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So you want to
make a Saturn S-Series fast?
Date: Nov 4, 2007
So you want to make a Saturn S-Series fast?
exists to help set some expectations for the new Saturn enthusiast who
wants to go fast. Doing this with a Saturn is, well, different.
People will probably tease you about it, and it won't be easy or cheap,
but if there is one thing the owner of a fast Saturn can enjoy, it's the
look of shock on the competition's face when you leave them behind.
#1 for the Saturn tuner is: have a sense of humor. You will
probably never be the fastest, and even if you are, some people will
still say "it's just a Saturn." Laugh and move on, you'll be
should be proud to have an S-Series:
This is by far the
most common Saturn being modified, basically because they are cheap and
plentiful. That's not to say there aren't other things to love
about them. For one, they're very very light weight. As a
general estimation, they weigh about 2,400 pounds without driver.
Individuals who have gotten serious about weight reduction have gotten
under 2,000 pounds. While the best stock S-Series motor only puts
out 124 horsepower, it may surprise you just how potent that horsepower
is in such a light car. A twin cam S-Series in good running
condition with good driver will run a mid to upper 15 second quarter
characteristic of the S-Series is the suspension. With a rear
independent suspension, and a rear swaybar in the DOHC models, the
S-Series performs very respectably in autocross events. This is
probably where the S-Series shines most, in fact.
While the cars
can put out good power if built and boosted (pushing near, or maybe even
over 400 horsepower in more extreme builds), controlling that much power
can be a real issue in drag racing. The light weight of the car
can actually work against the car, leaving the tires spinning. As
I write this, the top drag speed in Sixthsphere.com's "Top 5 and 10
list" is a high 11 second quarter mile run. Still, this is plenty
fast enough to drop some jaws, and get plenty of comments about how
surprised people are that a Saturn is fast.
definitely be fun street cars. Good torque makes them quick off
the line, and they love the twisties. Even a stock twin cam can
embarrass many Civics and other common tuner cars out there. Don't
get cocky, though - those other cars usually have a better aftermarket
than you, and if the owner knows what they're doing, you could get
smoked. At any rate, these make fun daily drivers to get a little
zippy with. Please take racing to the track, though. It's
safer and will mean more when you win.
whole "making it fast" part:
want to be fast, you will want a manual transmission. There are
swap guides online that will show you how to do it step-by-step, with
torque specs and pictures. For more info on transmission options,
check out the guides on saturnseries.net. The automatic will take
at least a second off of drag times, and want to shift at all the wrong
times in autocross. Some people still prefer the automatic, and
that's fine, but there is no debating that the manual is faster.
the easiest and cheapest way to make your car fast. Depending
on how you use it, it may not stay the cheapest, as you'll have to keep
refilling that bottle. Also keep in mind that it's not street
legal. There are a lot of misconceptions about nitrous, how it
works, how it's used, etc. Read and understand what you are doing
before you buy the first part. While nitrous can be a safe and
reliable source of extra power, there can be a relatively small margin
of error. An improper tune, a misaimed fogger, poorly controlled
spray - all these things create a serious risk to your car's health.
induction is the most potent way to make your car fast. The
S-Series has been turbocharged and supercharged before, so this is not
some unexplored wilderness. If you're willing to spend the time
(both reading and building) and money, you can build a reliable,
powerful boosted S-Series.
For those of
you with a single cam S-Series, let me say a few words to you.
Everyone will tell you to swap to the dual cam engine. Even among
Saturn enthusiasts, there will be those that look down on you and
probably make insulting comments. You have some choices: you can
listen to them and do the swap, or you can roll your eyes at them and
decide to see what you can do with that single cam. Before you
decide, you need to know this - if you decide to be "different" and
modify the single cam engine, you will not be the first. Many
people have done this, spending gobs of money on nitrous and
turbocharging. The result? They were just a little faster
than a twin cam Saturn... stock. Thousands of dollars spent trying
to make a single cam fast will result in it being simply less slow.
That said, if
you want to make a fast S-Series, your choice engine is the twin cam.
With a few bolt-ons, you will be as fast as a single cam with thousands
invested. Those who came before you that decided to go against the
grain and turbo their single cam? They eventually swapped,
regretting they ever bothered with the single cam. If you don't
feel you are ready to do a twin cam swap, then either find some help, or
wait. Choose mods that will still work after the swap. For a
naturally aspirated setup, this could mean exhaust (except header, which
will not swap), intake, tuning stuff, and suspension work.
You may also
choose to stick with the single cam in spite of the above. If so,
I wish you better luck than others have had in the past. You will
need to decide to be thick-skinned, and be ready to ignore what other
people say. Just be sure it's what you really want, and not a
bull-headed way of covering up a fear of doing an intimidating engine
swap. The swap isn't really that difficult, and there are plenty
of people in the online Saturn enthusiast community willing to help you.
Those of you
with other Saturn models, I'm sorry, I don't know enough about your car
to tell you a whole lot. I will try to find someone who can give
you some advice and ask them to write a similar article for you.