Saving Saturns And Other Forms Of Madness

Images: Chris Sundquist

Remember the American automotive brand called Saturn? Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t remember, as very few do. In fact, very few ever got to know about the marque, and even fewer bought their cars.

Saturn, a subdivision of General Motors, was created in the 1980s to be the direct competitor to Toyota in the United States, as well as to be a ‘different kind of car company’. Their first cars debuted in 1990 as 1991 model year cars, and the first model was the S-series.

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JessieLeigh poses in front of a Saturn S-series

The Saturn S-series was a completely new line-up of vehicles that did not utilize anything from any other General Motors vehicles. The range consisted of the coupe, which was called SC at the beginning, and the subsequent model evolutions were the SC1 and the SC2, the saloon version called the SL (with the SL1 and SL2 following as the subsequent generations), and the estate was called SW1 (which later evolved into the SW2).

The SC was the coupe model from 1991 until 1993 and featured a Twin Cam engine. This vehicle became the SC2 in 1994 when the brand introduced a coupe with their single cam engine and called that model the SC1.

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JessieLeigh and her many Saturns

The other model names also correlated with the number matching the engine in the vehicle. The SL was the base model saloon that also came with the single cam engine. The transmissions offered were manual and automatic.

In 2000, the company introduced their L-series, which was based on GM’s German division Opel. This vehicle line-up was the first step General Motors took to turn Saturn into another rebadged line of vehicles instead of the unique original line-up, to save money and resources. 2002 was the last model year of the S-series, and Saturn as a brand ceased to make cars by 2009.

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Saturns Saturns everywhere and not a car to lose

Twenty-nine-years young JessieLeigh, from New Jersey, USA, has decided to save the last of the Saturn S-series and restore them, as most of the older Saturns find themselves at scrap yards. On last count she had built up—and saved—as many as 17 Saturns from the crusher. These include at least one of each body style offered during the entire run of the S-series, as well as some special editions.

Seven years ago, JessieLeight needed to drive her friend Ron’s car to a party and that was when she drove a 2001 SC2 for the first time and knew at that moment that she needed to purchase one. After buying two S-series Saturns that did not need any work done to them, she was introduced to a friend of Ron’s that had a 1995 SC2 with front-end damage and was going to be scrapped.

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Although Saturn introduced several innovative concepts, including the increased use of composites, teething problems and a ‘middle-of-the-road’ image didn’t help sales

Instead of letting it get crushed, she bought it and decided to fix it up. Once she got a taste of saving Saturns, she never looked back.

In addition to the 17 Saturns, she also has a 1990 Mazda Miata, a 1980 Chevrolet Camaro, and a 1991 Chevrolet S10. She loves cars in general, but the S-series has found a special place in her heart. Some of the special-edition Saturns include the 1999 SL2 Homecoming Edition and a 2000 SWP, which is the postal wagon and, unusually, a right-hand drive.

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The Saturn SC coupes are perhaps the most collectible of the series 

Her main goal was to get at least one of every body style that the S-series was ever made in, and she has completed that mission. Now she is focusing on getting them 100 percent mechanically sorted out, although they are all runners. Next, she wants to get their bodies back to their original nick.

One day, when they are all restored, they will hopefully live out their days in the GM Heritage Museum, as that is her end goal: to preserve this part of automotive history that is so often overlooked and forgotten.

You can follow JessieLeigh and her Saturns on Instagram: @JessieLeighNJ


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