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How To Remove The Body From Your Sonett
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How-To:  Remove the Body From Your Sonett
Bruce Turk

Please note: The following mechanical advice is offered to enhance the overall knowledge of the automobiles owner only. Any and all work described in the following article should be performed by a licensed mechanic only. The author shall be held harmless in the event of injury or accident by the automobiles owner and occupants, should the work be performed by an unlicensed mechanic.


SAAB Sonetts are now considered historical vehicles and are, to put it bluntly, very tired old cars if they haven't already been restored.  Many of these lovely, Swedish beauties have been poorly patched back together in an effort to keep them on the road and are far from original.  Thousands have already found their way to the wrecking yards due to accidents, abuse and most of all, RUST. Despite their fiberglass bodies, rust is a major problem.  The steel floor pan is especially rust prone in the rocker panels, trunk floor, rear axle tunnel, rear door jams and passenger compartment floor near the front wheel wells.  Some areas prone to rust are only accessible after complete body removal.  

Prior to removing the body pieces, remove the battery, seats and carpeting.  Prepare an area large enough to safely store the hood and rear section.  Have plenty of blankets available to cushion the fragile body and window glass pieces during storage. How long will it take? Two people can remove the entire body in one very long, frustrating day.  Have fun...

Sonett II /V4 (1966-1969)

Doors:

1. Open the door and remove the small pin from the doorstop.
2. While supporting the bottom of the door, remove the
door hinge retaining nuts.

Hood:

1. Tilt the hood open.
2. Unplug the headlight wiring harness located on either side of
the top radiator brace. 
    NOTE: look for wires bypassing the original harness plugs.
3. Unbolt the hood stop strap on the driver's side wheel
well.
4. Lower the hood.
5. Remove the two hood hinge bolts.
6. Lift the hood forward and then off.

Rear Body:

1. Remove the wooden trunk floor, spare tire and all other trunk articles.
2. Remove the right and left trunk side upholstery and
underlying insulation.  No insulation? Install some later to reduce road noise.
3. Unplug the taillight harness on top of driver's side
wheel well.
4. Unscrew the tail light ground wires from the floor pan.
5. Disconnect the radio ground and antenna wire if so equipped.
6. Remove the gas cap.
7. Remove the rubber gas cap collar.
8. Pull the door seals down from the door
openings. I suggest removing the chrome trim from the bottom of the door opening to allow complete removal of the seals.
9. Lift up the gas tank bulkhead upholstery to gain access to the inner door
latch striker plates.
10. Spray the inner striker plates with WD-40, then remove the four
striker plate screws.
11. Drill out the door jam pop rivets.
12. Drill out the three uppermost pop rivets from the
cover plates in the front door jams (on the lower windshield pillars).  If the cover plates are rusty and need to be repainted, now is a good time to remove them completely.
13. Knock all the pop rivet shanks inside the body with a punch.
14. Unscrew the heater core cover. Remove the inner core cover.
15. Remove the 12 machine screws and lock nuts that go through the firewall and into the 
fiberglass body.
  Remove the two screws from either side of the windshield wiper spindles.
16. Windshield removal is a good idea to prevent breakage while lifting off
the body.
17. Remove the two small bolts from the bottom of each window pillar. The
bolts are accessible in the very narrow gap between the side of the dashboard and the window pillar.   NOTE: The Saab Sonett service manual describes removing different bolts at the bottom of the window pillars (one big one on each side). These bolts are only accessible after pulling out the dashboard. I prefer removing the four small bolts (two on each side) and leaving the dashboard alone.
18. Under the dashboard, turn the rear dashboard support
clips to either side.
19. Remove the leather stop strap from the trunk door, swing the door all the way down.
20. Back off the hinge screws and slide the pins toward the center of the
car (good luck!).  Soaking the sliding pins with oil for a week before attempting removal is a very good idea.
21. Remove the trunk door.
22. Remove the rear glass (highly recommended). Be very
careful, the rear glass is no longer available.
23. Remove the body retaining screws over the roll bar and in front of the
rear wheel wells.
24. Remove the two body bolts from inside each rear wheel well. They are
very close to the rear of the body and usually hidden under lots of undercoat.
25. Remove the round water drain tubes near the bottom of the windshield pillars (if so equipped).
26. Using a sharp one-inch putty knife, separate the rear body seals from the fiberglass body.
27. If your muffler exits through the rear body opening, remove the muffler.
28. Remove all sealants that hold the body to the pan.
29. Gently break the body completely free from the pan.
30. Using three people, one on either side and one at the
rear, lift off the body. It will be necessary to pull the rear fenders outward in order to clear the rear door jams. Don't worry, the paint and body will not crack.
31. Store the body out of the work area.

 


Sonett III (1970-1974)

Doors:

1. Remove the upper door panel trim.
2. Remove the door release lever handle (early Sonetts).
3. Remove the door release handle insert trim (late Sonetts)
4. Remove the window crank handle.
5. Remove the door pull handle.
6. Unscrew the door lock knob.
7. Gently pry off the door panel with a screwdriver.
8. Remove the plastic vapor barrier. No barrier? Install one later.
9. While supporting the bottom of the door, remove the
two large nuts from the door hinges.

Hood:

1. Remove the engine cover hatch.
2. Remove the three bolts from each side of the front door
jam. (1)
3. Remove the two bolts from either side of the engine cover latch. (3)
4. Remove the body fastener from each side of the rear section of the front wheel wells. (2)
5. Remove the right and left splashguards from the wheel wells.
6. Unplug the wires from the horns in the left front wheel well.
7. Remove the body bolts located below the bottom
corners of the radiator. (5)
8. Late crash bumpers only - remove the two bolts that go through the nose just below the grill and into the bumper support braces.  In the engine compartment, remove the two bolts on each side that hold the bumper support braces inside the body channels.  While sitting in front of the car, push the bumper up and down while pulling out.  The idea is to remove the bumper with the support braces still attached.   NOTE: This cannot be done if the tabs welded to the support braces are located behind the body.  If yours are behind the body, you must remove the nose with the support brackets still in place.  The tabs welded to the bumper braces always seem to be in the way when removing or installing the nose.  I ground the tabs off my Sonett III's bumper braces and have never regretted doing so.
9. Early foam bumpers only - Remove the bolts that go through the nose, below the
grill, and into the support brace behind the fiberglass. (4)
10. Unplug the headlight wiring harnesses, located on either side of the
radiator. (6) NOTE: Look for any wires bypassing the original harness plugs.
1l. Remove the small bolt at the end of the headlight lifting
control arm.
12. Remove the bolt in the headlight lifting
mechanism, just above the headlight lifting control arm (the bolt is located in a slot).

13. Remove the windshield washer tubes where they enter the windshield washer pump.
14. If your doors are still on the car, protect the leading edge of the
doors from chips with a couple of layers of electrical tape.  Prop the doors open a few inches to allow additional clearance.  Lift off the nose with one person on each side of the car.  Place one hand on the lip above the directional lens and the other in the top of the wheel well.  Lift the rear of the nose first, then the forward portion. Dip down the passenger side front corner of the nose a little.  This will allow the person on the driver's side to raise the nose up enough for the headlight raising mechanism to clear the brace that goes over the top of the radiator.
15. After removal, use duct tape to secure the spring-loaded headlight
raising mechanism in the "closed" position. This will make installation easier.
16. Nose storage - stand the nose up with the painted side facing a wall.
Place some pillows under it and cover with a blanket. Now is a great time to rewire the lights.

Rear Body

1. Remove the wooden trunk floor, spare tire and all other trunk articles.
2. Remove the air dampers from the hatch glass if so
equipped. Do this with the hatch open! 
3. Close the hatch glass.  Remove the rubber plugs from the underside of the roll bar to expose the machine screws that go into the hatch glass hinges.
4. Remove the machine screws.
5. Remove the two large Phillips-head machine screws
that go through the roll bar and into the hatch glass hinges.
6. Pull the hatch glass release handle and lift off the
glass.
7. Remove the trunk rear upholstery panel and the underlying insulation.
  No insulation? Install some later to reduce road noise.
8. Remove the plastic trim cover from over the glass latch if so equipped.
9. Remove the two Phillips-head screws from the underside of the latch
mechanism - they screw into the fiberglass body.
10. Mark the location of the support brace that holds the latch mechanism at
the bottom. Use this as a reference point for reinstallation.  Remove the bolt from the bottom of the support brace.
11. Remove the three screws from each side vent window
hinge.
12. Swing the vent windows all the way out and unhook from
the slots in the window pillars. The hinges are not secured- the windows lift right out.
13. Remove the rubber weather seals from the vent
window openings.
14. Remove the right and left trunk side upholstery and
the underlying insulation. No insulation? Install some later to reduce road noise.
15. Unplug the taillight wiring harness on top of the
driver's side wheel well.
16 Unscrew the tail light ground wires from the floor pan.
17. Disconnect the radio ground and antenna wire if so equipped.
18. Remove the gas cap.
19. Remove the rubber gas cap collar.
20. Remove the four screws under the rubber collar.
21. Push the gas filler neck inside of the body and tie off to
the roll bar.
22. If your car is equipped with a gas vent canister in the
engine compartment do the following: Pull the gas vent tube off the gas filler neck.  Pull the other end of the vent tube off the charcoal canister, and then snake the canister end of the tube thru the firewall, under the dashboard and to the bottom of the passenger side window pillar.
23. Remove the body fasteners from the front of the rear
inner wheel wells.
24. Pull the door weather seals down from around the
door opening.  I suggest removing the chrome trim from the bottom of the door opening to allow complete removal of the seals. 
25. Lift up the gas tank bulkhead upholstery to gain access to the inner door latch striker plates.
26. Spray the inner striker plates with WD-40, then remove the four
striker plate screws.
27. Drill out the door jam pop rivets including the four
holding the VIN number plate.
28. Peel back the vinyl upholstery from the base of the vent window
pillars. Drill out the two pop rivets. The rivets are located at the bottom of the window channel that separates the door window from the vent window (even with the top of the door).
29. Drill out the three uppermost pop rivets from the
cover plates in the front door jams (on the lower windshield pillars). If the cover plates are rusty and need to be repainted, now is a good time to remove them completely.
30. Knock all the pop rivet shanks inside the body with a hammer and
punch.
31. Unbolt the metal strip on the underside of the
trunk floor. The strip joins the fiberglass body to the metal trunk floor.
32. Unscrew the heater core cover, then remove the inner core cover.
33. Drill out the 12 large rivets that go through the firewall
and into the fiberglass body.
34. Remove the wiper arms from their spindles, then remove the rubber
collars (usually long gone!).
35. Remove the nut from the spindles.
36. Windshield removal is a good idea to prevent breakage while lifting off
the body.
37. Remove the two small bolts from the bottom of each window pillar.  The
bolts are accessible in the very narrow gap between the side of the dashboard and the window pillar.  
NOTE: The Saab Sonett service manual describes removing
different bolts at the bottom of the window pillars (one big one on each side). These bolts are only accessible after pulling out the dashboard. I prefer removing the four bolts (two little ones on each side) and leaving the dashboard alone.
38. Working from under the dashboard, turn the rear dashboard support clips
to either side.
39. Late rear bumper only - remove the bumper from the
support brackets.  Remove the bolts that go through the body and into the support brackets.
40. Using a sharp one-inch putty knife, separate the rear body seals from
the fiberglass body.
41. Remove all putty and sealants that hold the body to the pan.
42. Gently break the body completely free from the pan
43. Using three people, one on either side and one at the
rear, lift off the body.  It will be necessary to pull the rear fenders out in order to clear the rear door jams.  Don't worry, the paint and body will not crack.
44. Store the body right side up, with pillows under the front and rear
sections of the wheel wells.  Support the bottom of the windshield pillars with suitable blocks.

Bruce Turk
November 2001


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Last modified: February 29, 2016