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Few Americans think twice nowadays about buying a foreign-branded car, whether from Europe or Asia. Toyota is the biggest selling marque in the world and Volvo long ago captured the hearts of safety-conscious soccer moms. In the 1960s, however, Japan was an anthill on the automotive landscape and a car-buyer in America needed either a few extra dollars or a touch of eccentricity to cruise around town in a European car -- unless, that is, they happened to be the Roberts family of northern Florida, USA.
Mr. Glenn Roberts was born to Australian parents who spent their youth driving an eclectic mix of cars around Sydney and Hong Kong and who thus saw no reason to change their habits when they settled in Florida in the 1950s. In 1967, they special-ordered a silver Saab Sonett II from a Florida dealer and, as a result, Glenn spent his childhood riding to school not in Detroit's muscle cars of the 1960s and '70s but in a 1500-pound Swedish sports car with a 70 horsepower, two-stroke engine.
The Sonett has followed Glenn through life. In 1980, when he was eighteen years old, Glenn bought the car from his parents for $300 and, with the help of his father, gave the car enough energy to carry Glenn through college and into adulthood. In 2004, Glenn rewarded the car for its loyalty with a full restoration, after which he gave it back to his parents to enjoy when he moved to Australia for work. Now back in Glenn's California garage, the Sonnet gets plenty of time along the coast and through the canyons.
Even on today's American streets—filled with cars of all shapes, sizes, and nationalities—Glenn's Sonnet still draws plenty of puzzled looks, which suits Glenn just fine.
"It's part of my passion," says Glenn. "I look for the odd stuff."