The Saturn SC was a series of two and three-door sports coupes produced from 1990 to 2002, sold as 1991 to 2002 model years. The SC was part of Saturn's extensive S-Series lineup, which also featured the SL four-door sedan and the SW five-door station wagon.
Saturn Background and Development
The Saturn S-Series lineup holds a special place in history as a brands first offering. General Motors originally same up with the idea of the Saturn vehicle in 1982, focused on bringing an innovative, unique vehicle to the market. In 1985, Saturn was first developed and founded as a private, employee-owned brand by former GM leadership, but GM quickly bought them out and Saturn was absorbed by the major US automaker. At first, GM planned to release the Saturn vehicle ideals and prototype design under an already-existing brand name. But the plan was quickly dropped and Saturn remained a separate, subsidiary brand, developing the S-Series vehicles for launch. After about five years in development, the first Saturn rolled off the production line in 1990 as the Saturn SL four-door sedan. The two-door Saturn SC sports coupe followed shortly thereafter. Saturn was a unique brand due to its "no-haggle" pricing strategy, unique styling, and an entirely-new process including everything from the manufacturing process to the dealerships. Unlike many other GM subsidiaries, Saturn remained quite independent.
Saturn SC Release and Design
The Saturn SC and all S-Series models utilized a spaceframe design that allowed the side panels to be made of plastic instead of metal due to a lack of load bearing needs. The dent-resistant body panels was one of the main marketing features sold to potential customers. The exterior shape was also distinctive, using a sharp front nose was a sloped hood and thin headlights. The initial offerings of the SC used a pop-up headlight design, but that switched to the SL's fixed layout in later years. Compared to the four-door sedan, the two-door SC sports coupe was stylish and offered a sporty look. The SC was first available in just one trim level, the SC, but later switched to SC1 and SC2 trim levels for the 1993 model year. The engines available for the Saturn SC included a 1.9L LK0 inline-4 engine with just 85 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, a slightly more powerful 1.9L L24 inline-4 engine with 100 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque, and the most powerful 1.9L LL0 inline-4 that produced 123 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque. The engines were paired to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
Second and Third Generation Updates
In 1997, the second-generation Saturn SC was released, one year later than other S-Series models. The SC lineup switched to a longer wheelbase found in the sedan and wagon variants, giving the entire lineup the same platform. The exterior shape remained relatively stylish for the Saturn brand, posing as a slightly more aggressive sport coupe with rounded body panels. In 1999, an innovative front-opening clamshell third door was added to the driver's side, providing easier access to the rear seat. The engine and transmission options remained identical to the previous generation, although the LK0 engine was no longer used in favor of the nearly-identical L24. Other updates included some cost-saving measures, such as switching from rear disc brakes to the more-affordable dumb brake design. Overall, despite the SC moving to the longer platform, it remained very similar to the first-generation design. In 1999, the 2000 model year Saturn SC was released as the third generation of design. The lower body panels were heavily reworked, but the distinctive front nose shape and thin headlights remained, along with most of the exterior styling. But turning to the inside, you'd find many different components and improvements. The dashboard and center console are wholly-redesigned, providing a new sliding armrest with center storage compartment. The SC was still available as the three-door sports coupe with the clamshell rear door. The SC was still available in the two trim levels, the base SC1 and the upper-level SC1. A GT trim enhanced feature packed was also available starting in 2001 with optional upgrades for American Racing wheels and a rear spoiler. A Black Top Coupe package was also available, replacing the usual color-matched upper body panels for black ones, plus unique white instrument panel gauges and special wheels. A Limited Edition featuring many yellow accents was also released, lovingly referred to as the Bumblebee Edition.
Looking Back on the Saturn S-Series
Overall, the S-Series lineup was known for being quite successful, especially considering it was a first model release under a new brand that took nearly every part from scratch to production and sales. While the overall look and unique plastic body panels aren't look back upon too highly with hindsight in the eyes of some, the brand did quite well. One problem, however, is that many Saturn owners were already buying GM products, leading to its new subsidiary potentially hurting sales in other product lines. In 2002, Saturn ushered in the next generation of Saturn vehicles, the L-Series, before the brand starting going a much different direction in the mid-2000s and eventually ceasing production entirely in 2010. But for Saturn, there is perhaps nothing more iconic than the S-Series lineup, as the SC was the sportiest of them all.