A little over three years ago, I finished off my COAL series writing up purchasing my “attainable” dream car. She is still my daily driver, and I still continue to pile on the miles and enjoy the heck out of this thing. I have turned her into an homage to the 1970s, as well as to my former Aspen station wagon. Come along and see what’s been going on the past three years.
Let me give you a quick recap of the first COAL. In April 2014, I purchased this used silver 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8. When I first bought it, it was getting close to 100K miles. Soon after purchase, she was given the name Pam (after Pam Poovey from “Archer”). My first time autocrossing was behind the wheel of the Magnum. For the most part, it stayed stock through out the first years of ownership. First things first, a Borla exhaust was put on it. As I’ve done with almost all my cars, visually I changed things up. I applied a custom set of vinyl stripes to the car. Added a set of white tire letters. Mechanically, there had been a few hiccups. Mostly with the cooling system. A new radiator, thermostat, thermostat housing, and radiator hoses have cured the cooling maladies.
About a year after my first COAL, I gave an update to how the car had been doing. Some new tires after an unfortunate pothole encounter and some new stripes. When I left off, the only really notable thing that had cropped up was an oil leak that would only occur under intermittently under heavy load (i.e. full throttle acceleration). There would be a fine spray of oil on the driver’s side catalytic converter and the transmission pan would be coated in oil. Hot oil plus hot exhaust equalled big billowing plumes of smoke from under the car, and that’s not a pretty look. At first, driving not so aggressively helped to prevent the problem.
Since that update, it wasn’t long until even just a moderate acceleration would cause it to happen, and with increased frequently. In addition to that, the car developed another oil leak. It was dripping underneath the car towards the back of the engine. It got to the point where I needed to fix these items. We tackled the oil pan gasket replacement first. This became a huge challenge due for a couple of reasons. The front cross member was directly beneath the oil pan, with about 1″ of clearance. The top of the engine just a few inches below a firewall brace. Even disconnecting the engine mounts there was very little maneuvering room. It took the better part of a day and a half to finally get it replaced. When putting everything back together, the new oil pan gasket got a small kink or tear in it. It made the original leak/spray a bit worse and developed an additional small drip/leak. Frustration set in, and I took a break and went to solve the other oil leak.
[MDS block off plugs, 4 yellow things in the valley.]
I checked all over, and really couldn’t find the source of the second leak. Even running leak detector through the engine didn’t reveal anything. My initial thought was the rear main seal. However, multiple checks of the transmission flex plate showed it to be dry. The 5.7L and 6.1L Hemi share the same engine block casting. The 5.7L came with an MDS (Multi-Displacement System) to shut off certain cylinder under light load. Where those solenoids go on the 5.7L, they are plugged on the 6.1L engine. Those can sometimes break down on high mileage cars and start to leak. I pulled the upper intake, and it was bone dry in the lower intake valley and the block off plugs looked fine. I thought I saw evidence of a leak on the rear of the passenger side head, so I replaced the valve cover gaskets. This also did not solve the leak. Eventually, I came back to that idea that it had to be the rear main seal. There was no other alternative.
[Engine out for rebuild. My heads, my block, and my vacant engine compartment.]
I can do most maintenance and repairs in my home garage. Dropping the transmission or pulling the engine to replace the rear main seal is not something I’m equipped to do. Having to replace the oil pan gasket again meant that the best was going to be to pull the engine. My husband and I discussed our options on the repair. At this point, the Magnum was around 180K miles on the odometer. I had decided long ago that this is a forever car for me, and I want to continue for it to be a daily driver. We decided that since the engine had to come out for those repairs, we would invest in a full rebuild at the same time. I located a great engine builder in Escondido, and scheduled for the engine to be rebuilt. I was without the car for a couple of weeks. It was the rear main seal that was leaking. The heads had all new valves put in, and work was done on the to prevent the valve seats from dropping. (This is a common problem with the early 5.7L Hemis, not really a big deal on the 6.1L but it is extra insurance on that.) Once I got her back, she was just like new. This should easily get me another 180-200K on the odometer.
[New wheels, tires, and slotted rotors.]
Other than that, the only thing I’ve had to do with the car in the last 2+ years is regular maintenance. She got new slotted rotors and replacement pads for the Brembo brakes. When it came time to get new tires again, I also opted to go for a new set of wheels. I snagged the first set of 20×9″ Hellcat Widebody replica rims from Factory Reproductions and had them installed with the new tires. The wheels were matte black, and I added a bit of white vinyl to the spokes for a little different look.
[Custom spoiler: Focus ST + Magnum hatch]
I also tried my hand at custom body modifications with the Magnum. To give the back end a more aggressive look, I custom built a new rear spoiler. This was my first time at working with fiberglass. I grafted a rear spoiler from a Focus ST to the factory Magnum spoiler. Some of the contours didn’t turn out as well as I liked, but for my first try it turned out pretty damn good. I wired in the Focus CHMSL to work, and the rear washer nozzle also worked. I got a lot of compliments on the spoiler. I have taken off the spoiler when I did the big makeover (below), but I’m about to give it another go for a second custom spoiler.
[l-r: Purchased stock, +6 months, +24 months]
If you read back through the COAL stories on both of my Mustangs, and even the first parts about my Magnum, you’ll realize I have a need/desire to change things up about every 18-24 months. Either a new look for the existing car, or a new car. It helps to keep things fresh for me. It had been about 18 months since I applied the dual white stripes, and that itch for a change was getting strong. This time, I wanted to go big. I wanted to do a full vinyl wrap on the Magnum. Each time I had done vinyl work, the level of difficulty increased. Building on my previous experience, my skills increased as well to match the challenge. I figured now was the time to give the full vinyl wrap a go.
[The wrap was modeled after this photo.]
For me, though, just a full wrap wasn’t going to be enough. I wanted something that really stood out. I made several mockups of different colors and different stripe patterns, but nothing was really jumping out at me. Some of my favorite cars are from the “tape special” era of the 70s. Those wild stripes, colors, and graphics really appealed to me and I wanted to incorporate something like that into the design. I also wanted to do something that brought a little bit of my 1977 Aspen station wagon into the design. So, to pay homage to the entire Aspen/Volare range and the colorful 70’s graphics, I chose a design based on a white 1978 Plymouth Road Runner.
[Comparison of the original mockup (top) and the final result (bottom).]
The base color is 3M Satin Pearl White metallic. The stripes are 3M Satin Black, 3M Gloss Orange, and 3M Gloss Yellow. Prior to the wrap, I cut a hole in the hood and installed a hood vent from a 2013 Shelby GT500. The shape of the hood vent was worked into the design of the hood graphics. Just like a full paint job, a vinyl wrap is all about prep work on the surface. I removed the side moldings for a smooth flank. The old stripes came off and any traces of wax or chemicals was removed. During the wrap process, a lot of little things had to come off. Door handles, window moldings, grilles, lights, mirrors, etc.
[The wrap process.]
I budgeted two weekends to get it done, and that was not nearly enough. I under estimated my skills. It took twice as long as I thought it would, because I was learning as I went. The most difficult parts were the bumpers, due to all the complex curves and different surfaces. After the color change was done, the stripes were relatively easy and just like my previous stripe work. It was tedious work laying out all the wrap tape lines, making sure that everything was even. For the “Magnum SRT8” on the doors, I purchased a hobby vinyl cutter to get exactly the font and size that I wanted. I capped that off with the “Super Bee” logo.
[Volare Road Runner inspired wrap.]
After the vinyl work was done, I’ve just done a few more cosmetic things to it. I changed the color of the wheels to a matte dark anthracite color and added silver vinyl to the spokes and rims. I also installed a set of halo lights in the headlights. On a warm day in October of 2019, the Magnum celebrated a milestone of crossing 200K miles on the odometer.
The miles keep piling up, and I am almost always smiles behind the wheel. I’ve put well over 100K miles on this car (now at 208K) since it’s become mine. This car truly is my forever car. Other cars may come, and they may go, but they will always be parked next to my Magnum. My next update, whenever that may be, will be when I’m crossing the next big milestone of 300K miles. Who knows how many looks the car will have gone through by then.