About jordonshultz

I'm studying print and digital journalism at the University of Missouri with the aspirations of becoming an automotive journalist.

Saying goodbye to an old friend

With a taste in cars that has no boundaries and limited space to store them, there comes a point in almost all of our lives that we face the difficult decision of having to sell a member of our fleet. At 22, I’ve already had to do this five times, and it never gets any easier. Like all automotive enthusiasts, I begin to think about my vehicles as members of my family, and it’s really hard to cut them loose.

During Thanksgiving break, my wife and I had a conversation about replacing her 2009 V6 Mustang with something newer that could weather the winter months of Columbia. To help offset the cost, I knew that we would have to sell one of my three cars in addition to her Mustang. The unfortunate outcast was my track-prepped 1990 Taurus SHO that I had acquired only four months earlier.

I had grown very fond of SHOs after the my 1992 model that I wrote about previously, but was never satisfied with the exterior appearance of the vehicle. The car’s rust was worse than I had originally thought, the the cost to repair it in addition to paint was money I simply didn’t have. As a result, I sold my ’92 for $2,500 and picked up this rust-free 1990 model for only a grand more.

90 SHO

With beautiful burgundy paint that looked nearly identical to my Riviera, the two cars looked great together under the car port. Best of all, this was no ordinary SHO. It had spent its previous life at many race courses and autocross events, and most of the suspension setup was still in place. That was my immediate draw to the car, as my two Buicks left a lot to be desired when it came to handling. This SHO was equipped with 13″ Wilwood brakes, 24/26mm sway bars, Eibach lowering springs, aluminum subframe bushings, subframe connectors and Ingalls adjustable rear control arms. With extremely light 17×8 Team Dynamics Wheels and Cooper RS3-A sticky rubber to top things off, this SHO stuck to the asphalt like glue and was a blast to drive on Columbia’s many backroads.

SHOtire

Taurus SHO

The engine was mostly untouched, but the car did feature an aftermarket high-flow y-pipe and Borla stainless steel exhaust system.The original black interior was in near-mint shape for a car that was approaching its 25th birthday, and the paint looked very nice as well. However, when the same seller I purchased the car from messaged me on Facebook and told me that he was missing his SHO, I knew that it would be the one to go.

As I helped him load the SHO onto his car-hauler, I started to question if I was making the right decision. I knew that it would be extremely hard to ever find another car that handles nearly as well for such a low budget build, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. As sad as it may be, it also leaves me excited for the future ahead. Now I can say that I’ve experienced the SHO platform to its fullest extent, and it’s now time to move on to something else. What that might be exactly, you’ll just have to wait and find out.

SHO

goodbye

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The world’s first eighth generation Buick Riviera custom hood.

I’m going to stray from my theme of budget performance builds this week, because I simply have to share with you the details and pictures from my latest project. In the late summer months of 2013, I started sketching out the designs for the world’s first eighth generation Buick Riviera hood. I had already added many tasteful exterior modifications to my 1996 Riviera, but it hadn’t quite reached the “menacing” appearance that I had in mind. Since my car was already in such nice shape, I didn’t want to risk ruining the factory hood if my design didn’t work out as planned. So I called around to different salvage yards and found one located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, about 1.5 hours from my hometown for $75. It was white, but that wouldn’t matter, as the hood had to be painted anyway. In addition to a smooth raised 2″ cowl in the center of the hood, I wanted to install hood vents to give the car a little more attitude. I finally settled on a pair from the 2007-2014 Jaguar XKR, which had “supercharged” embossed on the vents. There would be no question now what lurked beneath the bonnet of this blown Buick.

I took the hood to a body shop my grandfather recommended, and the owner seemed more than ready take on the challenge. He wanted me to order a steel cowl from Summit Racing that he would shape and fasten to the hood for the center section. Since my hood was aluminum and the cowl was steel, I knew there would be no easy way to fasten the two together. But since he was the expert, I went ahead and ordered the part and hoped for the best. During Christmas break, I stopped back by to check on his progress over the last six months and was extremely disappointed to see that very little had been done. I wanted my cowl to flow with the body lines of the car, and the steel cowl simply wasn’t working. He tried splitting in down the middle to give it the shape I wanted, but it looked nothing like the design I had developed. It looked as if he had spent maybe an hour on the project at most. I told him again how I wanted it to look, and said I’d be back in another six months to hopefully pick up the hood. When I came back in July 2014, I was irate to find it exactly as I left it. I told him I’d be back in the morning to pick up the hood since he obviously was no longer interested in the project.

Luckily, two good friends of mine had recently opened up a new body shop in town and were eager for work. I showed them the so-called “progress” the previous shop had done on the hood, and they couldn’t believe the poor level of workmanship. The $160 steel center section was now scrap metal, and it was the wrong choice of material for the center section to begin with. I showed them a picture of the design I wanted, and by the end of the day, the cowl shape was already formed. Instead of trying to bond steel to aluminum, they made the shape for the cowl out of foam and sanded the edges smooth so it wouldn’t look obnoxious and out of place on a Buick luxury coupe.

Hood 1

Hood 2

After the foam had been sanded down to the proper height, they added many layers of fiberglass over the top for structural rigidity. The holes for the vents were then cut, and the internal structure of the hood had to be modified slightly for the vents to sit flush. After leaving the hood out in the sun during business hours, they noticed that the foam was expanding in the heat and warping the shape of the cowl. As a result, they cut a hole in the backside of my hood and removed the foam. The hood was then sanded smooth, primed and painted Medium Red Garnet Metallic to match the color of my Riv. On November 27, 2014, I drove my car out of the body shop with the new hood installed. It had been one year and six months since the project started, but it was definitely worth it. They were able to take my design and bring it to life. Grandma’s Sunday cruiser had officially been transformed into a menacing, muscular machine that any automotive enthusiast can appreciate.

Hood 3

Hood 4

Hood 7

Hood 5

Hood 6

Hood7

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After:
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Mid-size Mopar hauls more than cargo

Sadly, the market for performance trucks is relatively thin. The first two models that come to mind are the Ford Lightning, Dodge Ram SRT-10 and GMC Syclone. Although no longer in production, these trucks command well north of $15,000 in good condition in the used car market. Since most believe them to be the only models in their class, interested parties have to pony up if they want to get behind the wheel of these low-production trucks.

Every once in awhile, there is a vehicle that slips through the cracks and often goes unnoticed by the performance-minded crowed. One such model is the 1998-2003 Dodge Dakota R/T, which, along with the Shelby Dakota, is the only mid-size truck ever powered by a V8 engine. The 360 cubic-inch V8’s 250-horsepower and 345 lb.-ft of torque is channeled through a heavy duty 46RE automatic transmisssion and limited slip differential with a 3.92 gear ratio.

With a zero to sixty time under seven seconds and a quarter mile sprint in 15 flat, the R/T is quite the spirited performer right out of the box. Well-kept, low-mileage examples can still be found for $5,500 to $8,000, and you’ll be more than satisfied with the savings over a Lightning, SRT-10 or Syclone.

Jacob Mahin of Thayer, Missouri, sold his 2001 Lightning last spring for $8,000, an astounding price for an average condition model with nearly 200,000 miles. While it’s hard to fathom why one would pay such a steep price, he was only asking for the truck’s Blue Book value. After selling the Lightning, he wanted something a little smaller, and started looking through the classifieds for a low-mileage regular cab R/T.

The hunt finally ended in late-summer when he spotted a 1999 R/T in Texas with 53,000 original miles. After haggling with the seller, he bought the truck for $5,800. Best of all, this was no ordinary R/T. With a Mopar M1 intake manifold, Mopar PCM, Comp Cams roller rockers and a K&N AirCharger kit, the modifications gave the truck an estimated 30-horsepower increase without impairing daily drivability.

The truck had already been lowered on Eibach springs, and Mahin installed Belltech Street Performance shocks to complete the handling upgrade. A custom roll pan, clear corner lenses and flat-black R/T decals were also added, giving Mahin’s Dakota a stealth appearance and bad-boy attitude.

While not quite as fast as his Lightning, he doesn’t regret making the trade, especially with the extra $2,000 dollars stashed away for future upgrades. He said the R/T is easier to drive, especially in the corners. “It’s smaller and easier to manipulate,” Mahin said. And of course, judging by the length of the black marks in front of where he works, it might be a little more fun too.

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Dakota1

Dakota3

A poor man’s Buick GSX

True automotive enthusiasts will never forget the 1970 Buick GSX, arguably the greatest muscle car of all time. With 360 hp and 510 lb-ft, it had more torque than any American car ever produced, a title that stood for 33 years until the 2003 Dodge Viper. According to Motor Trend, the car could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and blaze through the quarter mile in a blistering 13.38 seconds at 105.5 mph. Pristine examples typically bring in $100,000 or more at auctions, and they’re only going up in value.

GSX

While my dad has always dreamed of owning one, it likely isn’t happening without mortgaging the house. To keep from breaking his sprit, I came up with a more realistic solution. Little did he know, the GSX moniker was resurrected in 2003.

During this period, the supercharged L67 3800 Buick V6 was starting to make a name for itself as a potent powertrain. Aftermarket companies became cognizant of the growing popularity of the platform and began making parts to satisfy owners. The L67 quietly lurked beneath the bonnet of the Buick Riviera, Buick Regal GS, Buick Park Avenue Ultra, Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, Chevy Impala SS, Chevy Monte Carlo SS and the Oldsmobile LSS, so they wouldn’t have to worry about a low-volume market or demand. While all of these cars were pretty quick from the factory, they didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of their true performance potential. Street Legal Performance (SLP), one of the aftermarket companies that produced parts for the 3800, sought to change this in 2003 with the Buick Regal GS, a midsize sports sedan with a factory-rated 240 hp and a hefty 280 lb-ft of torque.

To generate excitement about the new offering, SLP resurrected the GSX name for the Regal that would be available for order at Buick dealerships across the country. SLP began with aesthetic modifications, replacing factory badges with chrome ‘GSX’ emblems on both doors and the tail light. An aggressive grille and unique lip spoiler gave the car a more sporty appearance while the Z06 inspired chrome wheels and throaty dual exhaust screamed that this was no ordinary Regal.

Next, SLP modified the car’s suspension and handling by lowering it 1.5 inches and adding bigger anti-sway bars and tubular rear trailing arms. As far as engine modifications, SLP let Buick customers dictate exactly how fast they wanted to go by offering a Stage 1 (+15 hp), Stage 2 (+20 hp) and Stage 3 package (+30 hp).

With 270 horsepower and 312 lb-ft of torque, the Stage 3 GSX was the fastest Buick produced since the legendary 1987 Buick GNX. Yes, it had four doors and the Saturn Yellow paint was now gone, but the new GSX definitely didn’t disappoint owners who remembered the name’s performance legacy.

The GSX was only available to order from 2003 until the end of the Regal’s production in 2004. The short two-year production and expensive MSRP resulted in very few factory GSXs being made, and they’re almost impossible to come across today. SLP produced a low-volume number of the GSX’s aesthetic, suspension and performance parts to allow Regal GS owners to do the modifications themselves. As a result, it’s easy to mistake an authentic GSX with a clone. A true GSX will have a chrome SLP label in the driver’s door jamb, which was not available for purchase.

In 2012, I stumbled across a 2003 Stage 1 on eBay and told my father that I had finally found a GSX he could afford. He was currently in the market for a sporty daily driver, and the GSX name was all it took to sell him on the car. Unfortunately, the original owner discarded the factory wheels once the chrome started to peel, but I was able to track down a set last summer to return the car to its original factory appearance. The exceptional handling and supercharger-whine never fails to keep a smile on his face, and he loves the attention it gets at car shows. For about $6,500, my dad was able to satisfy his desire for a GSX. I guess the house will stay, at least for now.

GSX

GSX Picture- http://www.1zoom.net/Cars/wallpaper/306603/z1672.3/

You want a fast, great-handling sport sedan? Buy a Ford Taurus.

Yes. You heard me correctly. I didn’t stutter. Would you like to own a domestic sport sedan for less than $5,000 that is fully capable of putting Fox Body and SN95 Mustang GTs to shame? Then look no further than the top-selling car in America throughout much of the 1990s. While a regular Taurus is anything but unique, the high-performance Taurus SHO is a different story. Produced from 1989-1995, the Taurus SHO features a 24-valve 3.0L DOHC V6 engine built by Yamaha. Yes, this bull had a little more kick than the pedestrian 3.0 Vulcan V6 found in most Taurii.

Now 25 years later, it’s hard to understand why Ford decided to undermine the legacy of the Mustang by purposely making their four-door family car faster than their halo pony car. As it turns out, the creation of the SHO might have never been Ford’s true intention. Rumor has it Ford was developing a mid-engine, two-seat sports car called the GN34. In the mid 1980s, Ford signed a contract to have Yamaha design and build the engine, but the GN34 never came to fruition. With the terms of the contract still intact, Ford had to find a home for the Yamaha engines and it needed to happen sooner rather than later. After what I can only presume to be a decision made under the influence of heavy narcotics, the suggestion was made to house the beast under the hood of a Ford Taurus. Thus, the SHO was born.

With 220 horsepower and a 7,300 RPM redline, the SHO sounds closer to a Formula One car than your typical V6-powered sedan. While acceleration was a bit lethargic at low RPMs, vacuum actuated butterfly valves would open the secondaries at 4,000 RPM. At this point, you better have both hands white-knuckling the steering wheel throughout the rest of the power band. Although it’s open for discussion, I’m quite sure the term “torque steer” was named after the SHO.

In summer of 2013, after begrudgingly making my Riviera withstand its first ever winter in snowy Columbia, I purchased a 1992 Taurus SHO 5-speed to serve as my “SHOplow” from December through March. I purchased the car from the original owner for a mere $1,500 with on 72,000 miles on the clock. It had been driven in many Kansas City winters until the the brake lines rusted out sometime in the early 2000s, where it became a rather large yard ornament for the next decade. I replaced the rotten brake lines with a nice used set from the junkyard for $20, and the car was back on the road. The struts and subframe bushings were shot from sitting so long, so I snatched a brand new set of Monroe Sensa-Trac struts, Eibach lowering springs and aluminum subframe bushings on Craigslist for a grand total of $450. To help the car look a little more modern and aggressive, I stumbled upon a set of rare 17″ Cobra R wheels in the 5×108 Taurus bolt pattern for $400 and bought a new set of Cooper RS3-A all-season performance tires for $500 to complete the handling package.

SHO

If it isn’t apparent by now, I have a tendency of falling in love with projects and going a little overboard. The rare black interior was in excellent shape throughout, except for the seats. Instead of buying cheap covers, I wanted to do a two-toned red and black theme to match the exterior of the car. I had an upholsterer re-foam and re-cover the seats in my design for $600, bringing the car’s grand total to just a hair under $3,500. Although the aesthetic modifications like the interior and wheels could have been spared, a low-mileage sports sedan capable of out-running and out-handling cars five times as expensive was definitely worth it.

SHO INterior

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If you don’t mind a little paint fade and subframe rust, this Taurus was the perfect budget build. If you’re intrigued by the sleeper status of the SHO, they are available on Craigslist, shoforum.com and Facebook’s Taurus SHO Marketplace for dirt cheap. Although they have a dedicated cult following, collector status has never quite latched on for some reason, making it a great candidate for Stop Dreaming and Drive.

You drive a Rolls Royce?

High School graduation was fast approaching in two months, and I was still cruising back and forth to school in my 1969 Buick GS. Sadly, I knew the car wouldn’t be coming with me to Columbia. I had already made up my mind to attend MU in the fall, and I had been browsing eBay for a new daily driver for the 220-mile trip that would be fun, comfortable and fuel efficient. One of the cars I had been looking at was the 1996-1999 eighth generation Buick Rivieras. They were the last breed of Buick’s two-door coupes, and offered attractive styling with a factory-equipped supercharger. With 240 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, the supercharged 3.8L V6 had plenty of get-up to throw you back into the plush, Lazy-Boy recliners of the Riviera in instantaneous fashion.

Little did I know, my mom and dad had been searching for a graduation present and were secretly spying on my eBay search activities. On a weekend in March, Mom told me that Dad went trucking for the weekend with my uncle, and I didn’t think anything of it. The next night, he pulled into the driveway in a 1996 Buick Riviera. I couldn’t believe it! With medium garnet red metallic paint and burgundy leather interior, it was my absolute favorite color combination. It had been driven exclusively by an older couple that took immaculate care of the car, with a fresh wax and leather conditioning every six months. Although it had 95,000 miles, it looked and ran like it had less than 30,000.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of what the Riviera looked like exactly when I first received it. Many of my friends thought it was an old mans car, but none of them knew what lurked beneath the hood. In my honest opinion, the car did look a little plain and outdated, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I knew the car had a lot of potential, and I couldn’t wait to uncap it. While this isn’t an exact picture of the car, this is what it looked like.

Buick_Riviera_1997

I loved the svelte, rounded body lines of the Riviera and knew that with a little bit of work, it could turn a lot of heads. After adding a rear spoiler, tinted tail lights, a black grille and an 18-inch set of black chrome MSR wheels, it didn’t take a lot to transform grandpa’s Buick into a car that is frequently called a Rolls Royce at grocery stores, gas stations and car shows. For a car that was purchased for a mere $4,500, there is no greater feeling than having it mistaken for an $80,000 luxury import.

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Detail 4

With just these few appearance mods, it’s been featured in two calendars and won trophies at multiple car shows. While I was happy with the transformation, I wanted the car to have the performance to back up its menacing looks. I started by fabricating a homemade fender-well intake with Spectre 3.5-inch aluminum tubing and a 9-inch K&N cone air-filter. While the look was much improved, the relocation of the filter into the fender well helped reduce intake air temperatures and made the supercharger wine like rabid hyena under wide-open throttle.

The next project was the exhaust. The factory manifolds and 2.25-inch catback were optimized for quiet operation, not performance. I installed ceramic coated SLP headers and had an exhaust shop fab up a 3-inch exhaust system with Borla Pro XS free-flowing mufflers. The intake and exhaust modifications broadened the power curve and really woke car up in the mid and high RPM ranges. However, it felt like the car had lost a little bit of the low RPM torque, so I replaced the factory 3.8-inch supercharger pulley with a smaller 3.5-inch unit. Finally, I installed a colder 160-degree thermostat and colder spark plugs to keep engine operating temperatures down and reduce knock retard with the added boost. To adjust the factory computer settings to the new modifications, I had the car tuned by PRJ Performance. With an estimated 280 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, the car will definitely put a smile on your face as you pull away from unsuspecting challengers.

While the car still has a few finishing touches left, I’m incredibly happy at how far it’s come. In just a few weeks, it become the world’s first eighth generation Riviera with a custom hood that I designed from scratch. Late this summer, I found a body shop that took my design and made it come to life. It features a rounded 2-inch fiberglass cowl and “supercharged” hood vents from a 2014 Jaguar XKR. While the Riviera is an excellent starting-platform, any car can be something special with just a little imagination and creativity. There’s a whole world of unique, cheap performance cars just waiting to be transformed. My goal is to point you in the direction of these hidden gems and help you realize their potential, but it’s up to you to scour Craigslist, AutoTrader and eBay for that peculiar car or truck you’ve always been drawn to. It’s time to start the hunt!

The most exciting news of my collegiate career

I came to MU with the goal of becoming an automotive journalist. While there isn’t an emphasis area geared toward cars, I thought that I’d have the opportunity to write automotive stories in many of my classes. While I’ve managed to squeak a car story by my editors every once in awhile, I’ve been a little disappointed that I haven’t been able to focus solely on my passion. That’s all about to change next semester. While the designated capstone course for the news reporting emphasis area is “Journalism and Democracy,” I didn’t really feel that it was the right fit for me. Usually, that class involves working in a group to cover a topic selected in class. The odds of that being anything automotive related was slim to none. Consequently, I started looking at other capstone courses to see what else was out there. Then I found out about the advanced writing capstone course offered in the Magazine sequence. The professor, Berkley Hudson, said I’d be able to spend the entire semester writing stories about cars. It was a dream come true and the dream I envisioned when I decided to come to the Missouri School of Journalism. This is the perfect opportunity to use all that I’ve learned in my intermediate writing, multimedia, photography and convergence classes and apply it to my true passion — writing about cars.

I’ve already started to brainstorm some of the projects that I would like to create next semester, so I’ll give you a small preview of what I’m thinking about. While it’s not uncommon for me to have my nose buried in various automotive rags such as Motor Trend or Car and Driver, I get a little depressed sometimes as a poor college student knowing that I won’t be able to afford any of the cars I’m reading about until many years into the future. Yes, that includes even a base model Ford Fiesta. I’m sure that I’m not the only person in the world to feel this way. There are many others in the world that burn with a need for speed and world-class handling, but their pocketbooks simply won’t allow it. I’m here to tell you that the preconceived notion that you need a lot of money to have a car that’s show and track-worthy is simply not true. That’s why I’d like to create “Stop Dreaming and Drive,” an online publication that highlights inexpensive, underappeciated performance that that can be modified to exceed the level of modern-day machines for less than $10,000.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been one to go with the crowd. When my friends were driving Mustangs, Camaros and Chevy Silverados during high school, I was cruising in a 1969 Buick Skylark Gran Sport that I built with my dad. We purchased it for $2,900 when I was 12-years-old and spent the next five years using my savings to restore the interior and replacing the tired 350-cubic-inch V8 with a rebuilt 455-big-block engine.

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Buick GS Interior

By the time it was ready for me to drive, I had less than $6,000 in a car that could outperform nearly everything in the parking lot at less than one-fourth the price. I loved having a one-of-a-kind performance vehicle that stood out from the rest, and my goal is to show others how easily it can be done without breaking the bank. After graduating high school and deciding to attend college nearly four hours away in Columbia, I knew that I’d have leave my ’69 behind, and I didn’t want all of my tuition savings to go in the gas tank and out the tail pipe. At 14 miles per gallon on the highway downhill with a tail wind, driving back and forth to Columbia in my ’69 would have been the equivalent of setting fire to a Texas-sized oil field.

Since retiring it from daily use, it now serves as my summer cruiser that sees occasional track time at Ozarks Raceway Park in Rogersville, Missouri. During my last visit, it outran a C5 Corvette Z06 in the the eighth-mile which proves the point I so desperately want to get across. You don’t have to have a lot of money or a name brand sports car to go fast and have fun. With basic mechanical skills, a good performance platform and a little help from “Stop Dreaming and Drive,” you can finally build the car of your dreams without exceeding your budget. If you’re dying to find out the car that replaced my ’69 for daily-driving use, check back in next Saturday to see my next project. Oh, and just a hint, it’s definitely not a Toyota Prius.