Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!  

The Saturn Ion proved to be one of the most innocuous, least engaging cars GM ever built. That is however, unless it’s a hot Redline edition like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe contender. Let’s see if its price makes it a hot deal.

I know I went a little crazy with the owner-modified cars the second half of last week. It was pure happenstance but did lead to an interesting conclusion. That was that people who mod their cars generally think they’ll get more for having done so, and the majority of us disagree with them on the same count.

This was made clear by Friday’s M5-emboldened 2000 BMW E39 Touring. It had all the right kit, it had all the right moves, but owing to some imperfections and a $24,990 asking, it didn’t have the right price. You gave it a 68-percent Crack Pipe loss, so let’s pour a 40 out for that seller’s chances.

I think that one of the issues with that Bimmer—completely aside from the whole someone else’s project syndrome—was that the car ended up just not looking all that special. If you’re going to drop a chunk of bank on the chanciness of someone else’s work ethic, you’re going to want something that turns heads. At least that’s what I’d want.

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Today, let’s look at a car that’s not been egregiously aftermarketed. It’s also one that I think we can all agree will turn no heads whatsoever even if it had been. This 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe Redline does have a lot of cool features going for it—high output supercharged four, real Recaro seats, and suicide rear doors among them. Regardless of those Redline upgrades, the general take on the Ion in general has long been a collective ‘meh,’ That’s when the response hasn’t been ‘a Saturn what now?’

Maybe we’ve gotten it all wrong all these years? The only way to really find out I guess, is to experience an Ion first hand. The best way to do that is with the performance oriented Redline version.

The Ion shared its Delta platform with Chevy’s Cobalt and HHR, as well as the Opel Astra. That latter sibling would eventually supplant the model here in the States. The Astra was a much more traditional auto however, lacking the Ion’s RIM plastic body panels and, in two-door form at least, the Quad Coupe’s unique back half-doors. The chassis underpinning the standard Ion was pretty weak-kneed though, and the car’s interior was so cheaply made that it wouldn’t seem untoward to see ‘EBT Accepted Here’ posted on the window.

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The Redline attempted to address most of these shortcomings, and according to contemporary tests, succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. The standard Ion engine was a 2.2-litre Ecotec four. That DOHC mill was good for a reasonable 140 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque but it went about its business without much eagerness.

In the Redline, GM dropped the displacement to 1998-ccs and pumped up the jam with an Eaton M62 Roots style supercharger. That gives this car 205 horses and 200 lb ft of twist ties. Backing that up is a Getrag F35. That’s a five speed manual that was shared with the Saab 93 and 95 as well as with the Chevy Cobalt SS.

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The interior issues were addressed with a shift knob that also found a home at Saab, as well as a pair of Recaro sport seats for the front pew. The steering wheel’s a little fatter than in the pedestrian Ion, but other than that it’s still cheap eats all the way, with the weird center-mounted IP and plastics that seem straight from the Cozy Coupe catalog.

The suspension was massaged for the Redline as were the brakes. Both of those upgrades gave the car an entertainment value completely lacking in the base car.

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This 2004 Redline comes with a clean title and is said to be stock outside of a boost gauge and some upgraded shocks and springs. The factory springs are included with the sale in case you don’t like even that level of deviation from the factory norms.

The silver paint (831 so painted that year) looks to be in good shape, with just a scuff on the rear bumper to note. The factory 17-inch wheels don’t seem to have been abused, and the lamp enclosures are clear and free from obvious signs of age.

The interior is equally tidy and aside from the steering column-mounted boost gauge, free of any balderdash. The factory stereo remains intact and those blue and black Recaro seats look to be as comfortable and cosseting as hell. A moonroof punctuates the cap adding some bit of fanciness. The roof is also home to the stubby antenna for the OnStar service, which sits somewhat maddeningly, off-center.

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There’s a remarkable 200K on the clock, which I think stands in testament to the car’s durability. The seller says it runs and drives, however he notes that the parking brake doesn’t work. That’s seemingly an issue endemic to these cars. He also thinks that the tires should be switched out soon.

You can add the cost of those new meats to the $2,800 asked for the car, and decide if it seems like a deal to find out if we’ve all been wrong about the Ion all this time.

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What do you think, is that a fair deal to hit the Redline? Or, is that price for this Saturn simply unearthly?

You decide!

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Minneapolis, MN Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to FauxShizzle for the hookup!

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