Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is advertising-free, and is supported by my subscribers on Patreon. History adventuring posts are shared there daily. The basic tier is a dollar a month, and the PhD tier, which includes "then and now" photos, billboards, aerials, videos, and super high-definition photos, is five dollars a month, and is discounted for seniors, veterans, and students. If you're a subscriber, thank you! You make this happen!

Driving a Saab Sonett in Phoenix in 1979


In a long life that has included a lot of dumb things that I'm glad I did, driving a Saab Sonett in Phoenix is one of my fondest memories, and worst nightmares. Time-travel back to 1979 with me.

The car I drove down to Phoenix with, two years before, had been turned into a mashed-up little tin can by someone who tried to pass me on the left as I was turning left. Welcome to Phoenix! I only broke a leg, and it soon healed up. And for some reason, I wanted a Saab Sonett.

My Saab Sonett on Camelback Mountain in 1979. Wonderview Road.

If you've never seen one, or even heard of one, that's not surprising. They were cool-looking cars, and fun to drive, but mechanically awful, which is surprising because Saabs tend to be pretty well-made cars. My Sonett wasn't.

The Sonett in 1979 at the Saguaro Apartments, 4201 N. 9th Street, Phoenix, Arizona.

I spent every spare minute, and every spare dollar, keeping that car alive. The tiny little V-4 engine, which was nearly impossible to get to (that tiny black bump on the hood was the only opening), overheated no matter what I tried. Luckily, it didn't spend much time in traffic, as I really don't like spending time in traffic. It had a little plastic button that said "air conditioning", and a compressor that should have blown cool air, but it never did.

The Sonett at ASU in 1981, back of the Art Building, just south of the Chuckbox.

As my twenties wore on, and after I graduated from ASU and moved to California, I started feeling as if there might be more to life than just always fiddling with a temperamental little foreign car. Even the Saab dealership really had no idea what to make of it. Luckily, I was close enough to Solvang to have it serviced there.

The Sonett just before I sold it in Santa Barbara, 1986

The second time I paid to have the transmission rebuilt, I'd had enough. I polished it up and sold it, and bought my first "grown up" car, a good solid American car with an automatic transmission. I was nearly thirty at that time, and knew that I wasn't a kid anymore. I remember how sad I was to realize that I was getting old, and needed something reliable, and ordinary. And that's when I bought the Mustang, the car brought me to Los Angeles, and ultimately brought me back to Phoenix.

The Mighty Mustang, which brought me back to Phoenix. This is in front of Delta Motorsports, which was on Bell and 27th Street.

Thank you for driving around Phoenix in my Saab Sonett with me! Sorry the air conditioning doesn't work.

Image at the top of this post: My Saab Sonett in 1979, on Wonderview Road on Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona

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