Tag Archives: Contour

2019 PNW Contour Group Annual Meet

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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Utah state line

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Things started greening up near Price Canyon, UT.

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Welcome to Idaho!

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

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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.

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

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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.

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View of the Snake River from under the bridge.

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Several hours later, I finally arrived in Oregon!

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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.

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

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

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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!

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

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

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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!

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

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I caught highway 26 leading out of Portland to Seaside.

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

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Short hike on the Four County Point Trail.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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T-shirts.

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Chicken fajita buffet for lunch.

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Back outside for voting.

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

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Rearranging the cars for a group photo.

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Photo credit here: Alexander Davis

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

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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.

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

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Views near Moab, UT

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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.

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

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Back in New Mexico!

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Continental Divide at 7,275 feet above sea level.

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Last leg of the journey.

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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!

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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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Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life

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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.

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Personalized plate arrived too!

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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Sunset shot of the daily…

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

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That does it for now. Until next time!

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