Campus Find: As-New 1995 Saturn SL1

Colleges benefit from many things, including non-profit status, tax breaks, great deals on desirable properties, and the ability to take over once-public streets for the privilege of sticking parking meters on them. Oh, and the salaries are great if you work in administration! Add to the list of perks is that manufacturers will give you the equivalent of automotive test labs, like this 1995 Saturn SL1 here on It has no engine or transmission, but also no miles. 

Said to have been used by the University of Massachusetts as a driving simulator, this Saturn was likely given to the college by GM for research purposes, or some other noble cause. With no engine or transmission, it made it a maintenance-free acquisition for the college and a blank slate for whatever classroom-centric objective they had in mind. Though dusty, the body doesn’t appear to have been stored outside, so it could be a worthwhile swap candidate if you own a cosmetically-challenged SL1.

As far as retrofitting a motor and transmission into the Saturn, it’s tough to tell what will be involved as far as undoing what the university installed for simulator purposes. Although hard to decipher from the photos, this Saturn is definitely sporting some extra hardware, which I would imagine they’d remove before selling onto a new owner. If not used for keeping a well-running SL1 on the road, there’s likely a host of swapped motors that would work here, making for a unique project with an unusual history.

There’s currently a bid of $52 on this engine-less SL1, but there’s still five days left on the auction. Though more of a curiosity than being rare or valuable, Saturns weren’t terrible cars and there are still a fair number of SL1s on the road. It’d be more tempting as a project if it were the sweet SC coupe body-style, but this still has LeMons racer written all over it, in my opinion. Log your comments below about your visions for this university-owned project.

Fast Finds


  1. RayT Member

    The good: the new owner could probably get this up and running for very little money. Grab a Saturn powertrain — and, probably, a bunch of essential smaller parts, plus a passenger’s seat — and after a couple of weekends, it’d be done.

    The bad: check carefully to see if there are any hidden caveats to this deal. Manufacturers often donated cars that were prototypes, pilot-line vehicles or other oddities that could not be used on the road or registered. The ad quotes a VIN, but one would need to check it out carefully. Also, be prepared to rebuild every system that’s in place (brakes, etc.) before headin’ down the highway.

    The ugly: after all the work and research, you’d have a Saturn SL1, a terminally boring and pretty dismal little car.

    I can see potential for swapping in the hit-or-miss engine featured by BF a while ago!

  2. jaybest

    Sunbeam Motors has electric drive lines for these type of projects…………..

  3. jaybest
  4. rando

    Does it have a title at all? When I worked for the college system in the Motorcycle program, we had a LOT of motorcycles that had no titles. Dealers and manufacturers would give us the bnikes to use for a year, then the program would buy them with not thought to ever getting rid of them – usually salvaged. But when I came on board, we had to develop a program for disposing of surplus. And LOTS of those bikeswere still viable for someoine even slightly mechanically inclined.

    Heck, my uncle bought a running bike for $110 at auction with title. He scavenged it and then gave me the remains after I quit with the state. I was able to get it licensed and insured for less than $100. But that’s my good luck story.

    Back to the Saturn – there may be a lot of hassle getting this car and being able to do any more than part it out. And it’s still a Saturn. how ’bout SBC? lol

  5. Howard A Member

    I figured it would be a matter of time before one of these showed up. Be nicer if it had an engine. Say what you will, I had a car just like this, and it was a darn good car. It was a SL2 ( twin cam) that I bought for $500 bucks in 2008, it had 215K miles when I got it, I put another 20K on it before the odometer broke, and maybe another 10 after that, and sold it for $475 2 years later. It wasn’t the fanciest, or most comfortable car, but it did still get an honest 32 mpg, and everything still worked. Saturn was a good car, ( although working on it was tough) had a good dealer network, everybody cheered when you drove off the lot, and they had Saturn customer get togethers. My daughter bought a SC1, and drove the heck out of that. It was a cool car. The Ion killed it for Saturn, but these were some of the best cars, I thought. I’d just find a SL1 or 2 motor, and keep it stock, but I doubt anyone will bite on this.

  6. Steve R

    It will make a great parts car.

    Steve R

  7. Luki

    Barn Finds just hit an all time low.
    A Saturn? Really?

  8. John K

    Whatever you do, don’t press the red button…

  9. Coventrycat

    A Sky maybe, but this? It’s still better than the BMW / Benz FetishFest on BAT though.

  10. Evan Allen

    is this the sort of thing you could apply for a lost title for? is that a way of sorting it out? (depending on the state)

  11. Rustytech Member

    It’s hard to find one of these without at least on cracked body panel. This would be a perfect parts car if the price remains under about $500. I don’t think it would be worth the time or money to restore it, especially it there is no title.

  12. rmward194 Member

    Like rando, I thin the title could be the issue with this car. I remember some type of new car falling off the car carrier when the driver was delivering it. The dealer didn’t want it because no customer would buy it and GM didn’t want it back.

    GM wound up donating it to the local high school for educational purposes, but IIRC it could never be put on the road.

  13. Clinton

    Hey if it needed a clutch you already have the engine out. Lol! Good little econoboxes . In my autos program we had a brand new lumina Z34 convertible prototype. Giant sticker from GM stating never to be titled, licensed , or used on public roads.

  14. Gerry Member

    When I was attending school in Mass. the donated cars all had the VIN’s removed by punching a hole in the windshield when the school was done they were crushed into a cube.
    Dealer could write it off as a donation but the cars and or parts could not be sold they pretty strict about it

  15. photog02

    This looks to have been a driving simulator. There was a driving simulator manufacturer (Hyperion, maybe?) that used Saturn SL sedans as cabins, sans engine/transmission but leaving everything else in place. Given that this is at UMass, a school that has a history of driving simulation research, I am pretty sure this is one of them and it is just being retired.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      photog02: I guess we think alike!

  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    It looks like a legit VIN. If you go to this website and paste in the VIN, you get a report that shows that it is an SL-1 with a 4 cyl engine and no incident history, no salvage title, etc.
    Maybe the engine was removed to turn it into a driving simulator. They wanted something new, and this was probably the cheapest thing around.

    Of course, you are talking about a vehicle with a dealer retail of $2000, so you would need to get in cheap.

  17. angliagt

    Wow! – It’s been bid up to $53!

  18. Guy Forbes

    I had a 1996 SL2 and had 350,000 miles on it. The only reason it’s no longer on the road is because my grandson totaled it

  19. Joe M

    This might be a good candidate for a electric conversion.

  20. David Schuler

    I drive one to school it’s a 95 sl1 gold with 103,441 miles on it. I check the oil every week on it and the coolant level and tranny fluid. I have no issues with the car neither, everything on the car is original including radio and hubcaps. Has good ac, driven it on the turnpike. I’m keeping this car as long as I can. Been in the family too since 98 because it was originally my grandmother’s car. She drove it for 4 years…back and forth to her house and ours..then it sat in her driveway for 5 years unstarted with flat tires. Then my brother had it for a year because his 96 ford probes engine blew. And it sat again for 5 years until I drove it 2 years ago and I been driving it every since. My sisters 2012 volkswagon jetta has 92,000 miles while this car has the same mileage almost and it’s 23 years old! That’s awesome. These cars will last if you check your oil in it. That’s why they die younger because nobody checks the oil and that’s a common problem with these saturn engines. Mines burns oil like a quart every 2 months. People might hate the car but at least be respectful that these engines lasts! Stop abusing the tranny by reviving the gas, check your oil, check your coolant level, change your oil and this saturn will last.

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