The Saga of the Dinged Up Dodge

Bugman Jeff

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I've decided to post a build/repair log of my '97 GTS. Some of you guys might remember a few months ago there was a wrecked b/w '97 GTS on e-bay at a very low price. Since I was across the country, I couldn't inspect it first hand. Moreover, there was a bank lien on the title. It was the best year, the right body style, and my favorite color. The right side of the nose was slid under something, then the car spun around and smashed the driver's door. I'm pretty good with bodywork, and spent years working with fiberglass in a kit car place, so it's crunched exterior didn't scare me. It was everything else that had me worried. I knew it was a gamble, but I ended up with it.

I have to give HUGE props to my Dad for brokering the deal for me, he's great with paperwork type stuff(and needs something to do in his retirement other than play golf :rolaugh: ). I work really odd hours, and didn't have any chances to contact the seller myself. Without his help, it wouldn't have worked out. The title situation was the biggest hurdle. The car was in the seller's name, the bank loan was in his ex-fiance's name. The loan was paid off, but out of spite, the ex-fiance wouldn't sign off on the paperwork to clear the title. It didn't help that he lived in Seattle, and she'd moved to Oakland. Sounded like a classic woman scorned scenario to me. It took a month, but my Dad was able to get the title cleared, and now that it's in my name I feel comfortable posting about it.


When it showed up, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew it needed a door and window, and didn't really set my hopes to high. I was pleasantly surprised when it showed up. The body was rough, the interior was dirty, but the chassis and running gear looked absolutely phenomenal. The frame is straight, it runs and drives great, and though covered in dog fur, the interior is in good shape(and thankfully doesn't smell like dog). Everything that wasn't the body was in near perfect condition. The door was a total loss, not worth the effort to fix, and much of the window was laying in the driver's seat. The driver's door sill and 1/4 panel are cracked but salvageable. The paint is covered in scratches and scrapes. Someone started to repair the hood, and it's got a primer splotch on it. The seller described the exhaust as sounding "nasty." He was right, at anything over idle it sounded like crap. This is because the cats were removed...and the straight pipe replacing them was shoved in the resonators and not connected to the head pipes. Basically open exhaust dumped into the sills. It's a start :) Here's how it looked when I first got it, and the most damaged areas of the body:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF0osrHxqBY

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Stay tuned :)
 
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Bugman Jeff

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Thanks :) I plan on doing all the work myself and it's coming along pretty good in just the few months since I got it. I'm going to stick with the blue/white. The red and yellow guys can argue all they want, but we all know it's the fastest combination :D
 
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Fatboy 18

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Looking forward to seeing lots of pics of body strip down and rebuild please. Also interested to see what that exhaust set up is? Any pics of the side sills removed?

Dog Hairs!!!!! Who the hell puts their Dog in a Viper? I love my Dog but there's no way I would let him in the Viper! For what its worth you might want to closely inspect those wheels too, I believe some owners had issues of cracks appearing where the spokes met the rim? Best inspect them from the inside ;)

You could always sticker up the car for the Fast Race look :D

Good luck with the project :2tu:
 
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Bugman Jeff

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The plan for now is to get it to an acceptable level, and drive the heck out of it fixing little things along the way. I'm going to put off major bodywork until next summer when I can take the time I need to do it right. From watching the previous owners youtube videos, he had two little long hair ankle biter dogs. They managed to leave fur over every square inch on the interior :rolleyes:

The driver's door is a total loss. Not only is the skin smashed, the inner structure and door jamb are all bent up too and it wouldn't latch properly. It's not worth the effort to fix. The door panel is in great shape though. Fortunately, one of the biggest Viper salvage yards in the world is right here in Wisconsin. Don Scharf Automotive had a door shell and glass for me. It was even the right color. The missing hinge cover was in the trunk, and I reinstalled it too once the door was on.

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There was another problem with the door, the inner and outer stanchion covers were broken when the door was smashed.

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The outer looked fine from outside, but all three of the molded in attachment nuts were broken off, leaving nothing to hold the cover on. Fortunately, the covers are made from ABS. ABS is great because it's very easy to repair. The best glue for ABS is...ABS. ABS very readily melts in acetone. What I did was melt some LEGOs(also ABS) in a jar of acetone, effectively making an ABS paste glue. When the acetone evaporates out, you're left with solid ABS. I went to the hardware store and got some stainless nuts the right size, ground the paint off the inner surface, then glued the nuts on with my ABS paste.

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The inner cover was cracked and had a piece broken off. Somebody had tried to repair it once already, and didn't do a very good job so the broken piece didn't fit well. I first used just acetone to melt the pieces back together. Then I used some of my ABS paste as a filler to fill in and reinforce the cracks.

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It's not pretty(yet), but it works. When I get the time, I'll sand, fill, and repaint the cover. You'll never know it was fixed. For now, it functions the way it should, and most people are so taken with the rest of the car they don't notice it's been repaired anyway.
 
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Timnineside

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Congrats to you for taking on the job! My first Viper was a wreck. Although it was a blast to work on I would never do it again! I also bought it before the economy tanked so that was a heavy lesson learned. Make sure if you need any parts to post up. There are plenty of great resources here to help you out and point in the right direction. Unfortunately when I had my first Viper I wasn't aware of the VCA and spent a lot of time and money wrongfully.

-Tim
 

GuitarSteve

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Here's to wishing you all the best on your build. Can't wait to see how she looks when you're done. Ummm....is it just me or did I spot a DeLorean DMC-12 in that video?
 

Viper98912

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Wow, looking forward to the progress pics; definitely a passion to be able to take on a project like that!
 

SingleMalt

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Hey Jeff,
THANKS for helping put another Viper back on the road. There aren't that many to begin with and it's sad when they get parted out simply because that's the easiest way to squeeze money out of the "dead" ones. Good luck with the repairs and be sure to ask questions if you are in need of some knowledge; there are guys on here with TONS of knowledge about these cars... Right down to the nuts and bolts.

Mike
 
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Bugman Jeff

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Thanks guys. It's been a fun project so far, and I've already learned a ton from the forum. :2tu:


Ummm....is it just me or did I spot a DeLorean DMC-12 in that video?
Good eye, it's my Dad's. He's had it since '92 or so, and in the past few years has he had it out being enjoyed as a daily driver :) Since my work hours are so screwy and he's retired, the transporter dropped the car off at his house(the video was shot literally 5 minutes after the car came off the truck).
 

eucharistos

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your car looks like it was in good shape prior to the wreck, like others, looking forward to seeing your progress :eater:
 
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Bugman Jeff

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With the new door installed and adjusted, I could get the hood fitting better. When I got the car, the passenger front corner of the hood wouldn't even latch. I finally got it to latch, but the edge of the hood was a full 3/4" higher than the fascia.

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I couldn't figure out how to lower the hood any further, and the hinges were definitely not bent. After a few hours of head scratching, I realized that that the hood wasn't high, the bumper was low. Turns out that when the nose slid under what ever it slid under, the whole bumper assembly was shoved all the way down in it's slots. I also discovered that the headlight on that side had been replaced. I'm guessing the original was shattered in the accident. After nearly 12 hours of screwing around, I finally got the doors adjusted to the body, hood set to the doors, bumper set to the hood, and headlights fit to the openings. All the gaps are good, but not great. Since I need to take it apart to do bodywork anyway, I decided they were good enough for now.

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denniskgb

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Great buy, Great project best of luck, that is what i call ********* viper owner. When you are all done you would not know what to do with yourself.:D
 

slysnake

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I would think most of the parts would be just as cheep to buy them from one of the salvage places as try to rebuild them anyway. Looks like a fun project.
 
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Bugman Jeff

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Looking forward to seeing lots of pics of body strip down and rebuild please. Also interested to see what that exhaust set up is? Any pics of the side sills removed?
Sorry I missed this. No pics with the side sills off, but there's not much to see. The cats were replaced with some straight pipe. When I got it, the new pipes were purposely shoved back into the resonators and not connected at the front(about a 3" gap). Basically, the exhaust dumped right after the bend from the flex pipe. At anything above idle, it sounded terrible. The heat shield vibrated and buzzed like crazy. It made the whole side sill resonate.
 

Ryan_DSA

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IM hoping to have 425 wheel Horse power, for less than $2000 into the engine, management, and dyno time. and to have the car done and painted for less than 15k which i may end up under budget
 

Bonkers

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Good luck with it! Now that my rebuild is done Ive moved
onto a mustang project for the wife. Once thats done I fully
plan to buy another wreck (maybe RT this time?) and
work on it - its been so much fun.
 
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Bugman Jeff

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That's one way to get that wonderful V8 sound out of a Viper. The LSx engines are great for cheap HP too :) I'm looking forward to your results.
 
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Bugman Jeff

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When I got my car, someone had already done some fixing on the hood(and not very well I might add). There was a big primer spot on it covering the repair. The repair area extended over the stripes, and stood out like a sore thumb.

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I decided to do a quick fix until I get into major bodywork. Since this is only a temporary job, I'm using Plasti-Dip. If you're not familiar with Plasti-Dip, it's a spray on rubber coating available at hardware stores and online at places like www.dipyourcar.com. It comes in a variety of colors and can be used for anything from cars to tools. Plasti-dip's best feature is that while it sticks well, it's very to remove. You just start pulling at an edge, and the Dip peels off in big sheets leaving the original finish untouched. There's virtually no prep work involved either, just make sure the surface is clean and unwaxed. Since it's not a permanent coating, I wasn't too concerned about overspray so I didn't have to mask the whole car.

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Most colors of Plasti-Dip cover well, but the white is pretty thin. It took a whole can to cover the blue primer spot. I also blended it further back so I didn't end up with a hard tape line towards the top.

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One of the tricks to Dip is that you need to remove the masking right away. If you let the Dip dry, it will start peeling off as you remove the masking tape. Once it's had a few days to throughly dry, using a product like Meguiar's Ultimate Quick Wax will greatly increase it's durability. Here she is, stripes one again continuous. Any overspray on the body simply wipes off. The color is slightly off, and there's still obviously a primer spot, but the overall look of the car is much improved by this one little detail :)

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Bugman Jeff

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The scoop on my car has been replaced with a later one too, and I'd rather not paint it if I don't have to. Anybody by chance have a blue/white scoop they'd be willing to trade for my sapphire scoop?
 
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Bugman Jeff

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Looking forward to seeing lots of pics of body strip down and rebuild please. Also interested to see what that exhaust set up is? Any pics of the side sills removed?

I had cause to take my side sills off this weekend, so I snapped a pic. This is basically how it was when I got it. The straight pipe replacing the cats wasn't connected to the head pipes. At anything above idle, it had that classic UPS truck sound. Judging by the amount of carbon inside the sills, he'd been running it like this for awhile. One of the very first things I did was reconnect the pipes. Note that I have the rear muffler removed in this pic, that's why the pipe is at an angle.

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Bugman Jeff

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It said right in the e-bay listing that the Viper needed front brakes. When I got it, they did sound a bit grindy, so brakes were at the top of the to do list. I got some new pads and pulled the fronts brakes apart, this is what I found:

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He wasn't kidding when he said it needed brakes! This is what original brake pads look like after 44,000 miles. Two of the pads were down to the metal backing. Fortunately the rotors weren't too scored up and I was able to turn them clean. Now where did all that pad material go? Found it!

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I don't think the back sides of the wheels on this car have ever been cleaned...
 
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Bugman Jeff

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Sometimes the little things can make a world of difference. When I got the Viper, it had smooth tubes installed in place of the stock accordion tubes. Who ever put them on must have bought the longest hose clamps they could find. They were about 4" too long, and just looked bad. I can't stand unsightly hose clamps, and it'd been bothering me since the day I got it. IMO, sloppy hose clamps can ruin a whole engine compartment.

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I stopped down to the local Farm and Fleet, and bought a set of stainless T-clamps. They look 1000 times better.

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While I was changing the clamps, I noticed a small but very important thing. The top alternator bolt was missing. Fortunately, the alternator could rest on the bracket, or this might have ended very badly. Be sure to look things over very carefully when you buy a used car...

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