended decarbonizing the head every 18,500 miles or so, but at least you didn’t have valve gear getting in the way when it was time to pull the head.

    Both my bikes were 3 cylinder ring-dings..the KH400 (my avatar) and the water buffalo that helped my break my spine in 1979.

    Great smoky fun while it lasted, but just to put things in perspective, my LS 430 has about the same 0-60 and 1/4 mile times as the Kawasaki KH400 did back in the day.

    • 0 avatar

      My second bike was a Suzuki GT500, it was my first 2-stroke. My third bike was a Kawasaki H2 the 750 triple. My fourth (and final 2-stroke) was a Yamaha RD-350. The H2 was capable of mid-12 second times (according to Cycle), quicker than the Kawasaki Z1. It was a handful: peaky as hell, awful brakes and a hinge hidden somewhere in the middle of the frame. Great fun!

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Someone’s still running around Boston in one of these:

    • 0 avatar

      There are still a few used as summer daily drivers in Portland, ME too. All V4s, AFAIK, the strokers are definitely a hobby at this point. But the V4s are pretty sturdy, if you can keep the rust at bay in this climate.

      And the engine in the car in Boston must be pretty worn out, as the top speed of these in good nick is well into the 90s. They are actually pretty aerodynamic, as befits a car made by an airplane company. Deafeningly loud at high speed, as the gearing is quite short.

    • 0 avatar
      Charles T

      That was me; I sold that a couple of months ago to an engineer in Toronto who drove a rented trailer down to bring it back up. It was a fun and silly ride, but I wasn’t driving it often enough.

  • avatar

    Nice ! .

    My Father bought a SAAB Wagon in 1966 , and another just like it in 1970 IIRC .

    Both were red Two – Smokes and went like bats out of hell .

    Careful mixing of the oil into the gasoline and using modern synthetic two stroke oils reduces exhaust smoking to nil .


  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    A college buddy of mine had one of these, in beige, in the mid-1980’s. For being almost 20 years old [u]and[/u] a Wisconsin car, it was in remarkably good shape. It was not all that unusual back then to see older (and not so older) cars with frisbee-sized rust holes on the side panels, never mind the floor pans.

    But, why would anyone have Earl Scheib’d this car from that wonderful bright red to that ugly Smurf blue? Terrible idea.

  • avatar

    I didn’t know SAABs were even sold in America before the 99.

  • avatar

    My first car was a’66 96 with the 3-carb Monte Carlo engine. It could outrun bugs pretty easily, had great steering and freewheeling.

    When the engine seized while cruising along at 40mph, there was no drama,
    just the sound of the wind coming thru the wing vents as I coasted slowly to a stop.

  • avatar

    Idaho Falls, Idaho, had a SAAB dealership in the early ’70s. And a Porsche dealership as well (lots of highly-paid engineers at the National Reactor Testing Station out on the desert provided a pool of customers for “exotic” automobiles). I was a young sailor looking for a new car and tried out a new green 96 with the V-4. I liked it. Liked it a lot. Ignition switch on the tunnel, IIRC. Really nice inside, much better than the Detroit-Iron of the day. I didn’t buy it because it was geeky-looking and didn’t want to hear it from my buds. I should have bought it – I ended up with a used ’68 912 that I couldn’t afford to insure.

  • avatar

    Had a few of these 92 back in the day including a V4 wagon. Had both the 2 cycle & 4 cycle and to be honest the 2 cycle with 3 carbs was the most fun. At 65 MPH it was like driving an electric car. My wife would always have a tough time buying gas and having them putting the premix oil in the gas tank. As soon as you opened the gas cap a red tag was attached by chain to the cap that read “ADD PREMIX OIL”. Great car and the engine was guaranteed for life to the original owner. Brought my first SAAB from a Ford dealer in Queens 2 years old for $500.00. The salesman did not even knew how to start the car. They took a personal check and i drove off the lot an hour later. That car was so simple to work on but you had to match the spark plugs to your driving habits. They came in different heat ranges and if they were not to the engines liking they would foul. Good times. SAAB had me for a customer upto the 900 series. I used to visit Sweden on sales trips every year for a month but then China came along and the Swedes purchased their goods from them and not the USA. Fun Times.

  • avatar

    The two-stroke ring-a-ding trailing blue smoke (howz that efficiency, Erik?) versions of these things had myths and legends built up about them back in the late 1950s, early ’60s. People love fairy tales.

    Maine and New England states were full of them. As a kid, I had an encylopedic knowledge of engines and top speeds. The Saab could do about 74 mph flat out on the level, which was less than the Maine Thruway limit of 80 mph in 1960.

    We were in a Ford Anglia returning from Ithaca NY to Bar Harbor ME in October 1960. Guess what? A Saab couldn’t keep up with a 997cc 105E engine – the original “Kent” engine and its mighty 39 hp! Not from want of trying, though. About two mph in it. Dad did have fun!

    One major difference, our 105E used no oil between changes ever. The Saab you carried extra to mix with the gas.

    The German Ford V4 defined unrefined, but made the 96 much quicker if you could stand the racket. Never could figure out why ’60s German Ford Engines were such absolute dogs compared to the British ones. But they were.

    • 0 avatar

      The brilliant thing about the V4 was that it was tiny, so it made packaging it easy in a fwd configuration. As for it being rattly, it wasn’t an german engine, they inherited it from Ford USA with the ‘Cardinal’ project that ended up as the german Taunus 12M/15M. They were known for having badly shielded plug wires, so in moist weather, any plug could basiaclly ‘fire at will’, which didn’t make them any smoother…
      The germans made a beatifully smooth v6 that loved to rev from it, but the 60 degree cylinder angle combined with siamese exhaust ports made them prone to overheating, and the block was to weak to withstand high revs on the larger v6’s, leading to oil starvation on the bearings and some rather hefty engien failures.
      Fun fact, the first V4 was in the early Mustang roadster concept in 1962
      and the last V6 version of it was in the Mustang as late as 2010.

  • avatar

    It looks like it was once red. I wonder why it was painted blue – too many speeding tickets?

  • avatar
    Dave W

    I learned to drive in my dads ’68 96. Great car in a lot of ways. The first coupe I saw that the rear seat folded down. Got a lot of looks at ski areas opening the trunk on that small car and pulling out 205cm skis. It also had hidden reverse, because you had to pull the shift lever out to get around the gate to get into reverse if you parked it nose in people who didn’t already know how to shift it would never get it out. It also hid the dimmer switch under the carpet. A neighbor drove it for 3 days with the highs on while cursing those darn foreign cars for not having 2 level head lights.

    I never drove a 2 stroke SAAB, but my dad bought the V4 to replace his DKW that had the same 3cylinder 2 stroke. 7 moving parts, always started in the winter, and fogged mosquitoes in the summer.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Shaw Saab on the banks of the Back River had a dock and used to get their cars delivered to them directly. There were loads of them.

  • avatar

    I posted this on the Saab forums a while back when the yard was trying to sell it as a builder. Said it had 61k miles on it, but I’m not sure if it was accurate (or if it had a 5 digit odo). They wanted $1500 for it.

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