The Saga of the Dinged Up Dodge

Bugman Jeff

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This part of the project was one of the most nerve wracking things I've done in a very long time. A very common problem on the '96-'97 Vipers is the hatch glass. The glue that Chrysler used to attach the hardware to the glass wasn't very good. As a result, the steel parts separate from the glass. There are even reports of the glass blowing out at high speeds if you've got the windows down. If you catch it soon enough, you can squirt in some more adhesive, and be on your way. That wasn't what happened with this car. The bond started to break, and it was never repaired. As a consequence, the metal hinge strip got all twisted and mangled up. Judging by the scrapes on the body, it'd been like this for a very long time.

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With the hinge so bent, I couldn't just glue it back down. The hinge plate had to be removed. After careful consideration, and much internetting, I determined that a heat gun was the most likely tool to succeed at getting the glue off without damaging the glass. The first thing I did was tape around the edge of the steel so I'd have a guide as to where to put it back on. Then, using the heat gun and a plastic pry bar, I very carefully started peeling up the steel strip. Using my IR temp gun, I determined that the glue softens adequately at around 200°F. You've got to heat it slowly and evenly, a hot spot could cause the glass to shatter. With the strip off, you can see how much glue was actually there. Not much, it didn't even fully cover the surface.

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The glue that was still on the glass was still very stuck, I felt like I might break the glass if I tried to get it all off. Instead of removing it, I very carefully ground it down with an angle grinder. I wasn't truing to remove it so much as to rough it up to give the new adhesive something to grab onto. With the steel plate off, I could get the bend straightened out and match the curve of the strip to the glass.

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With the glass clean, and steel straightened, it was time to glue it back on. I couldn't find a consensus on which glue to use, and the factory replacement glue is only available in big drums. For adhesive, I chose 3M's Windo-Weld, available at most auto parts stores. It's black, so it will help hide any nicks or scrapes in the black etching on the glass. Actually gluing it back on was the most nerve wracking part. Ideally, you should have a uniform thickness of adhesive for the best bond. The steel has dimples in it to maintain that thickness. The problem is that window urethane is thick, and doesn't squish out easily. To get the proper "squish", I used C-clamps to clamp the strip down with even pressure. C-clamps on glass = could shatter with just slightly too much pressure. I slowly clamped the clamps every inch or so to work the excess urethane out, then spaced them evenly until it set. I also use the blanket the glass is sitting on to keep the clamps off the glass it's self.

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If you've used the right amount of glue, you should get a fairly uniform squish out. Remember the tape we put on? Aside from helping with alignment, it also keep the mess to "big" instead of "huge." You'll want to smooth the seam with your finger, a putty knife, or something like that, then wipe up any remaining urethane. While it's still soft, you can smooth it out with mineral spirits. One it's smoothed to your satisfaction, you can peel up the tape, and you should have a nice uniform edge.

In retrospect, I should have taped the strip too, the C-clamps left very faint impressions on the black paint. If it ever does let go again, I'll just repaint the strip. I let it sit clamped for 48 hours to give it ample time to dry before reinstalling. Another thing too, urethane is messy. Very messy. It's a good idea to have plenty of paper towels, mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, and latex gloves on hand. While it's soft, mineral spirits and lacquer thinner will dissolve it, one it sets, it'll have to be scraped off with a razor blade.
 

slowfrc

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Nice work OP. I normally never ask because it's none of my business but I'm curious given the shape it was in when you got it, how much did you pick this car up for (if you don't mind me asking)?
 

Bugman Jeff

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Nice work OP. I normally never ask because it's none of my business but I'm curious given the shape it was in when you got it, how much did you pick this car up for (if you don't mind me asking)?
Don't mind at all. Got it for $21K. All the damage is superficial, the chassis and running gear are perfect, and it's got a clear title. Other than the smashed driver's door, the rest of the body really isn't as bad as it seemed at first glance. If I had to pay someone to fix everything for me, it would probably be cheaper to buy a complete car. Since I'm doing all the work myself, I should come out ahead. I'm about a month behind on my updates, as it sits now as a completely usable car with some minor body damage, with shipping, tax, title, and license fees thrown in, I've got around $24K into it.
 

Burt G

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Great documentation & best of luck with your new project, looking forward to more details on your progress..:2tu:
 

Bugman Jeff

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Aside from the crunched fiberglass, the worst part of the exterior of the Viper was the gas cap. Chrysler seems to have used the cheapest aluminum possible, and mine was very dull and oxidized. It was actually the only part of corroded aluminum on the thing, not bad for a car from the Pacific North West.

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Taking it off to repolish is easy, it's only four screws(getting the tube connected to put it back on was another matter). I used my buffing wheel on the bench grinder with some jeweler's rouge to shine it back up. Rouge isn't the best compound for aluminum, but it gets the job done, and I had some handy. Because of the low quality of the aluminum, it won't ever get mirror shiny, but it buffed up very nicely. I didn't disassemble it, but I was able to get to all but the tightest nooks and crannies.

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I'm about the age where Transformers was popular when I was growing up. In fact, it was my favorite show. I've always held a special regard for it, and consequently, all my vehicles get Autobot symbols. The Viper had to have one too, and the gas cap was the perfect place. The symbol is a red chrome vinyl decal I got on e-bay.

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Bugman Jeff

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As I've previously mentioned, the former owner of this car had dogs. Two small long hair dogs to be exact. Apparently they loved to go on car rides because every square inch of this thing was covered in dog fur. Worse yet, the long fur was thoroughly woven into the carpet. Thank goodness they were clean dogs so it doesn't smell too. The interior also had a general "never been detailed" look about it too, and there were a couple splotches of white paint on the leather.
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Seriously, how does someone get this much dog fur under the seat!?!

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A full 8 hours of vacuuming and duct taping the carpet, and it was finally dog hair free. Then I spent another 4-5 hours scrubbing every interior surface with Simple Green, followed with a liberal dose of Mother's VLR detail spray. Mineral spirits was used to get the paint splotches off. It's mild enough that it won't harm the leather, and it got the job done. There's just something very satisfying about a (nearly) spotless interior :)

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BLK04

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Great to see the hands on work, Fantastic job so far..... it's amazing how time spent with some know-how can make such a difference in a car......
 

troublemaker

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Very nice. Let the rich guys keep the factory in business and the rest of us will keep the old ones on the road. I think as time goes on you will see more and more restorations on these. I can honestly say that the old ones still attract my attention more than the new ones. It drives me nuts to see brand new cars sitting at car shows, all they did was buy it and pull it in. The older cars that have had countless hours poured into them to bring them to that state are what the shows are really about. Yours is no exception.
 

tbsviper

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Great work and good detail on how you are making the repairs. I like the improved look of the gas cap. You are definitely transforming this viper.
 

Bugman Jeff

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The Viper didn't come with any floor mats. Since I didn't want to wear holes in the carpet, I had to get a set of mats. There are a lot of Viper specific mats on the market that have the Viper logo on them like the originals. These mats start at around $100 and go up from there. Now, I know it's a Viper, and anybody riding in it knows it's a Viper, so I didn't feel the need to spend that kind of money for simple floor mats with another logo. Instead, I went down to my local Farm and Fleet, and picked up a set of THESE. They don't fit perfect, but the fit is very good, they are decent quality, and are nice and cheap(and dirty because I've been using them a month already).

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MoparMap

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Amazing what a little time can do in transforming the way a car looks. I always like the feeling after a really good interior cleanup. Even an old beat up truck like my brother's looks so much better with a good vacuum job and wipe down. Probably the easiest way to make a car look like it's worth more.
 

Ryan_DSA

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your fuel door looks to have been modified in the past, most fuel doors, all the pivots are a grey plastic rivit junk that the factory used, yours seems to have metal pins/hollow dowels in it.

normally they have a layer of clear coat on them that is bubbling and peeling, yours looks to have been stripped and polished already.
 

Bugman Jeff

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The paint on the Viper was in terrible shape. It was covered in scuffs and scratches, and the roof had been keyed. There were even spots where it looked like someone tried to clean gunk off with a Scotch Brite pad, leaving dull spots all over the car. There were also scrapes of white paint on top of the paint, whatever the previous owner slid into rubbed off onto the body. That came off with some mineral spirits. I used my trusty Harbor Freight 3" polisher and some 3M rubbing compound to get the paint nice and shiny again. Though it's not a Junkman approved polisher, my paint isn't anywhere near Junkman level paint and it works great for this kind of thing. The scratches that went all the way through the paint got some touch up paint dabbed in. It's not perfect, and most of the scratches were to deep to actually buff out, but they're much less noticeable than they were. Here are some of the worst areas:

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klamathpro

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Good job on saving this one. I'm glad it will be on the street rather than being parted out.

I grew up on the original Transformers myself, but I was (still am) a bigger fan of Voltron.
I have a diecast Voltron in a box! LET'S FORM VOLTRON!

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Maybe I should put a big V for Voltron on my GTS cap.
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Bugman Jeff

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Like the progress. So, why did you melt Legos in acetone to make ABS glue instead of just buying ABS glue at the hardware store?
ABS glue is good for gluing things back together if you have all the pieces, but I didn't and needed a filler too. The molded in nuts on the back side of the stanchion were missing. By using melted Legos, once the acetone evaporates I'm left with basically a solid block of ABS. Because the acetone melts the ABS, it's essentially welding the plastic back together instead of relying on a chemical bond. It works as a filler too, so I'll be able to sand the cracks down and be left with solid ABS. When I repaint the inner cover I won't have to ever worry about the bond failing.

Also, I already had acetone and Legos :D
 

Bugman Jeff

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I grew up on the original Transformers myself, but I was (still am) a bigger fan of Voltron.
I have a diecast Voltron in a box! LET'S FORM VOLTRON!

Voltron was one of my favorites too, but my Mom sold him in a rummage sale without telling me :(
 

Bugman Jeff

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Even after reconnecting the cat delete pipes, I still had an exhaust leak. The connections between the manifolds and the pipes had an annoying tick tick tick. New gaskets were cheap and I found the easiest way to get to the connections was to remove the side sills and use some long extensions on the flange bolts. The bolts were rusted, so I used a little known trick to get them off without breaking. I took the car for a drive to get the exhaust good and hot, then melted some bee's wax onto the nuts and let it sit 15 minutes or so. It sounds stupid, but bee's wax is the best penetrating lubricant I've ever used(and I've tried them all). I've tested it back to back with other penetrating lubes, and it wins hands down. I got a block of bee's wax at my local Hobby Lobby for $10, and it's lasted for years. After letting the bee's wax soak in, the nuts came right off.

While you can get the pipe disconnected with the sill on, you can't get to the gasket well enough to scrape the surface clean. As expected, the gaskets came off easily, except for the small section that I can't really reach with a scraper. You guys who work on your own cars know exactly what I mean :lmao:

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