Zoom-to-200: 15 Years and 200,000 Miles

IMG_3504

Let’s take a little trip back in time: It’s 2004 – Shrek 2 is making 919.8 million in the box office, Usher’s, “Yeah!” is the top song; and George W. Bush is re-elected president. I’m in my second year of college and grandma and grandpa want to buy a new car. A full detailed story of that is here. We purchased a new Mazda 6 “i” 5-speed in Pebble Ash Metallic on August 3, 2004. This was in Farmington, NM at Performance Mazda/Mitsubishi/Suzuki. Fast forward 15 years to this day (8/3/04 – 8/3/19), and I take this car back to the same dealer where I also roll 200,000 miles.

I realize cars achieve 200,000 miles everyday, and it doesn’t necessarily warrant a big fuss. But wait, this might catch your attention: Our Mazda 6 has achieved this milestone with the original motor, transmission, clutch and even the original brakes. Yes, those brake pads are the same ones that left the factory in 2004. There have been no unscheduled repairs and all the body panels are original…even the headlight lenses. Good proof here that anyone who doubts high mileage cars can do this with regular maintenance and care. Don’t be afraid. We are in a new era where planned obsolescence hasn’t fully reached cars yet. At least mainstream cars.

Let’s get on with the milestone. This event took careful planning. Trying to get to 200,000 miles on a specific day is harder than you’d think. Regardless, I was up for the challenge. I marketed this little event, #zoomto200.

ZT2

I was able to have a few friends accompany me on this milestone, Tyson and James. With a little coordinating, we agreed to meet in Farmington, NM the weekend of August 3rd.

My route took an easy 6 hours. Tyson and James had a little more ground to cover coming from Phoenix, AZ.

2019-08-22 14_09_03-Farmington, NM to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

Prior to my departure from Las Cruces, NM, I applied this product called, Track Armour which is essentially a temporary clear bra to protect the front end from bugs, stones and other debris. Since I had a good 400+ miles to cover and didn’t want to worry about washing, I thought this would be a good solution to ensure the 6 arrived somewhat clean.

IMG_3427

On the road again!

IMG_3429

Mileage at 199,519.

IMG_3431

Knowing that I’d have a surplus of miles, I chose to go the long way via Highway 371. Stop of fuel, snacks, then proceeded onward.

IMG_3441

Highway 371 is about as lonely as you can get in New Mexico.

58648919127__AF81E847-ACEF-4C0F-8F68-9BD00F6B3305IMG_3460

I arrived later that evening in Farmington right at 199,900 miles. Oof! That isn’t going to cut it since the milestone was the next morning.

IMG_3467

Doubt anyone with even a modicum of common sense would do this, but I turned around and headed in the opposite direction to burn miles. It was nearing 10 pm by this time. The blurry quality of this photo reflects my determination to get those miles close to what I needed.

IMG_3469

Finally, I got to where I needed and came back to the hotel for the night where Tyson and James arrived shortly after.

IMG_3470

I removed the Track Armour and was very pleased with the protection it provided even with a few rain showers.

IMG_3472

The next morning after hitting the continental breakfast buffet, we headed straight to the dealership for the big event. The dealer stopped carrying Mazda and was renamed in 2010 to Hi Country Mitsubishi/Kia, but the building and lot remains the same as it was in 2004.

IMG_3481IMG_3480

To keep the nostalgia going, I installed the temp tag from 2004.

IMG_3482

And here we go…200,000 miles!

IMG_3486

Next on the agenda was to recreate the ramp photo. Compare 2004 to 2019…

IMG_3712

Very minor changes such as removal of the front plate bracket, OEM spoiler added as well as the chrome accessory wheels. Everything else remains the same on this car.

Here’s a vlog post of Tyson’s that sums up the experience.

Next, we headed back south on 371 to explore the “Bisti / De-Na-Zin” Wilderness, just 30 miles from Farmington. This rolling landscape of badlands features some desolate, very unusual scenery. Perfect for a little nature adventure.

IMG_3508

In interest in preserving my 6, I parked it at the entrance and hitched a ride with James in his press Toyota Highlander as we attacked the rutted dirt roads leading into the badlands.

IMG_3510

Tyson’s ILX in its other natural habitat.

bisti_sign

Better plan to bring snacks and water, because there aren’t any facilities out here.

IMG_3514IMG_3515IMG_3524

Group shot of James, me and Tyson.

IMG_3531

Another successful road trip in the books. My garage floor update is coming up next!

IMG_2647 (1)

Tagged , , , , ,

2019 PNW Contour Group Annual Meet

IMG_2591

I’m at it again…tossing my suitcase in the trunk and hitting the open road across the country in an old hooptie — with a AAA card handy.

This time though, things are a little different. I’m going to a car meet. I’ve been a member of many car clubs over the years (Bimmer Forums, ZHP Mafia, Club RSX, Drive Accord, Acurazine, Mazda6 Forums, NPORA-Nissan Pathfinder off-road Association…to name a few), but I’ve never attended any of their annual meets. Proximity, time and frankly, interest have gotten in the way of me making the jump.

Ever since the PNW Contour Group reached out to me earlier this year, I’ve been hooked and never met a nicer group of folks. This is one meet I’ll try out. It was going to be hosted in Portland, Oregon, and that was just the ticket I needed to get away from the summer heat.

IMG_3289

So, I hopped in the creaky old Ford and set out on a 3,500 mile drive to the Pacific Northwest. Aside from taking delivery in Colorado earlier this year, I haven’t had the Contour on the road for such a long journey. This would be a good test of the 21 year old cooling system in addition to all the other parts I’m unaware of their originality. Some call it crazy, some adventurous. I’d leave it as living on the edge. My route was as follows:

2019-07-31 11_26_06-Portland, OR to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

Maintenance and repairs for the Contour have luckily been minimal thanks to the care it’s received in the past. I’ve only had to change out the transmission fluid, recharge the A/C system, alignment, tires, and resurface the brake rotors. All my other costs have been largely cosmetic. In anticipation of this annual meet, I made sure every inch of this car was as clean as it could get and what’s left of the original paint polished and sealed.

IMG_2909

The rear bumper needed a little buffing as the clearcoat on my DIY job hadn’t retained the luster it had. I might have to have this professionally resprayed at some point. This should hold me over for now.

IMG_2907

The interior, though a little warped and brittle from 21 years of sun exposure, cleaned up pretty nice.

IMG_2904

And I managed to stow everything in the trunk leaving the backseat clean and clear. This stash even included two buckets full of detailing supplies and some random car parts I planned to give away at the meet.

IMG_2910

I hit the road on a Wednesday afternoon and planned to return the following week around the same time. This meant a fairly tight schedule of only two days driving to Portland and two days back. That was an average of 800 miles/12hrs a day. You never realize how big our country is until attempting stuff like this. My stops along the way were minimal as I’ve been on this route many times in the past.

Colorado state line

IMG_2939

Utah state line

IMG_2944

Things started greening up near Price Canyon, UT.

IMG_2955

Welcome to Idaho!

IMG_2964

I’ve seen this road many times in the past, but never tire of the lovely grassy hills of southern Idaho.

IMG_2961

First night’s stop in Twin Falls, ID. All my work on detailing the exterior went out the door due to rain showers outside of Price, UT. No biggie, that’s where those detailing supplies will eventually be handy.

IMG_2971

Next day, a short stop to view the Snake River Canyon.

IMG_2549

This is the I.B. Perrine Bridge which hangs over the Snake River. At 486 feet above the canyon floor, it’s a popular location or adrenaline junkies to jump off with parachutes.

IMG_2545

View of the Snake River from under the bridge.

IMG_2544

Several hours later, I finally arrived in Oregon!

IMG_2981

I was impressed by the determination of this little Contour. Not one issue so far. I was getting a solid 27 MPG on premium fuel even with steady 80 MPH speeds and the A/C constantly blowing.

IMG_2994

Driving along the Columbia River with Mt. Hood in the distance.

IMG_3002

Arrived in Portland. The meet was going to take place here at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport.

IMG_3004

As I arrived a day early, first order of business was cleaning off the grime I accumulated over the last two days. The plan was to complete some photo ops prior to attending the actual meet on Sunday. A quick Google search for a credit card friendly, self-serve car wash led me to one about seven miles over the river to Vancouver, WA. Check out that insect homicide scene!

IMG_3011

This is where bringing my own detail supplies came into play. I only utilized the high pressure water.

IMG_3010

Dinner at Shari’s where I gorged in breakfast for dinner…a chicken fried steak with eggs.

IMG_3016

The following day was going to be mine to explore. The boys had an autocross event 90 miles away, but since I have neither the reaction time or any desire to put that kind of stress on the Contour, I chose to head west and enjoy the PNW in all its glory. Here’s a photo one of the members sent me. I have to admit, I did feel like I was missing out!

IMG_3242

However, I did have the beach and rain forests calling my name, so I proceeded with the plan.

IMG_2556IMG_2565

I caught highway 26 leading out of Portland to Seaside.

IMG_3023

Entering rain forest territory. This is what makes this desert boy happy.

IMG_3136IMG_3041IMG_3138

Short hike on the Four County Point Trail.

IMG_3163

IMG_3156IMG_3152

Then, I drove until I ran out of land. This is Sunset beach outside of Seaside, OR where I’ve taken my Accord and Mazda6 for similar photo shoots. Now, it was the Contour’s turn.

IMG_312298 CSVT - PawelaIMG_3065IMG_3069IMG_3110

Of course, who could resist a few little innocent donuts in the sand?

IMG_3118

Lunch was in Seaside at Ruby’s Roadside Grill. I tried their albacore tuna fillet melt which was out of this world!

IMG_3129

After my day of clowning around the beach and trails, I headed back to Portland where the gang was starting to trickle in for the night. We had a roped off parking area behind the hotel. This was my first time meeting everyone in person, and I couldn’t have asked for a more warm welcoming.

IMG_3165IMG_3169

A look from my hotel window as I was winding down for the evening.

IMG_3171

The morning of the official meet. Many of us were out at the crack of dawn vacuuming, polishing, dusting, and staging our cars. I live for this kind of stuff.

IMG_3185

Some minty seats I bought off a fellow member to eventually replace a few of mine that are pretty well weathered.

IMG_3186

This silver beauty next to me belongs to JD out of Phoenix, AZ. What are the chances we share the same vanity plates?!

IMG_3170

Alex (in blue) had his car featured in The Smoking Tire SVT Contour review

IMG_3189

All polished up and ready. See that gent in the cowboy hat? That’s Greg from California. He’s a proud owner of 11 Contours! Much respect.

IMG_3535

IMG_3195

Some of the interiors were pretty wild. This SVT had the dash and console swapped from a Mercury Mystique to add a touch of luxury.

IMG_3210

Fully decked out here with red pipping, carbon fiber, and Momo steering wheel just to name a few…

IMG_3212

Next item on the itinerary, we headed indoors to our reserved conference room.

IMG_3203

A lot of action in here. This is where t-shirts were distributed, member story presentations given, raffles, awards, behind-the-scenes of the club and a game of Jeopardy!

IMG_3200

IMG_3539

T-shirts.

IMG_3201

Chicken fajita buffet for lunch.

IMG_3202

Back outside for voting.

IMG_3206

Hoods up if you want consideration for best engine bay award. I left mine down.

IMG_3211IMG_3213

Rearranging the cars for a group photo.

IMG_3220

Photo credit here: Alexander Davis

IMG_3534

Totally unexpected, but I managed to bring home two awards, Best Exterior and Farthest Traveled.

IMG_3292

Going Home:

The meet was over around 3:30 pm which provided ample time to gain some ground for that night’s scheduled stop in Baker City, OR. I then continued on the same route where I’d spend the last night in Green River, UT.

IMG_3231

Quick stop for lunch with my buddy Josh in Bosie, ID.

IMG_3245

Views near Moab, UT

IMG_3263

I tried something different for my last night on the road in Green River. I swapped the comfy hotel accommodations for a more primitive, yet charming KOA cabin.

IMG_3253

Good thing I brought my own blankets and pillow! Luckily, KOAs and most other camp grounds have wifi these days. My sanity was preserved.

IMG_3254

Back in New Mexico!

IMG_3270

Continental Divide at 7,275 feet above sea level.

IMG_3276

Last leg of the journey.

IMG_3283

Home safe and sound! Aside from having to add a little oil, the Contour was very well behaved on the trip. It didn’t skip a beat even with some 100+ degree heat, heavy cross winds, rain, bumper-to-bumper traffic in Salt Lake City, or steep inclines I encountered. Thank you for coming along for the ride. Notice a little garage preview here of what’s to come in the next post. Stay tuned!

IMG_3376

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Breaking Bad, Ford Roundup and Garage Lighting

91VRA8kjYXL._RI_I’m back at it finding old Breaking Bad filming locations. This particular location is the first “cook” site in Season 1 and the many action-packed scenes in Season 5. Finding this location is a bit tricky as it sits on Indian reservation land in a remote area only accessible by dirt roads. After some digging around the internet, I found the approximate area northwest from Tohajiilee, NM (about 46 miles west of Albuquerque). So, I set about scouting in the freshly detailed Mazda 6.

IMG_1655

As I’ve seen the Breaking Bad series quite a few times, it was easy to spot the landmarks. Found it!

IMG_1667

Those of you who’ve watched the show know this is a very popular scene.

Breaking.Bad_.S05E13.1080p.mkv_001896838

Here’s my try.

IMG_1669

I was a little off lining up this one.

IMG_2201IMG_1678

Walter White’s Chrysler vs. the Mazda 6

Breaking.Bad_.S05E14.1080p.mkv_000885044IMG_1676

Road leading to the “cook” site.

IMG_2202EBDE411F-39A4-44BC-8857-078091F12771

Never hurts to flex the suspension a bit. Luckily I didn’t get stuck in sand. No cell reception or other vehicles for miles could have been bad.

IMG_1683

Ford Roundup

Back in April (2019), I participated in my first ever local car show, the 16th Annual Ford Roundup. This was hosted by the Alamogordo Mustang Club and all American made cars were welcome to attend. Aside from a newer Buick Regal GS hatchback, I probably had the smallest displacement of the bunch. Lots of fun overall and quite a few spectators were amused by the Contour. I had two different groups: those who said they hadn’t seen an SVT Contour in person, and those who didn’t have any idea what it was. More photos can be found here.

I spent an entire day prepping for this show. Cleaning, Hoovering, dusting and polishing to try and get the Contour decent looking. By request of some readers, here’s some interior shots.

IMG_1747IMG_1749IMG_1753

Forgot to mention earlier, I had the roof resprayed.

83632D4E-9A59-44A0-BE98-0AB3F256EC11

Here she is in the show with my homemade display sign.

IMG_2494

Other photos from the show…

IMG_2500IMG_2512IMG_2492IMG_2505

These folks next to me won the prize for best 1990-2000 in the show. Well deserved as their ’99 GT with 30,000 original miles was concours-ready despite traveling from Amarillo, TX.

IMG_1778

In other Contour news, I took it in for its first oil change since it’s been in my possession. “Where did you find this?!!” from the service advisor. I also had them recharge the A/C and do a through inspection. All should be good now for Portland in July!

IMG_1929

Also got the wheels refinished as the factory clear coat was pretty much all worn off.

IMG_1802IMG_1823

Now, I can say the exterior is about as good as it’s going to get within budget.

IMG_1928

Garage Updates

One major garage upgrade that was long overdue is lighting. This photo that was taken shortly after I moved into the house shows how much of a joke the single light fixture was. I can’t believe the builders considered this sufficient. I’ve gotten by over the years with plug-in halogen shop lights and headlamps for working on the cars or detailing. This year though, enough was enough. I needed to fix this.

E9FF09AA-ED97-49C2-84EA-80456C5FAD96

Lots of research went into what type of lighting I should use. The first consideration was my overall intension for the garage. Am I going to make this into a mini-showroom or workshop? Two completely different lighting needs there. As I often do, I made things more difficult for myself and decided the goal was to have a mixture of the two. Track lighting would provide some dramatic effects, but not so useful in detailing or working on cars. Fluorescent fixtures seemed to be the best choice overall, but wouldn’t give the premium feel I was after. Final choice, 6″ recessed LED lighting.

IMG_0440

Many hours of research went into how one does this retrofit himself. The process ended up being pretty simple, just time consuming and frustrating working with what little light I had available.

IMG_0446

The efforts paid off in the end. Let there be light!

IMG_0658

Next, the back wall needed a facelift.

IMG_1859

I added some wood planks to an accent wall to give some warmth and visual interest.

IMG_1881

Then I swapped the shelves with cabinets to avoid a cluttered look.

IMG_1896

Lastly (at least for this post), I made a small workbench and added a pegboard.

IMG_2093

This is how it looks today. I already made an appointment for an epoxy floor coating in June and later down the line I may add some sort of sound system with speakers in the wall. Stay tuned!

IMG_2111

Tagged , , , , ,

Pacific Northwest 2019 Planning

35658793240_7be29a0349_o

If any of you follow this blog somewhat closely, you’ll find that I’m a big fan of the Pacific Northwest. The plethora of thick, green rain forests and majestic coastline are pure bliss to me. I haven’t been here since 2016 when I was on my way back from Alaska. I’m overdue a trip. This year, I had a little push to go as a result of joining a great group of Contour enthusiasts, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Contour Group.

2019-PNW-Contour-Logo-B

The admin, Satya, reached out to me shortly after my YouTube video posted and since then, I’ve connected with some really great guys. Thanks to these connections, I’ve been able to source some rare and discontinued parts for the Contour as well as gain some very useful technical knowledge. This group hosts annual meets/drives and this year will be their 5th anniversary meet in Portland. When I was invited, there was no hesitancy in planning for the 4,000 mile drive to attend. Here are a few photos from their past events.

IMG_1031IMG_1857

IMG_2034

I am amazed of the cult following these Contours (and twin Mercury Mystique’s) have. A lot of the internet forums have become a bit stale, however social media groups are still very much alive and have members ranging from ages 16 to 60. The PNW Contour group is one of the newest groups and they include owners from all over the west side of the country. I definitely like the culture.

You may find it surprising that despite my interest in cars and connecting with  enthusiasts, I’ve never participated in a car meet or show. Ever. This should be fun. So in July, I will be taking the old Contour to Portland for its first ever long journey to meet the guys and get my “fix” for some PNW scenery.

Restoration Updates:

I’m getting the Contour cleaned up little by little and this July drive is going to push things along a bit. I recently booked an appointment to get the roof resprayed and the PDR (paintless dent removal) to remove the hail damage has been completed. For that job, I took it to Eric Truster of Dent Specialties of El Paso, TX. As old and brittle as the interior trim pieces are, he managed to disassemble everything and pull down the headliner to gain access to the roof without one scratch or broken tab. That’s why I call him the “wizard.”

IMG_0549

The 21 year old paint is quite fragile, so Eric used his special techniques to heat the surface up to get the paint pliable enough for all the pushing and pulling of the sheet metal.

IMG_0304IMG_0959IMG_0968

The entire job took a little over a week and now all the body panels are free of dents as they should be!

Next update is my rear bumper DIY work. No signs of cracking or bubbling, so we might be good to go for a while. I wet-sanded the new clear coat a tad, then compounded to level it all out to match the factory finish. So much better than before.

IMG_0330IMG_0331

Next, I repaired and tightened up the bolts on the the rocker panels as best I could. I also sourced some used jack point covers that I had to paint. Unfortunately, the color isn’t an exact match, but it should hold me over until I can find some factory painted Toreador Red ones.

Before (pardon the filth):

IMG_5616

After:

IMG_5620

IMG_1026IMG_2446

Now on to a little detail which I’m very pleased with. When I first drove this car home, I noticed some sticker remnants on the windshield’s passenger side. It was clearly old and looked bad and it bugged me. However, as this windshield is original to the car, it must have been something somewhat significant, so I held back on cleaning it off until I found out what it was. A bit of research online revealed it used to be the assembly plant sticker Ford would include on all their new vehicles. After finding this particular model came from the Kansas City assembly plant, I sent off a letter to Ford requesting a replacement if that could be done. A few weeks later, one came in the mail!

IMG_0898

I’m glad I didn’t clean off the old one as it served as a template.

IMG_0900

As of now, I’m doing repairs on the sunroof motor to try and get that working as well as source a replacement driver’s visor. I’m going to have to look into the A/C soon too as it doesn’t seem to be working.

Interview with the 1st Owner:

Around the same time I sent the letter to Ford, I also sent a note to the original owner of the Contour in hopes I could hear his story. I had the address and phone number on old service records. The phone number ended up being a dead end, so sending a letter was going to be my last try. I introduced myself, included some recent photos of the car and asked if he’d be willing to contact me. To my surprise, I got a call! I was thrilled and even though the conversation lasted less than ten minutes, I got all the info I was looking for and quickly realized that this car had been well cared for. Here are some notes from the conversation:

  • Bought new in 1997 for $24k
  • Had engine rebuilt around 100,000 miles from a rod bearing going bad (common issue)
  • Original alternator
  • Original transmission
  • Original power steering
  • Original radiator
  • Clutch replaced with performance unit while engine was out…not needed but replaced anyway
  • Replaced fuel pump
  • Had no idea when the hail damage happened
  • Garage kept, but in the sun during week days at work
  • Majority of miles were local to Ft. Collins and Denver
  • Wife daily drove it from new (very conservatively)
  • Exhaust, headers and intake were upgraded around the time of the engine rebuild
  • Sold because he had 6 vehicles
  • Spent roughly $7,000 in maintenance, repairs and upgrades

I can’t imagine keeping one car for over 20 years, but I salute him for his dedication. That’s a wrap for now. Stay tuned as I’ll report back with some new announcements and festivities coming up. Drive on!

IMG_0996

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life

IMG_0254

Time to strap on the latex gloves and bring out the detailing gear on the Contour! As I pointed out in the last post, much of the car is in decent condition, and only needs a little superficial TLC to make it pop. That’s where I spent my energy these past few weeks. It’s been a long process, and I’m no where near finished. A few hours here and there after work is all I’ve been able to devote to this project. However, I’m seeing some good results.

First off, let’s talk about that flag you’ll be seeing in the background. Since there’s a Ford in the garage now, I found it fitting to get something for it.

IMG_0140

Personalized plate arrived too!

IMG_0066

Okay, now on to the paint. I first tackled the rear bumper. Aside from the roof, which I’ll get to in March or April, this is the biggest eye sore. I used my Porter Cable buffer with a yellow cutting pad and Meguiar’s Ultimate Cutting Compound followed by a black pad and polish. The paint here looked to be original with very heavy oxidation and bad clear coat failure at the very top. My plan of attack:

  • Compound the entire bumper to take as much oxidation off as possible
  • Level/sand down the blistered clear coat areas
  • Spray paint the bad areas using a two-step process of base and top coats
  • Compound again to blend and level it all out
  • Finalize with Wolfgang polish and carnauba wax

The original plan was for a body shop take care of this while also doing the roof. However, the bumper is a little warped in some areas and there’s a small corner broken off that bugs me. I’m unsure if I’ll keep it or seek a replacement. So for now, I’m just doing a cheap fix. The above steps should hold me over for a year or so.

IMG_0142

Even at the highest RPM on my buffer, this took some time to see decent results. Here’s a 50/50 shot.

IMG_0178IMG_0184

I also attacked some of the quarter panels. These weren’t quite as intense. Still plenty of scratches to be removed.

456FB6B5-D73D-4804-A6EB-89FE0CD04338

Check out that shine and metallic flake! This is why I love Ford’s Toreador Red Metallic.

IMG_0174

I also went down the driver’s side.

IMG_0240

IMG_0222 (1)

IMG_0275

Though I plan to replace the current exhaust setup, I couldn’t let it go without a good cleaning too.

1A5A0ED6-B526-4FB0-8389-49B7656B361E

Examining the bumper in sunlight. You can see a tremendous improvement, though the failed clear coat is still apparent. Time to address that…

IMG_0205

This is my first time doing a cheap rattle-can paint job, so the whole thing has been a learning experience. I first dry sanded the rough areas to ensure a smooth finish and good adhesion.

IMG_0226 (1)

I then removed the bumper to see if I could improve the alignment and tighten the panel gaps. Doing this prior to painting would prevent the new paint from blistering from all the flexing and bending.

IMG_0232 (1)

Back on the car with minimal improvements to the fitment. I emptied an entire 8oz can of Dupli-Color BFM0344 base coat and topped with another 8oz of Dupli-Color EBCL01257 clear. This is cheap stuff, but went on effortlessly.

IMG_0237

The results as of this posting. There’s plenty of orange peel, but the color match is pretty spot on. I’m waiting for the appropriate cure time before hitting the whole thing with compound again. I’ll report back with the results.

IMG_0242 (1)

You may notice that I extended the paint down pretty low to cover up the compounding job I just finished. That was to help with blending.

IMG_0253

On another topic, I’ve been revamping my car record binders. Adding the Contour made me realize that a fresh, consistent look was needed. The gray 6’s binder was getting so full that I had to create a Volume II. With over 264,000 miles, those records really add up.

IMG_0261

Here’s the Contour’s documentation and promotional material, some of which I’ve added. Not pictured here (from being hidden somewhere in storage) I have a VHS tape of the SVT Contour debut. That will be fun to find again though I won’t be able to play it. Anyone still have an old VHS player to loan?

IMG_0284

I was able to find that video on Youtube (Warning: hardcore 90s content here). At 0:58, you can hear how aggressive it sounded even in stock form.

The first owner must have been an enthusiast as there were plenty of SVT news printouts. I’m also lucky enough to have the original sales contract.

IMG_0285

Given my new branding of, “Pawela’s Garage”, it was time to give the old garage a little love too.

IMG_5626

New artwork and displays on the east wall. Next on the list will be performing lighting upgrades.

IMG_0087IMG_0085

And included with those displays, I added window stickers for each car. Both the Mazda’s needed to be recreated which I painstakingly did in Adobe Illustrator.

IMG_0047

Though the attention as been mostly on the Contour, the Mazda’s aren’t forgotten.

IMG_0046

Sunset shot of the daily…

IMG_0124

And the “i” got a bath to clear away the dust. I’ve only driven this 200 miles within the past 3 months.

IMG_0195

That does it for now. Until next time!

Tagged , , , , , ,

New Purchase: 1998 Ford SVT Contour

img_2393

I never thought I’d be saying “I bought” and “Ford” in the same sentence. Though I really like the Fords of the 80s and early 90s, I lost interest as they approached the late 90s and brought some atrocious examples of the Taurus, Escort, and F-series pickup. The ZX2, what the heck was that?! The only cars that didn’t offend that much were the Mustang and Contour. Yes, the Contour followed the oval trend, but it worked. At least in my mind. I’ve always admired the Contour since its debut in 1995 and told myself that I need to own a V6 with a 5-speed someday.

So, for several years I’ve kept a secret casually searching for a decent Contour. Specifically, a limited production SVT Contour. The like for the Contour turned into love when Ford introduced that SVT version. My admiration for this car began when I received this 1997 March issue of Car and Driver where a ’98 Toreador Red SVT Contour occupied the cover. I was only 11 years old at the time and yes, I still have this magazine.

56765462263__e8e55bbb-5738-4cf3-8ae2-8a066d55903f

My search for one was on and off. At times I’d religiously scour AutoTrader listings, Craigslist and nothing would pop up. Motivation would be lost and several months would go by before looking again. After I acquired my 2004 Honda Accord coupe, a really nice one showed up at my local Ford dealer, but it sold before I was even able to pick up the phone to ask about it.

To make my search more difficult, I was dead set on a 1998 model year in that sparkly Toreador Red Metallic—the same model Car and Driver tested. Very few of these are left and many have been beaten into the ground or modified beyond recognition. My search started up again after Thanksgiving (2018) and using a new-to-me site, AutoTempest, I found only two in the country. One had already sold in San Diego and the other was this in Loveland, CO.

screen shot 2018-12-24 at 8.43.50 pm

Though it was a little rough around the edges, the bones of the car looked to be good and original aside from an upgraded exhaust and cold air intake. Carfax showed it had been in northern Colorado since day one. (That 3rd owner is me)

2019-01-15 08_46_24-carfax vehicle history report for this 1998 ford contour svt_ 1falp68g4wk156817

The car had 131,000 miles and had been with the seller, Zeke, for four months before posting to Craigslist. The first owner only drove an average of 6,200 miles a year, so we have a fairly low mileage example here. No accidents, no rust, clean title, I contacted the seller pronto before it got away. Fast forward a few days, and we had a gentleman’s agreement on a price, and a plan to meet in Pueblo, Colorado to take delivery.

SVT Background:

So, what’s the big deal on the SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Contour you might ask? This car seems to have two different groups of fans…those who love it and those who hate it. The love comes from being a limited production, small sport sedan with the European derived chassis. The hate comes from those who think it was pointless and not worthy of wearing an SVT badge.

Indeed, the SVT Contour was a bit of an odd one. Introduced in 1998 when the Contour received a mid-cycle refresh, it was aimed directly against European sport sedans, but had the appeal of a much lower price tag. However, it was still too expensive for many to justify buying a sporty midsized Ford. The cramped interior accommodations didn’t help either. At a little under $24,000 (~$37,000 in today’s dollars), it didn’t make sense. Ford ended production in 2000 and a total of 11,445 were made in the three year life span. SVT is to Ford back then what the “M” division is to BMW. The Team gave the regular, mundane Contour a revised version of the 2.5L V6 to push out 195hp and 165lbs ft of torque mated to a mandatory 5-speed manual. Other exclusive SVT goodies consisted of unique front, and rear fascias, special leather, white faced gauges, premium sound (yeah, right), more aggressive intake and exhaust, 16 inch alloy wheels, and a more aggressive suspension setup.

img_5343

Taking Delivery:

So, here’s how I took delivery. I grabbed a one-way Hertz rental in Las Cruces and set off 500 miles to Pueblo, CO in the midst of a nasty winter storm covering most of New Mexico. What sane person wouldn’t buy a 21 year old Ford sight unseen and drive back in these conditions?

img_5289

Luckily, most of the roadway was clear.

img_5290

But was dang cold. -6˚F!!

img_5312

Views from I-25 heading north out of Santa Fe, NM. Ice packed most of the way, but the Malibu rental handled it beautifully.

img_5314

The route took me exclusively on I-25. Good thing since I’d have a better chance of getting rescued if anything were to happen. My confidence was there, but I didn’t want to be stupid either. My luggage was one large suitcase, but it wasn’t filled with what you’d expect. I stuffed a tool kit, first aid, blankets, extra cell phone battery packs, jackets, flash light, water and even duct tape and a hammer. Hey, you never know. I even shelled out the extra bucks for the rental insurance in case I banged up a fender sliding into a guardrail or something. You could say I was a little too paranoid or even expecting trouble, but I don’t have time for delays or…dying. Fortunately, I never had to open the suitcase.

Our meeting point was at Enterprise where Zeke would drive a rental back to Loveland about 180 miles away. Big thanks to him for taking the time and having trust to meet an idiot (me) who buys old cars sight unseen. Here we are signing the papers.

img_5336

And the official key hand off!

img_5337img_5340

I got me a Ford!

img_5342

A quick examination around the car before heading back on the freeway revealed that this was a really clean example aside from some failed clearcoat on the roof and rear bumper cover. The interior was much better than I expected.

img_5345

The official delivery mileage of 131,954

img_5368

Off to New Mexico! The ride was stable, no wobble in the steering, clutch was smooth and the 2.5L had some good pep to it. I was feeling good about the purchase.

img_5353

New Mexico state line.

img_5360

By the time I was in Las Vegas, NM, it was time to fill up with 91 octane fuel. I started to make this Loves Travel Center my usual pit stop along the northern New Mexico I-25 corridor. 20 or so miles after refueling, I started to sense the car felt peppier. Just a gentle touch of the throttle gave instant results compared to when I first took delivery. Could it have been better fuel or the slight change in elevation? Or both? Who knows. I was pleased either way.

img_5369

As darkness began to fall, it was time to switch on the headlights and see how they were. Not surprisingly, they were crap and I ended up having to use the high beams to see anything beyond five yards. The fog lights looked to be out, so that will go on the “fix it” list.

img_5403

Tired, hungry and cold, I stopped at my grandpa’s place in Grants, NM for the night before continuing on home. The next morning was a frosty -3˚F, but the Contour cold started without issue. Grandpa and I ran a few errands and I let him take the wheel. A Ford man at heart, he loved the experience. At 94 years old, he can still drive a manual so smooth, you’d swear it was an automatic!

img_5380

Setting off for home. You can see those massive after market exhaust tips.

img_5387

I took my time and arrived in Las Cruces just after dark. The Contour meets its stablemates.

img_5407

Here are some stats and minor issues that will need sorting in the coming months:

  • 2 previous owners, both residing in Loveland/Ft. Collins, CO area
  • Carfax showed the majority of the maintenance was from two Ford dealers.
  • Tires and battery are new
  • The 2.5L V6 had been completely rebuilt in 2010 at around 100,000 miles and a new clutch was installed at the same time
  • Driver’s side visor is broken
  • Will need to respray the sun damaged panels
  • PDR on light hail damage
  • Fix fog lights
  • The transmission gear engagement is a little sloppy
  • Obtain replacement jack point covers on the rocker panels
  • Replace the aftermarket exhaust with a factory OEM unit
  • Replace cold air intake with OEM airbox
  • Restore headlights and replace low beam bulbs
  • Restore/condition leather
  • Paint correction and overall detail

Here are some detailed photos before giving it its first wash in my possession.

Check out the original Colorado plate from the first owner. After 20+ years of being on the car, the screws are seized and I may have to drill them out! Zeke had to use binder clips to hold on his plate when he owned it.

img_2331

Clearcoat failure on the roof.

img_2343

Exhaust and the rear bumper oxidation.

img_2330

Some goofy fitment of the rear bumper to be sorted out.

img_2332

Minor rocker panel damage and missing jack point covers.

img_2336

Minor scrapes and scratches to be touched up.

img_2339

As soon as I got a semi-warm day, I took off the front license plate, and pressure washed to remove as much salt and grime as I could. I didn’t want any of that on my driveway.

img_5419

I then gave it a thorough two-bucket wash back at the house.

img_5420

Gave the headlights some TLC.

img_5425

Results as of today. I’m on the hunt for those missing jack point covers and I plan to get the hail damage fixed soon. Repainting the roof and rear bumper will come in the spring.

img_2384

img_2390

Tucked away in her new home along with the other garage queen…the 6 i.

img_5431

For a car this old, the to-do list is not that bad at all. A huge plus for me was having a lot  of maintenance records and original documentation including the dealer window sticker!

img_5487

Here’s my first attempt at vlogging, a compilation of the above events:

So, what are my plans for this car now that I have it in my possession? I will slowly restore it back to the factory, original condition and only bring it out of the garage for special shows and occasions. In fact, I told my insurance agent that I don’t plan to exceed 5,000 miles per year in this.

Sadly, the grey 6 s had to be relocated from the garage to the side of the house. It still serves daily duties. I treated it to a few new coil packs and a new OEM mass air sensor to keep things in tip top shape.

img_5482

That about does it for now. Stay tuned for future restoration coverage on the Contour. Thanks for stopping by!

img_5483

4yr Anniversary and Other News

IMG_5124

Greetings! With all the Christmas rush going on, I haven’t been able to crank out a decent post. Playing catch-up, here’s what’s been going on for the past few months:

2004 6 S Anniversary:

November 7th, 2018 marks the fourth year with the 6 S. As I’ve mentioned in the three year post, this hasn’t been a cheap car to keep on the road. Luckily, the past year hasn’t been as bad. The only unscheduled repair was replacing a few broken wheel studs from being over tightened. The rest were regular maintenance and visual mods.

  • Full left side PDR – $325
  • Powdercoat Factory Wheels – $540
  • Alignment – $160
  • Replace Window Trim Vinyl – $212.29
  • Wiper Blade Inserts – $20.45
  • Oil Changes (5) – $190
  • Replace broken wheel studs – $180

Total cost from November, 2017 to November, 2018 (minus fuel) was $1,627.74. This past fall, I’ve gotten my act together and started entering all my service receipts into a spreadsheet to track costs. To put things into perspective, here are a few stats from day one:

  • Miles driven since purchase – 121,547
  • Total cost of ownership (not including fuel and purchase price, but including tires, maintenance, modifications and repair) – $16,100.76
  • Accidents – 1
  • Breakdowns – 1
  • Sets of tires – 2
  • Recalls -2 (Passenger and Driver Tekla airbags)
  • States Visited – 11
  • Countries Visited – 2
  • Longest distance traveled in one day: 920 miles (Las Cruces, NM to Organ Pipe National Monument)
  • Longest trip: 8,936 miles (Las Cruces, NM to Arctic Circle, AK)

My plans for the car are undetermined at this point. When I discovered how expensive this had become per mile, I decided to pull the S from daily duties. However, I’ve slowly gotten back into old habits and the miles are still climbing. As of today, I’m sitting at 260,500 miles. She’s running suspiciously good, so I think I’ll continue on.

IMG_2200

November drive: Why, AZ and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I took a much needed adventure with my buddy Tyson (drivetofive) and James Lee (sixspeedblog) to southwest Arizona. It was a bit of a drive as I planned to do it in one day. A total of 920 miles!

2018-12-28 09_58_11-Window

One of the more interesting parts of this trip was meeting up in a small unincorporated community called, Why, AZ.

IMG_4931

It got its name from State Routes 85 and 86 originally intersecting in a “Y” intersection. Now, for safety reasons, that intersection was realigned to more of a “T”. So, “Why” did we travel to this desolate part of the state? To see the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument!

IMG_4893

Nestled in the Yuma Desert along the Mexico border, the monument is 517 square miles of blissful preserved desert land with natural growing organ pipe cacti along with many other species. The park included an unpaved, rugged 21 mile loop trail called the Ajo Mountain Trail which we obviously had to take. The trail greeted us with some gorgeous panoramic views of the park in addition to enough dust to clog anyone’s air filters. Completely worth it though!

IMG_2258IMG_4920IMG_4916IMG_2260

There were short sections of smooth paved road that mercifully gave our shocks and butts a little rest.

IMG_2268IMG_2269IMG_2271

Group photo

IMG_4930IMG_4922

The old 6 held its own compared to Tyson’s much newer 2013 ILX 6spd and James’ 2019 Corolla XSE 6spd hatch press car.

IMG_4929IMG_4885

Breaking Bad Locations

vince-gilligan-why-ended-breaking-bad

Any Breaking Bad fans here? The AMC crime drama show, which filmed here in New Mexico (mostly Albuquerque), is one of my all time favorites. Rumor has it, they are currently filming a movie which is supposed to be a Breaking Bad successor story. I took the time one weekend scouting out some of the popular locations and seeing how they look today.

Walter White’s House

IMG_4802

Hank and Marie’s house

IMG_4808

Gus’ Los Pollos Hermanos location

IMG_4813

I’ll try to be back with more locations in a future post. Cheers!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Major PDR and Other Updates

39541293770_939e63d5c7_z

Hi All. I’m checking in here and kicking away the tumbleweeds that have accumulated in my absence. I’m still chugging along at work and home projects. Lots of improvements on both cars have been ongoing as well. I’ve focused a lot of attention on the 6i to get it as close to showroom fresh as I can within financial reason. Well, financial reason may be a bit too conservative. I think obsessive may come to your mind.

First off, I scored a brand new OEM factory painted spoiler which dressed up the rear of the “i” a bit. Most 6’s with the sport package of this era came with a spoiler, however there was a spoiler-delete option which we had here. That’s never been to my liking, so this fixed that.

45733911652_4f652bb2b1_z

Next, you may have noticed that I don’t show many photos of the driver’s side on here and on my Instagram. That’s been on purpose as there was some rather significant damage to the driver’s door which didn’t show well in photos. The damage was there when I acquired the car and it looks like someone had baked directly into the door. I believe this happened on one of my grandpa’s voyages. Though most of the scuffs and paint damage buffed away, we were left with many dimples and stretched sheet metal. Here’s what I’m referring to:

IMG_2017IMG_2016

Even though this light color hides the damage in direct sunlight, my OCD kept nagging me to fix it. I explored many options such as your traditional body shop process of re-skinning, painting and blending or purchasing a replacement door and having it painted. Either of those options most likely wouldn’t yield the results I’d be looking for though. I intend to keep this car as original as possible. I even considered buying this local 6, swapping doors, and reselling.

40345374360_945dd9d9e4_z

Even if the paint matched perfectly, I’d have the issue of the black window and belt line trim mismatched from both cars being in different environments for the last 14 years. So, my last hope was contacting my tried and true PDR (paintless dent removal) go-to, Dent Specialties of El Paso, TX. For well over 10 years, I’ve been taking my cars to their lead tech (or “wizard” as he should be called), Eric. If you’re ever in the area, pay them a visit!

After some coordination over text, I decided the best action plan would be to take the door off and leave it with Eric for a week.

44590622942_53db40c25f_z29702516427_dc05a26ae3_z

Ready for transport. It BARELY fit in the trunk of the gray 6!

30844164677_85b72813d9_z

This challenging project was showcased on their social media.

30844164697_275f570fcb_z

After a week, it was done, and here’s the magic he was able to perform. His 20 hours of work gave some really impressive results!

44871045125_9f57ab577e_z

I was so stoked. Pictures don’t do this justice, but here are a few before and afters:

29661201277_2b1539ca9b_z44599013731_838e17486d_z

So, that made for another successful fix for the “i”. A few months later, I returned to Eric to have the remaining door dings removed from the entire body.

44366807485_9b8a422e85_z

Next, I tightened up some panel gaps on the passenger side (pardon the filth).

Before:

IMG_2767

After:

IMG_2776

Oh, we aren’t done yet! Next, I stripped off the old faded window tint and had my tint guys install some fresh 20% film.

44614248102_a4455064d0_z29725872867_fd2ed911f0_z30870455228_d7ac72d75a_z

The factory painted door handles’ clear coat was starting to fail, so I will replace these as well.

43967757360_40c1fbce83_z

Now, the final touches. I’ve been wrapping up the mini restoration process by giving every single nook and cranny a good cleaning and detailing.

IMG_3808

I’m currently finishing up a complete paint correction/restoration. The process consists of a clay bar cleaning, compounding on the bad areas, two-stage polish, then sealer.

45622864592_e1d902daee_z

Some of the results:

44760494085_17ac5be3c6_z44760495305_842801cda6_z

The product of choice has been Wolfgang. I find their products very easy to apply and tend to yield a nice deep gloss.

31801116658_338d66383b_z

When I’m finished with the entire car, I’ll top coat with this $70 Wolfgang Fuzion carnauba wax to give the greatest depth and make the metallic flake pop. This won’t be a concours-level paint restoration, but a huge improvement.

44759122975_520c2ddd5d_z

It’s been a rather expensive project. When the “i” is complete, I’ll be sure to post some high resolution photos. I also didn’t forget about the gray “s”. I swapped out the troublesome aftermarket Depo headlights for some black bezel OEM 2006 Mazda 6 headlights. What’s this, the fourth time I’ve replaced these?

44175764042_9ceff0fc19_z

I feel like these work better with my dark/smoked theme.

43506674554_a574566e47_z

The last mod is a gloss black window trim to replace the faded and cracked factory vinyl.

IMG_4598

While we’re on the subject of the gray 6, this month is actually the fourth-year anniversary of ownership. How does time fly by so quickly?! I’ll compile some data to share in a future post on that. I think I’ve bored you all with enough photos for now. Catch you all later!

Tagged , , , , ,

Douglas, AZ; Mogollon, NM; and a Quarter Million Mile Milestone

42043078584_eb784de5fb_z

Happy Friday! Hope you all are enjoying the warmer weather. Here in Las Cruces, NM, we have been consistently in the triple digits with no sign of relief in the near future. Nothing else to do but embrace it, I guess. Since I’ve been MIA for a while, I have a few adventures to catch up on:

Douglas, Arizona:

Back in late May, I made a day trip to meet up for lunch with my friend, Tyson. Despite living nearly 400 miles apart, we traditionally have met at a midpoint for day trips. This time, it was the small border town of Douglas, AZ.

42378505081_a0830409d6_z

At just over 16,000 residents, this town sits along the border of Mexico and is one of the more popular international crossings in this area. Incorporated in 1905, the town got its name from James Douglas, a mining pioneer. The most significant landmark the town offers is the Gadsden Hotel. Built in 1907, then destroyed by a fire, it was rebuilt in 1929 and most of what you see today has been preserved from then.

42233320514_db79f1c4dd_z

This was the perfect meeting point for lunch. I met Tyson here in the 6 while he was driving his tried and true ’92 Integra GS-R. Both of our cars are well over 200,000 miles, but neither of us questioned bringing them to a small town hundreds of miles from any major service facilities.

42952363091_20404fa2e6_z

Stepping inside the hotel, we were greeted with an elaborate interior. Detailed woodwork, massive stained glass murals, marble for days, and a grand staircase sitting at the base of a towering foyer make you feel like you’re in something very special.

tyson_jason_staircase42233725494_f0103a2136_z42233725504_1ea16ba701_z

Lunch was at the hotel restaurant, Casa Segovia. We dang near had the place to ourselves and was given the red-carpet treatment from the staff. Chicken Enchiladas Verde hit the spot.

42902637462_29b1d11a7b_z42233725224_c46a013fa9_z

After lunch, we did our usual exploring with a few car photos.

41654814344_183dae251c_z

border_fence

42952363141_364d8fe2b0_z

Thanks, Tyson for meeting up!

250,000 Miles and Mogollon, NM

Since the Douglas meet with Tyson, we had entertained the idea of doing another drive where both our cars would turnover 250,000 miles at the same time. His Integra was only a few thousand miles behind the 6 in reaching that milestone. However, both of our busy schedules didn’t allow for that, so maybe at another milestone later.

I took advantage of a work related assignment in Silver City and drove north from there into the Gila wilderness to get the 6 to 250,000. The historic ghost town of Mogollon was exactly the distance I needed (~240 miles). This makes my second visit to Mogollon as I first visited the town back in 2015.

41142311730_38fd783460_z

Misty rain, cloud cover and virtually no traffic was just what the doctor ordered! A major relief from several consecutive days of 100+°F.

41142311780_4b58a7e3cb_z

The winding road leading up to Mogollon turns into a single lane. Watch out around those blind corners!

42952982291_ea3f02b577_z

My dog Charlie accompanied me on this drive, and we would make occasional pit stops to stretch his legs.

42903284522_28d9a6de63_z

Switchbacks galore.

42903284062_9f8f0f4b46_z

Lots of deer and elk spotted along the way.

29080128588_2d6223023e_z.jpg

Arrived!

42050898275_d64853309f_z

Lots of infrastructure improvements have been made since my last visit. To prevent flooding from future storm events, NMDOT improved the roadway significantly with a large channel and other drainage facilities.

42234024444_e49e618e5b_z

Check out the difference from 2015…

img_4682

Most of the town was closed so I didn’t stay long. Back to my mission and on the way back down the mountain, it happened…

41142526630_b375b96f0a_z (1)

Quarter million miles, baby! Complete with matching trip odo reading.

42903283972_09ab36795b_z

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Until next time!

29080128738_a68ba09c6c_z

Tagged , , , , , , ,