Archive for 1998

The CSX: December 1, 1998

by on Dec.01, 1998, under CSX

IT’S ALIVE!!!  This unusually warm weather for November has allowed me to finish assembly of the engine.  After completing assembly, I filled all the fluids and stared at it for a very long time, trying to think of anything I may have forgotten.  I then proceeded to clean the garage to find any parts that I may have neglected to put back on.  After all that, I decided that I had stalled long enough.  I pulled the ignition wire off of the coil and cycled the ignition switch a couple of times.  The fuel pump moaned and pressurized the system.  I did a careful inspection of the fuel system, and found a small leak near the fuel filter.  After fixing this, I took off the oil fill cap, and tried to crank the engine.  Sure enough, it cranked over and after few cranks there was oil to the head.  I then reconnected the ignition wire, said a little prayer, and turned the key once more.  Three cranks later the engine sprang to life with more clattering and chattering than you can shake a stick at.  A few seconds later the brand new lash adjusters were pumped up and the engine quieted down.  I watched carefully, with the fire extinguisher nearby, as the oils and other residues left on the manifolds burned off.  After a few minutes of idling, the engine stopped smoking and was running smoothly.  I kept an eye on the fluids all this time and there were no leaks, but I had to keep topping off the radiator.  I believe this was just the air being purged out of the system, but my paranoia kept making me think it was the headgasket.  There was no white smoke out of the back even when I goosed it a bit, so I became confident enough to go for a drive.  I took it once around my subdivision (1.1 miles) at the lightning speed of 30 mph.  The engine ran smoothly and pulled with confidence, even though I was not going into boost or revving it past 3000 rpm at all.  I pulled it back into the garage, shut it off, and did a through check over.

Everything looked great, so I started it back up again and went for another drive.  I took it easy and put a good 15 miles on it keeping it under 55mph and around 2500 rpm.  I let it go into boost a couple of times and I quickly got 5psi, even though the wastegate actuator was tied directly to the manifold.  The engine was running great and I finally got to experience what it was like to drive a CSX (I was so wound up on the initial drive home, that I never really got a chance to observe the handling).  That super-stiff suspension makes for a bouncy ride on rough roads, but the thing corners like it’s on rails.  What a difference from my Shadow ES!  Definitely not a touring sedan, but that not why I bought it!  🙂

After my little trip, I pulled it back in the driveway and popped the hood to listen the engine carefully.  There was a weird whine coming from the timing belt.  I think the shroud may have been rubbing on the intermediate sprocket.  Also, I noticed that the BOV was leaking boost when I was at or above 0psi.  The BOV should be closed at this point, so I have to look into that.

After over three months of owning the car, I finally got a chance to drive it around.  All that work was not in vein!  Special thanks have to go to Chris Wright for setting me up with Venolia and pointing me in the right direction, to Neil Emiro for all the advice about the choices in pistons and rods for the bottom end, to Gus Mahon for all the advice and info about the world of boost and compression ratios, to Mike Demoss at Forward Motion for advice and good deals on parts, to Randy Chet for selling me this car and telling it to me straight, to Brian Rachwarter for helping me find the car, to John Johansen for checking the car out in California, and to countless others on the Shelby Dodge Mailing List that have helped me over the past year and a half.  Here is a shot of the engine bay as of this date:

That white thing in front of the Turbo I turbocharger outlet hose is an oil catch canister that I have on all my cars.  It keeps oil out of the airbox, but in this case, it is venting to the atmosphere.  It’s made out of PVC pipe parts and I plan on making a web page for it.  I have improved the design well beyond this one, it was just lying around from the days of my Sundance.  Obviously, the CSX has no A/C right now, but I plan on installing it over the summer.  You might recognize the radiator; it’s from the Shadow ES before it was intercooled.  The wires are Splitfire Dual Coils.  I have no love for Splitfire, and I have never used their worthless plugs.  However, these were on sale for half price, so I grabbed them since they seem to be made very well.  If they act up, I’ll pitch them for Magnecores.

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The CSX: September 15, 1998

by on Sep.15, 1998, under CSX

In early September of that year, I finally had the time to tear apart the engine to see what was going on.  As I disassembled the intake ductwork, I was disgusted to find that the PCV vent line was tied directly to the intake duct, just past the air filter.  The large amount of blow-by from cylinder #4 blew oil through the PCV system, through the intake, the turbo, up through the intercooler (!), and into the intake manifold.  Most of it ran back into cylinder #4, causing it to burn all this oil.  When I pulled the head, I found that the headgasket was fine, the #4 piston was fine, and there were no cracks in the head or block.  I expected to see a whole in the piston from all of this blow-by.  When I disassembled the head, I found that the exhaust valves guides were worn, but the rest of it looked OK.  The head had a multi-angle valve jobs done at some point, so I decided not to mess with the valves and just grind them.  After grinding, the valves seated very well, and I decided not to worry about the somewhat worn valve guides.  There was no indication of the valve stem seals leaking, but I replaced them anyway.  Cylinder #4 was carboned up really bad from the oil, as was #1.  The only possibility left was the rings.  When I pulled the pistons, I found that the upper ring on #4 was broken is six places and a huge chunk of the ring land was gone.  The sides of the piston was badly carboned up from being driven this way for so long.  Luckily, there was no scoring on the cylinder wall at all.  The ring pieces were held in the piston by a nice coating of carbon.

I was very surprised to see that the block had almost NO wear.  There no ridge at the top of the bores, either.  I decided to deglaze the bores just to see how it would go.  The first few passes with the honing tool showed the bores to be very even.  A slight ridge appeared at the top, then disappeared a few passes later.  #4 had a small spot where the piston must have been slapping, but it disappeared as well.  I re-measured the bores and they were still straight and round.  I then made several performance decisions with the help of a few people from the SDML (thanks to Gus, Neil, Dempsey, and Garry).  Here are all the parts I ordered for this engine:

  • Venolia pistons: 3.4430 diameter, 14cc dish (thank you Chris)
  • Full-floating 0.936″ Ford floating wrist pins and spiral-lock retainers from Venolia
  • Turbo II rods from Forward Motion
  • Rod bearings and piston rings from Mopar
  • Lash adjusters from Perfect Circle
  • New turbo oil and coolant supply lines
  • Fel-Pro headgasket

Here is a shot if the pistons and rods after they had been balanced and the rod ends were modified to hold the larger pin.  Pretty pistons, eh?

Along with all that, I replaced all gaskets and seals as well as the radiator and heater hoses, fuel lines, and vacuum lines.  I also had to repair all of the wiring harnesses under the hood because of heat damage.  The Venolia parts took two months to arrive.  So, while I was waiting, I got ready for some future performance enhancements.  Here are the parts I collected:

  • ND Performance 3-bar computer set to 16psi.
  • Fel-Pro 0.020 inch “Head-Saver” head shim to reduce compression to about 7.8:1
  • K & N Universal Round filter to fit perfectly on the turbo inlet (RU-0640)
  • Conquest intercooler (early version)
  • 1st generation Talon BOV
  • A bunch of 2 1/4″ exhaust pipe and truck radiator hose
  • My own, custom PCV breather and oil collector

I planned NOT to use the ND Performance computer at first.  I decided to run with the stock CSX computer and the 804 injectors to take it easy on the engine and make it run rich, which is good for break-in.  I would also plug the wastegate actuator can right on the manifold pressure to keep boost very low for the first couple of hundred miles.  I would be saving the Conquest intercooler installation until the next summer, so I just used the turbo outlet hose from my ’88 Turbo engine to run the engine as a Turbo I, since I had moved the stock Turbo II components to my ’88 Shadow ES.

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The CSX: August 21, 1998

by on Aug.21, 1998, under CSX

After search through several boneyards, I found a few of the interior pieces I needed, but the main panels were impossible to find because I needed to find a 1987 or early 1988 Shadow or Sundance with a dark grey interior (because of the seatbelt arrangement).  This interior is somewhat rare.  Nevertheless, the SDML came to my rescue.  A great guy by the name of Arlie Hart found a Shadow sitting in a boneyard in NY with the interior pieces I needed.  Trying to get those large panels shipped from NY to IL was quite a trick, but we managed.  I also restored the majority of the wiring, which was severely hacked for previous stereo installations, and repaired the Boston Acoustic crossovers (power resistors) and replaced one of the tweeters.  I then made up and added the necessary wiring harnesses for power windows, power door locks, and power mirror, which I intend to add at some point.

When the Shelby sat out in its first rainstorm, I was greeted the next day with water in the trunk and under the carpeting up front and in the back.  The trunk leak was just the standard P-Body trunk leak issue, but the water in the front was from the windshield seals.  In fact, most of the seals, weather stripping, etc was all falling apart after being in the intense heat of California.  It look a long time to track down all the leaks and make the car sound again.

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The CSX: July 31, 1998

by on Jul.31, 1998, under CSX

The CSX was delivered to me on July 31, 1998.  The car carrier that had the car loaded took forever to deliver it because of mechanical troubles.  The stories they told were so crazy that I was actually believing them and when the car arrived, the driver showed me what happened to his rig:  blown tire rim, new hydraulic pump, and blown hydraulic hoses.  I washed the hydraulic fluid and dirt off of it, and it looked to be in good shape.

  • 1987 Shelby CSX #694
  • 104,000 miles
  • Mopar Performance Stage II Computer
  • 804 Injectors
  • Very Large K&N Cone Filtercharger
  • 2-1/4 inch aluminized mandrel-bent exhaust with high-flow cat and no muffler
  • Shadow ES interior (not complete)
  • Sony CD receiver head unit
  • Boston Acoustic speakers (blown crossovers)

Recent Repairs:

  • New hood and fender
  • Repainted roof, hatch, air dam and ground effects
  • New timing belt
  • New hoses
  • New ignition wires
  • New fuel filter
  • New left front wheel bearing
  • New hall effect sensor
  • Recored radiator
  • Rebuilt alternator
  • New tires (Pirelli P700-Z)


  • Low compression (35 psi) in cylinder #4
  • Bad A/C compressor clutch and no freon
  • Minor chips in paint along the passenger door and the hood
  • Paint on the trim around the windows was badly oxidized
  • Bumper and ground effects were not properly secured
  • Weather stripping around windows was falling apart
  • Broken speaker grills
  • Missing hatch security panel
  • Drooping headliner
  • Bad hatch struts

As you can see, the car had quite a few problems, but I knew about most of them before I even bought the car because the seller was very straight with me.  It was still a good deal though (would have been better if I didn’t have to pay for transporting it), and I was looking at it as a project car anyway.

The short ride home was a blast.  The engine pulled hard, even though it was on 3-1/2 cylinders and the 2.5″ no-muffler exhaust sounded great!  The interior was pretty dirty and was missing quite a few of the ES interior pieces and the ES headliner was already falling down.  I didn’t have time to work on the engine right away, but I did start to fix many of the interior issues.

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How I Got My CSX

by on Jul.31, 1998, under CSX

The history of my Shelby starts in June of 1998, just after I graduated from Southern Illinois University and started work at Motorola, Inc. Throughout my years at college, I was a member of the Shelby Dodge Mailing List (SDML) where I learned a lot more about these Front Drive Mopars, specifically the turbocharged models.  I compiled what I knew and what I learned and created a site that is a great resource for these cars called the Mini Mopar Resource Site.  This site includes many repairs, modifications, general information, and even a troubleshooter.  Through the SDML, many people buy and sell parts and cars.  While I could not afford any of them while I was in college, I decided that I would try as soon as I could.

After I started work, I rejoined the list (after being off for a couple of months because of the high volume of mail) and posted a request for a 1987 Shelby CSX.  I got several responses.  Most were pricey and all needed work.  One response was from Brian Rauchwarter, who maintained the old “ShelbyVille” site which had a huge classifieds section.  He informed me of a vehicle he recently added to his “For Sale With Pics” section.  I had plans for all the mods I wanted to do and that ad just happened to have almost all of them already.  I immediately got in contact with the seller and the process began.  There were some other interested parties, but when they fell through, I started getting serious.  It was less expensive than the rest, but had a major engine problem (35 psi of compression on #4) and needed a little body work (dings, chips, weather stripping, etc.).  The body literally had no rust on it anywhere (even the underbody) and the Centurion wheels were in nearly perfect shape.  The car had all of the Shelby badges, gauges, and accessories except for the front grill which was a Sundance grill.  The mods included a Mopar Performance Stage II Computer, huge K&N Cone Filtercharger intake, 2-1/4 inch exhaust with a high-flow catalytic converter and no muffler, a Dodge Shadow ES interior (the original is well known to fall apart), and a Sony CD player with Boston Acoustic speakers.  The owner was selling it because he was moving across the country and couldn’t drive it or afford to have it transported.

After debating between this one for $1750, and a mint but bone stock CSX with low mileage for $5000 that needed a paint job badly (which would cost another $1500), I decided to get the modified one and keep my ’88 Shadow ES for a daily driver.  Here is a pic of the car taken by the owner in the California bay area:

The trick was how to get the car from San Fransisco, California to Chicago Illinois.  Had the car been in better condition, I could have flown over and driven it back, but I decided to go with a vehicle transportation company.  After doing a lot of research, I decided on Allen Auto Transport to transport the Shelby.  They were a bit more expensive than the others I called, but they were much more professional and had a good reputation behind them.  After a bit more back-and-forth with the seller and Allen Auto Transport, things were finally underway and on June 24, 1998, I committed to buy the 1987 Shelby CSX #694 of 750.  It was picked up by the carrier on July 10, 1998.

Some Background information On This Car:

The previous owner of the CSX bought it from a rebuilder.  Information on the VIN indicates that it may have been a rental car, initially.  It had front end damage that was repaired by the rebuilder: it has a new hood, right fender, and a front grille from a Sundance.  Also, the right-side door had a dent in it towards the front that was filled.

The engine on this car very odd.  The block was in excellent shape, but the head was not original and had a LOT more wear on it, as if it came from another high mileage car, probably an ’88 since it had the roller cam.  The history of this car is very uncertain, but in light of some discoveries I made while rebuilding the engine, the previous owner had this theory to offer:

    “As far as your questions about the head- the place I got the CSX was a rebuilder- hence the salvage title and most likely a head from an 88 in their yard. I tried to pry as much info out of the guys when I bought the car but they didn’t have much info. He said that the car came into the place in 1995 I believe- was bought by one of the employees who replaced the bent fender and hood- and then didn’t do much else except leave it sit. He then sold it back to the place and I bought it. In light of your info, here’s my theory: in 1994 or 95 it was stolen or ridden hard, blew a head gasket or cracked the original head, and was involved in a minor accident. The insurance wrote it off since it was an 87 and was sent to the insurance pool where it was bought by the rebuilder. The yard put on a head to get it running then maybe it didn’t sell so the employee got it. Only a theory. If you look closely at the drivers rear quarter window you can see tape marks from where a used car lot sticker was once attached. It was obviously bought & resold before.”

So, this car definitely has some sort of interesting history.  I wish I could find out more about it, but I am just glad that the previous owner was able to save it.

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The Shadow: Ancient History

by on Jan.01, 1998, under Shadow

About a year and a half after I bought the car, I got into a front-end collision which put the car out of commission for a while.  The front body and chassis was smashed up pretty bad and the radiator and condenser coil was trashed.  Here is a picture after the accident:

The following summer I replaced the bumper beam and struts, hood, left fender, and front grill and repainted them all with original-color paint and clearcoat.  I managed to straighten out the chassis fairly well using my sister’s Shadow as a reference.  We have a neat hydraulic set that’s great for pushing panels and supports out.  The car looks great now, though I wish the paint matched better.  The original paint is not as “orange” as it should be (it has the same paint code as my sister’s Shadow, but doesn’t really match) and the rear, right panel and door don’t match at all (they look almost purple) because the car was obviously in a rear-end collision before I owned it.  But, it’s not all that noticeable.  I had to replace the tires (the primary reason I got into the accident–it still had the original Gatorbacks on it!), but I couldn’t afford a new set of 205/55 VR15s, so I picked up some five spoke rims at a boneyard and put regular 195/75 R14s on it.  I will buy good tires and put the original rims back on when these need to be replaced.  Here is a picture of the car as of the summer of 1998:

I recently (summer of 1998) re-replaced the headgasket, rebuilt the head, and cleaned up the mess I had after an oil line blew under the hood one day.  I also replaced everything in the air conditioning system, put on a new power steering pump, water pump, belts, cap, rotor, wires, and plugs.  I also repainted the intake manifold, throttle body, and valve cover to make it look like a Turbo II (which it eventually will be).

I had also installed a mechanical oil pressure gauge into the dash (the reason for the above mentioned oil mess) along with a remote entry system that I made out of an old car alarm.  In the tunes department, the car has an Alpine 2575 head unit with a 6 disk changer, a line-level equalizer, Polk 5 1/4 speakers up front and 5x7s in the rear powered by a small 50 Watt amp through an electronic crossover, all backed up by a JBL 8 inch subwoofer tube in the hatch powered by Pioneer 160 Watt bridged amp.  This combination, though a bit odd, makes for a very full sounding system.  Here is shot of the dash:

After getting my 1987 Shelby CSX, I decided to go with a different intercooler setup on it.  That gave me the opportunity to install the stock Turbo II intercooler, radiator, and airbox into the Shadow:

It took some time to sort out the plumbing.  The early Turbo II airbox had no accommodations for a BOV or cruise control vacuum supplement vent.  I picked up a Bosch BOV from a SAAB 9000 at a boneyard and installed a hose connection on the curved pipe section of the upper intercooler hose.  See my Blow-Off Valves page for more details on this.  I installed two nipples on the front of the air box, one for the vent, and one for the output of the BOV (the BOV was VERY loud when left open).  This setup works great and I can’t hear the BOV at all.

I then had an ’89 Turbo II SMEC modified by ND Performance for 14.3psi and the usual aggressive fuel delivery and spark curves.  The car smokes the tires in second gear with no problem now and the advanced spark makes a big difference at the bottom end.  When the high boost kicks in at 2800 RPM, my stock Turbo I clutch will occasionally slip.  Next mod will be a Centerforce II clutch.  Right now, I am pretty happy with the Shadow’s setup.  I added an A/F gauge so I can keep an eye on things.  The stock fuel system keeps up with 14.3psi of boost just fine.  Hopefully I’ll be able to make some runs with the G-Tech sometime soon.

One problem with the ND unit is that it can’t control my stock 1988 Turbo 1 turbocharger.  It is the small Mitsubishi TD04 unit and it responds too fast for the SMEC to keep up.  The result was a lot of surging and boost hunting at part throttle.  I resolved this by installing a two-stage bleed with the overboost eliminator.  The first stage is set to about 8psi and the second to 12psi for now (to save my clutch).  The second stage is activated by a WOT switch that I attached to my throttle body.

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