On this date in 1990, Saturn sold its first car. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the first Saturn - the blue SL2 sedan shown above - was sold just after midnight to Elaine Terry at Saturn of Clearwater. "I wanted an American-made car and decided to give it a try," Mrs. Terry told the newspaper. It was a 25th wedding anniversary present. USA Today and CNN were reportedly at the retail facility to document the event. "I kept it for 10 months and put over 5,000 miles on it. People all over the country wanted to buy the car from me. One man in Las Vegas was talking up to $100,000 for it."
Shown above are the body, suspension, and chassis specifications for Saturn's 1991 sedans (SL, SL1, SL2) and coupe (SC). They were all built off of Saturn's so-called "Z" platform, which was essentially a compact front-wheel-drive steel spaceframe chassis.
Sometimes its fun to pause for a moment at take a look back at how much things cost years ago. Take for instance Saturn's 1991 lineup, when base SL sedan was sold for less than $8000! The SL2, shown above, could be purchased for just over $10,000. Note the simplicity of the option sheet, along with the available anti-lock braking system (ABS) and unavailable airbags.
In Saturn's early days, the company's brochures were always a little bit different from your "typical" vehicle brochures. In addition to showcasing that model year's new features, Saturn used the pages of its brochures to tell a story about what made its cars different. You'll notice how none of the brochures below even show a car on their covers.
The following is an excerpt from Saturn's 1991 brochure. The first Saturn was a 1991 SL2 sedan sold on October 25, 1990.
A television station in Ohio is working on a news segment about Saturn, and they are looking for an owner of any 1991 Saturn who lives in the area between the Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Ideally, the person they'd like to talk to is someone who is the original owner and still uses the car.
Mark Vaughn from AutoWeek: More than 200 cars from GM's Heritage Fleet went on the block in what GM called normal housekeeping. Note that's the Heritage Fleet, which is different from the Heritage Collection. The latter has about 350 cars. "The Heritage Collection is sacred, a critical part of the history of GM," said Brian Baker, collection manager and design historian.
Alex Taylor III, senior editor of Fortune magazine, recently compiled a list of the ten most significant cars in General Motors history. In chronological order, Saturn was cited as number 7. "Another GM effort to compete with the imports, Saturn represented a fresh start free of old encumbrances," he wrote.
Jalopnik.com reports General Motors will auction off a number of vehicles from its vaunted Heritage Center museum collection in an effort to raise cash to help offset the huge losses the company is faced with due to the global financial crisis. There are about 1000 vehicles of historical significance in storage that GM uses for the displays at the museum, but only about 150 to 200 of those vehicles can be featured at one time. On the list of vehicles to be auctioned are several notable Saturns from the past. The website says they will be sold at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction held January 13-19 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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Saturn's original advertising agency, Hal Riney & Partners, managed to capture an essence of Saturn's personality and apply it to printed and recorded media. They created a consistent feel and image with all its printed materials. Many people who missed out on Saturn's earliest days have asked to see what the early brochures were like.