Monday, June 30, 2014


It's a holiday week for me at work and since Friday is July 4th (Happy Birthday, Merica!) I'll be getting that day off and since I normally work four days a week (ten hour shifts) and have a day off on Wednesday (to break up the work week) I now have to work 8 hour shifts and every day except the day we get off.  I don't make the rules ...

So I'm off to the coast for 10 hours in a supposedly 8 hour work day which means I'm getting two hours overtime which I shouldn't be getting and I could get in trouble for.  Don't worry, you can't figure it out either and I've worked for this agency for 18 years now.

I call my mechanic while I'm on the coast and ask him about the Daytona.  He says it started right up and he drove it into his shop to work on the AC.




Okay, I tell him what happened to it again and he says he'll look into it.  The AC hose arrived and he's got someone working on it.  Call him back in a day or so and the Daytona should be ready.  I hang up thinking maybe the bad stuff is over with.

Shut up, Henry and as for you, Murphy, well, you know what you can go do with yourself.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flame out! Part Deux!

I drove the Daytona to work again yesterday, same routine.  Tops off, windows down, Ipod playing in my ears, rowing through the gears and loving life.  The Daytona really turns heads ... there aren't many of these cars left on the road let alone one in this good of a condition so naturally people look and comment.  I've had three people in traffic this week roll down their window at a stop light and comment on my Daytona or ask me about it.  

That never happened when I was driving my Lincoln.

I called my mechanic.  No, the AC hose hadn't arrived yet, give him a call tomorrow after lunch to see if it arrived or not.  When I got the Daytona home last night I give her some TLC, washed her again, vacuumed her out and did some minor detailing.  Life seemed to be picking up.

I got up this morning, loaded the Daytona up and drove to work.

I got seven miles out of Columbia and away from home.  Everything was going fine, transmission in 5th gear, cruise set at 65mph, Ipod jamming out, tops off, windows down ... and then the Daytona stopped pulling.  I was climbing the west side of "the BIG Hill" on highway 98 when the Daytona just ... died.  No drama, no bang, no noise, no cloud of ominous smoke from under the hood or out the exhaust.


Tachometer needle at zero RPM.

I have a full tank of gas.

No caution lights.

All gauges look normal except the tachometer is zero RPM, the speedometer is falling slowly and the Daytona is dead, coasting at 65mph on the highway.

I push the clutch in and try a hot start.


I yank out my earphones and try a second hot start, working the clutch and shifter, putting the transmission in neutral.  


I keep the key turned.

The mechanical parts are turning over fine it's just not lighting off.

Knowing that I'm not going to fix this problem coasting down the highway I put my blinker on and pull off at the top of the BIG Hill.  I try a restart.  Nothing.  Engine spins, turns over but won't light off.


For the miracle of internal combustion to happen you need three things:




I know I'm getting air, that's not a problem.  Fuel and fire could be the problem and I did have that flameout two days ago when I ran the Daytona dry.  My first thought is that running the Daytona dry had either clogged the pickup screen for the fuel pump or damaged the fuel pump and that it had finally given up the ghost.

Another thought ... this is a 25 year old car.  It's going to have parts start to give up the ghost.

Another thought ... Thank you God that this didn't happen on the way back from Corpus Christi, Texas.  I raise my hands, pump fists out the open T-top roof and thank God in a loud voice that I broke down here, seven miles outside of Columbia and that He didn't let me break down seven miles outside of Houston, Texas.

Still, it's strange for the Daytona to have made it almost a thousand miles now with no problem and suddenly just die.

I put my emergency flashers on and sit there thinking about my problem.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick ... go the emergency flashers.

I try a restart, thinking something might have gotten overheated or overloaded.  If I can turn the Daytona around and get it back to my garage I'll just take my '86 TA or my '04 Honda to work.  The engine lights off and I'm overjoyed.

The engine immediately dies again and refuses to relight.

Not cool.

Okay, I'm not the kind of guy that will get out, pop his hood on the side of the road and start to poke at things I know nothing about all in the fervent hope that God Himself will somehow send a miracle through my fingertips that will heal my stricken Daytona and get me back going again like it never even happened.  No, I'm a thinking man, a tool using creature and right now my greatest tool is my brain powered by my many years of knowledge of working on cars.

I wait three minutes before I try a restart.  The engine turns over and turns over and turns over and turns over and ... lights!  I shove the accelerator pedal to the floor and the RPMs climb to 4500 RPMs!  The Daytona is ALIVE!  I listen to the exhaust rumble loudly behind me ... maybe it's a bad fuel pump ... maybe there was some trash in the fuel filter or the fuel pickup in the tank had been clogged.  Maybe ...

The Daytona dies.

The tach needle drops to zero RPM.

Total run time ... 1.5 seconds of glory and then it was over.

And that's when I realize that not only am I going to be late for work but that whatever the problem is with the Daytona that I am not going to be fixing it by myself, MacGuyver-style, on the side of the road.  I get out my cell phone, call my wife, explain the situation, then call Vernon Beal's Body Shop because they have a great towing service with a flatbed.  I talk to Joe, who I've known since '97 and tell him where I am and ask him to come get me with the flatbed.  He says he'll be there in about 15 minutes.

I try to give Joe business every few years.  The last time Joe and I did business was about four years ago when I struck a sharp piece of wood on Highway 13 north and tore a 6 inch slash in my Lincoln's left rear tire, instantly deflating it and putting me on the shoulder of a very narrow, very busy two lane Mississippi back roads highway.  Since there was no way that I could change the tire without exposing myself to the oncoming lane of traffic I just called Joe, had him haul the Lincoln in to Delk's Tire Shop where I bought another tire and had them mount it.  Buying a new tire or getting run over?  You do the math.

Anyway, the Daytona is dead on the side of the road.  I'm waiting on the wrecker and all I can do is get Joe to take the Daytona back to my mechanic and tell him to fix this problem as well.  

Somewhere off in the distance I can hear Henry Rollins laughing his damn ass off.


Sitting pretty on the side of the road ... and that's all she's doing is sitting pretty on the side of the road.  All lights work, even the driving lights.  I even have the rare factory Marchal covers for the driving lights.  Might as well shut them off now.  It's daylight and I'm not going anywhere so why waste battery power?

Still sitting pretty.  Nope.  Not going anywhere.  No fuel.  No fire.  No go-go.

Still pretty.

I like the rear aspect of the '89 Dodge Daytona.  It looks fast standing still which, right now, is all that it is doing.  Looking fast and ... standing still.

At the top of the BIG Hill.  It's a lot steeper on the East side than the West.  That's the West bound lane to the upper left.  I can almost see my house from up here.

No, not really.  

In hindsight I should have just let the Daytona get to the top of the hill, coasting, let it go over the top of the hill then stuck both of my arms out of the tops, shouted "Wheeeeeeee!" as loud as I could and just let it coast all the way down the hill and roll to a final stop somewhere near the bridge at the bottom.  

Should have.  


Would have been fun.

Hey, look!  No hatch stick!  The new lift support struts work great!  Yay!Still not going anywhere.Damn it.Grumble.Gripe.Complain.
The cargo cover is nice and still works great.  Just visiting the forums I see a lot of people looking for these so they must either be highly coveted or break easy.  Either way, I'm going to take care of mine.   Did I mention that I had swapped out the lift support struts?  

They work!

The Daytona, however, doesn't work.

Damn it.Grumble.Gripe.Complain.

Hooray!  Joe arrives with his 24 hour service ready to go flatbed wrecker.

Loading up the '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby.  She goes places ... sometimes with a little help from her friends like Joe and his magic wrecker.

No, I don't think the problem is back there, Joe.  This man puts way more faith in heavy duty chains and winches than I do but then he does this for a living and all I do is send him business either in my own life or through the PD.  Having a Daytona hitch a ride on my back, piggy back style, early in the morning isn't on my list of things to do any time soon.  If one of those chains snaps we'll find a new meaning for the term "roll back".And ... off we go!I'm two hours late to work so I eat that in personal time.  I drop the Daytona off at my mechanic's just as he's getting to work.  When I tell him the problem his expression is priceless.  I wonder how he's going to get the Daytona into his shop since we've unloaded it, dead, in front of his shop and put it in a parking spot.Oh, well.
So ... I leave the Daytona with my mechanic to fix the AC, whatever is keeping her from lighting off and oh, there's a small oil leak under the car.  Fix that as well.  I guess I'm looking at about $500 worth of work ahead of me.  Toys are expensive when you grow up but oh so worth it.

As I finish talking to my mechanic Joe hands me his bill.  A seven mile tow to my mechanic's shop costs me $128.  Henry Rollins is on the floor laughing his ass off.  I hand the bill to my wife and tell her to run that by State Farm since I have towing insurance ... best $2 I spend every month and with this bill I guess the last six and a half years that I've paid for that towing insurance just panned out.

Take that, Murphy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I drove the Daytona Shelby to work today.  T-tops off, windows down, in the morning it's a nice, cool drive.  In the afternoon, if you don't have the tops off and the windows down it's a sauna.  The Daytona drives well, it's going to be a great daily driver / commuter car when I'm not riding my '04 Honda CBR600RR.  This will be the first time that I've taken the Daytona to work.

There's only one other Daytona in the area that I know of ... and that is another '89 at work.  She's a white solid roof with red cloth interior and a 2.5 liter I4 TBI car with automatic.  She is owned by one of my coworkers who also bought her brand new at the local Dodge dealership ... another one owner Daytona.

The day goes by as days go by and I leave work, headed to Columbia and O'Reilly Auto Parts to see if my lift support struts have come in.  They have!  Joy!  I take my parts and head home to install them before the thunderstorms come again.  I've got about thirty minutes before the rain gets here ... plenty of time to throw on two lift support struts.

I park the Daytona in the driveway, prop the rear hatch open with my hatch stick and start to change out the lift support struts which go on without any major drama.  They don't mount like the ones on the '86 Pontiac Trans Am and, just by feel, I'd swear that the Daytona's rear hatch is heavier than the TA's but that can't be right since the TA's hatch is larger.  Still, this Daytona has a really, really heavy rear hatch.

And then the Daytona bit me.

I was working on removing one of the old struts when the hatch stick slipped and the rear hatch fell.  I told you this thing is heavy.  Being the guy that I am, I immediately shoved my arm under the falling hatch to save my wife's arm from being crushed and to keep the rear hatch from crashing down / possibly cracking the rear window or shattering the rear glass.  I was quick enough that I managed to get most of my bicep under the hatch lid before it actually started to fall so it only fell a distance of maybe three or four inches from the time that the stick fell and the hatch started to fall.

Still, my arm was at an angle and the rear of the hatch caught me on the bicep and the right side of the hatch caught me on the forearm.

That last picture is when the swelling had started, probably two hours after the accident.  I thought I might have a micro-fracture of the bones in my arm but the pain went away and at least my wife wasn't caught in the falling hatch.  Both struts installed, the rear hatch goes up with one finger and comes down with one hand. 

Post op debriefing?  Mission success with only minor casualties, acceptable losses and the Good Guys win so fist pump for victory.  Maybe the rest of the week will get better.

It has to.

Wait ... is that Henry Rollins shouting something way off in the distance?  I think he's shouting "Liar!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Parts and Service and Flameout!

I call my mechanic and ask about the Daytona.  He says that it's going to need a new hose for the AC and that he's got one ordered but it's going to be a few days before it comes in.  He asks me if I want to pick up the Daytona and drive it until the part comes in.


I tell him to leave the Daytona outside the shop and I'll pick it up after work.  I get off work, go pick up the Daytona and realize just how fun a car this turbo Dodge is to drive.  The Dodge is showing about an eighth of a tank of fuel left.  I decide to test the fuel gauge and see how accurate it is.  I know the Daytona has a low fuel light on the dash so I'm going to trust that and see how far it gets.  The CBR (bought new) is dead on accurate on its fuel gauge.  The Trans Am is super very close on its fuel gauge (never ran it dry yet and I've come oh so close on more than a handful of occasions, down to the wire with the needle touching the "E" and well into the red).  The '91 Vette I had used a digital dash to estimate range, etc.  I ran it dry one afternoon when it told me I still had 15 miles of range left.  I like to run my newly gotten cars down to the wire to see how accurate the fuel gauge is and now is my chance to do so on the Daytona.

I'm hoping it's at least as accurate as the TA ... considering that it's been a one owner, garage kept car.

I'm not that lucky ...

I leave my mechanic's shop and head over to O'Reilly Auto Parts to see if my struts have come in.  They should be in today.  As I back out of my mechanic's lot the low fuel light comes on.  Okay, no problem.  My gas station (Ethanol free, 93 octane) is literally just down the road, maybe one single mile from where I'm at now.  If the low fuel light just lit then I've got at least a mile of range left in the tank, right?  Right?  The low fuel light goes off almost immediately so I think that what little fuel I have left is just sloshing around the pickup and triggering the fuel reserve light.  The needle on the fuel gauge goes back to showing a little more than an eighth of a tank.

I've got plenty of gas.

I drive over to O'Reilly Auto Parts and check on my lift struts.

The struts have not arrived.



I'm tired of using my "lift stick" to keep the rear hatch open.  The guy behind the counter assures me that the struts will be in tomorrow and explains that while they were in stock at the warehouse, it was a different warehouse than he told me so there was an extra day of travel involved.  We talk about the Daytona for about 15 minutes, in fact, soon I've got three O'Reilly employees talking about and looking over my Daytona.

A bad storm is coming soon.  I need to get some gas and get home so I say bye to the employees, hop in the Daytona and back it out of the parking spot in front of the store.   My fuel center is about three quarters of a mile down the road from here, I can basically see it from where I'm sitting in the Daytona.

I don't make it halfway out of the parking lot before the Daytona dies on me.


Clutch in, restart.




I try to restart her again but it's no good.

The fuel gauge is still showing about an eighth of a tank of gas.

As Henry Rollins once sang ... "Liar!"

The low fuel light is not illuminated but I know that I've run the Shelby dry and with me just three quarters of a mile from where I was going to fill the Daytona up.  That's irony.

No problem.  I'm at an auto parts store.  There's a Texaco across the street.  I'll just borrow a gas can, walk across the street, get two or three gallons of tainted Ethanol fuel, do a roadside refueling, restart the Daytona, drive it down the road and fill her with the really good stuff.

I walk inside, explain the situation and ask if they have a gas can I can borrow.  They did but someone didn't bring it back the last time they let someone borrow it.  Great.  This is why we can't have nice things.  Okay, I'll buy a small gas can.  I've got like five gas cans at home, various sizes, but they're at home and I mean, really, what can a two gallon gas can cost?  Five bucks?

Fifteen bucks.


I thank them but refuse.  Fifteen bucks for a two gallon gas can?  I bet it doesn't even come with a tube of KY or a "Thank you" either.

I call my wife, explain the situation, wait until she stops laughing then tell her to go and get one of my gas cans, run by Jack Morris, fill it up with 93 no Ethanol high octane and bring it to me.

I wait.

Fifteen minutes later my wife pulls into the parking lot with the gas can and I dump two gallons of 93 octane no Ethanol into the bone dry Daytona's gas tank.  The storm is coming now, I can see the sheets of rain to the west.  Solid.  I've got maybe fifteen minutes before I either have to have the Daytona in the garage or start building a big boat made out of wood and timber and fill it with two of every animal.  I finish doing a roadside refuel, hop in the Daytona and ... she sputters, coughs and starts to life.

I look at the fuel gauge.


Okay, I know the limit on the Daytona Shelby now ... never let it get below a quarter of a tank of gas on the fuel gauge or else you're really going to be running on borrowed time, borrowed luck and fumes.

I thank my wife, hop in the Daytona and she follows me down the road to the fuel center.  I top off the Daytona and start it up.  It starts fine.  She leaves, headed for home.  I pull the Daytona away from the pumps and she coughs, sputters and dies.




I manage to wheel her back around, rolling dead, under the shelter of the overhead canopy.  I try to restart her.




She sputters, coughs and relights.

I drive away from the pump, headed home.  I give her extra gas along the way, just to make sure she doesn't dehydrate from fuel starvation and ... she does fine the rest of the way home.  It's been years since I've run a car dry but at least now I know how close I can run the Daytona to empty and not have to worry about using my thumb for a ride or doing the walk of shame somewhere.

I head home, put the Daytona in the garage and close the garage just as God decides to drain His bathtub.

I have to wait on the AC hose.

The rear hatch lift support struts won't be in until tomorrow.

I ran the Daytona dry today and had to do a roadside refueling.

I sigh as I look at the Daytona one last time and turn out the garage light.

Maybe the rest of this week will get better.

Somewhere off in the distance Henry Rollins whispers "Liar!"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Seeing what I bought ...

I took the day off from work or rather, since I work four day weeks, I simply took my "off" day early and decided to work the rest of the week straight.  My oldest daughter was also going off to camp this morning and since I hadn't seen her since Friday (and I wouldn't see her again until this coming Friday) I wanted to at least see her off to camp.

I got up early and started to wash and clean the Daytona Shelby ... getting rid of a day and a half of road grime and three states worth of bugs, dirt, etc.  I took everything out of the Daytona Shelby, vacuumed her out, wiped her down and started to clean the engine.

The '89 Daytona Shelby in the driveway of its new home.

I don't know what it is about the Flash Red colored 1989 Daytona Shelbys but every one of them seems to have a nose piece that's a different shade of red than the rest of the car.  Either the nose held the correct shade and the rest of the car faded or vice-versa.

The '89 awaiting decontamination.  That's the '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in front of it.

Suds up and hosed down.  You can see the different shades of red between the nose and fender / hood.

Dodge calls that rear grille thing a "wake modifier" and it supposedly helps aerodynamics at high speed.  Neat name ... I'll have to use it in one of my stories sometime.  While the "wake modifier" looks cool, I doubt I'll get any real world use out of it until much later as this piece of hardware is designed for sustained high speed road and track racing, not quarter mile performance.

The all stock Turbo II engine.  2.2 liters of single overhead cam four cylinder fortified with port fuel injection, turbocharging and intercooling.  The guts of the engine are hardcore ...  This is about as dirty as the engine is ever going to get because after this I'll be keeping the engine a lot cleaner and detailed.

Notice the rusty thermostat housing.  I'll have to scrape that clean and repaint it.  Heavy oxidation on the aluminum parts that I'll also have to see about cleaning.  The valve cover needs to be sanded and refinished.  I think I'm going to paint the ribs and lettering bright red, contrasting with the flat black of the cover.

That's the factory intercooler there in the front to the left.  Several of the electrical connections are going to have to be unwrapped and rewrapped.  I may grab some ribbed conduit and close up some of the wires to clean things up.

Hard work was never so much fun.  The wheels I'll probably pressure wash and chemical clean.  If worse comes to worse I'll just get them refinished.  The front license plate bracket is going to come off as well.  Mississippi only requires one tag, on the rear.  I'm not big on front tags or the brackets that hold them on.  I think they ruin the appearance of the car.

Here she is after about thirty minutes of elbow grease on the engine compartment.  I even pried up the black cover there at the base of the windshield and cleaned out the "trench" as well as the two small "Dagobah" dioramas that had taken up residence at either end of the windshield.  Twigs, leaves and other assorted debris from nature were all decaying in the two corners.  I vacuumed the mulch out then wiped everything down until it was clean.  The aluminum parts and the rusty parts are going to have to be refinished by hand and that means that they might have to be taken out of the engine bay to do so.  Fun.

9:45 came and my wife, two daughters and I climbed into the cleaned up Daytona and headed to our church to see my oldest daughter off.  Since the AC wasn't working, it was windows down and T-tops off ... again.  My daughters both said that the back seats of the Daytona were far more comfortable and seemingly more roomy than the back seats of the '86 Trans Am.

My youngest daughter told me that now that we had the Daytona that we were going to sell the '86 Trans Am.  

I don't think so.

We see my daughter off to camp then my wife and youngest daughter and I decide to go get some lunch.  I let Cindy drive the Daytona since she hasn't driven it yet.  I hop in the passenger seat and she takes the driving seat and we head out to R&K Pitstop in Foxworth.

Normally I like to park on the back of the convenience store since I can sit, eat, and watch my car (I usually leave the T-tops off).  Since the Daytona doesn't have AC, we're going to have to leave the tops off and windows down while we eat.  We enter the parking lot, driving slow, drive around the back and every parking spot is taken so we have to circle around to the front of R&K and find a parking spot right next to the door.

We park the Daytona and get out.  

An older gentleman steps out and asks me what kind of car the Daytona is.  When I tell him that it is a 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby he is in total disbelief.  He says that he vaguely remembers the cars way back then but he hasn't seen one in a long time, especially one this clean.  He asks to look at it, tells me that he saw us drive around the store and he just had to step out and see the car.  He introduces himself as the new owner of the establishment and while Cindy and my daughter go on inside to order lunch I stay outside with the owner and we talk about the Daytona for a good ten minutes.

Later that day I head to the courthouse to try to get a tag.  I opt for an antique tag, the first I've ever bought for any of my toys.  Total cost for the antique tag?  $28 and I never have to pay for it ever again.  I get the basic information, a form to carry in the Daytona and the tag will arrive in a few days.  A light shower came up while I was in the tax assessor's office and when I came out the Daytona was covered in a sheet of rain droplets.  So much for cleaning her up earlier this morning.

I liked the composition of this picture so I snapped it with my phone ... the Daytona parked at the courthouse on Main Street ... downtown Columbia ... downtown old America.

I drive over to Advanced Auto Parts, Autozone and finally O'Reilly Auto Parts to see if they have a pair of rear hatch lift supports to replace the depleted ones on the car now.  No one has any but O'Reilly has the cheapest prices so I order two struts from them.  The struts should be in tomorrow.

Later that afternoon I dropped the Daytona off at my mechanic to convert the old Freon based AC over to the new refrigerant.  This is the last that I see of the Daytona for a few days.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Trip Back ...

We woke up at 7am and started getting ready for the trip back.  The hotel had a free breakfast so we took advantage of that and agreed to stop on the other side of Houston for lunch.  

Cindy had a full tank of gas and I had three quarters of a tank of gas in the Daytona.

We loaded up the Lincoln and the Daytona, checked out of the hotel and I took the T-tops off of the Daytona, storing them in their protective bags in the rear hatch area.  The weather was overcast but getting hotter.  I prepared myself for a half-rough kind of day ahead and prayed again that we got home without any problems.

I sat in the Daytona, buckled up, set up my Garmin NUVI, pulled on my driving gloves and keyed up my Ipod.  This was my first turbo Dodge that had T-tops.  The T-tops were much smaller in area than my '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, a lot lighter in weight but the effect of having them off with the windows rolled down was nearly the same as the Pontiac.

I loved it.

Homeward bound, the other half of the adventure and the half that might be the hardest part, still lies ahead.  I have to go nearly 700 miles in a 25 year old car the mechanical condition of which the previous owner can only vouch for.  Without knowing the Daytona, without having done any maintenance on it myself it's going to be a gamble but I'm a betting man.

The '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby and the '99 Lincoln Towncar (chase car) pulled over on the side of a Texas highway for a little driver to driver chat before we hit Houston.

Two lane roads filled a lot of the trip ... open, flat, boring.  The Daytona ate up the real estate with ease and no fuss.  Personal opinion ... the power bulge needs to be bigger ... it's really just kind of a lump.

Cindy in the Lincoln chase car following me with all the tools and supplies in case the Daytona breaks down.

Driving gloves, tops off, windows down, eating up Texas real estate and listening to the iPod.

Topping off at a Valero station.  92 (or higher) octane.  Only.

The decal on the power bulge hood says it all ... 2.2 liter SOHC port fuel injected, intercooled and turbocharged four cylinder with a heavy duty 5 speed overdrive manual transmission.  174 horsepower, 200 ft-lbs of torque and 135+ mph top speed.

Side door graphic in case anyone wondered what the car was ... or who helped make it what it is.  Only a select few cars have carried this name and each one of them was nothing short of awesome.

Daytona Shelby ... the slotted rear bumper below is what Dodge refers to as a "wake modifier".  At high speed it's kind of like an upside down spoiler that alters the flow of air behind the Daytona.

The "CS" logo is for "Carroll Shelby" - legendary racer and the man that the Daytona Shelby is named after.

Getting into heavy traffic in Houston during noon rush hour.  It got about ten times more congested than this really quick.

The drive from Corpus Christi to Houston was uneventful save for the heat.  At speed, with the T-tops off and the windows down it was bearable.  Slow down and you started to slow cook but I was having way too much fun to complain.  This Daytona was everything that John said it was.  Thank God it had a light colored cloth interior ... if it had come from the factory with a black leather interior ... shudder.

About sixty miles below Houston I stopped and topped the Daytona off.  The odometer and tripometer had stopped working even though the speedometer still works fine.  The speedometer is electrical but the odometer and tripometer are driven by two tiny gears ... Looks like I'll be taking apart the gauge cluster and replacing some gears when I get home.  I have Cindy reset the second tripometer in the Lincoln to act as the tripometer in the Daytona.

We decide to eat at Whataburger on the far side of Houston.

The Daytona has been doing fine the entire trip.

We hit Houston sometime around 12:15pm and traffic quickly becomes a madhouse.  If you've never driven a turbo Dodge with a stick and T-tops in Houston noon traffic, all the while listening to Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod" then you need to add that experience to your bucket list.  One other personal observation ... Houston smells like a steakhouse ... most of it, or at least the parts I drove through at high speed.  It was like doing laps around a barbecue pit and it only made me hungrier.

I had to drive with a mixed style in Houston ... on one hand I had to keep up with the flow of traffic while dodging idiots who never should have been given a driver's license (or a birth certificate) and on the other hand I had to go slow enough that I didn't get separated from Cindy in the chase Lincoln.  Somehow we both managed to keep up with each other and sling ourselves around the Houston beltway, point ourselves east and leave Houston in the rear view.  After nearly 30 minutes of hard driving I was ready for something to eat.

And that's when I noticed that the clouds had gotten a lot darker.  Most of the really dark clouds were to the north of me and with the T-tops off and the windows down I hoped that I could skirt the storms and rain (you could see the rain coming down in sheets in the distance) and get farther east, out of the storms.  I really didn't want to drive through a storm with the windows up, no AC and no defroster capability in hot weather that suddenly had a lot of humidity dumped into the area.

No such luck.

Any hopes of skirting the brewing storm were dashed by looking at the long lines of oncoming traffic ... their lights were on, there was a wet look to their paint and I could see a few with their wipers still going.  That meant ...

I looked ahead and saw a solid wall of falling water coming at me.

I put my blinker on, pulled over to the shoulder, hopped out, opened the rear hatch and put on the T-tops.  Large rain drops were starting to fall all around me, sounding like marbles on a tin roof.  I get pelted with a few before I hop back in the Daytona and shut the door.  I stab the power window buttons, both sides, at the same time, and watch as the driver's side window goes up.

It is really starting to rain now, heavy, big drops.

I look over and ... the passenger side window is still down.

I press the power window button ... nothing happens.  I stab the button, click it up, click it down ... nothing happens.

The rain is starting to really come down now.  The wall of falling water is about half a mile away now and closing fast and my passenger side power window is not working!  I hop out of the Daytona, run around the rear of the Dodge, throw open the passenger side door and see that the window is all the way down in the door.  I pull out my Gerber Suspension II multi-tool (never go ANYWHERE without it), use the needle nose pliers to grab the glass and try to pull the window up out of the door recess.

No go.

I take one hand on the pliers, pull on the window, as I reach in and stab the power window button.  The window starts to rise, with me pulling it and the window lift motor pushing.  The window starts to rise then rises some more.  Once it clears the lip of the door it goes up fine ... it was like it was caught on something in the door.  I am getting soaked now, the rain is hitting so hard and heavy that I can't even hear the roar of traffic over the down pour of rain.  I get the passenger side window all the way up, shut the door, run around the Daytona and hop back into the driver's seat, closing the door behind me.  Fortunately I have kept a towel in the Daytona for sweat or if I got wet or whatever.  I use the towel to dry off and that makes life a lot better.  Just as I finish drying off my cell phone rings.


She asks what I was doing.

I explain to her about the rain, the T-tops, the lazy window ...

Cindy laughs her ass off.

I tell her that I love her, hang up, turn on the Daytona's lights, turn on the window wipers, try to get some cool air from the vents and carefully reenter traffic.  Cindy and I fight the rain from Houston almost to the LA state line.  When we do finally outrun the rain and pull over to get something to eat it is at the exact same Whataburger that we tried to eat at yesterday ... the exact same one.

We park, have a long lunch, top off the Lincoln with gas and then hit the road again.

The trip back was as uneventful as I had anticipated but I think that if luck had anything to do with it then the sheer amount of "Murphy Repellent" that I had packed in the trunk of the Lincoln did its job in warding off the master of disaster.  We got back to Columbia later than I had wanted to (way after dark) but the Daytona made it back with no problems other than not having air and (once) trying to develop a stubborn passenger side power window.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corpus Christi, TX

High speed, low drag.

That was the game plan.  Get to Corpus Christi as fast as we could, do business, spend the night, turn around and get back as fast as we can.  I had planned for everything that I could, hedged against Murphy as best as I could and I had packed everything I needed to work on either the Lincoln or the Daytona if either should break down.  

The Lincoln I had total faith in.

The Daytona was still the unknown ... the promising unknown.

I got up early Saturday morning, around 5am.  I figured it would be about a twelve hour drive so I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible.  Showered, shaved, dressed in some casual to nice clothes (khakis, loafers, button up shirt).  While Cindy is getting her shower and getting ready I go over my list again, making sure that I have everything packed.  We get away around a quarter to six.

Cindy knows nothing other than we are going out of town, together, and will be spending the night somewhere.

I'm really hoping to get into Louisiana and to a Cracker Barrel before she figures anything out.  If I can get some breakfast in her, and some coffee then my chances of making it through the discovery and disclosure part of today increases dramatically.

It doesn't work out that way.

I make it from Columbia, MS to Osyka, MS ... a distance of about sixty miles from home, before my wife figures things out.  She probably would have figured it out sooner but like I said I was depriving her of caffeine and she's not a morning person (especially an early morning person) so ... I thought I could get away with it.

We're passing the Osyka MDOT Enforcement scales office on my left.  I point out the scales office to her and remind her that the Osyka office was where I had to travel to, from my office in Hattiesburg,  on several occasions in order to set up a video security system.  As Cindy is looking across me, out the driver's side window as we're passing Osyka, she notices the arrival time stamp on the Garmin NUVI ... 3:47PM.

She asks me about this and asks if that is the correct time that we are going to arrive where we are going.

I tell her yes ... and keep driving.

She asks where we are going, says that she knows that it is out of state because of the estimated time of arrival ...

I try to avoid the question.  I'm about twenty miles from a Cracker Barrel.  So close ...

"Where are we going?" she asks.

I relent because I figure if I tell her where we're going I still don't have to tell her why.

"Corpus Christi, Texas." I say.

"I've never been to Corpus Christi!" Cindy instantly replies excitedly.

"I've never been to Corpus Christi, either!  We're on an adventure!" I tell her.

There's a look of shock on her face and then this other look comes across her face ... and I know that look.  That is my wife's expression she gets when she has me figured out and she has deciphered, decoded and deduced anything I might be keeping from her.

I hate that look because it is basically a "game over" look.

"Are we going to pick up a car?" she asks flatly.

Oh, God ... I am now living on borrowed time.

This is where, I think, that what may happen in the next few seconds could be a pretty good scene for a splatter horror movie.  The husband turns to the wife, admits to taking her to another state to pick up a car that he has bought, off the Internet, all without her knowing, without discussing it with her, and he did it while she was gone to a teacher's convention for three days leaving him alone ... Given that, we fade to a view of the rear of the car travelling down the highway.  There is a loud, angry growl, a man screaming, blood splatters the interior windows and the car swerves crazily as more screams come from the husband.  There is the sound of flesh ripping and bones snapping and then the car settles out and we hear the devil-possessed wife laughing manically as the car disappears on down the road.

Thankfully the next few seconds don't pan out like that because I married well.  Cindy is a hell of a woman and an even heller of a wife, if "heller" can be a descriptive adjective (and I'll make it one in this case).

"Are we going to pick up a car?" she asks again and I notice that she's not angry ... she's not even mad ... she's just ... curious.

An eternity passes, or maybe three seconds, all three of which seem to be an eternity.

"Yes." I finally say.

And then my wife impresses me.

"It's okay!" Cindy says.  "It's okay if we're going to pick up a car.  I trust you."

And like that everything is okay.  I take the next few minutes to explain to her how the deal went down.  I have her look at my paperwork including several pictures of the Daytona that I printed out.  After a thorough explanation, she has a few concerns.

How am I paying for this?

I got a loan for the car.  Everything, the trip to get the car, the car itself, as well as a cushion in case there is a problem with either my Lincoln or the Daytona during the trip ... all of this is planned for and taken care of.  This puts Cindy at ease since she was worried that she would have to get creative rearranging funds between our bank accounts to cover my latest crazy adventure.

Relieved of the financial worry of the adventure, Cindy is left only with the concern that the Daytona will make it back home from Texas.  I tell her that I trust John, he's been the definition of full disclosure and I feel that, given what type of car my old '86 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z was like, the '89 should be a good car, especially if it's a one owner, garage kept example of the breed.

Cindy trusts me and after we talk about the Daytona for a while (and I explain how I did all of this without her knowing) we settle down into my favorite part of being with her ... talking.  When we're together, alone, we just mesh and talk and that's when I know, that's when I'm reminded, of why I fell in love with this woman and even more of why I married her nineteen years ago.

Cindy is looking forward to spending the rest of the day and night with me, alone, just the two of us.  She's excited that I've sort of kidnapped her in order to share with her my passion for high performance cars and to spend time with her.  I explain that while I want the Daytona that the chance to spend time with her is just as important (maybe more so) than the Dodge itself.

Cindy is still concerned that the Daytona may give us problems on the way home.  I tell her that I have no such fear, that I trust John and that he's given me no reason to believe that the Dodge isn't what he claims it is.  Given that, I fully believe that the Dodge will make the trip from Corpus Christi, TX to Columbia, MS without any problems at all.

Fifteen minutes later we've left Mississippi behind and entered Louisiana.  We find a Cracker Barrel  in Hammond, LA.  Cindy is still excited about the trip and the chance to spend time together.  We have a leisurely breakfast then get back on the road.

The rest of the trip is pretty uneventful ... it is even boring to a large degree.  I've been to Texas before, it was almost thirty years earlier and I don't remember it being so ... flat ... and boring.  Once you get out of Louisiana two things cease to exist ... the color green and hills / curves.  You don't realize how much you miss the color green or how much you miss hills and curves until you get into Texas where everything is this kind of tannish orange and flat.


Twenty-two years ago a good friend of mine left Hattiesburg headed back to Corpus Christi.  We didn't keep in touch after that, back in the days before the Internet, before Email and Google and Facebook let you keep in touch almost effortlessly ...  Now I'm traveling the same roads he did.  I'm following in his footsteps ... twenty-two years later.  It feels strange, like I'm following a ghost.  Things change so much so quickly that I wonder if what I'm seeing while I'm driving is what he once saw.

Probably not.

There is a very long bridge in LA near the Texas state line.  It is like 14 miles long, built above swamp and wetlands.  It is a boring bridge, a marvel of engineering, but a boring bridge nonetheless.  Traffic is stacked up almost at a dead standstill on the inbound lane.  I hope it won't be that way tomorrow on the return trip.

We make Texas.

I fill up the Lincoln at a small town and we decide to get lunch.  There's a Whataburger and Cindy wants to try that.  I eat at Whataburger a lot in Gulfport when I'm on the road for my job.  Cindy has never been to Whataburger.  The place is packed, people are even standing outside in line.  We go to a Jack's instead, just down the street.  I haven't eaten at Jack's since it used to be called "Jack in the Box" and that was probably 1976 when I lived in Jackson and there was still a chain called "Burger Chef" as well.

I haven't seen a "Burger Chef" in decades ... not even sure if it still exists as a chain.

Cindy has never eaten at a Jack's either.

We're on an adventure.

After a quick lunch we got back on the road and made pretty good time.  Some areas of Texas are speed rated at 75mph.  They need to be because a lot of these areas look pretty much like this ... all the way to the horizon.  Once you reach the horizon, the road might ... might ... bend one way or the other gently and then it's another straight shot to the horizon.

That's the road to Corpus Christi.

Flat.  Boring ... and it's like that most of the way.  Once you leave Louisiana, this is what Texas looks like if you hug the panhandle and head southwest.
Getting close ... late in the afternoon, sometime about 4:30pm.  There may be 30 minutes left in the trip now, if we don't make any more stops.

My plan for the evening was to find John's apartment, purchase the Shelby, find a good steakhouse, get a good meal, find the hotel that I'd reserved, get some much deserved sleep and head back first thing in the morning.

High speed, low drag.

It went pretty much according to plan ... pretty much.

John's apartment wasn't that hard to find though his exact apartment eluded me.  I stood in the apartment complex parking lot and called him again on the cell phone, letting him know that we were there and asking where his apartment was in the unit.  I was within fifty feet of his front door and the garage was connected to his apartment.  Basically all I had to do was turn around a little and I was facing his apartment.  He told me to walk around to the garage, it was open, and the '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby was parked there.

Garage kept.

It was the moment of truth.

I held Cindy's hand, walking with her.  We rounded the corner of the garage and ... there the Daytona was.  The Flash Red 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby in all of her 25 year old glory.  


2.2 liter SOHC Turbo II intercooled, turbocharged, port fuel injected four cylinder.

Heavy duty 5 speed manual transmission with overdrive and Getrag gear set.

Heavy duty suspension.

Heavy duty competition ready four wheel disc brakes.

15 inch aluminum "pumper" wheels.

A quick look at the car told me that John had not lied about the condition of the car and I began to feel a lot better about the deal.  Cindy was impressed with the condition of the Daytona as well.

John and his wife joined us in the garage, we introduced ourselves, shook hands, made pleasantries and started to talk about the Daytona.  After a few minutes, John handed me the keys to the car and I opened her up, hood, trunk, doors, giving her a good looking over.  Everything seemed to be just as John had told me and just as I had seen in the pictures that he sent me.

John asked me if I wanted to take the Daytona for a test drive.

I did.

If this Dodge drove anything like she looked then I was going to be very happy with all that I'd been through so far to get to this very moment in time.

Cindy and John's wife went back into their apartment while John and I got in the Daytona.  I pushed in the clutch and fired up the Turbo II engine.  It started easy and idled like it was factory brand new.  I took a minute or two to familiarize myself with the interior of the '89 Daytona which was both very familiar to me and very different as well.  It wasn't just the quarter century gap in my memory, this Daytona had options that my '86 Turbo-Z hadn't so I had to get used to buttons being in slightly different places than I remembered them being 25 years ago.

My eyes and fingers glided over the driver's door controls, the gauges, the center console, radio, CD player ... it all came rushing back ... 25 years ago I had a turbo Dodge and now I was about to have one again.

Satisfied that everything was good for a test drive, I pushed the clutch pedal in, lifted on the reverse lockout ring on the shifter, shifted the 5 speed manual all the way to the right and down, felt the transmission engage gears, then let slowly off the clutch.  The Daytona backed out of the garage effortlessly and without even a hint of drama.  I shifted from reverse to first gear, gave the 25 year old turbo Dodge a little gas and John and I were on our way to my first test drive.

I'd been wanting to be in the driver's seat of this particular Daytona for nine days now and here I was, following John's directions on when to turn, what roads to take and me just rowing through the gears and being 25 years younger.

I remember when this car ... when these cars ... were brand new ... sitting on the show room floor of the local Dodge dealership in Hattiesburg, MS and now here I was driving something that I'd wished I could have driven brand new way back then.  I've always loved the turbo Dodges ... the Daytonas and especially the Turbo-Zs and the Shelbys in particular.

This Daytona does not disappoint.  In fact, it inspires confidence in everything ... steering, braking, shifting, acceleration.  Everything on the Daytona works with the exception of the air conditioning but I'll survive.  I've got T-tops, an option my '86 Turbo-Z did not have.  As long as the car is as mechanically sound as it looks I should make it back to Columbia with no problem.  The transmission shifts smoothly.  The engine revs effortlessly.  There is the hint of whine from the turbo as it spools up ... oh, how I've missed that particular noise.

John and I talked as I drove.  We probably went ten miles around that part of Corpus Christi and a few times I gave the Daytona a good blowing out.  Everything on the Daytona worked and worked smoothly, except the air conditioning.  Texas has a lot of heat but it's a dry heat, not the humid heat like in Mississippi, heat that will have you soaking wet within ten minutes of being out in it.  

Texas heat is just ... hot.  

You're uncomfortable to a certain degree but you're not really uncomfortable.  Mississippi heat, with its high humidity index, is pretty much as unforgiving as it is rude and if you're not used to it then Mississippi heat is oppressive.

After a really good shake down test drive and having checked everything that John said was wrong with the Daytona I decide to buy it.  John and I return to his apartment, we go inside where our wives have been chatting for the last twenty minutes and John and I do business.  

The original note from the old bank arrived today in the mail and John gives it to me.  I give him two documents my bank wants him to sign and get notarized.  He says that he will mail them to me as soon as he can.

Papers are signed, cash is traded and John gives me the keys to the Daytona.  I put the paperwork all together and the four of us go back out into the parking lot for some photos.  I can tell John is sad about selling the Daytona ... after all, he bought it brand new, he's taken care of it for the last 25 years and now he's selling it to its second owner.  I feel honored and privileged to be taking possession of this Daytona.  It's going to make a change of owners, a seven hundred mile return trip to Columbia, MS and then it's going to live in my garage right next to my black and silver 2004 Honda CBR600RR sportbike and my black and gold 1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

This Daytona will NOT sit outside in the elements.

As Cindy got in the Lincoln and I backed the Daytona out John remembered that he had one more part for me to take with me ... the original factory louvers for the Daytona.  This presented a problem ... the louvers were huge and wouldn't fit in the trunk of either the Daytona or the Lincoln.  I told John to just mail me the louvers along with the paperwork I needed and for an instant there he had the look of a man who believed me.  Laughing and assuring him I was joking, I had a tough decision ahead of me ... take the louvers, if I could, and possibly never put them on the car ever again (thus not really needing them in the first place) or leave them here and let John just dispose of them.  Being what I am when it comes to cars, I figured that I had to take the louvers with me because if and when I did want to put them on the Daytona I'd probably find that a set of factory louvers would probably cost me the GNP of a small third world country if I had to get them off of Ebay or somewhere else so I told John that I'd take the louvers.

We tried the trunk of the Lincoln ... there was no room at all.

Then I had an idea ... put the louvers in the back seat of the Lincoln.  John had doubts but he helped me walk the louvers over to the Lincoln.  I opened the rear driver's side door, shoved the louvers in, put them flat to an angle and shut the door.  Cindy could see out the back window fine, the louvers took up most of the back seat but since it was only the two of us (and only her driving the Lincoln back) ... no problem.  John looked at how easy the louvers fit into the back seat of the Lincoln.

"I didn't see that coming." he mused.

Yeah, thank God for big cars like the Lincoln with deep trunks and big back seats.

Here's a picture of John, me and the '89 Daytona changing hands.

After shaking hands with John and thanking him again for letting me add this particular Daytona to my garage Cindy and I said our goodbyes and left, headed for Niko's Steakhouse a few miles away.  The food was pretty good and after dinner is when the fun began ...

It was late, we were in separate cars, we were tired ... and we couldn't find our hotel!

There it was, about 9pm, and Garmin couldn't tell me where my motel was.  I put in the street address and Garmin went nuts.  Ditto for Android and Google.  We drove around for an hour on the outskirts of Corpus Christi looking for what seemed to be a non-existent motel (even though I had reservations and a printout of the reservations).  We stopped and asked for directions.

Three times.

Each time it seemed that we were in the wrong part of town or that we had passed it.  We eventually found the motel, located on a service road beside the highway, a service road that was blocked off and hard to get to.  It was aggravation with little reward.

All in all, it took us nearly two hours to find our hotel.  That's right, nearly two hours.  I'd have just cancelled the reservation and checked in somewhere else if I hadn't been about to lose $100 for doing that.

We checked in around 11pm that night, unloaded our bags, got showers and fell into bed.  Cindy warned me not to wake her early like I had this morning.  When I told her that we needed to get an early start back to Columbia her only response was to repeat her warning to me not to wake her early.  

Her look said that she was serious.

Thinking how lucky I was to still be alive given all I'd done behind her back I thought that was a pretty good bit of advice so I kissed her goodnight, turned out the light and fell asleep with my alarm set for 7am.  All in all, it was a pretty good end of a day that had seen us start out early this morning on a 700 plus mile trip to pick up a Dodge Daytona that I'd only seen pictures of on the Internet and now owned.

It had been a long day but a day that had also gone by pretty quick in hindsight.

Tomorrow would be the real adventure ... getting the Daytona back home.

It's said that God protects fools and children.  I'd like to think that I'm somewhere in that group, more of one than the other.  Even so I said a special prayer that night to let me get the Daytona home before anything went wrong with it.  Just give me about 700 miles more range, let me get the Daytona back to Columbia, to familiar territory, to people I know who can help me work on it ... just give me this and I'll deal with anything that comes after that.

I snuggled up next to Cindy and held her.  Sleep found me thinking of the Daytona, of my wife and of just how lucky a guy I really was to have someone like her to share my life, my passions and my adventures with.