CC Reader Dino S. sent me the link to this Craigslist ad for what is essentially a showroom new 1991 Saturn SC coupe. It’s got 678 original miles. And it’s priced like it was still new too: $12,950. Well, its list price in 1991 was $11,775, but if you adjust that for inflation, that would be $26,000 in 2022 dollars. So this is…a steal, for half the price.
Here’s the proof.
Still not convinced?
There’s folks who miss their Saturns. Here’s the solution; who says you can’t go back in time?
Everything about these seemed so cheap, plain and flimsy. I never understood the purpose of Saturn. What an enormous investment. And for what? This?
That was not my take, I drove a couple in the 90s as I shopped for cars and while I didn’t end up with one, I thought they compared favorably with the competition at the time. Not Mercedes solid of course, but that was not the mission. Then again my “fun cars” back then were Fiero GT’s, soooo……
My first wife did buy a new VUE in about 2007, and it was a decent vehicle.
This one on offer is also the twin cam, top O the line. I would love to hear the story of pickling it…..
Just because it seems that way – doesn’t make it so. We also went over the purpose of Saturn. You don’t like them – OK. Thanks for commenting.
I owned many Saturns. The were the Anti-GM GM cars. My fiance needed new wheels and her father worked for GM, but there wasn’t anything GM made that appealed to us. Saturn was the one we chose. Great dealership, great people, and great service. We just kept coming back as we started a family and that family kept growing.
The cars were fine. There wasn’t any problems with them. They weren’t the highest recommended, but they were good cars, fun, affordable and AMERICAN. We liked that and consider where a car is designed, styled, assembled and where the headquarters of the car company located, as important as other factors. Others have other priorities, we have ours.
If you see Saturns as cheap, plain and flimsy – you obviously never owned one. They weren’t.
I had a close friend who owned one. It was very unreliable and he hated it also. You speak so glowingly of a company that represented one of the greatest automotive failures in American history. Actually, let’s call that world history. The only thing Saturn succeeded at was cannibalizing its own product line and cheating its stockholders. Deadly Sin, indeed.
Greatest failure in world history? I don’t think so. Ever hear of an Edsel? And I’m sure there are many more.
Earlier this week I was on an Irish-based car enthusiast website where an author felt he had to explain who GM were! I’m pretty sure that was very tongue-in-cheek (and a bit cheeky!) – but to go from global giant to operating in the American continent and China only is quite a major failure.
Wrong so many times. I’ve owned four, all bought used, all of which exceeded 200K, and two of which are still on the road. Saturn’s failure was turning into captive imported-garbage. The original S-series was – or at least could have been – an effective import fighter if GM had stood by it.
Yep. We bought a ’95 SL2 new and it was still reliable and running great when we sold it at 200k. It was by far and away one of the better American cars we’ve owned.
Great comment VanillaDude, well done! +2
I share your priorities. Coincidentally, I also needed a new or newer car in Jun 1995. I found a lightly used 1995 SL2 and bought it. Good car, served me well for 27k miles over 16 months.
I had extensive time in various Saturns as a child of the 90s, these were better than GMs of the same compact car segments but that’s a low bar, I think initial quality may have given them a better impression because as used cars they were as junky as any J body. The tradeoff to that initial quality was you had a car/brand with zero identity, committee/focus group styling, plastic exteriors to match their plastic interiors and their key selling point being “hopefully nobody notices this is a GM product”. Well they succeeded on me as a kid, as I didn’t think GM made cars as prosaic as Saturns were. In fact Saturn represents just about everything that has damn near completely turned me off automobiles and made me the cynic I am today. Home wrecker.
I am gonna say Nice Price. Neat piece for CnC or Radwood, and the body will never dent or rust 🙂
The car itself doesn’t appeal to me, but the concept of buying an essentially new but 30-year-old car from the past for the original purchase price does.
I have to check parts availability, but there are a handful of ’91s I would be delighted to own.
Must be the cheapest “new” car in America now ,on the land of $100 000 pickup trucks! . Must be a better driver than the Mitsubishi Mirage. .
Be worth finding if you can still get seals and hoses?.
Can you really go back home? My friend got this exact model for when he went away to college brand new. I thought it was pretty quick compared to my 1991 Accord ES.
It is legit. Good price. Good car. If I was in the market – I’d want it.
Love the color. I’ve had two cars in various shades of “That 90s Teal”, and always liked Saturn’s take on teal.
I’d consider it if it only had these wheels… my favorite Saturn S wheel…
I had a ’94 Twin Cam with those wheels.
I was too big for it and my head hit the roof if my hair was “fluffy” that day, but I loved it.
I have a bald spot now so poofy hair wouldn’t be a problem now. I’d seriously consider it if I had the means.
BTW it was a quick but absurdly noisy and crude engine. The interior fell apart. But the mechanicals stayed solid until I sold it at 100,000 miles. Trans still shifted like new and it never had a fluid change.
I had forgotten the headroom issue on the first gen SL2 that my stepson had. He’s 6-4 and drove it with a seriously cocked head. Not a problem for me.
I test drove a new ’93 SL2 wagon that I really wanted to like. The sales rep had me strongly accelerate up a nearby steep hill. Presumably so I would be impressed with the twin cam power. Under heavy throttle and load, the noise and vibration was extremely evident. I wound up buying my second new Sentra SE-R.
If this weren’t a first model year Saturn and were something like a ’94 or ’95 5-speed wagon, I’d jump all over this. In the pantheon of automotive history the Saturn S-series may not garner the respect of some other cars of this era but they were a legitimately decent attempt by GM to compete with the imports (and for the first few years of their existence they most certainly did) in an innovative way. The cars had their faults but were ultimately tough honest little cars that were easy to service/maintain. I owned two of them as used cars and am still kicking myself for selling them.
Saturn’s downfall was due to GM leadership…but by the time they made it to market GM’s leadership had changed and the CEO (Stempel I believe) didn’t like having a GM division acting autonomously from the mothership. As a result GM didn’t invest in Saturn, the cars didn’t get updated enough, and the imports ultimately passed them by.
All the time and $ spent to come up with “a good small car” and nowadays, Big 3 [and others] don’t even bother with the segment. Buyers also.
As someone said “and for what?”
The CARFAX for this car is rather odd, as you would expect. CARFAX has no record of this car before 2020, so I’m guessing that it was never registered before then.
This car was first registered in Quebec in 2020, before apparently being driven about 500 miles to Ohio (pretty brave on 30-year-old tires).
After that, it went to New Jersey and California, shipped in both cases since the mileage didn’t go up appreciably.
Interesting. I found an ad from when it was offered for sale in New Jersey last year, and the description said that it “spent 20+ years on a showroom floor.”
I suppose that could be true, but I’d love to know in what showroom!
Just noticed this reference in the Carfax: “Odometer reported as 241 kilometers”… If that’s the case, and the odo is registering kilometers, wouldn’t the actual usage of this car, expressed in miles, be something like 400 and change?
Now it becomes a flipmobile with it being flipped over and over by those thinking they can make a buck. Seen this on many other cars and once on the never get and to be used by one loving owner.
I saved a 1992 Saturn brochure. I kind of liked the way they presented the car. Reading the ad copy it sounds very cute and innocent today:
From the Saturn brochure:
“[Saturn’s flexible polymer body panels] are capable of shrugging off the usual dents . . . even a three-year-old wielding a hammer.”
“Well, maybe a small hammer, preferably rubber.”
“Just to be on the safe side . . . you might want to take the hammer away from the three-year-old.”
and . . .
“Granted, she [Saturn owner] may not be sitting on a leather seat, as with the Mitsubishi. But it’s not costing her $20,000 to sit on it, either. (This year you can sit on leather seats in a Saturn, too–and it still won’t cost you $20,000.)”
The car’s styling, combined with the brochure graphics, text, and the overall marketing strategy, all exude optimism, and like you said, innocence.
My buddy had one of these, said it was the best car he ever had. Held onto it for years. Buy this car with all the depreciation baked in and no warranty. Just insure it as a collectible car, and amaze people at Cars and Coffee events. It’s only original once!
I recently came across some random pictures of a Saturn dealership, so I figured I’d post a few here to increase those genuine early-’90s vibes that seeing this SC generates.
I believe the dealership here was Saturn of Sterling in Virginia:
Saturn the BRAND never shoulda existed. The Saturn CAR should have been the 91 Cavalier. Instead GM made another money losing brand and kept the POS J bodies in production till 05. I can only imagine how pissed chevrolet product planners were in the 80s and 90s. Your division is starved of capital, selling inferior products while corporate is investing billions in a new brand? Pure stupidity and sad too cuz Saturns were good cars.
3800fan, bingo! Could not agree more!
The comments reflect this, but not for this “reason,” but Saturn’s biggest problem is that an ’01 and this one were still very much the same car with 10 years of cost cutting as much as improvements. Nobody remembers that these had a very nice steering wheel for the time, they were available with real leather, those good ol’ Delco radios would bump. It’s too bad this one is automatic because the sticks were a hoot to drive, too. There was nothing to be embarrassed about a Saturn in ’91, it just got that way, and it wasn’t the fault of this car.
I’m divided between thinking that it’s a shame Saturn didn’t last and thinking the whole project suffered from too much Roger Smith-era bloat and this car (along with the never-produced 1984-85 prototype) should’ve been a Chevy all along.
Seriously, the first Saturn prototype was shown to the public in September 1984 and you couldn’t buy a production car (by then thankfully completely different) until the ’91 model year.
My aunt (well close family friend, but who’s counting) had a 91 Saturn sedan, I confess I’m not sure which one, or if there was more than one option and loved it. I went back and forth from St. Paul, Minnesota to Hays, Kansas several times as a youngling to visit her parents. She loved it so much that she bought a 99 SC1 when the 91 reached its use by date. She’d still be driving them if Saturn hadn’t been put out to pasture. Since then, she’s had 2 Beetles. I suppose it fits since Saturns were German at the end.
I only ever drove a 95 SC1 for a test, but it had been on a dealer lot and wasn’t in the best nick. At that time I bought by 95 Accord which I drove 20 minutes later. To me the Accord felt light years ahead even though it was the same 10 years old. I’m not sure if that’s just because the Saturn was not kept well or what, but it’s my recollection from 18 years ago.
I love this car and hope it goes to a good home. I feel like it needs to be preserved as a reminder of the optimism of the Saturn brand. There’s an early SC like this one in a parking lot in my neighborhood, and I have often stopped to look at it. Still plugging and chugging away, a 30+ year old sporty coupe from the old/new GM.
These always reminded me of a Geo Storm with a trunk.
The final FWD R-Body cars (Isuzu Impulse/Stylus, Geo Storm) actually were early Saturn design proposals that were turned over to Isuzu when things with Giugiaro went south over the alterations GM made to the previous generation cars without his knowledge (specifically the body side cut-line).
My understanding is that the Isuzu Impulse was actually Giugiaro’s design for the Mk II VW Scirocco. Giugiaro designed the Mk I Scirocco but VW decided to design the Mk II in-house, hence Giugiaro “giving” his design to Isuzu.
That is not accurate; Giugiaro had been working directly with Isuzu as far back as 1966 and the Asso Di Fiori was deliberately and transparently Isuzu from day one.
Giugiaro’s second generation Scirocco proposal was uncannily similar to the eventual Audi Coupe/Quattro of 1980.
In the early 90s I rented a Mercury Sable (Ford Taurus eqv) and drove it for a few months on a temp assignment. I was impressed, my previous focus had been on rear drive (police) vehicles, but this thing was good! I drive it through some nice Northern California scenery and still have a good memory of that. No torque steer, very viable engine and transmission, so yeah.
It’s 2023 I drive A 1998 sc1 for past 3 years .. 181k on it now easy to work on parts are cheap did fuel pump filter plugs oil and a ton more work on it myself but she purrs like a kitten payed 1200 in 2020 put in about 3 grand I believe now total..I can at least get another 100k out of it.. I’ve owned 6 Saturn’s in my life and from my experience..everything depends on how the previous owner treated it.. I got lucky this is a manual and everything was well taken care of besides fuel pump giving out but at 160k thats around right time. Amazon had an OEM fuel pump for 52 dollars!!! works great and not as hard as one would think to install. I’m a YouTube taught mechanic and I’ve saved tons and learned so much about cars with my Saturn. I wouldn’t sell her right now for anything less than 10k great cars ..keep um alive!!
I am guessing I have the most experience here with S series Saturns – as I have collected them since 2002 – and have owned 26 of them – and drove at least 20 of them. (Some bought as parts cars.)
I would not buy a 91 – to drive. They had head problems and were not equipped with a top engine mount. A 91 is only good for museums.
I do all the service on them myself. I have a fully equipped garage and am capable of nearly all sevice – up to rebuilding engines and pulling drivetrains.
They are one of the simplest cars to work on – and very reliable. My SO has driven one 35 miles (one way) to work daily for the last 12 years with no breakdowns.
She parked her 1996 SC2 that she bought new – in our scrapyard a few years ago with undercarriage rust issues – with 330,000 miles on it.
The biggest design flaw on both single and twin cam engines – was a lack of a return path for oil in the piston on the oil control ring. This caused carbon buildup and control ring freezing. The result is oil burning – a feature these cars are known by.
We currently have 5 runners, 3 project cars an 3 parts cars.
Other than the 1996 bought new – we have never paid over $2000 for a Saturn.
My 97 SC 2 has 221,000 plus on it! Only getting a new car because the sensors can’t be replaced and I need the smog done. My hubby and I are the original owners too! Best car we ever owned!☺
Which sensors can’t you get? Maybe you can score some from a scrapyard or eBay? Hate to see an otherwise good running car taken off the road for a simple sensor!
My stepson had purchased a ’93 SL2 with the twin cam engine and manual trans about 2007. The purchase price was $100., from a friend whose family had owned it from new. Indicated mileage was 245k mi.at the time of purchase. It was said to have had a top engine rebuild. I put new struts, mounts and tires on it. It ran and drove very well in defiance of its high mileage. Oil consumption was surprisingly nil. Perhaps the previous owners had also done the rings. The critiques on the NVH of this engine were not unfounded.
About 20k mi. later he traded it for a guitar or something and we bought him a used low mileage ’98 2nd gen SL single cam. That was a very trouble prone car to put it mildly. Not helped by a very predatory Saturn dealer. There had been some improvements to the NVH by the 2nd gen.
I see these SL’s and SC’s on the road every day in fair quantity. The first gens are now a rare sight. Not surprising since they’re plastic clad and this is the rust belt. They also sold more than 2 million of the SL’s.
A friend of mine in high school got a red one as her first car (this was in 2001) I remember her previously saying that she didn’t like red cars because they “looked like they were made of plastic” Myself and another car guy friend had a good laugh when she was given a red Saturn, haha.