LS3 Saturn Sky is a modern Cobra in disguise

Gary Carlmark

When we peeked into Hagerty Marketplace, we uncovered a two-door roadster with a potent V-8 swap. The same recipe that gave us the Sunbeam Tiger and Shelby Cobra would surely have a similar effect when applied to a more modern car, right? How does a 430-hp Saturn Sky sound to you?

When the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky were introduced in 2005 and 2006, respectively, they entered a market GM had largely ignored. The Solstice was the first two-seat Pontiac since the Fiero. Saturn had been marketed as a fuel-efficient and practical alternative to imports and aside from a spicy version of the Ion coupe, didn’t offer much in the way of excitement. Both cars were built on the Kappa platform and each dipped heavily into of GM’s parts bin, but they were far from rebadges. Each had unique interiors and totally different exterior sheetmetal. As a Pontiac fan, it almost pains me to admit that the Saturn Sky was the better looking of the two—the Solstice coupe is a different story.

Contemporary reviews praised their ride and handling, comparing the Kappa twins favorably to BMW’s Z3. Other reviewers noted that it drove like a smaller Corvette. In SCCA competition the Kappa twins did well against Miatas despite a roughly 300-pound disadvantage. You could pack a lot of tire under a Sky’s sharply creased fenders. There were complaints about the packaging, as luggage space was severely compromised. Powered by a 177-hp naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four, the base models were proper sports cars. An optional 260-hp 2.0-liter turbo gave each a power-to-weight ratios comparable to a 4.6-liter Mustang’s. How much fun would a Kappa car be if it also had a V-8?

Gary Carlmark must have wondered the same thing. His 2007 Saturn Sky Redline, the 2.0-liter turbo version, went under the knife when it showed just over 20,000 miles on the odometer. Out with the turbo four, in with a naturally aspirated V-8—all 6.2-liters and 430 hp of it. The conversion looks fantastic, and the forward-tilting hood does a great job of showing off how nicely the V-8 fits in the Kappa chassis. LS V-8s are known for being lightweight and compact, so it’s likely that the engine alone didn’t add much weight. The accompanying Tremec TR6060 added a bit of weight over the factory five-speed, but the improvements it brings, especially that extra cruising gear, have got to be worth it. Additional upgrades to the car include aluminum rotor hats, 13-inch Wilwood brakes and calipers, stainless-steel brake lines, and CCW forged monoblock wheels.

Carlmark’s $39,000 asking price is roughly double the #2 (Excellent) value of a Sky Redline and just slightly less than the #2 (Excellent) value of a an LS3-powered Corvette convertible. If you value the Corvette’s ability to schlep a golf bag, this may not be the car for you. However, if you enjoy the added appeal of flying under the radar, this Sky seems to have a lot of great updates along with its barely broken-in LS3.

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