A Tuner Car Of A Different Feather: Aaron Cox’s Saturn SC2

June 30, 2017 / by Bradley Iger

Aaron Cox shows us that you can take the road less travelled and still make a ridiculously fast car. Check out his Saturn SC2 here.

06-Aaron-Cox-Saturn-SC2.jpgIn 2001 the import tuning trend was really hitting its stride, and the entertainment industry was poised to bring modern car culture to the masses by way of a new film called The Fast and the Furious. With domestic performance offerings still struggling to balance power and weight with federal emissions constraints and fuel economy targets, an opportunity had emerged for the smaller, lighter and more technologically advanced coupes coming from Japan and elsewhere to make inroads with performance-hungry enthusiasts.

Offerings from the likes of Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota garnered most of the attention at that point, but General Motors had a potential brand to capitalize on the tuner craze as well. Though its reputation had more to do with sensible engineering and modernizing the car buying experience, Saturn and its SC2 coupe had the right ingredients to go head to head with the likes of the Civic and the Eclipse – a small footprint, front engine and front wheel drive layout, and a sporty two-door silhouette.

The Fox Marketing SC Turbo Concept (photo cred GM Heritage Center)

But Saturn wasn’t ready to jump in with both feet at that point, so they contracted the folks at Fox Marketing to create a stylized version of the SC2 with the performance to match its wild looks. The result was the SC Turbo Concept, a thoroughly warmed-over SC2 which debuted at the 2001 SEMA show and would go on to influence a number of enthusiasts for years to come, including Aaron Cox.

“After I wrecked my 240SX, and a drunk driver hit my Subaru SVX before a deployment to Iraq in 2005, I had a full year to figure out my next venture,” says Cox. “I decided I was going the autocross route, but I was tired of all the Civics, Miatas, Mustangs, Camaros and all the other standard builds. After some injuries sustained overseas I realized I couldn’t handle the corners anymore, so I decided to turn it into a drag car. This car actually held up with a 500hp setup for three years as a daily driver – until I decided I wanted all the boost.”

Cox’s SC2 is all business, skipping any wild body kits for a stealth look, though the Mickey Thompson slicks installed up front might tip off some would-be competitors to this Saturn’s true capability.

Cox’s SC2 is properly hot rodded now, sporting a bare bones interior with Kirkeys PRO race seats, a 10-point roll cage and a host of upgrades to both the power train and chassis. In terms of motivation, the SC2’s 1.9-liter DOHC four cylinder has been thoroughly warmed over with a bottom end that includes JE 10.8:1 100 over pistons, Crower rods, a third-gen crank and tie plate, and ACL bearings. Cylinder head porting, Gude Pro Race camshafts, a JCFab center feed intake manifold, ZZP 1700cc injectors, and an LS1 throttle body are all part of the equation as well, as is a Precision 6266 Gen2 BB turbocharger, a Precision 46mm wastegate and a 24x10.5x3.5-inch Garrett intercooler.

The mill is a Golden Eagle sleeved block that runs on E85 and is controlled by a MS3PRO standalone ECU. Power is routed to the front wheels through an MFactory limited slip differential.

Of course, working with such potent hardware on tap, it’s also wise to have a way to keep tabs on what’s going on with the engine’s internals. “I had a tachometer, oil pressure and an oil temp gauge, but I shorted them out when I was welding the car – I didn’t disconnect the ground,” he explained. “Now I’m using an Innovate SCG-1 for boost control and the air/fuel ratio portion feeds to the MS3Pro. I also use an Innovate MTX-D EGT gauge by itself for accurate tuning. I made the switch from AEM back in 2009 because I felt that the Innovate gauges read more accurately, and it was easier to see for heads up display.”

Along with the SCG-1 and MTX-D gauges, Cox uses a Samsung tablet mounted in the center console for ancillary gauge readouts.

The SC2 is still a work in progress, but it’s clear that Cox has some ambitious plans for the Saturn’s future. “We haven’t finished tuning the car, but on 16psi it made 485hp at 6500rpm. Taylor'd Tuning and I will finish the tune very soon. The target is 750hp, and the goal is to have the first 9 second Saturn with only total $35k invested.”

Shown in proper race car form, the contents of this SC2’s trunk consist of a ten gallon fuel cell, a relocated battery, and nothing else.


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Written by Bradley Iger

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