Click here for new photos, January 2004,
of the XM Radio installation.
In February 2003, I bought a silver '99 Saturn SL1
5-speed as a commuter car. This is the first time in my life I've
ever set out to buy a dull car, but it seemed the appropriate thing
to do. I needed something that would be reliable and economical,
at least until my sons finish college. The older one is a freshman,
and the younger is a sophomore in high school, so that means I need
a car to cost as little as possible for 7 years. I hope this
is it! So far, so good, since I've gotten 36.9 and 37.1 mpg
on the first two tanks. (Update... summertime mileage is around
33 mpg.) Starting with only 48,000 miles seemed a good idea, and
I only paid $5800 for it. (I was averaging $2000/year in repairs
on the '85 Corvette, and was getting 18 mpg on my commute.
Next car, in 2010, will be something like a 2006 Corvette Roadster.)
Anyway, here are a few photos. Click to view
the full-sized image.
Since I plan to have this car for a long time, I figure that a
set of seat covers will keep me from wearing out the seat cloth.
I had bought a pair of "fake neoprene" seat covers from
(link opens a new window) when I had the Corvette (the seam had
come apart and foam was coming out) and I liked them, so I bought
a set of red ones for the Saturn. This choice helps to brighten
up the drab interior. I also have a Blaupunkt Nevada CD/receiver
that I had bought for the minivan, so I replaced the cheap-o "Rampage"
stereo that was in the car. The Blaupunkt is red, so it goes with
the seats. I'm thinking of getting a black and red leather steering
wheel cover to further the theme. I'd also like to add a Delco Skyfi
XM Radio receiver.
My younger son correctly pointed out that, regardless of what I
do with the interior, there's nothing that can be done to make this
In some of the pictures, the surround for the receiver looks blacker
than the rest of the console. This is a result of the texture reflecting
the camera flash differently than the smoother plastic around it,
and you really don't notice it in "real life."
I added a "Wheel Skins" leather steering wheel cover
to match the rest of the interior. This is a lot more comfortable
that the hard plastic steering wheel!
I've seen a lot of Saturn SLs on the road with the headliners hanging
down. Mine started to come down at the edges in 2005 and I used
some adhesive to stick it back up. Within a year, it was falling
down in the middle. Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that it's
parked in the sun all day every day. If it isn't going to rain I
leave the windows down some, but that isn't always possible, and
I've been caught a few times by afternoon thunderstorms. Part of
the problem, I'm sure, is that they used a glue that didn't hold
for the life of the vehicle, making it a common problem.
In any case, I got the headliner replaced in August of 2006. It
only cost $100, plus $20 for each sunvisor. The material on the
sunvisors wasn't worn out, but it was discolored with age and I
wanted it to match the ceiling. I'm hoping the deterioration of
the glue and material was the source of the recent "old car
smell". I'll know for sure once the smell of the new glue goes
I also ordered some window visors from WeatherTech.
The set of 4 was $100, which may seem like a lot to spend on a Saturn,
but I figure I'll have the car another 5 years. It has 119,000 miles
on it now, and should have 220,000 by then. Anyway, I can now leave
my windows down a couple of inches without having to worry about
getting the seats wet. These slip into the window channel. They
were extremely easy to install, and the don't change the look of
the car much. Here's a picture of the installed visors (click for
a larger one).
Here are some pictures from when I had
a blowout on the road!
February 2010, I repaired the shift linkage for $19.99, saving
several hundred in parts and labor compared with going to the dealer.
Yes, the end. On July 14, 2010, I was rear-ended on IH-610
E just before the exit to I-10. The Saturn had over 184,000
miles on it. I had actually been thinking for some time that I would
need to replace it soon, partly because that's too many miles on
the original clutch, and I knew things were bound to start breaking
soon. All in all, it was an amazingly reliable car.
I had seen earlier in the day that the local Chevy dealer was having
a sale in conjunction with my credit union buy a new or used
car, get a $500 gas card. I found a couple of potential replacements
on their website. On the way home, I decided that, no, selling the
car now would be a bad financial decision. I just don't need a car
note. Five minutes later, my mind was changed for me when a pickup
came sliding up from behind as traffic suddenly stopped, and pushed
me into the car ahead.
So that's that. Well, it's never the end of the story: The next
day I went down and bought one of the cars I had seen on the dealer
website, a 2006 Chevrolet
HHR. I hope it's as good as the Saturn was!