The final days of the 1994 Saturn SC2 should be celebrated and not mourned. I would like to share with you all the story of one of the greatest and influential things in my life to this point.
The SC2 joined the automotive eternal on Sunday, March 19, 2006 two months shy of her twelfth birthday. Since her purchase in May of 1997 I have shared many memories in that car. Whether it be car trips to Blacksburg or Hilton Head, or simple road soda rides back from Georgetown, the car never let me down.
There were the time the windshield wipers would spar against one another, the time Turpin and I took it on a trip in one foot of snow up a closed Route 81, there was the amazing parking spot outside Butt’s apartment in Baltimore, the time it was being broken in to by an illegitimate Tech-Tow driver… the list continues about as long the trail of antifreeze she would leave in her last final moments which I would like to share with you now:
Thursday, March 16th 1pm. I leave Carlisle, PA with the intent to meet Jeff Butt in Falls Church to ride to Dulles airport to enjoy a weekend of typical debauchery in Savannah, GA for St Patty’s Day. On the trip down Route 70 I notice the usual game of cat and mouse the engine temperature gauge needle loves to play with the red overheat warning area. It flirts a bit with the danger zone and then drops back down only to come back up moments later. I have the engine on full heat and windows down to keep the engine as happy as possible, especially since its mild outside and I’m going about 80 MPH for a good fifty miles. The car starts doing something new though, a whole new dance I have yet to play with it. Now the gauge needles are bouncing up and down and the electrical system is browning in and out. I am hardly worried as I know my battery connectors are often loose and sometimes it creates hiccups in the car’s electrical components especially when I start the car. But something still feels a bit uncomfortable. I notice Mr. Needle heading for the “redzone” as I ease up on the gas. Then suddenly the needle shoots straight past the entire warning zone and past the meter in to the dash board. This, without a doubt, is not good. I have to be “that guy” – that same guy who breaks down on the Wilson Bridge and creates massive traffic jams. I pull over and plumes of while smoke pour from the hood. After letting the smoke die down I decide to start the car again and get it to the next rest stop less than a mile up the road. I pull in (smoke again spewing out like the Moose Club on a Friday in Vienna) and stop the car to call Jeff Butt. In his total lack of understanding he informs me he wants to leave early to get a beer at the airport. I hang up frustrated and convinced I will not be making my flight and this will be the end of SC2. But no, this is not how the hero dies – not in some small hospital bed alone in a strange place. I get back in and decide to push it until it can go no further.
I decided to stop only once to get more coolant from a gas station. After buying the price gouged bottle of coolant the attendant said “Can’t let those Twincams run too hot now” to what I replied “You have no idea”. The coolant by the way poured right through the car like it was a Brita filter. I head down Route 15 and just decide to ignore the engine lights now flashing “low coolant” “low battery” “Ill kill you soon” and so forth. Every time I have to stop at a light smoke comes from the car and it begins to shake, I run three stop lights to avoid the heavy idle overheating including one that even the last level of Frogger couldn’t dream up in Reston. I park my car at the Reston Town Center lot and get in a friends car to get to the airport. Wow, she made it; she saved the day I thought. Like that last breath she didn’t really have to spare was spent to see that I could have a drunken time with my friends – that is true SC2 heart and soul. Upon retuning Sunday and getting her started I proclaimed it to be the last drive ever, I would take her to my driveway 9 miles away and leave her there for the NPR donation service to come and collect in the morning. But, the warrior SC2 had fought her last battle getting me to my flight on time. Less than 3 miles from her parking spot I heard a light pop from the floor board. Within seconds black smoke filled my car from the AC vents and I again became “that guy” in the middle of Reston Parkway. I jumped out and hoped to flag away traffic as my battery had cut off and my hazards were no longer flashing. One of the first cars that stopped was nothing short of a miracle… who knew that a guardian angel would be sent to me in the form of A**hole Jon -- a college friend. He helped diagnose and agreed the best thing would be to get it off the road and then ride with him back to my house to determine what to do next. I drop kicked the battery a few times and saw signs of life and once again SC2 lurched forward one last time, thus saving me a tow fee and removing the car from oncoming traffic. I parked the car by a public park, removed the license plates and said goodbye to one of my dearest friends. The donation tow truck will come this week to take her to Saturn heaven.
Though I insisted for years that I would park my SC2 dozens of spots from other cars and wipe it down with a diaper constantly every night the old girl started to lose a lot of her luster around late 2002. Overheating, falling panels, failing battery, missing mirrors, keys broken in the ignition… the short list grew longer and longer. And yet through it all she never gave up and I think she died exactly how she would have wanted. Putting it all on the line for me.
Thank you SC2.