Over the weekend a gaggle of sign-toting individuals assembled at the Detroit Renaissance Center to demand General Motors restore the long-defunct Saturn brand. While we would wager that there were a few earnest individuals keen to see the return of “ A Different Kind of Company,” the event was actually a last-minute goof put on by attendees of the Michigan Concours d’Lemons — America’s favored auto show for bizarre or impressively awful vehicle designs.
Someone forgot to tell the media, however.
We’ve had back-to-back oddball three-pedal cars in this series ( a Suzuki Forenza and non-SHO Taurus), so let’s make it three weeks in a row with today’s Junkyard Find! Saturn S Series cars were always cheaper with manual transmissions, but nearly every Saturn wagon shopper insisted on an automatic. I knew I’d find a manual Saturn SW if I kept searching junkyards, though, and here it is: a low-end ’96 with single-cam engine, Ignore Me Silver paint, and a 5-on-the-floor manual.
Remember the Saturn Astra? A Belgian-built Opel Astra, it was supposed to replace the Ion, but GM had a few distractions around that time and axed the Saturn Astra early in 2009… followed by the Saturn brand itself.
Just two model years, poor sales, weird Euro-Detroit badge-engineering hijinks, and a near-instant disappearance from cultural memory: just what I like best in a Junkyard Find!
Absence, it is said, only makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe ’80s fashion wasn’t so bad after all. Go ahead, roll up the sleeves on that oversized rayon blazer. Naturally, the sentiment also applies to defunct car brands.
Just last week, Corey asked what extinct car brand you would resurrect if given the chance, leading this author down a mental road populated with nothing but Studebakers and Oldsmobiles. There’s a Sophie’s Choice for you. However, one brand that didn’t see much discussion that day, at least not on our Slack channel, was Saturn.
Bozi’s had a hell of a time recently with the problem-plagued engine under the hood of his wife’s Vue hybrid, something which hasn’t exactly endeared him to the former GM division. Still, yesterday we got to talking about the brand, and it seemed very few people do not have a memory of a Saturn SL1 or SL2, or perhaps the unpopular L-Series — including myself.
Unpleasant to drive, but utterly reliable. Hmm… is it time to journey down a plastic-coated memory lane? You bet.
Last week, I noticed a new stain on the driveway in the spot where my wife parks our Saturn Vue Hybrid. A quick sniff test revealed it to be automatic transmission fluid and an inspection of the Vue showed a leak at the transmission pan gasket. The car has just crossed the 100,000 mile mark and the worn gasket decided to accelerate my plans for a transmission fluid change.
Like many modern cars, the transmission dipstick is absent on the Vue, so checking the level is not a quick task. Adding fluid is even more time consuming and requires removal and disassembly of multiple components just to get to the fill plug.
I went out and picked up a filter, gasket, and some ATF and decided to tackle the convoluted process of this transmission fluid change.
The Saturn Ion is one of those cars you still see on the street today, perhaps not enough to notice, but it’s of minor historical interest as the Saturn-branded cousin of the Chevy Cobalt/Pontiac G5.
Most of the time, the Ion is just background noise to me in the GM section of a big self-service wrecking yard, something I pass by while looking for a Cimarron or Reatta. However, I had heard that the Knoxvegas Lowballers 24 Hours of LeMons team had adapted Ion electric power steering to their mid-Duratec-powered Geo Metro, and I was curious as what this alleged steering column-mounted rig looked like.
General Motors has issued an airbag recall for the long-gone Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. The recall relates to the passenger presence sensor (PPS), which may become damaged and cause the passenger airbag to not deploy during a crash.
We initially covered this issue in 2015 after noticing that complaints were piling up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and that the PPS design was similar to other models already recalled by GM.
Many industry reporters and enthusiasts attached stigma to early mass market hybrids because of the unknown reliability of their batteries. Potential owners worried that a failed battery would stick them with an expensive, out-of-warranty repair bill.
The first generation of hybrid vehicles hit the streets right around the turn of the century, right at the same time the domestic market was in love with SUVs. Anecdotes abounded about how dangerous and expensive hybrids would be to fix and maintain. Now that they’ve been on the road for over a decade, data shows — for the most part — there was no reason to fear these electrified fuel sippers.
New-to-TTAC reader Kobe writes:
I’ve only begun to read TTAC and your email responses are a great read, so I figured I’d give sending you a question a shot.
Two of my wife’s friends are looking for reliable, used cars. The parameters I’ve been given were $4,000 or less (as she will need to save a little for maintenance repairs I figure), a hatchback (preferably four-door), automatic, front- or all-wheel drive, and decent gas mileage. Her friend has lived around NYC most of her life, so although she has her driving license, she has rarely driven.
Now, I went about scrolling through all the makes and models that are listed on Autotrader and came up with this possible list:
I realize for many of you the lunch hour is probably over by now, but there’s enough time before the end of the afternoon to read, digest and regurgitate repeatedly over Atlanta magazine’s epic telling of one family’s lawsuit against General Motors for their faulty ignition switches.
Seriously, it’s great. Go read it. Take a sandwich or something.
I’ll cover for you at work, no prob.
A federal judge Wednesday denied a request to make available communication between GM and its lawyers over certain cases involving defective ignition switches, Reuters reported. The documents will remain secret because of attorney-client privilege, the judge wrote.
Lawsuits against GM allege that the company tried to further cover up its defective ignition switches. Those lawsuits sought to uncover documents between the automaker and its lawyers in three separate cases.
“… the case evaluations have all the hallmarks of dispassionate, sober evaluations (perhaps, in hindsight, too dispassionate and sober for their own good) by counsel of the costs and benefits of litigating the cases to their conclusion — just what one would might expect in a defense file and in the absence of a crime or fraud,” Judge Jesse Furman wrote in his ruling.
The General Motors recall train has boarded quite a few passengers since leaving the station in late February of this year. For one passenger, the 2002-2004 Saturn Vue (V-U-E, if you’re Keith Sweat), it took some deliberation by the conductors and fare inspectors before allowing the compact crossover aboard.
Are your children about to start college? Maybe it’s their senior year in high school? Looking for a cheap vehicle and don’t mind if it’s been recalled to death by its automaker? Then a vehicle caught up in the General Motors recall parade might be the one, as prices have fallen hard as of late.
One of the handful of models already under recall by General Motors over a defective ignition switch, the Saturn Ion faces additional scrutiny by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over failures traced to the vehicle’s electric power steering.
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- Lorenzo All the efforts made over decades to reduce/eliminate NVH in ICE cars, and now they're putting noise and vibration into electric cars. It reminds me of efforts to make veggie burgers taste like meat. Vegetarians don't want the taste of meat, and meat eaters will want meat, not veggie burgers.
- Jalop1991 A true golf cart.Sure, it's a penalty box inside. But you're not in it for more than a few minutes at a time during commutes and in between charging stops.Ergo, it's the perfect...golf cart.
- Zipper69 I'm sure it will sell just fine at all trim levels.I'd only note that IMHO the dashboard is a bit of a busy mess.
- MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
- Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?