The Saturn car company was a unique & innovative brand in the 1990s

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The Saturn car company was launched by GM, but the car’s design, manufacturing and sales were all handled separately.

The very first Saturn car rolled off the line in the summer of 1990 — a red 1991 Saturn SL2.

During a time when Japanese imports were flooding the compact car market — this American-made brand was well-received by the public. Key selling points were those dent-resistant plastic side panels (in theory, swappable, too, so you could revise your design) and “hassle-free buying.”

Eventually, however, the Saturn car brand was one of many casualties of the recession, and they ultimately stopped production of the vehicles in 2009.

1991 Saturn cars

Saturn car — 1993: First-time car buyer Shelley Bridges got advice from her family, friends and coworkers, and couldn’t use any of it.

Having achieved the age of 24, Shelley decided it was time to stop driving the former family car. Out of college and into a job, she was feeling the new fullness of her bank account and wanted a car that was more her style.

But somehow, in all her years, she’d never been inside a car dealership. And she found out that lots of people had strong opinions on the subject.

“Don’t let them pressure you,” advised family. “Watch out for tricks,” urged friends. “They won’t take a woman seriously,” cautioned coworkers.

Now it happens that the car Shelley had her eye on was a Saturn coupe. She had admired them around town and read positive reports about them. (She even liked the ads.)

So, her head full of warnings (and not exactly into shopping around), it was a shy, apprehensive Shelley who visited the Saturn showroom in her southern Maine town.

“Huh,” Shelley thought, as she drove out in her new coupe, surprised at how ”stress-free” it was to buy it. “What were they so worried about? That was almost — fun.”


Shelley Bridges and her new Saturn car

Saturn cars from GM
Saturn car magazine ad from 1993

Saturn car — 1992: Cheryl Silas had a highway collision, was hit twice from behind, and then sold three cars for us.

A policeman at the accident, Officer Jimmie Boylan, thought, “She’s lucky to be alive.” Cheryl had just stepped out of her totaled Saturn coupe. Upon impact, her shoulder harness and lap belt held her tight as the spaceframe of her car absorbed most of the collision. He watched as Cheryl’s sport coupe and the other cars were towed away.

The following week, Cheryl made the return trip to Saturn of Albuquerque and ordered another SC, just like her first. And then we started noticing some rather unconventional “referrals.”

A Few days later, Officer Boylan came into the showroom and ordered a grey sedan for himself. Then a buddy of his, also a policeman, did the same. And shortly thereafter, Cheryl’s brother, more than a little happy that he still had a sister, and needing a new car himself, bought yet another Saturn in Illinois.

But the topper came when a very nice young woman walked into the showroom to test drive a sedan.

She said she just wanted to know a little more about what our cars were like. Not that she was going to buy one right away, or anything. She’d just never seen a Saturn up close until she’d rear-ended one out on the highway several weeks earlier.

Saturn car magazine ad from 1992
Saturn car magazine ad from 1992

Saturn cars 1992 1

Saturn car — 1994: Personal trainer Victor Antunez found it was easy to pick up 2,360 pounds without any strain, pressure or sweat.

On his way home from work one day, Victor Antunez spotted this buffed-out coupe sitting right outside the Saturn store. He went in, all pumped up for the usual sales workout. (You know, push-pull, push-pull, push-pull….)

Victor’s pretty used to that sort of drill…

Personal trainer Victor Antunez' Saturn car
Saturn car magazine ad from 1994

Saturn car — 1995: When you’ve tackled everything else life has thrown your way, a little traffic certainly isn’t going to stop you

If you spend your life studying physics, you learn complex and incredible things. Like why the earth spins around the sun. How airplanes fly. Or what makes hundreds of cars traveling at 55 mph stop every Friday afternoon at 5:15.

But a scientist like June Rooks (June is an operations research analyst for the military) doesn’t let life’s mysteries bog her down. She’s just, well, fascinated by them. (June has the kind of mind that never stops moving.)

So when it came time to buy a new car you’d expect June to make a very calculated study of it. Instead, June went to the auto show, where she saw a Saturn SL1. And it was love at first sight. An emotional, if unlikely, response from a keen analytical mind like June’s.

Later, at the Saturn retailer, June found the whole experience was so easy that she made a decision to buy right on the spot Impulsive behavior for a scientist of June’s stature. But you can’t spend your whole life in a laboratory. A lot of it (just ask June), you spend in traffic. And you might as well enjoy it.

1995 Saturn June Rooks

June Rooks and her Saturn car
Saturn car magazine ad from 1995

Saturn car — 1995: Last fall, model Helen Dailey was interested in what was coming out of Paris, Milan and Spring Hill

Helen is pictured in a red cocktail dress by Oleg Cassini of Milan, accessorized by a gold SC2 by Saturn of Spring Hill.

We’re flattered, to say the least. After all, as a professional model for over ten years, Helen’s appeared in ads, done runway work, and even teaches modeling at a Houston Barbizon school. Seeing so many styles come and go, she’s picky about what she’s seen in. And if it isn’t priced like some rhinestone-studded designer original, that’s all the better.

We’re pleased Helen chose the Saturn. And we think she’d be pleased our 1995 coupe has received a makeover that includes dual airbags, a more ergonomic dash, restyled front and rear fascias, even additional colors and fabrics Okay, some might call us slaves to fashion, even if we are from a little town in Tennessee.

Helen Dailey and her Saturn car
Saturn car magazine ad from 1995

Saturn car — 1995: The cockpit of an F-16 and Anne Parker’s Saturn SC2 are so similar they both have an eject button (okay, so ours is on the tape player) (1995)

Ever since she was a little girl, Anne Parker has wanted to fly. She signed up for flight training just as soon as she could. Climbed into most everything that had wings Then she visited one of our retailers and test-piloted a Saturn SC2.

It must have been a successful sortie, because Anne bought the coupe and she’s been conducting low-level maneuvers ever since. You can’t compare it to pulling 9 g’s in a jet-“That would be silly, ” says Anne-but with its 124-horsepower, 16-valve dual-overhead-cam engine, well, it’s still quite a thrill.

Especially now. See, Anne’s not piloting planes anymore. A promotion has landed her behind a desk in San Antonio. A good job — air crew selection research. Then again, it’s not exactly the same as throttling up at 30,000 feet.

All the more reason why she likes her Saturn. From where she sits, the gauges are easy to read, the controls are well-placed and the AM/ FM stereo and cassette deck come through loud and clear.

Still, as Anne says, comparing a Saturn to a jet is a bit of a stretch. That supersonic number goes for about $25 million. The SC2? Well, you’ll see it’s considerably less.

Anne Parker's Saturn SC2

Anne Parker's Saturn SC2
Saturn car magazine ad from 1995

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One Response

  1. I purchased a 1994 Saturn SW2 station wagon in 1998 from a Saturn dealer which had 41,000 miles on the odometer. Tens years of happy, reliable (and fun) driving followed, after which I gave the wagon to one of my sons with approximately 164,000 miles. He drove it fours more before selling it. The SW2 was quick, economical, good handling and excellent stopping (4 wheel disc brakes). Super comfortable seats and superior highway ride made it a road trip carrier, mostly to the beach! We joked that the Saturn perfectly fit 4 people, 4 body boards, 4 duffle bags, 4 wet suits and 4 towels with room to spare for snacks. Great car, wonderful memories.

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