In 1970, a Saab factory rep stopped by and offered us the franchise, and only because of their neat little coupe, the Sonett, did we accept. I sold the E Type and bought my first new car, a 1969 Sonett V4. By now I was taking fewer classes at ODU. This was the beginning of a long development process which ended up with my Saab becoming a test bed. There was no one you could ask about anything and no performance aftermarket of speed parts for the car. Over the next few years, I ported many heads, made many different headers and exhaust systems, milled out my own manifolds and adapted Holley 2 and 4 barrel carburetors and tried different combinations of Webers on mine and customers cars. I was on first name basis with Ronald Iskenderian. He would charge me $30 total to regrind a camshaft and I would send him 2 or 3 cores at a time for testing. We finally found one with a good low end and power to 8000 RPM and a smooth enough profile that it would run to 9000 RPM. It took me a year or two to turn my Sonett into a beast.

In those days, all I needed was 6 or 7 hours of sleep and since I have always lived where I worked, it was easy to put in 16 hour days in the shop. The first 10 or so hours were for the overhead, the business that is, and the last 6 were for me. This was my entire life, from 1969 until 1980. Photo number 1 was taken at the Norfolk Ford assembly plant in July 1970. I was learning how to autocross at the time and was developing the Sonett V4. In street car trim, the car was able to compete with the local fast Minis and Lotus Sevens and was driven to all events, even Pungo, on race tires. In photo number 2, you can see the cross flow manifold for twin Webers that I made from fiberglass. I found that the engine liked shorter induction lengths. During the summer of 1971, I had a head on collision with a pickup outside of the Pungo entrance side gate, in a tight right hand curve. It was on my side of the road, but I was going too fast to get entirely off the road on my side. I replaced the front clip, removed the damaged top, added a Sunbeam Alpine windshield and had a topless Sonett. It was run like this until I built up the road race car.

1 Saab Sonnet

2 Saab Sonnet

Photos 3 and 4 are of my first road race car. It was built from another damaged Sonett III. I autocrossed it once or twice, while playing with rear toe out and spring rates. Then in the summer of 72, I attended Bill Scots driving school at Summit Point in my dads hopped up street Sonett, and got a provisional IMSA license, #216. My first race was at Watkins Glen. I was living a dream. Many of my heroes were there and I could get on the track with them. It was just unreal! I soon found that the blue Saab was un-driveable at speed with the rear toe out that worked well in autocrosses. A snap ring that held the inner driver in the limited slip differential was not strong enough to hold it in at speed, and the inner driver would pop out, putting the car in neutral. Being somewhat relieved that I did not have to run this race, I loaded up and went home to fix these problems.

3 Saab Sonnet

4 Saab Sonnet

The next IMSA race was at Bryar, in 1972. See picture number 5. I set the car up just like I would for Pungo, and it was awesome. It ran well all day. I went off one time, in a safe place, losing some time, but was the only car there not to make a pit stop. I ended up finishing 7th in GTU, with the smallest engine there, and 11th overall. Mr. John Bishop, a really fine man, brought me my winnings check, and removed the provisional status from my license! I was in heaven. He was also surprised that there was no body damage from that crowded race. For the full race results, click here.

5 Saab Sonnet

Daytona was the next and the last race that year. Again I did not start because the V4 did not like coming off of turn 4 at 8300 RPM or so and kept blowing head gaskets. My engine development had reached the end of the line and I needed more power but with less stress to the engine, which is difficult and expensive to do.