Engine Of The Day: Saab Two-Stroke Three-Cylinder

Illustration for article titled Engine Of The Day: Saab Two-Stroke Three-Cylinder

Two-stroke engines for cars have always been on the smoky and noisy side, but they sure do make a lot of power for their size!

There's no need for all those power-sucking valvetrain parts and wasted piston motions with a two-stroke. Saab built two- and three-cylinder two-strokers during the 1950s and 1960s, and the three-banger was installed in various Saabs (including the 95 and 96) from 1955 through 1966. Thanks to Tanshanomi for the recommendation!
[Wikipedia, The Auto Channel]

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Correction: the 3-cylinder was still available into the 1968 model year, but very few were sold. 1967 was the first year of the V4, and almost nobody (see below) wanted a two-stroker after that.

I helped my father convert '65-68 3-cylinder models into V4s back in the late 60s and early 70s. He probably converted about 40 or 50 cars. He was a mechanical engineer who bought parts directly from Saab, so he did the conversions very accurately. Driving the cars, you could never tell they hadn't been born with four cylinders.

One day in the early 80s, we were out working on a 99 when we heard a 3-cylinder Saab turn the corner and come up the street. We both dropped our tools and walked out to the curb, and a 1968 Saab 96 (big windshield, sheet-metal grille) with V4 emblems pulled up and stopped. An older gentleman got out and said, "Well, you must be the Saab guys I heard about down here."

We both asked, almost in stereo, "What the hell did you do to that car?"

The old guy replied, "I bought this one new off the showroom floor, but I never did like the V4, so I converted it back to a 3-cylinder."