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by Bob O’Neill
In 1984, the Chrysler Laser and Dodge Daytona became the first American made front wheel sports cars with a turbocharged engine. The 2.2 liter four cylinder was the work of Chrysler’s engine genius, Willem L. Weertman who also had a large role in just about everything from the small-block V8s to the 426 Hemi, including the slant six; 2.2 turbo performance was led by the similarly experienced Charles “Pete” Hagenbuch.
In 1985, I was in the market for a commuter car. I thought it would be wonderful to buy the Turbo Z, but I got a standard highline model. It was not turbocharged, but it was the first year they put the 2.5 liter throttle body injection engine into the Daytona.
The Daytona has been a fantastic car, but I still wanted the Turbo Z. So in 2006, with the help of my friends on the Allpar Daytona forum, I located a rather rare black and gold Turbo Z. This is a 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z C/S with T-tops and the 8 way power enthusiast leather driver’s seat.
In 1986, of all the Daytonas manufactured, 5,984 Daytonas were equipped with T-tops. The C/S performance package was installed on 7,704 Daytonas. Assuming the Turbo Z was the only model in which both the T-tops and the C/S package were used (we are not certain of this), my Turbo Z would be one of 5,984 — and, with five different colors for buyers to choose from, the Black and Gold could be only 20% of the total built.
When I bought the car, it was in need of a great deal of work. It was my intention it to restore it as a show car, since it seems to me that the car is somewhat rare, and I’ve been to many car shows and rarely see any Daytonas.
The work was broken down into several categories.
Because the car had only 121,000 miles when I bought it, the suspension was fine, but since I was rebuilding the entire car I reconditioned the suspension. I replaced all the components including struts, shocks, ball joints, tie rod ends and bushings at the control arms as well as the sway bar. I replaced all the parts needed to recondition the entire suspension to bring it back to ‘new’ condition including bearings and seals. There really isn’t anything remarkable about the stock suspension but I did take it one step further, and because the theme of the car is black and gold I took this theme to the hardware for the suspension and brake parts.
Since I replaced all the suspension, I also replaced the steering rack and pinion which included new tie-rod ends and power steering pump and hoses.
The body work was the biggest job of course taking many more labor hours than any other single part of the restoration. The body was in good shape but still, to do a great paint job I felt that the body had to be disassembled. To do this we towed the car to a friend’s house that has a very large work area. We hung plastic since this work area was not fully enclosed.
The fenders, hood, front fascia, doors and anything that was not to be painted was removed from the ‘chassis’.
The entire interior was also removed to make painting the interior easier. The engine had already been rebuilt and installed so it was necessary to protect it during all the body work and painting. Had I to do it over I would have removed the engine and installed it after the body work and paint.
Tim Walker helped to apply the paint, in his own paint booth. Tim restores classics and was nice enough to allow me to ‘borrow’ his booth.
The paint was applied in stages. As you can see we had not yet assembled the car so it was towed to his shop where the painting was done. Once the paint had dried we assembled the car and inspected it for flaws. Once flaws were addressed it was time to let the paint cure and begin the assembly of the rest of the project.
Wheels were next. These were going to require some special treatment. I wanted them to match the gold paint applied to the rest of the car so they had to be blasted to remove the paint. As you can see from the photos some of the wheels were showing their age and scars obtained over the years; once the wheels were polished, they were dipped in an anodizing solution which seals the alloy and helps to prevent corrosion.
Once the paint was removed it was time to address the scars and polish that area which was not to receive paint.
Next came the application of the paint. This was a multi step process. First the back of the wheel was painted with an epoxy white like the paint used on the commercial aircraft wheels.
Once the white had dried, the gold was ‘puffed’ on. Notice the ‘rim’ that received no paint. It was taped off to prevent paint from being applied.
Once all the paint was dry, the gold and polished sections received a coat of clear urethane. This treatment makes these wheels pop in the sun light and they are a snap to keep clean.
The T-top trim and seals were a real challenge; each of the trim pieces needed to be reworked. The one on the top of the driver’s side door was replaced. This was hard to do since these parts haven’t been made for several years.
Even though I found a replacement, all of the T-top trim was reworked including the new piece. This was necessary to make them all look the same. They were repaired as needed to remove scratches and other minor imperfections then they were painted with a good bonding agent and finally a black epoxy paint.
The rear deck glass was removed before body work and paint so it had to be reinstalled as did the rear quarter windows. But, the windshield had to be replaced. It was cracked and broken when I pulled it out. The windshield was installed and then I set about putting the T-tops back together. This was a real challenge but thanks to the help I got from Allpar members it was not as hard as it appeared to me at first.
Then it was time for the headliner. This was a trick because it is a weird shape due to the T-tops. In fact when I removed it I wasn’t careful and it cracked in the middle when it came out. I used some Fiberglass to repair it and once repaired, I used some headliner spray adhesive and headliner material to cover it.
With the glass back in and on the car it was time to install the interior. I started with new carpet. This was purchased from a vendor who claimed ‘perfect’ fit every time. It took some adjusting but the carpet did fit.
Next, the interior panels were cleaned and installed. Once the interior panels were installed, the lights for the dome and cargo area were installed; it was time to cut a piece of carpet for the cargo area. But first, I needed to replace the hardboard piece which covers the spare tire well. I used some hardboard and cut a new piece using the old one as a template. The old one had warped badly.
The seats are leather and over the years, they began to show their age. They were damaged, cracked, and the driver’s side had a hole so large that the foam beneath needed to be replaced. I found a shop to do this and sent all the seats to them.
Once the interior was finished and installed, it was time for tweaking. It was completed only a week prior to the “main event.” It was Allpar’s annual meeting and the All-Chrysler National car show in Carlisle, PA. The engine had only 250 miles on it and we needed to drive it 1000 miles to the event. So, we left a day early just in case.
The drive was not only flawless but very enjoyable. Once we got to Carlisle we parked the car in the invitational building and there it sat for three days. The drive home was just as uneventful and enjoyable. Performance from the engine was better than I anticipated, without the extensive tweaking that should have been done to set it up for best performance. Fuel economy for the trip was 34.5 mpg average for 2,000 miles.
Now that the car is done, and has lived up to all expectations — it’s being shown locally and regionally (in Florida). If you would be interested in seeing the car up close or discussing it with Bob, visit him in the Daytona Forum on Allpar.com.
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