Off-Season Ragtops: 1998 Chrysler Sebring vs 2008 Saturn Sky

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Welcome back! Today we’re going unseasonably topless and looking at a pair of convertibles. But first, let’s see which project you chose yesterday:

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Well, I can’t disagree with that. I’ve loved the MGB GT since I was eight years old, which is why I have one. This one looks like a good blank canvas to start from, and you’ll certainly know something about cars by the time you get it back on the road. Somebody go grab that thing and join the fun!

Now, for today’s choices, I didn’t actually go looking for convertibles. I just happened to find two that piqued my interest. Apparently the automotive classified gods want us to look at droptops. So be it.

1998 Chrysler Sebring JXi – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter SOHC V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: St. Charles, MO

Odometer reading: 155,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs well, they say

If you rented a convertible any time between about 1996 and 2010, chances are it was a Chrysler Sebring (or maybe a Mustang). My wife and I spent a very pleasant weekend with one down in Los Angeles going to a wedding. They’re nice cars. But that rental-car stigma has stuck with them, and a lot of people are surprised when they hear that some folks actually own them, and you can actually buy one.

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This is the first-generation Sebring Convertible, which was a completely different car from its hardtop counterpart. The convertible was related to the “cloud cars:” Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Cirrus, and Plymouth Breeze. The coupe was not; it was based on the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and built alongside it at Diamond-Star Motors in Illinois. The two versions had completely different chassis and sheetmetal, and offered different four-cylinder base engines, but shared the same Mitsubishi-based 2.5 liter V6 as an option.

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This Sebring convertible has had its engine and transmission replaced at some point, but there is no indication of the mileage of the replacements. I doubt they were new. The car comes with a service history, so maybe that information is included there. As it sits, it runs and drives well, and everything works as it should.

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It really does look like a nice clean car. The seats look a little mashed-down, but the leather is in good shape, and it’s nice and clean inside. Outside, the paint looks nice, and it’s a good color, too. All the rental Sebrings seemed to be white or silver; it wears this cranberry color well.

I’ll just go ahead and say it: I really like this car. Being a Midwest car, it should be checked carefully for rust underneath, but as a convertible it may have escaped the worst of the road-salt wrath. If it checks out, I think this would make a nice daily driver, actually.

2008 Saturn Sky – $2,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter DOHC inline 4, 5 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Carlsbad, CA

Odometer reading: 120,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep, but check engine light is on

The Saturn Sky, and its sister model the Pontiac Solstice, were a big surprise when announced in 2006. A rear-wheel-drive two-seat roadster from General Motors wasn’t a surprise; the Corvette has been around for decades, after all. And the Pontiac variant kind of made sense; they were GM’s performance division ever since John DeLorean’s days. But a Saturn? Really? The same folks who built all those stodgy-but-reliable sedans in the 1990s?

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Yep, Saturn. Really. Not only that, but they offered some serious horsepower from the “Red Line” model, with a 260 horsepower turbocharged version of GM’s Ecotec four. Our own Mercedes Streeter has one, in the best possible color: bright screaming yellow. Sadly, the Sky we’re looking at today has neither the Red Line’s hot motor nor its manual gearbox. Instead, it makes do with a 2.4 liter naturally-aspirated Ecotec, backed by a five-speed automatic transmission.

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This Sky is cheap for a reason. Several reasons, actually. It has only 120,000 miles on it, but shows quite a bit of cosmetic wear and tear. The check engine light is also on, for an unknown reason. The top doesn’t seal properly; not an issue in sunny San Diego maybe, but buyers in less friendly climates might take issue. And last but not least, it has a salvage title, also for an undisclosed reason. The seller has got some ‘splainin to do, I think.

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But if some questions can be answered satisfactorily, this might be a good, fun, cheap runabout. You’re not likely to find a drivable Sky or Solstice for cheaper.

So there they are. Unusual choices, especially for mid-November, but I’ve never been one for convention. Either one of these could be a really good deal for the right person, I think. Which one is right for you?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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58 Responses

  1. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I voted for the Sebring. The Sky just looks abused, check out how filthy that interior is. Rebuilt title and warning light do not help the case. Plus it’s an auto, which I suspect diminishes the driving experience of this car greatly.

    The Sebring, while being as exciting as celery, looks very well taken care of. Someone cared enough to replace the whole powertrain. The interior looks clean and so does the engine bay.

    1. Yep, Opel GT from 07-10. LHD only so no UK/Vaxhaull version. And only with the 2.0 turbo.
      Although it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the car it replaced. The 01-06 Open Speedster/Vaxhaull VX220 was based on the S2 Elise with either a 2.2 Ecotec or a weird 2.0 turbo GM/Lotus “Ecotec”

  2. That Sky has a lot going for it. The 2.4, while not nearly as fun as the turbo 2.0, is very reliable. You’ll see these things with just tons of miles on them and still kicking. Looks like the autos in them seem to last decently long, too.

    I see some damage here and there, but nothing that can’t be covered up or easily fixed. A roof leak sucks, but eh, it’s just $2,000. That’s a fraction of the already cheap price that I paid for my Red Line. This is basically “screw it” money.

    I was on team Sky until the Salvage title. Depending on where you live, a Salvage title is a royal pain. Here in Illinois, it’s illegal to drive a car with a Salvage title until it gets inspected and the title is changed over to a Rebuilt title. That means that I’d have to tow it home, tow it to an inspection station, and go through the whole process. By the time that I’d be finished, I probably could have just bought one with a clean title.

    Now, maybe the seller means to say it has a Rebuilt title, in which case I’m back in. But based on the information as presented, reluctant pass.

  3. The Sebring gets my vote. Ignore the soft top. It is a running car in good condition for $2,500. That is a good deal in 2022. As a car to drive for fun, it sucks. As a car to drive for transportation, it appears to be a good deal.

    Also, that Saturn is terrible. A salvage title Sky with the engine light on will not be reliable transportation. You may as well buy a park bench instead. The bench would also have two seats and no roof, and on most days, would be as effective transportation as that Saturn.

  4. I have a Sebring. I picked the Saturn without hesitation.

    All Sebring convertibles squeak and rattle like crazy over the smallest of bumps. The plastic interior is just made that way.

    They don’t have a lot of power, and even if they’re in perfect condition, it always seems like they’re just a few dozen miles from needing fixed again.

    There’s a low limit to how fun they are. The handling is odd, the accelerator is touchy, and the steering feels weird, too. They make a good “summer nights cruiser”. Especially if you need a back seat. They’re also decent basic transportation. Not much else.

    If I was shopping for something to get down the road daily, I would’ve picked the Sebring. But if you want any fun at all, the Saturn is the better choice, even in awful condition.

  5. I owned a ’99 Sebring when it was about 5 years old. Very enjoyable cruiser! Just don’t expect a sportycar experience. This one is presentable, even with its junkyard (I see your inventory number!) engine. The Saturn looks abused inside and out (did bird poop do that to the hood?) and I wouldn’t trust it to take me to the mailbox and back.

  6. I want to want the Sky, I just can’t, if the roof didn’t leak… if the title were clear… if it wasn’t so trashed…
    But it is all of these, and more, I’m sure. It is unique, but that also works against it..
    I’ve had a Sebring convertible. I didn’t hate it, I think the Mitsubishi motor is better than the 2.7 Chrysler in mine.

    Sorry Sky, but it’s the Sebring for me.

  7. My mom had two Sebring convertibles. There’s a lot to hate about them.
    The engines made noise like something exciting was happening, but the exciting thing never happened. I remember weird control ergos– I think it was the position of the column stalks that drove me nuts. The angle of the windshield meant dazzling glare anytime you drove under a streetlamp at night. The huge A-pillars where pretty much always where you wanted to be looking at corners and curves. Massive shoulders meant the huge side mirrors weren’t as useful as they might otherwise be. Seatbelt’s shoulder belt came out of a pod mounted high on the seat (great to ease entry to the rear seat) that was exactly where you wanted to look for a shoulder check.

  8. I tried so hard to like the Skystice twins when they were released, but that completely ridiculous top that swallows almost the entire trunk, the stupid pop-up buttresses that have to be addressed, the worst top-up visibility this side of a Sherman tank, and then this one pops up for $2200? I can forgive a lot of sins for that price, but if it looks this bad cosmetically, one can only imagine the true mechanical condition. Add to that the cost of a replacement top- ~$1200 if you install it yourself, then the salvage title, and that Sebring suddenly doesn’t look so bad. Sebring for me (reluctantly- never cared much for the 90’s Chryslers).

  9. I came here to vote for the Sky, but that’s a lot of strikes against it, and the Sebring looks great. Truthfully I wouldn’t want to own either, but if I had to choose, give me the cleaner car, not the mystery automatic.

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