Category Archives: Contour

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.


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


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


Here’s my try.


I was a little off lining up this one.


Walter White’s Chrysler vs. the Mazda 6


Road leading to the “cook” site.


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.


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.


Forgot to mention earlier, I had the roof resprayed.


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


Other photos from the show…


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.


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!


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


Next, the back wall needed a facelift.


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


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


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


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!


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Pacific Northwest 2019 Planning


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.


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.



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.”


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.


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.


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):





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!


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


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!




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Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life


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.


Personalized plate arrived too!


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.


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


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


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


I also went down the driver’s side.


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


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


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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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


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.


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


Sunset shot of the daily…


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


That does it for now. Until next time!

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New Purchase: 1998 Ford SVT Contour


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.


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.


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?


Luckily, most of the roadway was clear.


But was dang cold. -6˚F!!


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


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.


And the official key hand off!


I got me a Ford!


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.


The official delivery mileage of 131,954


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.


New Mexico state line.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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.


Clearcoat failure on the roof.


Exhaust and the rear bumper oxidation.


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


Minor rocker panel damage and missing jack point covers.


Minor scrapes and scratches to be touched up.


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.


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


Gave the headlights some TLC.


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.



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


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!


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.


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