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  1. #1

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    Leadfootny's century long build

    1993 Saturn SL2 - dark blue
    Originally optioned w/ tan 'leather', automatic transmission
    Purchased 10/2016 for $400 in non-running condition.
    Motor blown, crank snapped.
    Interior: 1/10
    Exterior: 8/10
    Minimal rust for 25y in NY

    Current Status: dead, in storage in NC

    Current Modifications (installed)

    Deebs-inspired motor
    -head shaved 0.040”
    -93 head
    -99 bottom end
    Twin intake cam mod
    AEM warm-air intake
    SMS Big Bore throttle body
    OBX header
    2 1/4" SS mandrel-bent Magnaflow exhaust
    Auto to Manual trans swap
    2" drop Sprint springs
    KYB struts
    SL1 front sway bar w/ welded ends
    17"x7" Katana rims
    205/40/17 Kumho Ecta PS31 tires
    SPS front strut bar
    Rear discs (ABS delete)
    99 Interior swap (incomplete)
    SPS expression pedal covers
    Hein's shift cable modification
    Autometer Sport-comp oil pressure gauge
    AEM Wideband O2
    SAFC 2
    Energy Suspension master kit


    Planned Modifications/future work



    Lightening up the bottom end
    -i.e. pre-97(?) crank, lightweight flywheel
    Stage 2 Cams
    MS2
    Re-ring block w/cylinder wall hone
    Bottom-end tie plate
    Paint



    I wasn’t originally going to do a write-up as there isn’t anything too unusual or unique about this build. The goal is to have a car that is cheap and fun to run. The car will see about a 50/50 mix of back roads and highway driving so I wanted it to be somewhat practical. I named it the century build as I've been thinking, planning and collecting parts over the past 10-15 years.




    Last edited by leadfootny; 07-17-2018 at 09:01 AM.

  2. #2

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    My first exposure to the Saturn brand was a 94 SL1 I purchased in 1999. At the time it was the nicest car I had ever owned. While it certainly wasn’t fast by any measure, I found that by really whaling on it, you could whip it around enough to get a smile on your face. However, that got old kinda quick and I was in need of more power. I started following many of the old Saturn sites…started with saturnfans, which was useful in figuring out normal issues but not much else. Found TSN, the rob and many others to learn and drool over cars. Unfortunately, as a poor college student, I was more focused on making sure my booze and weed were covered before car parts. I was able to buy a few items here and there…a 91 header, an AEM intake, 93 DOHC head (that I paid way too much for) and a computer to run it. I had trouble locating a new harness at a price point I was ok with so most of those parts just sat. I did have the opportunity to do the swap around 03-04 when I burned up a valve but decided to rebuild the motor as is. Time got in the way, along with adulting responsibilities and we just drove the car as is. I got into Jeeps pretty heavily for a time and rocked a 96 GC on long arms.





    Fast forward to around 2009 and it is becoming obvious that time and salt are taking their toll on the body. One of my buddies was sitting on a 99 SL2 with a bad motor. It had cali emissions and finding a proper replacement was proving difficult…he just wanted it gone. 2-3 Saturdays helping him out in his shop got me the car for free. About the same time I discovered (or rediscovered) this site and renewed my interest in getting a turd built. I decided I would take my 94 block, drop my head on it and run it in the 99. As it turns out, sitting at lights with the clutch depressed for 250k miles isn’t very good for a block or crank...and as such they were both toast. Fortunately my machine shop was able to save the 99 and I decided to use that. Had the shop shave the head 0.040, light port and polish and a valve job. There were a lot of little details that I hadn’t thought about and the project moved forward extremely slowly. Unfortunately, life had other plans for me and I was laid off in the wake of the housing crash. I used the time to tinker and build but had zero money for parts, so the car sat once again.



    The car sat like this for several years. I’d pull it out occasionally and work on it but between the shitty-ass house I bought, marriage and other shit, there was no time to get it done.

    So, now we fast-forward once again to April/May of this year. I had just gotten my wife’s 05 Legacy back on the road after blowing the head gaskets in the fall/winter. Since my shop and I were in major car repair mode, started renewed interest in getting the Saturn running. This was encouraged by my wife who really wanted the dead cars gone or running. The 94, which had sat behind the house for the last few years, was pulled from the weeds and scrapped. The 99 was pulled into the shop to finally make progress. Once again, life tried to trip things up with the rear end in my new (to me jeep) starting its decent towards failure. Fortunately, I was prepared! (or so I thought) and figured the best path would be to make the push to get the turd running so I could bring the jeep in to rebuild the axle. Large amounts of work were accomplished….new brakes (with lines) were put in, front subframe cleaned up, along with some other tasks. I was pretty much ready to drop the motor in, make the swap from auto to manual trans and be done. Decided to do some rust proofing to ward off that shit. Started at the front and worked my way back. Things were going really well until I got to the gas tank support and found this…



    The car was in excellent condition forward of the rear doors, including the sills. What I found was most unexpected. So, I did what any self-respecting Saturn enthusiast would do and stripped the fuck out of the 99.



    So, now I essentially have a complete car sitting in my shop with no body for it all to go in. Off to the cesspool that is craigslist to find a new car. Lo and behold everything is overpriced junk. I looked at a couple that only had a year or two of life left before falling apart. Ended up buying a new parts car (much to my wife’s chagrin) that was a bit of a windfall even though it was a rotted pos.



    It has a set of progress springs, OBX manifold, a set of poorly plasti-dipped 17” rims along with an mp3 I was looking for and some other odds and ends. It was starting to look like I was either going to have to pay more than I wanted for another car or do some serious travelling to get out of the salt belt. I was working on convincing the wife to take an extended trip (5-6 hours south) to find a usable body when I came across a 93 SL2 about 2 hours south. Thought it was going to be another waste as the seller struggled to tell me about the new ‘roiters’ the car had as well as him stating the frame was just fair. As it turns out, this car certainly didn’t begin its life in central NY and was really clean.



    Doesn’t run, due to the standard running low on oil. On the plus side, it does have a nice viewing window…lol

    Oh,Hi!

    Last edited by leadfootny; 01-06-2018 at 09:39 PM.

  3. #3

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    Todays plan:
    Drop powertrain/cradle from both vehicles. Put the engine/trans in my painted and prepped cradle, swap 93 body to manual transmission and get the 93 running.
    Strip remaining parts from 96 and prepare for scrapping.
    Check out broken crank in 93 motor.

    Donor and patient are ready for surgery...
    Last edited by leadfootny; 01-06-2018 at 09:36 PM.

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  5. #4

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    Subbed
    97 SC1 Auto - Totaled by truck driver | 00 Alero GLS - Totaled by wife | 98 SC2 Manual - Traded for MINI | 03 MINI Cooper S - Traded for another MINI | 07 MINI Cooper S - Former daily, now garage queen | 99 SC2 Auto - New daily. Fixing odds and ends.


  6. #5

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    Made some advancement over the last two weekends. Tried pulling the cradle/motor/trans all in one shot for both vehicles. Took way longer than anticipated and I certainly wasn't properly prepared to lift the bodies up over the drivetrain....made for an interesting weekend. Anyways, it turns out that my prepped cradle was in worse condition that I remember so I took the time to scale, sand and paint it. First pic is ready for paint...its been needle scaled, sanded and de-greased. Second pic is of it ready to go.





    I also started on the interior swap. Most of it was destroyed by years of abuse...plus I wanted the crappy leather seats gone. Had to do some adjustments to get the rear seats to work...pics to come on that. Experimented with painting parts of the inside, starting with the package tray. I was fairly impressed with how it came out. Wanted to paint the speaker grills black but couldn't figure out how to take the whole thing apart without destroying it, so I just went with charcoal grey for the whole thing.





    Finally, worked on cleaning up the headlights that were completely yellowed. I will still want to replace them at some point but they cleaned up enough to be usable. No before pics, but I did get one in the middle with one done. After I was done, I waxed them. Hopefully, it lasts for a little while.

    Last edited by leadfootny; 01-06-2018 at 09:58 PM.

  7. #6
    6S Moderator S.Bretz's Avatar
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    You can try some clear coat over them to help protect them.
    -6S Resident Mechanical Forensics member #001.
    1995 SC2 Turbo 3.6L DOHC, 6sp manual, Ford 8.8 rearend running on MS3x.
    1998 F-250 5.4L triton...stock.

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  9. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by S.Bretz View Post
    You can try some clear coat over them to help protect them.
    +1. I did that to my integra, 7 coats of automotive clear and they spent 5 years outside with no garage, most of the time not being cleaned or washed because it leaked water and they still look like glass.

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  11. #8
    Yerboogieman's Avatar
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    Subbed. I like where this is going. It's hard to find a good reading build thread nowadays.
    Beige 93 SC2, fully loaded, MS3 Pro, 150 shot nitrous, Walbro 255, high compression. 155hp/296hp
    Purple 93 SC2, Minus all options, save for rear discs. Formerly turbocharged with a GT25R and forged internals. MS2. 390hp (150mph club )
    99 SC2 M/T 206k, 97 SC2 M/T 106k

    If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?

  12. #9

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    I'll have to give the clearcoat thing a try, thanks!

    So, to give a quick update. I've been focusing mostly on getting the interior swapped over. It is turning into quite the endeavor....nothing plug and play at all with the dash. All of the mounting bolts don't line up, the bracket for the steering column is too high and the dash venting doesn't line up at all. I made some extension brackets last night for the upper dash bolts, will weld them in this weekend. I need to decide whether to shim or move the steering column bracket. It currently sits about 1/2 inch higher than the old dash. Not quite sure how to tackle the vent issue. I will post pics over the weekend of the mods made.

    I spent a good deal of time rummaging through my local pick and pulls....kinda disappointed to see that tupperware cars are starting to disappear here. Only 2 sl first gens and only around 10 s-series in total between 3 yards. I was able to find a 95, which was huge. Was able to get front seatbelts and accompanying trim. Might revisit this car to scavenge duct work...we'll see.

    Continued painting interior pieces. Will be repainting the rear package tray black. Pics to come on this as well.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
    Last edited by leadfootny; 10-20-2016 at 01:59 PM.

  13. #10

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    Subbed, Wish you was closer, Id like to have them white wheels. I have steelies and will need tires soon. Perfect time for a cheap upgrade.

  14. #11

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    Not sure if this is still a work in progress. But I'd like to follow it if it is so I can learn more about these turds! I want to try and build mine this summer.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  15. #12

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    Yup, this build is still going on...although quite slowly. It isn't called the century build for nothing....lol. Anyways, swapping this dash has turned into an absolute nightmare. I currently have the dash physically installed with the steering wheel bolted in but that's it. I am dealing with modifying the side vents...will need to build custom ducting. I need to post some pics of the work and detail the whole thing.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  16. #13
    Modding_out's Avatar
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    Just saw the jeep, Nice. I love me some ZJ action. I doubt I'd go full long arm. But some undercarriage stiffening to compliment my lift and skid plates might be nice


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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  18. #14

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    I love my ZJ's! Its a large part of the reason this project is taking forever. I also have a 5.9 which takes up large portions of shop time. I've been considering combining the two as the ny roads have done their thing on the body.


  19. #15

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    Finally got around to snapping some pics of the dash in place. Any input on how I modded the dash brackets is appreciated. I tried to keep it simple and wanted to cut up the frame as little as possible. They changed the entire bulkhead for the second gens and the newer dash really doesn't want to straddle it properly. I am still stuck on how to connect the side vents as the duct is 1-2 inches short. I'm going to try to make something out of some thin steel I have. If I can form a tube and somehow attach it, I might be set...we'll see. I was watching a promo video for Saturn's launch and they give a really good side view of the dash and how they installed it. I wish there was a way to just swap out the bulkheads...any chance they'd swap? Anyways, onto the pics. The last one shows the space in the ducting I am working with.






    Last edited by leadfootny; 05-09-2017 at 08:50 PM.

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  21. #16
    awelch37's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leadfootny View Post
    ....I was watching a promo video for Saturn's launch and they give a really good side view of the dash and how they installed it...

    Great video to watch ... I like seeing the "lost foam" process when they pour the molten aluminum into the mold. Haircuts and music are "groovy" too.


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  22. #17

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    Since I've paid my deposit for a cabin at TOTD, I figured I should get my shit together and finish this thing. Ya'll will look at me kinda weird if I show up with my Jeep...lol.

    So, I've actually made some progress in the last few weeks. First up, I've mostly figured out my dash vent issue. I realized that the side vents on the original dash were molded separately from the remaining plastic. I cut the rivets out and the fit pretty well behind the new dash. I did need to do some trimming but not too bad. I will still need to close the gap between where these end and the actual vents but that is a much smaller gap and won't hold me up.




    I also figured out the parking brake issue, of which there were several. The 93 had this funky bracket that the seat belts tied into; the handle comes up through the center of the console on the gen 1, offset on the gen 2 and the bracket for the cables is part of the floor in the gen 1, part of the bracket for gen 2. I hacked the gen 2 bracket down to just the brake lever and welded it to the funky bracket. It raises the handle up about an inch but the rear support for the console is approx an inch taller so I think it will work.



    Finally, I pulled the side skirts so I could address the rear sill rust. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of rust I found, especially in light of my last body. I've identified all of the problem issues and am working towards cleaning them up. I plan on welding in some patches, paint and rubberized coating. I have some eastwood internal frame coating that is supposedly good stuff. I bought it for my trail jeep but decided to scrap it instead. I am going to use it on the inside of the door sills. How do those plastic brackets come off? It looks like some sort of rivet but im not sure...





    As soon as I fix the rust, the interior will be assembled. I've figured out most of the wiring hiccups...the only thing left there is the defroster/fog lights switch. I need to decided whether I want to keep the abs system or not. As it stands, the cv shaft with the teeth is shot and I think that bearing is as well. I have a good regular master cylinder and a shit ton of non-abs axles. Plus then I don't need to re-flange the brake lines. Gettin there.

  23. #18

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    Alright, we're back..lol. To those subbed here, sorry for the huge delay in updates. The whole photobucket fiasco kinda deflated the momentum on this thread.

    So I cut out the major rot, and sanded down the area. Degreased the area and soaked it with a phosphoric acid solution to etch the metal. Area was primed with ZeroRust.




    I created patch panels out of 22 gauge sheet metal, primed the same.



    Using the handy MIG welder, I stitch-welded the ends and recreated the factory plug welds (I had drilled them out as part of metal removal). I should not have primed the metal prior to welding as the heat just blistered the paint....just a waste of time and paint. Once the panels were welded in, I sanded the exposed bead in the door sill. I did this for clearance purposes if I decide to put the trim in. Although that may not happen as the trim is the culprit to rust in the first place. I did not cut the holes for the plastic bits. Exposed metal was painted over with the primer and the whole thing painted with a black gloss enamel.





    Finally, I used Eastwood Internal Frame Coating on the inner channel of the door sill. The stuff comes with a 1 foot hose to get into channels, so I got it into every crevice I could.

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  25. #19

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    Next, I moved on to the motor. I had done a good amount of the work several years ago. At the time, I pulled the motor out of the 94 SL1 with the intention of using that block. I also had the motor out of the 99, but it was not running at the time. I believed it to have overheated as the head gasket showed signs of leaking. I naively thought that since it was running when pulled, that it would be the better of the two. Turns out, 287k miles of using the clutch as a foot rest is not good for the crank. The block would have needed to be bored out. The 99 block was surprisingly good. The first sign that things weren't good...



    Off to the machine shop....


    Motor mostly assembled...


    The motor sat exactly like this (wrapped in plastic) for the next 4-5 years, when I finished assembly. This included setting timing, and placing the covers. I believe I made a major mistake at this point. I think I should have pulled the head back off and checked the cylinders as I currently have pretty good oil consumption. I had coated the cylinders with oil but 5 years must have allowed some moisture to form. I plan on pulling the motor in the spring and doing a re-ring.

    Before installation, I painted the block. I really should have done this prior to assembly. While it came out pretty well and I had masked off everything, I really wasn't comfortable doing much sanding to remove some of the corrosion. I'll see how it looks after a season of running....maybe it won't be too bad. I painted the valve cover, intake manifold, header and transmission at the same time. I used VHT engine paint for the valve cover and top of the intake, Duplicolor engine paint for the block and transmission and VHT extreme heat header paint for the header. I unfortunately did not take pics of the individual finished parts, just the full assembly ready for installation.





    Finally, it was ready for installation.




    Did a little buttoning up and we were ready to fire. Ran out to get gas and had what I thought to be a good sign.....



    Now something I should explain at this point. It was a monday evening when this picture was taken. The engine installation pics were taken over the previous weekend. I was supposed to be driving to North Carolina for TOTD on Thursday. To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement...lol.

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  27. #20

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    So, the car runs! and runs well. Its got ok pickup in first gear and the beginning of second. It seems to pull harder in the middle of second gear into third, where it must hit an optimum point. I dunno, the butt-dyno isn't calibrated for the Saturn...lol. Rides very rough, almost to the point of unpleasant. I know its largely the shitty roads we have in upstate NY but every bump is very jarring. The sprint springs are supposed to be a good ride, although I wonder if I have a set of extremes,which might make sense. I know the tire combo isn't helping either. I'll probably look to something else when these tires are cooked.

    Went to TOTD and met up with the 6s guys...had a wonderful time. You can watch one of my runs here. Considering it only had 75 miles when I pulled out the driveway and the dash was assembled that morning, it did pretty well. I didn't have instrument lights so my plan was to mainly drive during the day. Left Oswego, NY around 5pm thursday, stopping for the night in central PA around 9. Around southern VA the car started losing power an running extremely rough. After quite a bit of troubleshooting, turns out I dropped a down-pipe bolt and another was loose. The loss of back pressure made the motor run like shit. Once it was tightened up, it was well again. Made my way to the village late in the evening. Spent the next day and a half beating the ever-loving crap out of this car. On the return trip of my final dragon run (sunday afternoon), the battery light came on. Found that as long as I kept the rpms up, I could keep the light off. My plan was to get out of the mountains where I could get access to parts. Made it to Asheville before the alternator gave it up. A few hours in an advance auto parking lot and my first uber experience and I was up and running again. Stopped for the night in Charlotte before returning home Monday evening with the remaining trip uneventful. Logged a total of ~1900 miles with a 30.5 mpg average, 34 mpg was my best.

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