There’s something joyous about a perfectly-preserved normal car, an unexpected survivor that feels as much like a time-traveler as a museum piece. Case in point? This Saturn SC2 up for sale in California with just 634 miles on the clock. While expensive at $10,500, it just might be the nicest Saturn left in existence. Call it the gold standard of plastic-paneled ’90s economy cars.
Would you just look at it. Perfect paint glistening in the twilight, plush velour upholstery absolutely spotless, a rolling time capsule of Wrangler jeans and petrichor. It’s a bottle of faded optimism, an object from a time when the icy threat of nuclear war was in the rearview mirror.
Through faded Polaroids and Goodwill hand-me-down nostalgia come mental flashbacks of warmth. The twin-cam lettering in the passenger taillamp is a constant reminder of a more mechanical world. Sixteen lifters and IBM Model Ms chattering away to the scent of office coffee. Electric teal paint recalls a distant signal traveling through the wall and across telephone wires, the digital screams and squelches of a 56k modem. Glorious mechanical complications of pop-ups render us merely deer in the headlights. Who could blame us for stopping and staring?
Under the hood of this perfectly preserved Saturn sits a 1.9-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine pumping out a stout 124 horsepower. While that’s not a huge figure by modern standards, it wasn’t far off power-wise from the 135-horsepower 1.6-liter 4A-GE in the AE92 Toyota Corolla GT-S and actually made more torque than Toyota’s legendary 1.6. Mind you, this particular Saturn twin-cam engine is mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox, which tempers the fun but also possibly ensured this car’s survival. Ever noticed how most manual cars have the absolute piss beaten out of them?
We’ve all heard of speculators stashing rare sports cars away indoors in hope of a profit, but a Saturn SC2 doesn’t fit the typical criteria. I mean this with the utmost respect, but no teenager hung a poster of a Saturn SC2 on their wall, no video game featured it as a hero car, it simply wasn’t an object of daydreaming fantasy in the same way that a Buick GNX or Porsche 911 Turbo was. Instead, it was a great little car, if a dead-end for GM.
Sure, $10,500 is a pretty penny for a 32-year-old GM economy car, but this is one of the few cases where you could earnestly say “find another.” Besides, an original Saturn is so much more than just another inexpensive car peddled by Detroit. From the bespoke factory to the no-pressure dealership experience, these cars were the closest America had to a mainstream automotive cult before Tesla.
Maybe we’ll never visit the beach again. Not while it matters, at least. But for a moment, a perfectly-preserved Saturn can take you back to a time when you knew less about the world. Sometimes there’s comfort in not knowing, but to steal a line from a great Canadian poet, “Sometimes it’s just about feeling good.”
(Photo credits: Seller)
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