Saturn's new ION Red Line quad coupe raced into the record book at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Oct. 17, 2003, establishing a new mark in the G/Blown Fuel Altered class at 212.684 mph. The record-setting Saturn, which is based on the new factory-built ION Red Line sport compact and powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine, eclipsed the previous 183.086 mph record set in 2001 by a Honda Civic by nearly 30 mph.
GM Performance Division launched the Saturn land speed record project to demonstrate the ultimate performance capabilities of the ION Red Line package under extreme conditions. GM High Performance Vehicle Operations engineer Jim Minneker piloted the front-wheel-drive ION Red Line in Saturn's first official record run on the world-famous Salt Flats.
"To set a speed record with the Saturn ION Red Line our first time in competition was a tremendous accomplishment for the entire GM team," said Minneker. "The ION Red Line coupe and the Ecotec engine ran like clockwork. This package has tremendous potential; I wish that we could run at Bonneville again next week. I'm confident that we could raise the bar even higher."
The Saturn land speed record project brought together the technical and human resources of General Motors. The program was led by the GM Performance Division, in collaboration with Saturn, GM Powertrain, GM Performance Parts, GM Racing, and the GM Design Studios in Warren, Mich., and Los Angeles. The So-Cal Speed Shop in Pomona, Calif., assisted in vehicle preparation and logistical support for Saturn's successful assault on the record book.
"The success of the ION Red Line at the Bonneville Salt Flats was the result of a total team effort," said GM Performance Division Executive Director Mark Reuss. "It demonstrates in a very compelling way what GM can accomplish with a coordinated effort that integrates our technical capabilities in engineering, design and advanced technology, along with the energy and creativity of our people. It also shows that the Saturn ION Red Line is a serious performance car, capable of achieving record-setting speed with the same basic architecture."
The ION Red Line land speed record holder will be displayed in the GM exhibit at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas on Nov. 4-7, 2003. The GM exhibit will also showcase a streamlined Ecotec-powered lakester inspired by the record-setting cars built by early hot rodders using the belly tanks (auxiliary fuel tanks) from World War II military aircraft. Designed by the GM Advanced Studio in North Hollywood, Calif., the high-tech lakester is a 21st century version of a classic design Bonneville design that stretches the performance envelope with a production Ecotec powertrain. A turbocharged GMC Canyon midsize pickup customized by So-Cal Speed Shop to perform the traditional duties of a push truck at Bonneville will also be featured in GM's tribute to the annual speed trials at the Salt Flats.