February 28, 2012

14 Years And 350k Miles

I know, I know... this blog is supposed to focus on the happenings of the SL2, but I felt the need to give the daily driver a touch of the limelight. Today the SW2 reached two milestones - fourteen years in our family and 350,000 miles on the road.

For those that may not know, this '95 Saturn SW2 is my third daily driver following in the line of a decrepit '93 SL2 (it was all I could afford) and a '96 SC2 (it was becoming too much like another project. As of January 21st it resides in Rosendale, NY). My acquisition of the SW2 heavily overlapped a long hiatus of driving the coupe. It quickly became the regular fall back vehicle while I struggled to make the SC2 orderly. As problems continued to crop up, the more I'd find myself driving the wagon. Eventually I became frustrated enough with the coupe to throw a for-sale sign on it (in retrospect, even if I had made the coupe road worthy it still would have needed too much work for my to be happy with it). Prior, the SW2 had been regular transportation for my Dad. He purchased it on February 28th,1997 with only 41,920 miles. In 1997 this car still sold for $14,735 dollars, compared to the $1300 eventually paid for my SL2. Unbeknownst to me, this car would go on to influence my admission to the Saturn community and the purchase of the SL2 that this blog is all about. Around that time the local Saturn dealership (Portsmouth, NH) was an SPS distributor and was sponsoring an employee's race-prepped '96 SL2, a car that Dad became lightly involved in. Dad, despite having vowed to "never lay a wrench on it", quickly started duplicating basic modifications from the SPS catalog - I recall walking in on him with the shifter in the vice and a hacksaw in hand. These modifications would go on to include a lot of one-off pieces, namely the tubular stainless steel rear lateral-links and trailing arms that stirred the forums. This car also features the original hand made center vent gauge bezel that was briefly replicated and made available for sale.

My history with the car became established when it came time to acquire my drivers license. I was forced to quickly get good with the five-speed while trying to rack up my permit hours. On the big day the SW2 was tasked to carry me through the test. Fortunately my instructor wasn't phased by either the aftermarket gauges or open exhaust. Throughout the following years I'd borrow the wagon, sometimes to catch a break from the detestable Mitsubishi Eclipse or Geo Tracker I was borrowing from my mother in the winters, or to carry more than one passenger during the summer because the SL2 had since become void of an interior. Its regular road time slackened with the birth of the Saturn TDI. Originally the chassis that became the TDI was supposed to be a mule to later allow a seamless swap into the SW2. However, Dad became attached to the particular car as it took on a life of its own and aspirations to make the final swap dissipated. Back then, with over 300,000 miles, the downtime was like a well needed vacation. But as the TDI became more reliable the SW2 sat for longer, more often, until it really wasn't driven at all. This, among many things, became another factor in abandoning the SC2. Between the two I had a stronger connection and a longer history with the wagon, and neither my Dad or I liked to see it sit. With 328,000 on the clock and having committed to selling the SC2, I struck up a deal to inherit the SW2.

For its age this car is in exceptional shape, though it isn't without some much needed work. This spring I'll be tackling some maintenance, a few upgrades, and a major detailing (paint correction). The front wheel bearings finally called it quits somewhere in December so I've got a set of spindles ready with new bearings/hubs. Plus, while I've got things apart, I'm going to replace the front LCAs, and I'll be stepping up to some coilovers I've been sitting on. There is a leak around the rear hatch where the seam sealer has since disappeared. This whole area will be treated for surface rust and some new sealer will be applied. Later I'd like to have the headliner reupholstered as I've got a sag in the rear where that leak is, and I've got some ideas for upgraded front seats (the foam in the drivers side is pretty much disintegrating). I'm also on the hunt for a set of wheels, though its low on my list of automotive priorities. 

To date the car has the following modifications:

  • Exhaust: SPS (Stainless Steel, 2", Inline Magnaflow, Stock Muffler) 
  • Header: OEM (Jet Hot Coated)
  • Intake: AEM (Short Ram)
  • Injection: Alcohol/Water
  • Management: A'pexi SAFC (Added From SC2)
  • Throttle Body: OEM (Taper Bored)
  • Differential: Phantom Grip
  • Bushings: Energy Suspension Polyurethane
  • Brakes: OEM Rear-Disc Conversion
  • Motor Mounts (Dogbone): CFM (Cast Aluminum, Summit Bushings)
  • Struts/Springs: KYB/H&R
  • Strut Mounts: CFM (Machined Aluminum, Lowering Compensating)
  • Strut Tower Brace (Front): SPS
  • Strut Tower Brace (Rear): CFM (Steel Plates, Aluminum Bridge)
  • Swaybar (Rear): SPS (16mm, 3-Way Adjustable)
  • Swaybar Brackets: CFM (Heavy Duty, Stainless Steel)
  • Lateral Links: CFM (Stainless Steel, Tubular)
  • Trailing Arms: CFM (Stainless Steel, Tubular)
  • Gauges: Auto Meter (2 5/8", Sport Comp, Vacuum & Oil Pressure)
  • Gauge Bezel: CFM (Machined Aluminum)
  • Gauges (Other): Vue Bezels
  • Shifter: CFM (True Short Throw)
  • Interior (Other): Switch Cluster (Auxiliary Rear Lights, Manual Fan), Leather (Wheel, Shift Knob, Brake Handle)
  • Foglamps: CFM (Retrofitted Geo Headlamps)
  • Tires: Falken Ziex 912 (205/50/15)

1 comment:

  1. Pretty darn neat! You've become a great writer as well as the latest family mechanical guru. I really appreciate the detailed and coherant description. I've written a lot of manuals in my career. You could easily be doing that as another profession.

    Uncle Earle