Category Archives: Modifications

New Metallic Epoxy Garage Floor

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Big changes have been happening at the garage. This year, my goal was to transform the garage from top to bottom. While the recessed lights made a huge impact in the look and feel, there was (and still is) plenty to do.

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Even replacing the exposed shelving with cabinets and adding the workbench didn’t do much to hide the worst part of the garage…the floor.

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I hadn’t touched this floor since moving into the house back in 2014. The condition was awful. Lots of cracks,  delamination, chipping and 20+ years of oil stains were really apparent.

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I have to admit, my cars have added to the mess. A lot of those dots of oil are from the gray 6.

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How the floor looked even when swept and hosed down.

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So, this summer I finally pulled the trigger and hired a local contractor to finish this last component of the showroom garage.

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I hired Custom Concrete Coatings, LLC of Las Cruces to complete a 3-part metallic epoxy called, “Dolphin” with “titanium” mixed in. Then, everything was top coated with polyaspartic for added protection. The entire process took just over a week which included curing and drying times. Here’s the base/primer coat applied after a thorough grinding on the floor.

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Here’s the second part with the metallic color.

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And finally the top clear coat with polyaspartic.

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When the floor was completed, cure times were 24-48hrs for the polyaspartic before I could drive on it. I chose to wait 48hrs to ensure the top coat hardened properly. Poor cars had to brave the sizzling summer sun for the week.

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Before lugging the washer and dryer back in, I finished off the back wall with new baseboards.

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All the junk back in. Note I also added a TV for those late night car detail jobs.

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First car on the new floor!

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A week later, I continued the baseboards throughout and added a little bling with some LED lights.

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Baseboards installed.IMG_2681

Lights installed and tested! Amazon provided the LED rope lights and I covered them with a frosted lens to diffuse the light.

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The space is starting to look a little more presentable now. I would do this flooring again, but I have a few notes to mention for those considering going this route:

  • The floor gets VERY slippery when wet. The glossy surface may look great dry, but when wet, there’s nothing to provide traction for those sneakers.
  • It readily shows dirt and shoe prints. I quickly learned that I had to care and clean for this flooring like the laminate inside the house.
  • It’s not ding and scratch proof. If you drop a hammer, most likely it will leave a small chip or scuff.

Despite the few drawbacks, I have zero regrets.

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To complete the moment, I cleaned up the existing displays and flags I have on the walls. I saved some space for future additions, though I’m not entirely sure what those will be yet.

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That wraps up the garage transformation for now. Long term additions will be some sort of sound system and HVAC control.

Side Fence

I’ve had a few people ask me, “Where’s the gray 6 staying now?” Sadly, since the addition of the Contour, I had to move this to the side of the house that’s just barely wide enough to park a few cars in tandem. This is where it sits for now.

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I’ve been meaning to add shade and privacy here. Though the sun’s intensity isn’t that bad on this north side of the house, I still would like some shelter. I’m almost finished with the first phase of this project…addressing the privacy issue by building a 6-ft horizontal cedar fence.

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The next phase will be attaching a sun sail from the soffit of the house to this fence. Once that’s installed, I won’t be on pins and needles when we get those 1/4inch hail storm warnings.

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That brings us to a conclusion for now. Thank you all for stopping by!

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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.

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

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

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Here’s my try.

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I was a little off lining up this one.

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Walter White’s Chrysler vs. the Mazda 6

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Road leading to the “cook” site.

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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.

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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.

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Forgot to mention earlier, I had the roof resprayed.

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

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Other photos from the show…

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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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Next, the back wall needed a facelift.

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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):

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After:

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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!

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

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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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Major PDR and Other Updates

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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This challenging project was showcased on their social media.

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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!

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

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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.

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

Before:

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After:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Some of the results:

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

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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.

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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?

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

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

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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!

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Dissecting a 2007 Mazdaspeed 6

Happy Friday! The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone and now we have Christmas lined up. My, how time flies. I haven’t been on the road as much in the past month due to workload and some general duties I had to take care of at home. Broken water heater, sudden cold front with freezing water lines and other fun home ownership stuff.

However, I did manage to get away a few times to my favorite junkyard, U-Pull-and-Pay in Albuquerque, NM (about 250 miles from Las Cruces). This actually was my Black Friday shopping stop. U-Pull-and-Pay is a self-service junkyard wonderland with a few locations scattered across the U.S. The rules are simple: Pay $2 to get you through the gates, bring your own tools and go to town! Most of the time, I will simply browse the endless aisles of retired cars, but what brought me here the last few times was a tip I received of a wrecked 2007 Mazdaspeed 6 that just arrived. I’ve been looking for one of these for a long time to snatch parts from. I had no idea what condition it was in or what parts were still good, but I took a chance to go find out as these are very hard to come by.

First though, a little background on the ‘Speed6 just so you can gather how excited I was to stumble upon one:

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The original Mazda 6 was introduced to the States in 2003-2005 as a successor to the rather bland 626. In 2006, Mazda gave the 6 a mild refresh and introduced a hot-rod version, the Mazdaspeed 6. “Mazdaspeed” is your equivalent SVT, AMG or S-line variant. What set this apart from the bread-and-butter 6 was the addition of all-wheel-drive, a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission (no automatics were offered), and several upscale features and interior upgrades to fathom the nearly $35,000 price tag for a top line, Grand Touring. Mazdaspeed also provided a pretty special motor: a turbocharged, direct injection 274HP version of the 2.3L 4-cylinder. Rumors have spread that this is very closely related to the 2.3 Ecoboost motor in the 2015 Mustang. More details on the ‘Speed6 can be had here.

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2006 MAZDASPEED6

Despite the love-it-or-hate-it styling, I had entertained the idea of getting a ‘Speed6 for myself. There are two factors which keep me from getting one.

  • They are incredibly hard to come by (only made for two years!) and those few that you find are heavily modded or already trashed. It’s like trying to find a mint, stock first generation WRX. Not too many left out there.
  • The ‘Speed6 required a bit more care and maintenance from all the beefed up hardware underneath. A well cared for example probably would treat you well, but there are a few issues that arise such as complicated suspension overhauls at 100,000 miles and finicky clutches.

Even though the ‘Speed6 differs from the regular 6 in many respects, a lot of cosmetic parts are interchangeable. That’s where this post comes in. Let’s check out the findings!

Here’s the ‘Speed6 donor car at U-Pull. It’s a white water pearl 2007 Grand Touring model…meaning FULLY LOADED!

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The front end and motor were already pretty much raided, but the interior was fully intact! I snatched the front seats, console and a few other bits that would fit in my car.  I took a photo of the VIN number to run its history on CarFax.

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Poor car had been through quite a bit. 5 previous owners and it was badly wrecked while the 4th owner had it.

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The last reported mileage was only 82,800!

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When I was all finished, the car was pretty much cleared out.

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Waiting in line to pay…

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Seat installation. The left side is the ‘Speed6 seat compared to the old one on the right. There is significantly more shoulder and lateral support in these!

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Driver’s installed. The differences are visually very minor.

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Seats installed and ready to go! Unfortunately, this wasn’t a plug-in-play deal. The 2006+ seats have different resistors in the seat belt buckles and side airbags that would very easily make my safety system freak out (ie. airbag lights). To avoid this, all I had to do was simply swap the harnesses and buckles from the old seats to these. No issues reported so far.

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Other goodies were console trim, armrest, vents and tail lights. All are purely for cosmetic purposes aside from the armrest which has more padding than my generation of 6.

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Console installed. Can you spot the changes? The center stack is still in the works.

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Stock tails…

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‘Speed6 tails.

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And a few photos from random weekend adventures…

Roswell, NM

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Carrizozo, NM

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And some frozen face fun in Ruidoso, NM!

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Thanks for stopping by. Until next time…

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One Year Anniversary with the 2004 Mazda 6

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This past Saturday (November 7, 2015) marked my one year anniversary with the 6. It doesn’t seem like it’s been long enough, but who can argue with the calendar? It was this day that I drove my 2004 Mazda 6 home from Phoenix, AZ where it had lived for several years. It succeeded my beloved 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD and it has been my daily driver ever since. I still remember discovering the Craigslist ad while on my lunch break at work.2014-10-31 08_26_16-2004 Mazda 6 Manual 5speed -Well Take Care Of3

I posted of my experience of bringing it home last year and since then, I’ve accumulated 34,535 miles. Without hesitancy, I can say I’ve enjoyed every mile. The 6 isn’t the quickest, quietest nor the most luxurious car I’ve owned, but I can confidently say it’s been the most fun. Yes, my RSX and TL were up there in the fun factor (and they got significantly better numbers on the skidpad), but there is just some sort of crazy witchcraft going on in the suspension and steering of the 6 that makes driving this car addictive yet not tiring day to day. Vague enough for you? The struts/shocks remain original as does the clutch and transmission. Let’s see how far they can go!

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Here are a few fun facts:

  • 34,535 miles covered
  • 1 recall (Tekla airbag…not yet addressed)
  • 1 accident (repaired)
  • 3 major wear & tear repairs
  • Total cost of maintenance, repair and modifications: ~$2,300
  • 4 states visited
  • 7 Oil changes with roughly 5K mile intervals
  • Total breakdowns: 0
  • Total unexpected trips to the dealer: 0
  • Longest distance traveled in one day: 750 miles from Page, AZ to Las Cruces, NM.
  • Longest trip: 2,100 miles round trip Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • 1 Major hail storm survived

My future plans for it:

  • Powdercoat OEM wheels
  • HID retrofit
  • Bose Sound System Upgrade

Here’s a photo from November, 2014 when I picked it up in Phoenix. My buddy Tyson Hugie generously stored the car at his place until I could get it.

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How she stands today.

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Warning: photo overload coming up!
Here are some memorable moments from the past year: 

Tijeras, NM Musical Road

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Antelope Canyon, AZ / UT

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Mogollon, NM

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Mt. Taylor in northern NM

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Acoma (Sky City), NM

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Million Mile Lexus Drive (Chiricahua)

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My favorite modifications: 

Chrome “mustache” grille

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Smoked side markers

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New headlamps

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Leather interior swap and MazdaSpeed 6 aluminum pedal covers

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Heaviest load: 11 bags of 50lb landscape mulch

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And here are some mileage milestones…

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Today, she currently sits at 175,800 miles and is still rolling smooth and strong. That said, this is not a minty showroom example. There are a few known issues that will need sorting out soon. I have an annoying check engine light that likes to come on and go out for no apparent reason, the headliner is in need of reupholstering, and I have a little timing chain cover oil leak that drips on the manifold thus giving off a lovely burning oil aroma. I also suspect I’ll have to get the A/C recharged next season as it just doesn’t quite have that cold kick it should. I want to be brushing icicles off my nose.

Aside from all of that, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive this across the country and back again. So, what’s next? This 6 was originally supposed to be a temporary ride while I got finances in order, but I just got too attached to the dang thing that I guess I’ll keep it for another year or two and see what comes then. 200,000 miles is right around the corner! I’ll see you then…

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Updates to the 6…

Well, I guess it’s that time to share what’s new with my little travel vassel..the 6. With some fresh blog content coming up, I thought it would only be fair to explain myself on some of the changes you might have noticed.

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Overall, the 6 has been performing great and I couldn’t be happier with it. I achieved this cool mini-milestone the other day. With some planned trips coming up, I should be hitting 160,000 miles before summer!

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Okay, let’s get to it. Eagle-eyed viewers may have notice that in the last couple of posts the side moldings had been removed. This wasn’t a premeditated decision. Backing up in time a few months, I was on I-25 headed home from work and I started hearing this odd slapping noise on the passenger side. I couldn’t figure out what the heck it could be. I pulled off to investigate and discovered the passenger front molding was partially detached from the door. At this point, I decided the best fix was to just rip the whole thing off before it fell off somewhere unknown.

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I got home and was thinking… do I reattach this piece with 3M automotive mounting tape or take ALL the moldings off for consistency?

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As it was a rather chilly time of year and the 3M tape probably wouldn’t bond that well to cold metal anyway, I decided to try going naked.

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Results weren’t too bad. I figured if I end up not liking it, I can always reattach when the weather gets warmer. As of now, I think I’ll leave them off.

 Under the hood: 

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I’ve been performing small modifications here and there as well as general repairs and preventative maintenance. Under the hood, I did a full EGR valve re-route from the exhaust manifold to the intake. There is a very good reason for this (or at least I hope so): One of few weak points in the 2003-2005 Mazda 6 V6 motor is the pre-catalytic converters or “pre-cats.” Many owners have reported the material in the pre-cats disintegrating and the metallic particles being sucked up by the EGR valve (which has the suction pipe mounted really close to those pre-cats) into the engine. Thus, a new tagline for the Mazda 6 is born, “Zoom-Zoom-Boom.” The motor will basically eat away at itself and catastrophe will follow. Scary as hell to think about. Route causes for the bad pre-cats could be driving habits, poor maintenance, and sometimes just bad luck. Some fail at 50,000 miles or 300,000 miles. Either way, I’ve been lucky thus far and decided this is a mod to perform ASAP. It won’t prevent those ‘cats from failing, but it could potentially save my motor.

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Fairly simple. Pull out the EGR valve, chop off the copper tube leading to the exhaust manifold, cap the manifold opening, and then attach a heater hose from the intake to the valve. End result is clean, fresh air entering the engine.

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With over 155,000 original miles, some things are getting a tad fatigued and will require future repairs. I will soon need a new water pump, coolant lines (preventative) and a starter. Other issues that aren’t that urgent to me are a timing chain cover oil leak and a mildly worn passenger lower control arm. That could be just plain wear and tear or a result from the accident last year.

Cosmetic/functional Mods:

New shark fin to replace old broken “horsewhip” antenna:

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Paint correction:

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Not bad for 11 year old original paint!

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LED interior and license plate lights courtesy of superbrightleds.com

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New Personalized Plate!

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New upper dash cubby to replace broken one (used from eBay):

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Replacement OEM BOSE 6-CD player (used from eBay):

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Black trim restore: (rear trim restored compared to front)

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Headlight restore. I still have plans on replacing these, but this will suffice for now.

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New switchblade keys to replace OEM remotes that broke on me:

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And now the pièce de résistance: I have a major project coming up in the next few weeks given I have the time and energy. I managed to score a complete black leather interior from a 2003 Mazda 6 and it will be going in soon to replace my cloth. This will give me heated leather seats, full power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustments, and leather-clad door panels. Here is when I picked up the parts, stuffed, shoved and folded to make ’em fit into my car. It all BARELY fit!

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All the pieces are sitting in my garage awaiting a full cleaning and conditioning before going in. The cloth will soon be out!

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What’s in the future? Well, I don’t necessarily have an organized plan, but over the coming months I will be adding the following depending on what mood I’m in:

  • Smoked side markers to replace amber colored ones.
  • New headlights with HID retrofit.
  • Move fog lights to lower bumper.
  • Refinish OEM wheels to either a gunmetal or more polished aluminum look.
  • Replace wheel well liners.
  • Add Homelink.
  • Upgrade tail lights to European/JDM version.

I know I said this was going to be a temporary car for a year or so, but who are we kidding? Thanks for checking in and happy trails!

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Acura Drive to the Valley of Death

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit for the title of this post, but I was excited to share such a grand trip with you all. That grand trip was an 1800-mile drive to Death Valley National Park with my friends, Tyson Hugie from DrivetoFive, Sofyan Bey from 2theRedline and Tyson’s friend Peter Kulikowski. Death Valley is a desert valley in the eastern portion of California’s Mojave Desert. This is the lowest, driest and hottest area in North America. We had this trip planned for some time now and wanted give our Acuras a good run for their money. Mine especially considering it’s the middle of July, and I’m rocking Crystal Black Pearl over black leather. Good combo for an area known to have temperatures soaring well over 100˙F in the summer months. The record high in July 1913 was a scorching 134˙F! Within the park, we visited Badwater Basin (this is the lowest point in North America at 282ft BELOW sea level), Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Get ready, this is going to be a hot one!

However, before we get started with this grand adventure, let’s back up a few weeks to a few little updates on the TL:

I officially hit 50,000 miles on July 1st. Only half way now to the big 100K!

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After coming home from my East Coast trip, I found my custom plate in the mail which I had been waiting for about 3 months!

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In New Mexico, our plates are rather bright. I had two choices: the Centennial bright green or this traditional New Mexico yellow. I obviously went the traditional route.

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Now, let’s get a move on with the trip. Before setting out Friday afternoon from work, one of my favorite co-workers left me a farewell “sticky” which made my day.

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I had the TL all washed up and packed.

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My general prep for the trip was making sure I had sufficient water. Side note: the sunroof is the ONLY surface I will set anything on. Otherwise, I don’t want to face the scratches on the paint that would arise.

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As the miles piled on, the day was ending. I had the privilege of being able to drive into the colorful, Arizona sunset. This is my favorite time of day to drive.

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I drove to Kingman, AZ and got a good night’s rest for the adventures that awaited the next day. The modest Travelodge allowed for parking right in front.

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Next day, I made my first stop in Las Vegas, NV where I’d meet up with Tyson, Sofyan and Peter.

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Nevada Stateline…

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Another great pull out to view the mighty Lake Mead.

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After a few hours rolling down Hwy 93, I approached ‘Vegas!

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I met the boys in the Excalibur Hotel

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Here I am next to Peter, Tyson and Sofyan.

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We wasted no time and hopped in our Acuras and Tyson led the way to Death Valley. It was an easy 125 miles from Las Vegas. As usual, he was in his 2013 ILX 6-speed.

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We made a quick stop in an abandoned Nevada town for a few pix.

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Next on the list, Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

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We’ve arrived!

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The heat was certainly a surprise. At this time, the TL had a reading of 110˙F.

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This sign says it all.

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Here’s the sign notifiying us that we achieved sea level. Next stop in the Park, Furnace Creek.

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I got the shock of my life when Tyson showed us the norm gas prices in Furnace Creek. If I had the need to fill up, that would be a nice round $100 for premium. Ouch!

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Lunch was at a simple yet tasty cafe called the Corkscrew. Luckily, they had good air conditioning to relieve us of the heat.

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We stopped in the National Park’s Visitor Center. Here I am in front of their large thermometer reading 116!

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First sign you see when you walk in the doors.

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After that stop, we swapped cars and I took the reins of the ILX for while Tyson led the way in my TL to Badwater Basin. Always a cool feeling when I see my own car driving in front of me.

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Here we are.

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So, what is Badwater Basin? It’s the lowest elevation point in North America. That’s a good 282 feet below sea level. The gound was crusty and hard from the dried salt deposits.

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Another danger sign of the extreme heat. It said that walking after 10:00am was not recommended.

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So, here we go! It’s only 2-3pm in the afternoon.

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After we felt like we got a good dose of heat, we all swapped the keys again. This time, Sofyan took the wheel of the TL while Peter was in the ILX.

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Now off to a scenic dirt road recommended by Tyson. We were determined to bring some Death Valley dirt back home on our cars. This is “20 Mule Team Canyon” trail. This was just 2.7 miles of heaven!

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It was so much fun, we drove this route twice! Peter and Sofyan got to try the TL on both runs.

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Thanks to Tyson for capturing this great angle of the TL.

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As you can see by my face, this road was one of the highlights of the Park.

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Now, back on the road to the next stop…

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Last stop before leaving the park was Stovepipe Wells. As we parked and exited our Acuras, there was a soft purr of a diesel nearby. Not a diesel I’ve ever heard before. As I look to the side to investigate, I see these mysterious-looking GM trucks parked off to the side. I’ve never seen them before. What are they? Let’s have a look…

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Upon further examination, we all concluded these were the 2016 GMC Canyon trucks in pre-production testing in the heat of the valley. So, there’s a teaser for you. We might have a diesel offering of the next Canyon.

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Peter took the wheel of the TL as we headed out of the park to the hotel for the evening.

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Night’s stay was on the California/Nevada border in the village of Amargosa Valley.

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The next day, we grabbed a photo at the giant cow that was by the hotel.

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After we parted ways in Kingman, I took I-40 back to New Mexico where I’d stop by my grandpa’s house for the next night. Here’s on the way to Flagstaff, AZ. 70˙F was sure a welcome compared to the heat of Death Valley.

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Normal stop at my old stomping grounds to see what the area looks like. It’s been 8 years now since I’ve resided here!

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Pit stop for a few sunset photos.

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Smoke in the sky from a nearby forest fire gave the sun a nice red glow.

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I got to New Mexico around 9pm.

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My grandpa is on vacation for about 3 months in Canada so it was a goal of mine to check up on his house and mail. Remember my grandpa’s stable? The next day, I took a few of his cars out for a quick drive to run some oil through and clean away any cobwebs. Here’s the old ’87 F-250 Diesel prowling the back roads of northern New Mexico. I love this thing.

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This is called “6 mile canyon road.” Looks smooth here, but it’s not very car friendly as you get further into the “bush.”

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Also, got the ’74 MGB out to run around a little. This hadn’t been started in about 6 months.

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I always like to challenge myself and the TL. How about borrowing a gas lawn mower and weed wacker? Snug, but it fit!

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And that concludes the Death Valley trip. Here’s my ending mileage. Thanks all for coming along!

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130,000 miles and HFP updates…

This weekend I’m gearing up for another trip in the Accord. This time, Jouhl and I are to head north to Denver, CO where we’ll meet up with Tyson from drivetofive. What’s our goal? Think highest paved road in America! More details on that later.

Until then, here’s some news:

The Accord has had quite a run this year. The miles have been racking up faster than I expected. When I started photographing the milestones (or at least amusing readings) it was December, 2012 when I posted with just 105,555. In early February, I achieved 110,000:

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Early May, I hit 120,000.

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And finally, I’ve achieved 130,000 miles as of July 16th.

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As for my HFP project, it’s coming along slowly and I may eventually end up abandoning it since I can’t find an HFP suspension kit. The stock suspension I have now has proven to be sufficient and comfortable which is a big factor for me now since this is my daily driver/traveler. Even though I visually dislike the tall stance this suspension yields, I do get to go to places like this:

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This is the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park outside of Las Cruces, NM. This is a secluded desert nature park with various trails and picnic areas. But I enjoy the roads more…

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And the stock suspension does allow me to let loose to 65mph on Jornada Drive which I call the “dirt autobahn.”

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I recently obtained some OEM HFP side skirts which were in rough shape. But the price was good and I decided to try them out and patch up the damaged areas.

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HOWEVER, when I did a test fitment I didn’t like the way they looked at all. Even if I imagined them panted the Satin Silver Metallic and the imperfections fixed, they were just too clunky in my opinion. So, I will be probably selling these and opting for the more simple, updated 06-07 Accord coupe skirts pictured here:

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This particular Accord photo I found had some 05 Acura TL wheels which looked quite nice. As of now, I’m currently on the search for some 06-07 Accord coupe skirts. It’s not all bad though, I did find an HFP rear underbody spoiler! This is something that has been extremely difficult to find, but I caught it for sale by a member of DriveAccord.net.

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It came painted in Nighthawk Black Pearl and will need to be sprayed to match my silver, but that is a small price to pay for finally getting this part. (which Honda no longer makes)

HFP Wheels!

Updates on my HFP upgrade project:

I mentioned in an earlier post of a box filled with a new HFP suspension kit I had intended to install on the Accord. What happened afterwards was bitter-sweet. The bitter: I had the kit installed by my local dealer, and I noticed that it didn’t lower the Accord or enhance the handling as promised. I double-checked the part numbers and they ended up being non-HFP stock parts. The sweet: The dealer in New York I ordered it from refunded the whole amount as well as partial labor. So, I managed to get free stock struts/springs installed. I think I’ll swing with these for a while. It was disappointing and it’s puzzling how stock parts found their way into an HFP box. I guess that’s a lesson to ALWAYS check the part numbers before installing. Even if the package tells you otherwise.

However, the project hasn’t come to a screeching halt. I managed to find a really good deal on some new HFP (Honda Factory Performance) wheels shipped to my door. I’m far from completing my HFP project, but little by little I hope to get there.

It was like Christmas the day they arrived. The wheels were very carefully packed and even came with replacement door sill tags!

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They were finished with a gunmetal metallic and clear coat. I think they offset the silver on the Accord quite nicely.

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Here’s a few pictures of them installed with a fresh wash.

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The size, offset and width are the same as the RSX wheels I had on before. With new wheels, I decided to go ahead and get some new tires to go with the package. I got a set of Pirelli Cinturato P7 Grand Touring tires. Since nearly 95% of my driving consists of highway and city, I didn’t want to bother with any high performance brands.

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So, what happened to my RSX rims? Well, even though I really loved the design and the tires were still good, I needed to pay myself back for the HFP wheels and I don’t have the room to store them. So, up on Craigslist they went…

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I got a buyer shortly after posting in El Paso, TX (about 50 miles from Las Cruces). It was sad to see them go. We were to meet on the outskirts of El Paso for the transaction. Amazingly, I managed to get them to all squeeze into my trunk!

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The buyer, Vic, was a proud owner of an immaculate ’98 Honda Odyssey that just turned over 100,000 miles. I never would have thought of these on an Odyssey, but they fit and looked great! Hope you enjoy them, Vic.

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For this coming week, I will be prepping the Accord for a major tour of the west. Stay tuned for more…