Thu's 1994 Honda del Sol Restoration Project Journal
Last Updated on May 13, 2016
PROJECT JOURNAL ENTRIES (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
Entry: 11/18/14 - When my girlfriend Thu experienced my survivor 1985 Mazda RX-7 she asked me to find "an antique car" for her. First of all it had to be an automatic transmission and it had to be something that was safe, fuel efficient, low maintenance and reliable. I first considered a vintage Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet but my personal experience with more modern Volkswagens had left a bad taste in my mouth, not anywhere near as easy to keep on the roads as their ancestors had been and especially in the '80s and '90s, pretty much a disposable car plagued with electrical problems. Then the idea of a '90's Honda del Sol hit me, the sporty 2-seater with a Porsche-style targa top on probably the most efficient and well engineered drivetrain Honda has ever made for the Civic. I quickly fell in love with the idea of having the now time-proven bulletproof SOHC VTEC engine drivetrain shared by so many Honda Civic models over nearly a decade that critical parts would be plentiful and cheap for many years into the future. I also figured that an automatic transmission model owned by a mature, hopefully female adult would still be in good shape with lots of life left when compared to a 5-speed manual transmission model constantly red lined to experience the "VTEC kick in" by the "Fast & Furious" generation . I immediately started texting and calling on '93 to '97 del Sol ads on Craigslist and found that all of the automatic transmission equipped cars listed had well over 200K miles on them and the prices were still in the low $3000 range. I looked at and drove a couple just out of curiosity and found that automatic cars made the perfect commuter car and that with a quarter million miles came a car that was pretty much at the end of its useful life; smoking engine, sagging suspension and ripped up interiors. It also provided tangible proof that the cars were indeed engineered to last so if I kept the faith, I would find a low mileage del Sol out there somewhere, plus checking Craigslist when I'm bored is a compulsive habit I have anyway, what's one more canned query?
Then after about a month of looking, one Sunday evening the "grandma's del Sol" ad I was waiting for came out, a son listed his mother's car for her with a brief description and no photos noting the car was "perfect" and with low mileage. I immediately texted the son, found out the mileage was "just over 100K" miles so I got the mother's phone number and arranged a meeting for the next day. The next day I met the mother, learned the car had been purchased from the estate of a retired Boeing avionics engineer, that it had been his wife's car and she was the second owner for the last 6 months. The car looked very good, other than some faded paint on the plastic parts and a few dents there was no collision damage and the original paint still had lots of shine. The engine looked good too, a file contained all the maintenance records, it had a recent brake job and the timing belt and water pump replacement at 100K miles. The car drove without any issues other than the steering wheel is a little off center and there's some fresh severe curb rash on the passenger front wheel making me think there's been a little bump that a new wheel and alignment would cure. So why was the lady selling the car? The problem with the car is the unusually heavy October monsoon season here in Seattle exposed a water leak and the new owner doesn't have a garage so she needs to sell it before any damage is done. She owned it all summer and loved it, so it broke her heart that the leak couldn't be fixed for a reasonable cost and she knew it was a matter of time before mold and mildew would ruin the car, plus she didn't like putting the car seat in the front seat when she drove her grandchild around (ding! grandma car!). After some discussion, she sold it to me for $3000 and it has 117,000 original miles, that's less than 6,000 miles usage per year! It passed the emissions test when it was purchased 6 months earlier so I didn't have to retest prior to transferring title, I was stoked, I found the exact car I was looking for and more, the "Si" package with the 1600 cc, 125 hp SOHC VTEC engine and fresh disc brakes on all 4 corners. The smaller 1500 cc, 105 hp edition would have been OK and the DOHC, 1600 cc, 160 hp edition of the car would have been perfect but those are hard to find in an automatic.
Water leaks are expensive to fix because to find them you need to remove the entire interior of the car and then watch for where water comes in, consuming hours and hours of labor at a shop but when combined with a refurbishment of the interior, it's just a simple additional task. Because she didn't have a garage, the owner recently installed a very high end alarm system with remote locking / starting system and a high-end Alpine stereo with Bluetooth cellphone connectivity. The car is an "Si" model so it has 4 wheel disc brakes, full electric windows, mirrors and rear window and leather seats. I surprised Thu with the car one evening, I took her out for a drive and then I had her drive it back home to make sure she liked it before starting the refurbishment process. If Thu didn't like it, I was just going to clean it up and flip it, thinking it could be sold for at least $5000 easy once detailed and marketed correctly. Thu's response is pretty easy to figure out from the photo below, she really likes the car! Given the fact that she currently owns a 2003 Honda Civic 4-door sedan and a 2005 Acura MDX and other Civics in the past, she's already a Honda fan and familiar with the controls and instrumentation so driving the del Sol was natural for her.
Given the condition of the car, my goal is to not "over restore" it but just freshen it up so it turns heads and is recognized as a true "survivor car" by people who admire seeing them on the road but not making it so perfect that Thu's afraid to drive it or more importantly park it when she drives it to work. Installing a new leather seat upholstery kit and molded cut pile carpet myself should keep the interior refurbishment budget well under $1000 yet give it a "new car" smell and feel and the exterior dent removal and paint detailing costs should be well less than $500. I see that eBay is a virtual junkyard with lots of reasonably priced parts to replace those like the door window and mirror control that have been used to the point that the lettering is worn off. Thu loves riding in my 914 Porsche with the top off and I'm very excited to give her the thrill of driving her own car with the wind blowing through her hair while sipping fossil fuels at a mere gallon every 35 to 38 miles! Above all, it's just fun to share the excitement of a project and my talents doing this kind of work with someone very special and making sure it's perfect for her makes both of us happy.
Entry: 11/20/14 - Before starting any work, I took a few pictures of the major cosmetic issues that need to be addressed. The seats, while not worn too much and with good solid cushions have tired leather that has dried out and wouldn't ever be able to be brought back to a level I would be proud of. The arm rests on both door panels have a problem I've seen on just about every del Sol I've looked at, the vinyl covering delaminates from the foam backing and creates a rather ugly wrinkle. The paint has quite a few little dents but the major ones are on the right targa sail and right front fender lip, luckily the paint isn't marred so the paintless dent repair guy should be able to make them look like they never happened. One of the excellent benefits to an original factory paint job is that it's thin enough to allow for a fixing dents without cracking the paint, whereas repainted cars (adding layers of paint over the factory base coat) lose the elasticity of the paint and cracks usually result.
Entry: 11/24/14 - The first task on the project was to polish out the trunk lid and hood, as an experiment to see if the scratches and stains could be removed and how much luster the original paint had left in it. After filling the chips and scratches with touch-up paint, I used Maguire's fine cut cleaning compound, followed with their swirl remover compound on my variable speed Makita buffer using a wool buffing disc. The results were pretty good, while not perfect, the remaining defects are very small and from 10 feet the car looks fantastic. I have to remind myself that this is a 20 year old paint job and that my expectations need to be adjusted accordingly. Once the dents are removed from the sides of the car I will give all the painted surfaces the same level of paint detailing.
Entry: 12/4/14 - Today the KATZKINS leather seat upholstery kit arrived for the car. I ordered a set with perforated inserts in the center panels simply because that's the way they are in my Porsche seats and I like the look. My friend Steve Shepp said I could bring the seats down to his shop some Saturday after the holidays and he would help me fit them to the original foam seat padding so they get a good tight look. I am really impressed at the quality of product that I paid $739 for, the ones for my Carrera were almost identical and the price was double simply because they go into a Porsche instead of a Honda!
Entry: 12/5/14 - Today I completed the engine detailing after powerwashing it with my favorite purple biodegradable detergent followed by treating all the plastic and rubber parts with Wurth Rubber Care and the metal surfaces with Boeshield metal protectant. I let the treatments sit on the surfaces overnight before blowing them off with compressed air where they pooled. The detergent leaves the surfaces somewhat dried out so the chemicals really soak in nice and things look very crisp and new. The only piece that got any real attention was the heat shield over the exhaust manifold and that was removed and given a flat aluminum ceramic coating using high temperature exhaust paint I had leftover from my Mazda RX-7 exhaust pipe project.
Entry: 12/6/14 - Searching eBay for replacement door panels led to the discovery of a product made for the Honda aftermarket to address the chronic sagging door arm rest problem seen on all the del Sols I've encountered. The vendor created an injection molded piece that follows the contour of the arm rest perfectly and it has three 7/16" threaded studs that require drilling holes in the door panel and attaching them firmly. They are covered with matching color and grain vinyl so once installed, only those familiar with the del Sol would know they are not from the factory. A $75 solution to make the existing door panels functional compared to trying to find an original set of door panels used that don't have the problem yet, any matching that description were around $500 for the pair on eBay. Once the arm rest covers were installed I completely removed the door panels from the car so the paintless dent removal guy could get at the dents from the inside. I also see how the aftermarket keyless remote entry actuators are installed and they look to be done very well.
Entry: 12/8/14 - I found a less worn master electric window and mirror switch on eBay for $40 and after cleaning it up, did a little touch-up to some of the worn lettering so it looks like new or at least much less used than the one original to the car.
Entry: 12/13/14 - Today the custom molded interior carpet arrived for the car to replace the faded and worn carpet. I went with a more luxurious cut pile to replace the loop pile carpet that came in the car and think it's remarkable quality for only $125. Removing the seats, interior trim and carpet took just less than an hour, putting the new carpet in shouldn't take long but I plan on covering all that bare sheetmetal with sound deadening Dynamat so the road noise will be significantly reduced. Both Thu and I commented on how loud the car was driving at highway speeds and I figured that there wasn't much in terms of sound deadening which was confirmed when I removed the carpet. Before proceeding with installing the sound deadener and the carpet is the task of finding where the water is entering the cabin from and my suspicions are that it's coming out of the defroster and heater ducting meaning a plugged or loose rubber tube or grommet.
Entry: 12/14/14 - I found a set of 4 original alloy wheels and center caps on eBay for $400 with shipping and will be "cherry-picking" the 8 that I have to work with to assemble the best set of 4. A couple of the wheels on the car have some severe curb rash so I needed to buy at least 2 wheels, finding a matching original set taken off the car years ago and stored in a garage couldn't be passed up and I can sell the ones I don't use or keep them in the event more encounters with curbs happen while Thu owns the car. I polished one of the wheels using a Mothers Power Ball Mini and the results speak for themselves in the following photos, the car is going to look stunning with the wheels polished up.
Entry: 12/16/14 - I have a old Saratoga Top for my Porsche 914's targa top and thought the del Sol aftermarket would certainly have one available for it. It didn't take long on Google to find that the company that has roots in the Saratoga Tops of the '70s is still out there and going strong. The new company is AmeriPol, Inc. and they offer a smoke or blue acrylic top that allow the original top latching mechanisms and trim to be transplanted from the factory top. Instead of stealing the parts off the top original to this car, I found a used on on eBay for $125. The transparent top cost $690 with shipping and can be sold by itself and the original top put back on the car if Thu ever decides to sell the car. Installation of the top latch and trim went extremely easily and quickly, my only modification to the instructions was that I left the latch fastening nuts finger tight until the top was latched to the car and then I tightened them and by doing it that way eliminated any trial-and-error fitting. The trip popped right in place and it looks really sharp both from the outside and the inside of the car. I thought Thu would really enjoy having a car that feels like a jet fighter cockpit when the top is on.
Entry: 12/19/14 - Today the paintless dent repair guy came and made all the dents in the car look like they never happened. He charged me $300 to do the entire car and it was money well spent, now I can proceed with detailing the paint and the outside of the car will be done.
Entry: 12/20/14 - The mirrors, door handles and targa top trim are actually plastic parts and over time have faded and the paint has worn very thin. I purchased a rattle can of factory color code matching paint from PaintScratch.com along with a can of clearcoat. The paint requires scuffing the surface with 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper before and between each coat and the paint must set for exactly 1 hour before applying the clearcoat. The color match is perfect and the results stunning so since the mirrors turned out so well, I'm going to order another can of the red and do the targa top trim around the back window.
The left door handle also had a very successful outcome and once the paint cures, I'll buff out the paint surrounding the handle on the door.
Entry: 12/26/14 - Today's task was to start the detailing of the relatively new brake rotors and calipers and mounting the existing tires on the better alloy wheels. I started with the right front, the one with the fresh curb rash, and began by removing the surface rust from the rotor. The new rotors were installed without doing anything to protect the bare metal so removing the surface rust simply required a wire wheel on my cordless drill. After the rust was removed on the hub, I did the outsides of the vents around the perimeter of the disc with the wire wheel first then used NAPA rust converter to convert the red oxidation to a black, inert substance since they can be seen through the alloy wheels. Finally I brushed on a couple coats of "industrial gray" Rustoleum paint on the hub, just like I do on Porsches. I'll let the hub dry overnight then go to work on the caliper with silver hi-temperature caliper paint.
Since the alloy wheels are only 14" diameter, I can mount and dismount the tires on my tire machine, which went quickly for the first one. The tires are also only about 6 months old and look very good on the polished wheel.
Entry: 12/29/14 - Over the last couple days I've polished all 4 wheels and repainted all 4 brake rotors and calipers. When I went to mount the older pair of tires on the rear I noticed the sidewalls had huge bulges where they were starting to separate so I quickly ran over to Les Schwab and bought 2 new tires to match the ones on the front that were just purchased last January. Total cost with mounting, balancing and new valve stems was only $177 for the pair, which I then mounted on the front and put the worn ones on the back. As it sits tonight, the wheel rehab project is done with the best 4 alloy wheels and center caps mounted where they will stay on the car.
Another little project was replacing the broken right front auxillary driving light with a NOS piece found on eBay. A rock had put a hole in the lense and allowed dirt and water to enter the housing. Removing all the screws holding on the flexible plastic front bumper cover allowed easy access to the housing and bracket and the R & R of the housing itself went pretty easy. Having the factory manual really makes these kind of tasks easy since it covers everything with such great detail and with supporting diagrams.
Entry: 12/30/14 - So this morning I piled a heap of moving blankets where the driver's seat should be and took the car out for a test drive at speed to see if the new wheels and tires on the front corrected the vibration telegraphed through the steering wheel and sure enough it did. No vibration whatsoever but the steering wheel is still clocked slightly to the right and it will require an alignment to center it and insure the front tires don't wear prematurely. It's really a bright day so I put the polorizing filter on the camera and the car is looking stunning with the new wheels! Next step, leak hunting while the interior is stripped out of the car!
Entry: 1/5/15 - The weather finally warmed up enough today that I could run a hose on my driveway without turning it into a hockey rink, so I could finally leak test the car and figure out where the water was entering the cabin. I thought it would be a good idea to remove the transparent top and put the original top back on since that combination was leaking. Once I got the old top put back on the car a gap between the driver's door weatherstrip and window glared at me, I could see the floor of the cabin through the crack! I installed the window switch and rolled the window all the way up with the door open and it became obvious, the window hit the back of the targa top's door glass stabilization block (something the Porsche 914 needs!). Crack open the factory repair manual to the door window adjustment page and there's only one bolt that actually adjusts so I located it on the car and moved it to the lowest position. Roll the window down and up and shut the door, PERFECT ALIGNMENT! I thought it would be a good idea to remove all the carpeting from the trunk before any leak testing and then I rolled the car outside and gave it a pretty thorough spray down with the hose, let it sit a few minutes, look inside the passenger compartment and it's BONE DRY! I'll let the car sit outside overnight and see if anything accumulates on the bare floors but I really think this is the cause of all the problems and such an easy fix, I wonder if the guys who installed the aftermarket keyless entry system messed up the window alignment? Who knows, lets just hope it's dry in the morning!
Entry: 1/7/15 - Next morning the car was dry as a bone in the passenger compartment and it seemed that the only problem was the power window alignment on the drivers door. That was too easy given the amount of water in the on both sides of the center hump. There had to be another leak somewhere in the car.
Then I opened the trunk and found a puddle of water on the right side of the car running down the right strut tower and coming from the spotweld seam joining the strut support member to the base of the targa sail. I looked at the Honda factory repair manual and saw there's a platic clip holding the plastic targa sail trim piece in that location and I figured that its foam rubber seal must have failed. The only way to confirm this was to remove the plastic targa sail trim pieces. Sure enough, all the evidence of water pooling around that particular trim clip was there, a layer of muck and a loose plastic clip. I also discovered that the upper drain tube grommet lays under the plastic targa sail trim and it was blocked, no water could drain from it, which explained why so much water had pooled and flowed over the leaking clip. My first task was cleaning up all the muck and dirt and using various brushes and compressed air to clear out the blocked drain tubes. It was also evident that water was trapped inside the rear window well and it slowly seeped out into the trunk and passenger compartment until I also cleared out the two lower drain tubes and watch water flow out until it was empty.
I called upon my old friend, 3M Strip-Culk to form new seals for all the plastic clips I had carefully removed and reinstalled around the rear of the targa sail. Since everything is hidden under the trim, I put excess amounts of sealer around the clips to make sure they would stay water tight for another 20 years or more. Once all the trim seals were reinstalled and screw holes taped over with duct tape, I subjected the car to the simulated monsoon rains using my garden sprinkler. Even direct spraying of the rear window resulted in positive results and I now consider the car to be water tight. I chose not to remove the rear window housing from the inside of the passenger compartment to get full access to the drain tubes because they seemed to be flowing well enough that messing up the window alignment seems like a bigger risk, I can always do it later since it doesn't impact any of the exterior trim and is all done from inside the car.
Ironically I had already considered removing the targa sail trim and repainting it with the PaintScratch.com two-stage paint that I used on the mirrors and door handle but didn't want to risk messing anything up since I was able to polish the pieces up quite a lot better than I first thought I could. I have already purchased very faded but complete pieces on eBay for less that $100 for the 3 pieces and still want to keep the originals as a fallback plan in the event I have problems with the painting. Now I'm at that point where I'm going to repaint the eBay pieces and have already carefully removed the rubber edge protectors that are glued to them. I'm feeling quite confident that I can get a good coat of paint on them now that I've already taken the other ones off the car as part of the leak repair process and now have the benefit addressing cosmetic issues as part of the leak resolution task.
Entry: 1/8/15 - Today was paint the targa sail trim day and afterwards I'm glad I chose to buy a second set of trim pieces because it's a very difficult piece to paint without getting runs and orange peel. I also am glad I was able to paint these pieces while off the car because in place it would have been a disaster, especially with not removing the little black plastic lip that goes along the edge that touches the body. All it all it looks like I got a very good job on the outer edges but the inner base area has a few runs in the clearcoat I'm going to have to rework by block sanding and polishing or reshooting just the run area with clearcoat. Net result is that it looks way better than the originals, which are still sitting here, available to installation in the event something goes terribly wrong before I get these pieces back on the car!
Entry: 1/8/15 - I let the fresh two stage PaintScratch.com paint dry overnight and found that the runs in the clearcoat that looked bad last night actually flattened out quite a bit overnight and won't really take that much careful block sanding to level out and polish. There is a bit of roughness from overspray on the targa sails because it's such a complicated piece to spray all at once but I did manage to get the outside edges that are visible from the sides of the car looking very smooth and shiny. Now I need to clean up the little black rubber lip that glues to the edge of the trim pieces that touch the body paint, which should be just a test of patience rather than skill. For the time being, the targa trim parts are sitting aside, hardening and curing so that I can colorsand the clearcoat, polish them and then glue on the little black rubber lips last.
With the car outside in the rain, testing the watertightness, I decided to get as much of the painting tasks out of the way in the heated shop so I knocked out the black plastic interior parts that are faded, have rub marks or new vinyl parts attached to them like the door panel arm rests and the center console ashtray. I used the SEM flexible coating for plastic, vinyl and leather products that I always use on my projects and found the "35383 Plastic & Leather Prep" cleaner did an amazing job of sucking all the silicone based protectants like Armor-All out of the surfaces and left them looking very dull and dry, perfect for absorbing the dye. I went with "15243 Satin Black" as the color to match the color of the brand new ashtray I purchased to fit in the console and replace the broken one. The vapors from both products are extremely toxic and proper lung protection is a must and I found it necessary long after spraying to keep the mask as the solvents in the product off-gassed. I suspended the door panels so I could paint them from the side rather than downward because the rattlecans work better that way. The new and old vinyl on the door panel / arm rests really blended nicely and nobody would guess they didn't come that way from the factory 20 years ago. In the end, all the pieces turned out perfectly and they're now sitting aside, curing and hardening as I prepare to start the Dynamat installation to quiet down that noisy passenger compartment. Redye of all these pieces required about a can and a half of the black flexible coating and about half a can of the prep. With the seat frame bits, steering wheel and a few other small parts, I'm thinking I still have enough of both products to finish the job at a cost of about $50 for the products.
Entry: 1/17/15 - Over the last several days I've installed the soundproofing insulation to the passenger compartment. I purchased a 50 square foot roll (16" wide) of "FatMat" off eBay for $109 with shipping. FatMat is a knockoff of Dynamat and performs just as good at about half the price. The kit came with instructions, a roller and a cutting blade. I started with the passenger side floorpan and found the product stuck and conformed very well if I used my heat gun and leather gloves to press it into the recesses. I marked the holes that I needed to cut out by putting bolts into them and found it very easy to get all the mounting points and wire tie holes opened up using an Exacto knife for installation of the ECU computer, gas door remote handle, wiring harness clips, interior trim and seats. When Thu and I were driving at highway speeds in the car we both commented on how much road noise came into the cabin. When I removed all the trim it was easy to see why, the rear quarter panels are virtually open to the interior, the seatbelt "housings" are plastic bags and there's a speaker grill right there to allow the noise in unmuffled almost right in your ear. I installed soundproofing mat against the outer sheetmetal and wheelwells inside each quarter panel and then sealed the opening shut with another layer of mat once the seatbelts were mounted. I chose not to apply any soundproofing mat to the rear window panel and will apply it from the other side of the window well, on the inside of the trunk later. As it sits now, the new molded, cut pile black carpet is set into place and ready for trimming and attachment. I chose to just cut the new carpet right down the middle so each side is installed separately since the console covers the entire "hump" down the center of the car. I've ordered another 50 square foot roll of FatMat to finish the doors and the trunk since 50 square feet was just enough to get this section done. I'll go ahead and install the interior trim while I'm waiting for the next roll to arrive.
Entry: 1/17/15 - Over the last couple days I've completed the carpet installation and reinstalled the interior trim and console. The gear indicator on the console had been cracked somehow and I was able to find a complete shifting cover, slightly used on eBay for $13 with free shipping, from which I removed the backlite gear indicator itself and installed it into the old one without having to remove the shifter handle. I also replaced the worn brake pedal pad with a NOS (New Old Stock) one found on eBay for $8, once again free shipping. The final thing that needed to be addressed was the worn areas on the steering wheel where hands wearing rings had worn through the dye on the vinyl and a new coat was applied using the same SEM product as I used on the door panels and interior trim. The new cut pile carpet looks very rich and pretty but there are still some deep wrinkles from it being rolled up to ship that will hopefully ease themselves out over time, if not, I'll have to steam them out. Really they're not all that noticable and most will be hidden by the seats. Next step, sound deadening mat in the doors and to reinstall the door panels, then the seats recovered with the new leather KATZKINS upholstery kits and the interior will be done! I am really excited to "hear the difference" in road noise with all the sound deadening insulation that's been added to the car, it should be like night and day.
Entry: 1/24/15 - Installing the sound deadening mat in the doors was a 4 step process; first applying the mat to the interior of the door skin, above and below the stiffening bar. Then using the old plastic moisture barrier as a pattern, fabricating and installing a new plastic moisture barrier using 3M strip caulk as an adhesive after scraping the original white caulk off. Then applying a layer of sound deadening mat over the plastic moisture barrier. Then finally installing the interior trim panel. I found a NOS inner door latch to replace the worn old one on the drivers side to freshen up the wear items. The aftermarket arm rests look like they belong there and hide the ugly wrinkle in the door panel. The passenger side went very quickly since all the patterns from the driver's side worked on the passenger side without modification other than remembering to flip them over. Once all buttoned-up, the cockpit looks very sharp and cozy. Slamming the doors replys with a nice dull "THUD" rather than the tinny "CLUNK" heard before all the sound deadening work, I really can't wait to hear the difference in road noise when driving it. Next step cleaning up the seat frames and installing the KATZKINS leather seat covers.
Entry: 1/26/15 - I got a good start on recovering the seats with the KATZKINS leather upholstery kit. I started with the driver's side since I can test drive the car sooner if I get that one done. The old leather covers came off without much of a fight and underneath was the remnants of the original red-center-stripe OEM fabric upholstery, leading me to believe the leather seats are an aftermarket upgrade installed after the car left the dealership. This explains why I haven't seen any other cars on Craigslist or eBay with this style of leather seats. The plastic trim on the outside of the seat was redyed with the SEM satin black flexible coating and the seat frames needed a few rusty areas cleaned up and prepped for a semi-gloss black repaint. I successfully installed the headrest cover and have the back and bottom covers stretched over the foam but not attached using hog rings. There are indications that glue was used to attach the leather covers to the original OEM fabric in order to have the center section of the seats conform to the concave shape of the foam pad and I'm not sure that I'll be able to replicate that look, we'll see as I continue manhandling the covers over the foam.
Entry: 1/27/15 - When I woke up this morning, planning to install the leather KATZKIN seat upholstery, I had no idea what a "lister" was. I would have never imagined that I'd be spending the afternoon feeding weed-whacker line through listers and then stitching it into place using Kevlar thread, secured with a surgeon's knot, then using wax coated button twine and a 12" needle to secure the weed-whacker line into a channel I would need to cut into the molded seat cushion foam. But then again, I visited my buddy Steve Shepp, the Pebble Beach Concours winning trimmer at his shop in Ballard, showed him the seat back covered with the leather cover zipped over it like a drum and asked him for some coaching on how a professional would install the kit. I had completely missed the pair of listers sewn on the back side of each of the side bolsters and Steve explained how reinforcing them with plastic line (weed whacker line) stitched into place, cutting a channel in the foam for them to nest into, then running a line from them through the seat foam and anchoring them from the back of the seat creates a very secure and tight base for the leather cover to sit in. Then Steve gave me the proper needle, wax-coated button twine, hog rings and plier and sent me on my way. The real challenge is to get both seats to match perfectly, hence the need for the transparent plastic pattern on where to cut the 3/8" wide by 3/4" deep channels and make the holes for the wax coated button twine to pass through. I used standard 1/16" thick water resistent panel board to create 1" wide hole bases for tying the twine off against on the back side. The leather seems to have some puckers and gathers from sewing and I think it will smooth out with use and relax, the covers fit tight as a glove and should be extremely comfortable to sit on, my 220 pound body will really stretch and press that leather into submission as I sit on the seats.
Entry: 1/30/15 - Over the last couple days I finished the seat bottom, of the driver's seat which was super easy, using welding rod and hog rings to hold it to the metal pan containing the molded cushion. I repeated the exact same steps on the passenger seat and installed it this afternoon. You can see the drivers seat is looking smoother after the leather is allowed to ease itself onto the molded foam for 48 hours and I would expect both sides continue to relax and the wrinkles and puckers fade away over time. The seats are super supportive in the lumbar area and have firm side bolsters and even at 6'4" and 220 pounds I find them to be very comfortable. I also drove the car today and found the nearly 60 square feet of sound deadening mat really took care of the road noise issues. So this pretty much finishes the interior of the car and now just the targa sail trim and the trunk carpet needs to be reinstalled and the paint on the sides of the car needs to be buffed out before I consider the project finished.
Entry: 2/4/15 - After taking a closer look at the duplicate (spare) set of plastic targa sail trim pieces I had removed the rubber lip from the outer edge of and repainted using the PaintScratch.com 2-stage paint to refinish, I decided that I should rethink my approach and see if simply spraying a clear coat on the pieces original to the car and leaving the rubber lip attached would give a better result. I tried one and don't think I can get the rubber lip glued back on the spare pieces and have it look right or at least not bug me because they're not as snug as original. So with again with a "plan B" in place if this didn't work, I simply scuffed the faded original red paint, wiped the surfaces with lacquer thinner and sprayed a thin coat of the PaintScratch.com clear coat onto them. The results are pretty amazing, especially after letting the fresh clear coat cure and then using rubbing compound to remove any overspray caused by trying to "shoot" such a complex surface. I was so confident in a good result that I then "tented-off" the car and used the same approach to the 4 plastic trim pieces on the windshield frame and targa bar. The the clear coat restores the deep luster of the red paint and look as good as the parts like the mirrors which I painted with red and then the clear. Once the clear coat dried and hardened a little, I reinstalled the original targa trim pieces and stored the spare painted ones away in case I ever have to revisit the problem while Thu owns the car.
Entry: 2/6/15 - Just like when I was a kid, the decals are the last step to a model kit "project" so while detailing the paint on the front, back and sides of the car, I applied the NOS "civic" decal purchased on eBay for $25. There was a "shadow" where the original decal was located on the rear license plate panel of the car and the transfer card the decal came on was intended to be used as a locating tool because the offsets given in the factory repair manual were exactly the same as the distances from the edges of the transfer card. Everything went perfect and the decal matches the "del Sol" decal on the passenger side of the panel so it looks like the original one never came off. The paint looks terrific after using Maguire's scratch removing compound on it and I can't wait to see the car in the sunlight. Only a couple more details to finish up, like adjusting the right headlight, reinstalling the trunk lining, a wheel alignment to center the steering wheel, balance the right rear tire to cure a vibration at highway speed and swap out the scratched glovebox with an unblemished one I found on eBay for $31. Oh, and the SRS (supplemental restraint system) warning light came on during my last drive so I need to reset it using a technique I found on YouTube. I suspect disconnecting the ECU during the sound deadening mat installation might have done something to the SRS computer or a component in the SRS system has gone bad and that can be determined by a code thrown by the SRS computer if the light comes back on after I reset it.
Entry: 2/13/15 - Getting the right rear tire balanced was a freebie at Les Schwab tires because of the warranty on the tires purchased there. Adjusting the right headlight allowed me to finally use that cardboard box the cover for my hot tub came in and like a good hoarder, I kept the box for just such a project! I put a strip of blue masking tape where the light beams initially hit the cardboard with the car exactly lined-up so the distance from each headlight to the cardboard was exactly the same. Then I used a very long phillips screwdriver and cranked the adjuster closest to the radiator clockwise probably 4 or 5 turns. In the end both beams were exactly the same distance from the ground and when driving the car, converge about 100 feet ahead of the car, aimed at the line on the shoulder of the road and out of the eyes of the oncoming driver, just like they should. Now I've got to make an appointment with Les Schwab to get the front end aligned and put that trunk liner back in. The SRS warning light is also still on the list.
Entry: 2/11/16 - I had been noticing that the turn signal switch was having an intermittent problem completely engaging for a the right turn and the lane change feature wasn't working at all so a little shopping on the Internet brought me to partsgeek.com and a brand-new OEM replacement part for $141. A quick study of the factory repair manual revealed it's a one page entry for changing the switch needing only a phillips screwdriver and 5 screws. Literally, a 5 minute job and now the high wear part is brand new and functions perfectly for about as much work as changing a headlight bulb. I'm constantly impressed by the aftermarket support for Honda Civics, probably because of the fact so many models shared the same basic parts.
Entry: 5/13/16 - I've been watching eBay for months, waiting for a factory, Milano red JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) rear spoiler that was available from the dealer when the car was new and standard equipment on the top-end DOHC engine model. Well, a used one finally came up for $93 and it was described as cosmetically very good but not perfect, still original paint so I took a chance and bought it hoping that it would match the color and patina of the car. When it arrived, I was extremely pleased, while it's not perfect for a freshly painted car, it is a perfect match to this car and looks like it was there from the start! A quick "Google" on how to attach it and it became clear that it would be easy because there are mounting points pressed into the underside trunk lid stiffening frame and simply finding those, determining the center point of the two front ones and then matching a cardboard pattern to those locations and drilling 4 holes. Using a big plywood hole backside locating caliper I made way back when I was drilling holes in my reproduction WWII jeep tub came in handy for locating center points of the two forward mounting holes and marking them on the outside of the trunk lid. A very accurate pattern was made on stiff cardboard using the mounting studs on the actual spoiler and then carefully marking the locations (on masking tape) and making sure everything was perfectly parallel to the front edge of the trunk lid and centered to the "H" Honda emblem. I drilled one hole at a time and used the spoiler mounting studs to verify my locating marks before drilling each subsequent hole just as a "gut check" to make absolute certainty everyting was lining up as intended. The result is a really sweet addition to my WIFE'S car! Yes, we got married on April 30, 2016 and so now the car is half mine and all the other cars in the collection are half hers! :)