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Dodge Stealth Base - Restore

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I know you will be saying why are you doing this... Well here goes nothing...

I got the car from a fellow member here on the board a couple weeks ago. It's running a bit rough, might have a grounding issue and a couple other issues. Overall, it's a good shape, certainly restorable and I figure, why not? Plus I am going to drive it back and forth for awhile, figure I can drive a 3/S and enjoy it while it lasts. Well apparently these SOHC engines are pretty much bulletproof of course the engine crank bearings being the weak point as any other 3/S will have. So here's the list that it needs:

Power steering leak fixed at the reservoir
Remove oil pan, check for bearing material in oil, undent oil pan, check bearing clearances, and check and/or replace oil pickup tube, reseal oil pan and install
Clutch pedal adjustment and if engagement not fixed, replace pressure plate and clutch disc (OEM)
Find bottom half of stock airbox and install drop in filter
Take front valve cover off, strip paint off and polish
Take intake plenum off strip paint off and polish
Rebuild throttle body, install new upper and lower intake gaskets
Figure out grounding issue and install new grounding wires and new power wire harness
Replace downpipe and catalytic converter
Replace shift boot and shift knob (stock charcoal)

Since I don't have a place to work on this car, I am sending it out to a local 3/S shop to get the work done on it.

In the meantime, I have found myself do some of the exterior work getting it nice and seeing if the car is restorable. After looking at the vast majority of the paint, I deem it restorable and may have some of the car repainted. Namely the passenger rear quarter panel and the front and back bumpers, the rest of the car looks nice and with some more rubbing compound and a light compound, the imperfections will be nonexistent.

So here's I had to work with to start:

I ripped out all of this junk out of the car:

And with some work this week, I spent a good portion of the week getting the ugly purple tint off. This was a chore despite steaming it off to get it to come off in one piece, no go, so I had to peel off the 2 layers of tint separately and steam it all off. Of course, the glass looks like shit, but I can't do much about it, so I will probably leave it for now. I am sure I could get the glass refinished if I wanted it to be perfect. Oh by the way, I hate window tint on my cars...

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Updated 06-01-2012 at 04:51 PM by Boost4VR4

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  1. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    So with some work this week and weekend, I got the car to look like this:

    Ok so now I am feeling good after I pulled the window tint and spent my entire Saturday pulling it off the hatch. Sunday I cleaned up the interior and vacuumed everything out, applied ScotchGuard to all of the seats and carpets.
  2. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Then I worked on the exterior again and thought, something isn't right about the hood, why is there matte black on the hood. So I figured, let's give a shot what do I have to lose?

    I pulled the hood blisters and started working on the hood:

    5 hours later:
  3. DocWalt's Avatar
    Wow. That's a huge change. The paint almost looked unrecoverable, but I'm a paint noob
  4. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    @DocWalt, the paint isn't perfect, the light does a good job at making it look better than it really is, I just did not like the matte-black look at all, plus it was rattle-canned on and everytime I washed the car, I would see all of the water. Also the hood is bent, so it looks like one of the lights is adjusted higher than the other, its not.

    Want to know the worst part about this? My DA buffer died right after I polished the hood and it isn't 100%, it's close. So now I have to upgrade my DA buffer to something more heavy duty. I can't complain too much, I did my vehicles at least 20 times with it and I did 7 other vehicles with it. It just overheated and died because I was taking off the rattle-canned spray paint for 5 hours straight with very short cool-down periods, my fault.

    OK, some updates. The car went to XP Auto a couple weeks ago for some maintenance items to get running good. It turned out to be bad injectors, so they were replaced with used ones and the car is running well. I picked up a 1G Datalogger and it's wired in, car seems to run well.

    I replaced the head unit, the OEM head unit with a JVC KDR-520 and installed the KS-BTA100 Bluetooth Module so I can listen to my music on my phone via bluetooth plus provide hands-free operation on my phone. The tweeters were removed and unplugged. The front speakers were replaced with Kenwood 4 ways and the rear speakers were replaced with Kenwood 5 ways.

    Then I decided that since I am going to DD the car that it would be appropriate to put snow tires on the car, so I picked up a set of Nitto SN2s to replace my dry rotted summer tires that were on the car.

    The next item on the list is my amplifier/subwoofer/box build. I am having a professional hook me up with a very nice deal. They are building a custom box for me a combo of fiberglass/MDF that will sit right behind the rear seats and fill that entire pocket from strut tower to strut tower and the subwoofer will be 45* angled toward the hatch glass. The box will not occupy very much of the trunk, but it will be a full size subwoofer. I am going with an RE Audio SEX 10 inch subwoofer because my music is mostly metal/rock/classic rock with a little bit of rap every once in awhile. The amplifier is an Arc Audio XXD5080 5 channel amplifier which will power all of the interior speakers plus the subwoofer. The subwoofer is rated for 600 Watt RMS which is more than enough.

    Also the car will be getting it's banana spoiler removed as I like the wingless look on the Stealth, so that will be occurring this weekend. The system build wont happen for a couple weeks.

    So what is done on the list:
    Bottom half of airbox - installed
    Drop in filter - installed
    New Battery - installed
    New terminals - installed
    Clutch is fixed, reservoir had no cap seal
    Power Steering wasn't leaking, just low fluid

    What is still left:
    Nicer charcoal carpet
    New shift boot in charcoal
    New shift knob in charcoal
    Door Panel bubbling fixed/replaced
    Door regulators on both doors replaced
    Speedometer cable replaced (I have to use my GPS speedometer app on my phone to track my speed! I realize that this is not counting anything on my odometer.)
    Rear interior quarterpanel bubbling fixed/replaced.

    I have a couple ideas on how I can fix the interior panel bubbling, so I am going to experiment and document the process if I can perfect it.
    Updated 11-25-2011 at 12:00 AM by Boost4VR4
  5. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    So I changed the direction of the car now... No audio is happening with the car. In fact, I am turning the car into track car sorta... It will be full weight but it will be getting some stuff done to it soon.

    I have to install my SS brake lines, replace my rear calipers, install my ground wire kit. I am picking up some new wheels for the car. They are Motegi MR122s 18x9 35mm offset. Tires are going to be 25540ZR18s most likely Sumitomo HRZs...

    I am hopefully getting some sample vinyl swatches for the interior door panels and then I am re-wrapping the door panels. I am probably going to sit on stock suspension for now but eventually I am going to be picking up a coilover system.
  6. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    The stealth is down due to what I believe is a head gasket failure. Car runs bad right now, sending it to XPAuto.
  7. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Ok update and some great news.

    Update 1: Car had 2 bad injectors causing it to misfire on 2 cylinders. Cause is most likely from a dirty fuel filter. So XPAuto has changed the fuel filter and the 2 bad injectors. Next I had a head gasket leak in the rear head, there is some oil getting past the head gasket. So XPAuto is having the rear head rebuilt as well as the head gaskets replaced I also had my stainless steel braided brake lines and rear calipers worked on. Then since XPAuto is already in there working on the head gaskets, I thought it would be a great idea to get the 60k maintenance done so XPAuto is working on that. Hope to get the car back shortly before NG.

    Update 2: So I was browsing Craigslist locally and came across a super clean set of factory Stealth 16s with center caps I called and the ad said they were 17s but I knew better. The ad price was 100 dollars. So I braced for the worst, I thought one of the 4 wheels was going to be damaged or something. I arrived and I looked at the wheels, they were MINT. All of the center caps were MINT and not broken or scratched at all! So I bought them. I brought them home and polished and cleaned them up in the bed of my truck.

    Here's how the turned out:

  8. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Update 3: So I was searching for tires for these wheels and I visited my local Firestone and picked up a set of Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval Indy 500s W rated tires size is 225 55 16:

    The only thing left on the Stealth once it comes home is a good detail and polish and these new wheels mounted!

    I also ordered my door panel vinyl and padding and once that arrives I will be very busy working on the vinyl wrapping.
    Updated 05-30-2012 at 02:48 PM by Boost4VR4
  9. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Ok this door panel project is going to be extensive, so bear with me on this.

    First Order of business is taking off the door panels.

    At first I wanted to potentially repair the vinyl. The method I was working on doing was to cut the vinyl in the center of each bubble and pull the vinyl together and use some spray adhesive to secure it down. The only issue with this was the vinyl was also very weak so it would tear and break or other sections that were secured down would come unglued and so the process was cyclical. The real issue is the door panel padding under the vinyl is old and decrepid. The only real solution is to strip the vinyl and strip the padding off and re-pad and re-vinyl the panel completely. So stripping the vinyl is simple, stripping the foam padding is very difficult and requires a heat gun, finesse, and patience. If you cannot get all of the padding, I am using a soft vinyl brush and the heat gun and brushing it off. You want the surface of the particle board mold to be slightly coarse. You DO NOT want to use any chemicals on the actual particle board as it will turn brittle and it will soak up the adhesive remover like a sponge and become weak. You can do one of two things with the door panel plastic pieces that are mounted in the particle board. You can either use small tin snips and snip the one time use retainers to save the protruding retaining posts on the plastic pieces and then buy the same retaining hardware and mount it back on the door after the door is completely finished or you can leave it on and lay the padding down and then as you lay vinyl, you tuck the excess vinyl under the plastic pieces and then pull the vinyl and glue it.

    I also recommend getting a staple gun to staple down the padding on the back side of the door panel as you lay the padding down as well as the vinyl.

    So here's the start of the project:
    You will need:
    Vinyl and 1/8 inch padding:

    Heat gun:

    Xacto Knife:

    Bag of various sized clips:
    Updated 06-01-2012 at 09:41 PM by Boost4VR4
  10. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    First order of business take as much plastic trim pieces off that you can with some exceptions. The top plastic trim piece is riveted in, you won't need to take that piece off, but you will need to take off the spot where the circle piece meets with the dash vent hole. I did not take it off just yet.

    Strip off the vinyl and padding as best as you can. The vinyl will come off easy but the padding is a different story.

    To get the remainder of the padding flecks and glue off of the composite board, use a nylon brush and the heat gun. DO NOT use and chemicals or liquid for that matter on any of the door panel.

    Fix any broken sections of the door panel:

    I used gorilla glue and in white. It won't matter since the padding will cover the scars.

    Be patient when cleaning off the door panel of padding and glue. The cleaner you get the door panel the better.
  11. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    So here is the start of the project:

    You need to create contour tabs to pullthe foam tight enough to be flat and not lumpy.

  12. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Don't worry too much about mistakes, just fill in:

    Don't worry about a lot of lumpiness. You can use the heat gun to thin down some of the foam and form it and shape it how it needs to be formed on the door panel.
    More to come!
  13. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    NG Update!

    Here's the car now before NG:

    Everything is done on the car! I had the 60k, rear head rebuilt, new rear head gasket, two replacement injectors, SS braided brake lines installed brakes bled, and the car is ready to roll!
  14. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    I am revisiting the door panel refinish project. I had worked on this last year and I didn't have great results, so I wanted to share again some of the things I learned and some of the things that I am learning. The real problem with the door panels from the factory is that it the foam is sufficient to re-use and just re-tack the vinyl to, however, the vinyl becomes stretched due to hot/cold cycles throughout the car's life. There are two distinct ways to fix the bubbling issues.

    The first way is to peel the vinyl off of the door panel carefully enough to expose the factory foam. From here, you would need to carefully clean all of the glue off of the factory foam and use a high strength, high performance spray adhesive (I use Loctite High Performance Heavy Bonding, it is about 12 dollars a can) and some new vinyl for the door panel and re-vinyl the door panels.

    The second way is to peel all of the vinyl and the factory foam padding off of the door panels (the process I am working with now.) I used an xacto knife to cut the top of the door panel vinyl. You can cut right down to the door panel material and start peeling. You want to peel everything off until you see a corrugated brown surface. This took me approximately 2 hours to do both door panels. Once the door panels are stripped, you want to use a wire brush to get any foam flecks still tacked on to the corrugated door panels. After this process, it is a good idea to sand down both door panels until they are smooth to the touch.

    The next step is to lay the vinyl over the top of the door panel. Cut out a large rectangle that will cover the entire door panel.

    Put down some newspaper and put your door panels on the newspaper. Lightly spray some of the spray adhesive all over the door panel surface. Be conservative at first. Let the adhesive set up, it usually takes 1-3 minutes. Then liberally spray adhesive over the door panel. You will want to wait 1-2 minutes for setup. Take your giant rectangular piece of foam and drape it over the door panel. Start working on pressing the foam in the valley area. Use the heat gun! It is your friend! It helps dramatically shape the foam and helps to get the foam to fill the cracks and crevices. In the valley areas, it may be easier to cut a slit in the recess area so you can get the foam to stick in that area. Use any scrap foam to fill in areas that are missing or if there are gaps, use the heat gun to melt the foam in place. I recommend using paint stirrer sticks for recessed areas that are straight (along the bottom of the door panels) and some clamps to clamp the stick to the out portion of the door panel. This helps get the foam to stick on the door panel and not harm the foam surface. If you have places where the foam is bubbling or creasing, use the heat gun to smooth the areas out. Massage the foam on to the door panel. Once the entire door panel is covered in foam, cut out the areas that need to be cut out for trim and the speakers. For the section for the door handle, heat the area where the base portion of the handle is put on then push the handle on. I mounted the handle on the door panel for the duration of the foaming process. For the door lock slider trim, make sure to leave a 1/4 inch of foam in the inside area, or if you decide to cut it flush, make sure during the vinyl process you leave a 1/4 inch of vinyl on the inside portion. Pretty much all of the other holes you can cut flush. Once the foam is laid down and looks similar to below:

    Things are looking good at this point. So I want to also point out, the foam needs to be uniform. If there are low spots, cut the foam out and use scrap foam and re-lay the foam in that area. It is 100% imperative that the foam is uniform. If it is not, you will notice it once you lay vinyl down. In my picture below, I show both door panels completed, one door panel has 1/4 inch on the inside of the door lock slider trim area and the other is cut flush. I cut them both flush and will be putting a 1/4 inch of vinyl on the inside instead.

    So far, this is it until I lay down vinyl!
  15. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Driver's Side door panel completed. I am not fooling with it anymore as I am not going to get any better than this without a vacuum form mold machine and different vinyl. Note this is vinyl that is used for leather seats.

  16. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    So an update...

    Got the carpc stuff tested and partially installed. I also got the Alpine 5 channel amplifier installed and setup with the speakers in the car. I tuned the amplifier gain to the highest volume on the computer's sound card output and it's pretty much done. I will need to rearrange and mount the fuse blocks and straighten up the wiring as well as move the amplifier somewhere else.

  17. Boost4VR4's Avatar

  18. Boost4VR4's Avatar
    Oh and here's a teaser of the new engine bay!

    Also, I am scrapping the door panels that I worked on. The door panels bubbled while in the car even after using the highest strength adhesive I could obtain.