1989 Dodge Daytona ES turbo (The Deer-tona)

My former boss, Chris Burton, was the original owner of this car. He was the body shop manager at Swift Dodge back when this car was new. One morning the lot boy was starting up cars and he forgot to push in the clutch pedal when he turned the key. The car lurched forward and ran into the back of a new pickup truck. Chris wrote up an estimate to fix the car and the dealer owner, Chuck Swift, had a conniption fit; so Chris said “Make me a deal, as-is” and he ended up limping the car home that night. I used to have an ’85 Daytona turbo, so when Chris said he wanted to sell the car, I was interested. Unfortunately, I could not afford the $3K asking price.

Another buddy, ‘Cuda Bob, bought the car and put about 10K miles on it in almost as many years. One day he was in the Bay Area and the car sprung a water leak at the turbo. Bob dropped the car off at a local shop, who made the mistake of trying to un-thread the brass fitting from the turbo; breaking it off flush. Then they compounded the mistake by trying to get an EZ Out into the fitting; wedging it tight. After 4 days, Bob told the shop he was going to have his car towed out of there and they were more than happy to let him take it. Lucky for Bob, he had 100-mile towing with AAA, and it was 93 miles from the shop to my house. Bob rode with the tow truck here and his wife, Char, drove down from their house, to pick him up. I ended up replacing the turbo with a known good unit that I had because the EZ Out had cracked the housing. The car was running great and I had some spare time to buff the hood because the paint was getting badly faded. Bob & Char stopped by the following weekend to pick the car up, but on his drive home, a deer jumped out from the bushes and tagged the front nose. BLAMMO! went the airbag and Bob stopped to check the damage. It was getting late and dark, so another car that was heading in the same direction acted as guide while Bob followed behind. The next day, Bob called his insurance company, they stopped by his house and later told him that they were going to write him a check for the damages, but they were dropping the car from his policy. Bob called me and asked if I was still interested in the car, as-is. I jumped on the opportunity to buy it and headed up to his house with my car trailer. We agreed on $850.

At first I did a quick fix of the damage, using $200 worth of Pick & Pull parts plus a rattle-can of paint. It didn’t look too bad, being just “good enough” to get me driving.

But over time, the entire car was getting to look pretty drab. The car had the original paint, the touch-up from when the T-tops were installed, The touch-up from Chris, and the touch-up from me; so into the garage it went. The paint was wearing off and the plastic trim was shrinking and cracking. The time had come to strip it all down and do it up properly.

Off came the trim, stripped it down to bare metal, prime, paint, wet sand & buff.

Not too shabby! It’s almost like I’ve done this before (many times).

I’ve got this thing about taking pictures in the reflections of the paint jobs that I do, and this car was no different. Even made a short video to show off how nice it looked….

The one fault of this car was a persistent water leak into the interior in the winter. I thought it was the T-Tops, so when I painted it, I stripped out the interior, made sure all of the windows were sealed up, replaced the top seals, and I thought the problem was fixed. Until the following winter and once again it was like driving an aquarium.

Over the years, the car had a few typical repairs, and a few not-so-typical….

In the end, I was tired of the damp interior in the winter. The mystery leak had won and I sold it for $2500.


About hemibill

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