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Quote of the Week:
"Well, that job's done."  -Dan Plakosh

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June 21 - 27, 2004

The Resurrection of Vixen Concludes...

As time went on and Pigeon Forge got closer, my emotions swung wildly.  At times, I was incredibly anxious to get the car finished & on the road, but at other times I was afraid to even back the car out of the garage.  I guess that’s a normal reaction to any long project that’s nearing its end, but I had to face my fears and simply drive.  After all, Pigeon Forge was 500 miles away, and the longest trip we had taken to date was only 11 miles.  We needed to do some serious breaking-in before we attempted the trip.  Juley practically dragged me to the car each day to get as much “road time” in as possible before we left.
 
All of the shakedown drives went flawlessly, but somehow that worried me even more.  When we finally left that morning for Pigeon Forge, we were carrying about 200 pounds of tools and spare parts.  I was convinced something would go wrong…
 
But, to my surprise, we didn’t have a single problem going either to or from the show, and the Vixen has been doing great ever since.  DCS Pigeon Forge was the highlight of my five years of efforts.  It was great to talk with so many people who have been following my progress over the years, and I was honored to meet all the people who had been cheering me on for so long. I was further honored with the Best Restoration and Best Lighting awards, and now I am once again honored by being asked to share my experiences with you.
 
When Ken & Josh asked me to write-up the final chapter of the Vixen saga for this issue of DCS, I wondered exactly what I would write.  How do you sum up five years of work in a couple of pages?  I guess what I’d most like to share is what I have learned during the restoration.
 
Find out what matters to you.  In buying or restoring any car, you need to set some priorities.  Will your car be a Saturday night cruiser, a Concours car, or a daily driver? It’s hard to have it all, so determining your goals for the project are important.  Even when you’ve picked out your car, prioritize the repairs or upgrades, and focus on the things that will bring you the greatest satisfaction first.
 
Make a budget.  If you spend every cent buying a car that needs a lot more money invested before it's streetable, you'll start to see the car only as an endless drain on your wallet. It's a race against time -- the longer the car sits, the more it will need, and the less energy you will have to do it.  This is what my friends call the "Project Car Spiral".  Avoid it.  Make a detailed list of what your car needs, and how much it will cost to do it.  Then, create a realistic budget of how much time and money you can spend on your car per month, and develop a schedule of when you will proceed with each individual repair.
 
Keep notes -- what you did, what you have to buy, and what you need to do. Just a simple spiral notebook can be a wonderful resource in your restoration.  Write down notes as you need them, staple in your receipts for parts and service, and keep up to date “to do” and “to buy” lists.  Eventually you get to cross each completed item off of your list, and believe me, that is very satisfying.  Every item crossed off will help you realize you really are getting somewhere with your project.  You can also use your “to do” and “to buy” lists to help you revise your budget once in a while, which gives you a more secure feeling about how much time and money it will take to complete your car.  Plus, when you’re done you will have an amazing scrapbook to look back on as well.
 
Watch ‘scope creep’.  During the course of the work on my car, I decided I would heavily modify the engine, completely modernize the interior, put in a thousand dollar stereo/video setup, and install a complete strobe lighting system.  Whoa!  That would have completely blown away my budget, and was way beyond the original scope of the project.  Could I change course in the middle?  Sure, but it would have pushed my completion date back several years.  Was I prepared to deal with that consequence?  No, not at all.
 
If you feel like the scope of your project is growing uncontrollably as you work, then stop, take a breath, and split it into separate whole projects.  Stage I, Stage II, etc.  There is no reason you can’t “finish” your car two, three, or even ten times!  Each time you “finish”, you build up the gumption you will need for the next stage of your project.
 
Gumption, patience and Zen.   Gumption is your enthusiasm and energy to get the work done on your car.  If you don’t have it, nothing will ever get done.  Conversely, if you do have it, there’s no way you won’t get it done.  Think of it as the on/off switch for the success of your project. 
 
When you feel like working on the car, get to it!  When you don’t feel like working on the car, don’t.  It’s sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people don’t see that.  If you don’t feel like working on your car, but you force yourself into it, you start to get sloppy, make mistakes, and lose even more gumption in the process.  Keep your gumption high and success will follow.
 
Pick your battles.  Sometimes, no matter how much you want to do a certain task, you find that you simply lack the tools, time, knowledge, or energy to do it.  That’s part of any restoration.  There’s no shame in farming out work to a vendor or good repair shop – and you may save time, money and hassles as well. 
 
Get a little help from your friends.  Another option is to ask other DeLorean owners for help.  Most are happy to help you with projects both large and small, and you can always benefit from their experience.  Make friends with the owners within a day’s drive from you, and keep in touch.  Local owners Dan Plakosh, Dom Diaz, Pete Lucas, Chris Bowman and Jeff Porter were always there to lend a hand when I needed it, and my fiancée Juley Rycheck spent nearly three months out in the driveway helping me getting things finished.  Ask for help when you need it, and remember to return the favor someday!
 
Buy or borrow test equipment & tools.  Knowing what’s going on with your car isn’t a ‘knack’, it’s a process.  Your car will always tell you what is wrong with it – if you only know the right questions to ask.  The manuals have good checklists for troubleshooting the most common problems, but many require special tools like fuel pressure test gauges, timing lights, or emissions testers.  You can usually find an owner near you who has the special tools you need, and the experience to help you use them.  If not, many of the tools are available from vendors or by specialty tool stores online.  The money spent on good diagnostic tools always pays for itself in the end.
 
Go with the vendors.  Early on in my restoration, I spent countless hours trying to find ‘cross-reference’ parts instead of buying items directly from vendors.  I thought I could save money in the long run, but boy, was I wrong.  A quick total of my receipts shows that I have over $1500 in useless ‘cross-reference’ parts sitting here on the shelf. In what way did that save me any money?  Our vendors make a living by providing you with parts that they 100% guarantee will work on your DMC, and they do so at very reasonable prices. As a bonus, I have gotten untold hours of free tech support from every vendor I have purchased from, and that advice has saved me huge amounts of time and money over the years.

* * * * * * * *

So that’s the Project Vixen story.  Thanks for following along with me all these years through my successes and failures, through good times and bad.  I hope your restoration projects can all be as fun as mine was. 
 
Where does the Vixen go from here?  Like most restoration projects, I don’t know if we’ll ever truly be done.  In BTTF2 terms, “Getting BACK was just the beginning…”
 
The next phase of the saga is Project FoxPOWR (Passion OverWhelms Reason). Ever see a 400+ HP PRV?  Neither have I.  I have begin the process of building what I hope will be the most powerful PRV the DeLorean community has ever seen, with a heavily modified UN1 transmission to back it up.  My preliminary estimates put the costs of the project at about $11,500.  An engine swap would cost less than half of that, but somehow trying to get blood from the stone that we call a PRV just has this crazy, irresistible appeal.
 
I was crazy enough to turn a disassembled basket case into an award-winning show car.  But am I crazy enough to rip it all apart again?  Crazy enough to engineer and build a 400+ HP, twin-turbo, intercooled, monster race engine for a car that I’ve never driven faster than 70mph? 
 
Yes, I’m crazy.  Crazy like a…  Well, you get the idea.  =)


 

 

Total Costs for Project Vixen:  $25,375.23

 

 

Original version of the Project Vixen video (with sound)

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