My wife is gone for three days to a teacher convention on the MS Gulf Coast. My two daughters are with my parents because I have to work days and nights at my two jobs and I can't keep them while school is out for the summer and while my wife is gone.
For weeks now I've felt a change coming in my life, one that was needed and one that I could make for myself. You see, normally I ride a 2004 Honda CBR600RR sport bike in my daily 70+ mile commute to work and back (mostly highway). For years I had access to a company vehicle to commute in so I let my company pay for gas, oil and tires. That ended about a year ago and I was left with my two daily commuter vehicles, my ultra dependable 2004 Honda CBR600RR super sport bike (42+ miles per gallon) and a '99 Lincoln Towncar (Executive Edition) (17 to 23mpg) for days when the weather wasn't good for riding or I was putting in about 38 hours of work in a 48 hour period (never, never ride tired).
So it was June 2014 ... my 45th birthday was around the corner ... and I decided that I needed a better car than the Lincoln for my daily driver. Don't get me wrong, it's been a good car, nay, a great car, but it's just a car.
The Lincoln doesn't turn heads.
The Lincoln doesn't invite comments.
The Lincoln, even though it's a rather posh car, is also rather plain.
Dependable ... as an anvil ... and boring.
The Lincoln is a good car, with 170,000 miles on it. The AC blows cold, the heater blows hot, it has a XM satellite radio and on the highway it gets a somewhat respectable fuel economy but ... it isn't "me."
I'm just not a four door car kind of guy.
Never have been, never will be.
I'm a two door car kind of guy ... and I like that car to have both T-tops and a stick and, yeah, I'm a 1980's car kind of guy because 1980's cars were cool in a way that every car since 1990 hasn't been cool. Every. Car.
No, I don't wear any gold chains. I just like to get some wind in my hair every chance I get and I like to dance on pedals and row through gears. Hardtops are so ... confining. I'm not a claustrophobic but a hardtop car makes me feel that way.
I'm eccentric, probably to a fault, so I like to drive what no one else has.
The problem with cars today is that they are universally boring. Trucks and SUVs pretty much the same. If you have a brand new car or truck, I don't care what it is, chances are you'll see an exact copy of your car or truck when you go for a drive, same color, same model. You'll probably see it either coming or going, or both, and you'll see it several times. When you go to a store and park your car or truck in the parking lot, you'll probably walk past several exact copies of your vehicle on your way into the store.
That's not for me.
I wanted a new car for a couple of reasons ... the main reason is that I'm so frigging tired of four doors and a soft as a pillow suspension. I am not a four door car kind of guy. I'm a two door car kind of guy.
Another reason is that I've owned the '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am for eight years now ... I've restored it and I've wrestled with either keeping it stock or modifying it. Over in the corner is an ultra-rare 406 cubic inch Lingenfelter small block on its engine stand but I remember what a beast that motor is and how it beat, literally beat, a 1988 5.7 liter TPI powered IROC-Z to death. Back in '08 I bought a '91 Z07 Corvette, L98 with a six speed and wanted to drop the 406 into it but the TA was waiting, patiently and ... I sold the Vette and put my money back into the TA. Now I have a restored '86 black and gold Trans Am that turns heads where ever it goes.
The 406 is just going to have to wait a while longer ... after all, I've had it nearly 17 years now. A few more won't matter. The last guy who said he wanted to buy it never got back in touch with me. I found his name listed on the local jail docket so I guess he had a reason not to get back in touch with me and if things don't work out for him then the 406 is going to be the least of his worries for a long time.
I finally decided that I needed to just keep the TA stock ... bone stock. After all the TA is less a high performance machine and more of a time machine ... it's a snapshot of automotive history, a sliver of American performance history, a relic from a different era, a fossil from an extinct breed of a now six year extinct car manufacturer. In the last three decades I've seen too many of these third gen F-bodies butchered, abused and thrown away.
I won't do that with mine.
So I needed something different.
I'm 45 years old.
I want something no one else has and for the past few weeks I've had a want. I've wanted something to replace the '99 Lincoln Towncar and I knew what I wanted ... I wanted another 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z, like the one I used to have.
Years ago, in the late '80's when I was in college, I had a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z. It was nice but I didn't realize what I had and at the time it was just a commuter car. The Turbo-Z had good performance, it was dependable and it got good gas mileage and with all of that going for it I sold it for something else ... a 1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Car. I thought the Turbo TA would be collectible and it is / was, but I got rid of it before I could ever profit from its gaining collectible status. The Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z and the Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Pace Car are both long gone but surprisingly it's the Dodge that I miss more because that was a fun little car ... good on gas, nimble and fast.
I have to admit that I have regretted selling the Dodge far more than I have regretted selling the Turbo TA and for years I've wanted another turbocharged Daytona so with my 45th birthday coming up I started looking at turbo Dodges. None for sale locally, none on Ebay and there just were not a lot of them for sale on the Internet. I remembered that I had a membership at TurboDodge.com from years back when the turbo Dodge bug bit me and I went back there to look in the "For Sale" part of the forum.
I was so tired of four doors.
I wanted another two door.
I wanted another Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z.
Days go by and I didn't find what I'm looking for which is a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z with T-tops, a 5 speed stick and the C/S competition package.
This is what I was looking for ...
1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z with T-tops and 5 speed
but alas, no C/S competition package
but alas, no C/S competition package
I looked and looked but every 1986 Daytona Turbo-Z with T-tops that I find, especially the ones with a C/S package, seems to have issues that I just don't want to start facing as soon as I buy it. I'm looking for a well-kept example of the breed, not a "fixer-upper special" or a "some assembly required" project that has to be towed home and comes with extra wheels and parts in the hatchback. Sadly there is a whole graveyard out there of Daytonas suffering everything from half slapped together engines to rust rot in the floor boards (some so bad you can see through them to the ground).
Time, for some part, and the owners, for the most part, have not been kind to these cars which makes finding a pristine one a real quest.
What I'm looking for is something that I can pick up cheap, give it some TLC, maybe do a few repairs and then just ... drive and enjoy. I want something that hasn't been modded, that has somehow escaped the ravages of both time and amateurs. It's a lot to ask for, I know, but I have hope that somewhere, out there, is a Daytona worth owning.
So I keep looking, hoping to find someone who has taken care of a turbo Dodge Daytona, someone who didn't go to Lowes or Home Depot one day and spend $80 on dryer duct and PVC pipe, rig up some kind of redneck homemade cold air induction system and then throw away the factory air box.
I'm looking for something unmolested.
It doesn't have to be in showroom condition, it just has to be bone stock, all original, and unmolested. Everything needs to be where the factory put it ... I don't want the air conditioner wrapped up in an oil soaked towel in the hatchback. If it doesn't work, fine, I'll fix it but I have to have it where the factory put it. I know that I'm probably asking for the impossible, especially since the last of these cars rolled off the assembly line 23 years ago but my luck is pretty good when it comes to cars so there's always the chance.
My kids are staying with my parents because my wife has gone to a teacher conference on the Gulf Coast, three days I'm alone working two jobs, day and night shifts, and I spend my birthday alone. Again. The house is empty, quiet and I'm moody. When I get moody I get to thinking, sometimes that thinking leads to introspection. When I get to thinking I get to wanting and right then I wanted another turbo Dodge Daytona.
It is Thursday night, June 12, 2014.
I go to my laptop, check the TurboDodge.com message forums and look at the "Cars for Sale" area. I've been hanging out here on the forums for a while now, weeks, months ... trying to find a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z with a stick in it, T-tops and the C/S competition package. I want a red one, with a black interior but then people in hell want ice water (my dad used to say that a lot when I was younger and I wanted something).
Still I keep looking.
At 45 you learn that patience isn't just a virtue, it's a real advantage in life.
I've always liked the turbo Dodge offerings, especially the Daytonas. The turbo Dodges were some of the quicker cars of the 1980's and were a really good look at where we thought that we were going in regards to performance during the 1980's. Smaller engines, electronic fuel injection, digital computer engine control systems and power adders like turbochargers to get V8 performance out of four cylinder engines. Mopar called it "displacement on demand" and they envisioned that with the turbocharger that the farther down you pushed the loud pedal, the more V8 your four cylinder would feel like.
The early Dodge Daytonas (and for a limited time, the Chrysler Laser) were really hot little performance cars in the day and Chrysler was the comeback kid with Lee Iacocca at the helm. His commercials where his catch-phrase of "The competition was good. We had to be better." still rings in my memory. I was a teenager in 1984, with a brand new license, when the Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser were introduced. A senior at my high school had a brand new 5 speed black Chrysler Laser. It looked just like the ads in the magazines at the time.
I thought it was a neat car but it couldn't match the aggressive look of the Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z.
The Chrysler Laser lasted two years, 1984 to 1986. It was a more upscale, more luxury oriented version of the G-body and I think that it just didn't hit the market it was intended to and so it came to an end. The Dodge Daytona lasted for almost a decade, nine years to be exact, from 1984 to 1993. 1989 was the best year for sales and the second restyling and after that the Daytona just got kind of ... weird. It's like Dodge fired everyone who had made the Daytona such a great little performance car and for 1990 to 1993 they hired a bunch of amateurs who didn't have a clue how to keep a popular car model alive.
The sales figures for 1990 to 1993 show that I'm right.
Sadly, the Daytona was replaced with the totally uncharismatic Dodge Avenger.
Gone were the swoopy lines of the Daytona, gone was the high tech feel, gone was the turbocharged engine, gone was the feeling of performance that the Daytona brought to Dodge and gone was the cool name.
The Avenger was ugly ... like an orgy at an old folks home. Whenever I see a Dodge Avenger the first thought that pops into my mind is "Really? That's what replaced the Daytona?! What were they thinking?!"
Like I said ... it was a different time.
Performance was once again on the low and car manufacturers started turning towards making cars "fun" by naming them stuff like "Neon" and "Espresso" and it got worse after that.
But I digress.
So, given that the best years for a Dodge Daytona are 1986 to 1989 ... four production years out of nine and the only four years that you could get T-tops in the cars (one of my requirements for owning a Daytona since I loathe solid roof cars) I began looking for a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z with T-tops and (hopefully) the C/S performance package. I'd take a 1987 Shelby-Z if I could find one with T-tops and the Turbo II engine backed by a 5 speed (a high school friend had a 1987 Shelby-Z when I had my '86 Turbo-Z ... the Shelby was fast!).
Hell, I might even take a C/S packaged Daytona Pacifica.
I looked and looked.
Nothing on Ebay.
And then I found a Daytona on TurboDodge.com.
1989, T-tops, Shelby with a 5 speed and the Turbo II motor. It was located in Corpus Christi, Texas and was a one owner car. Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, factory stereo, factory CD player, AC, and T-tops. The Shelby wasn't the '86 Turbo-Z that I was looking for but it didn't have any of the owner issues and problems that had kept me from buying the other Turbo-Zs that I'd found.
This was a Shelby, one owner, 25 year old car, all stock, unmolested and garage kept most of its life. The owner had done maintenance on it regularly and the Shelby looked to be in awesome condition for its age. It wasn't perfect but it wasn't a pile of junk or a "fixer-upper" either.
It was just an old car.
No, there isn't a yellow sign sticking out the roof of the Daytona.
I immediately fell in love with the car.
So much of the '89 Daytona re-styling was apparently lifted from the '85 re-styling of the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am ... the smoke colored smooth tail-lights, the flip-up headlights, the integrated driving lights in the front ground effects, the wrap around rear wing, the ground effects, even the "power bulge" hood was similar to what had graced the hoods of '82 to '84 Trans Ams.
One look at the picture above and I knew that this was the Daytona I'd been looking for.
The owner was asking $2100 for the car, or best offer.
Intrigued, I started looking through the forum thread since most of these cars would be sold before I ever found them. There were lots of posts in the thread, mostly by idiots making unrealistic statements like "If you drive it back to Michigan I'll buy it." From the pictures posted, I knew two things:
(1) this was the Daytona that I wanted and (2) this car wasn't going to last long.
I posted a reply to the thread asking to see the engine because I wanted to see if it was all stock. That was important to me. The interior looked almost mint with only some typical wear to the center console door. Even the floor mats were factory originals (although badly worn in their duty to save the carpet underneath).
More pictures were posted by the owner.
The interior - driver's side. Seats are mint! Dash and steering wheel also mint! 5 speed! Yes!
Dash isn't cracked. All factory equipment, gages, radio and CD player (only 862 Shelbys had CD players). The horn didn't work so a button was put on the dash. The strange box to the right of the horn button is a motion / glass break sensor, part of a factory optional alarm system.
Body is straight. There's a slight bit of surface rust on the rear fender crown, you can see the rough at the far bottom right of the picture.
Engine bay needs a lot of TLC. AC doesn't work but everything else does including cruise control and it is all in the same place that the factory put it. No mods, no missing parts. Man, that engine bay is going to need a lot of TLC, degreaser, scrubbing and cleaning but that's where I have fun with these cars ... cleaning them and detailing them and noticing just what the lines are and how the factory put them together.
T-tops are factory and don't leak even though the strange felt strip at the front was damaged by some auto glass workers when they put in the new windshield. Finding that strip is going to be a real Grail quest.
There's a little bit of surface rust right there on the rear fender flare. Nothing major, a wire brush, rust converter and touch up paint will fix that. Strangely there's another bit on the opposite side rear fender flare.
More wear and tear on the center console lid but the rest of the interior is mint. The shift boot doesn't even have any cracks and none of the ash trays look like they've ever seen a cigarette.
Factory turbo boost gauge is next to the car indicator (open doors, rear hatch, hood) and the low fuel light indicator. That empty spot above would normally house a trip computer or some other fancy piece of electronics but this Shelby didn't have that so it's basically a storage slot for stuff like cell phones and driving gloves.
Steering wheel is mint. I've owned several used cars where the steering wheel was eaten up or ripped or cut or scratched. How do people do that to a steering wheel? It boggles my mind how a steering wheel can get so worn and tattered. This Daytona's steering wheel was leather wrapped and perfect.
Another profile shot, a day at the beach.
Yeah, I had to have this Daytona.
Knowing that this Daytona wouldn't last long, I began to get my finances in order and plan a trip to go get the car. I just had a feeling about the car, it was going to be mine come hell or high water and I was going to make it mine.
It was my 45th birthday and this Daytona was my present to myself.
I went to sleep that night thinking about the car.