802Projects

My Green VR4 Story

Everyone has a vehicle that they regret selling. In a way, I've actually sold this car three times. In this blog entry I am going to go over the history of my old green 94 vr4 and share some of the memories I have had with the car.

It was the summer of 2005. I was 20 years old and my daily driver for the past 3 years was a red 93 non turbo 3000gt SL. I had just finished my 2nd year of Computer Engineering Technology at Vermont Tech and returned home for the summer. Normally I would work full time on our family dairy farm, but this summer I took on a slightly better paying job painting houses for a former high school teacher. It was his summer job too. I still helped out around the farm, especially on weekends or if the weather wasn't co-operating. It's hard to paint in the rain. Then there were days I'd get home from painting and bail hay. Little did I know that would be the last summer of our dairy operation, but that's a story for another day. I saved every penny that summer with the intention of buying a vr4.

It was really a "right time, right place" kind of deal I stumbled on. On the 3si forum someone posted a link to a Viper website that listed a green 94 vr4 with around 100k miles for $7500 or $6000 with stock wheels. In that era it was a good deal regardless of condition. What made it a great deal was that it had a clean title, 0 accidents, 0 rust and had some nice bolt on mods (exhaust, intake, bov, lowered etc..) The sale ads on each forum are still even up:

Now this is what made it an even better deal... The car was located in Flemington NJ. My grandparents had a camp on Lake Carmi. Their camp neighbors (who have a son my age and that I've been really good friends with all my life) lived in Pennington NJ. They were headed home the coming weekend and the car was literally 20 minutes away from their house! I got a free ride down. Here are some pics from the sellers original ad. Sorry for the quality. It's what our cell phones would take at the time.

I'd like to point out that the guy who sold me the car was Jerome Sparich. He was an ASE Master Technician who said he was going to be buying a Viper. I remember when my friend and I showed up at his house. He was wearing a Shania Twain T-Shirt which we've always thought was funny/weird. Sadly Jerome passed away in early 2013. He was well known on the Viper forums and has thousands of posts. One day in ~2012 I shared a picture of my 3000gt in a New England Subaru forum, and he came into the thread to comment on the car. He also made sure to comment on how good the exhaust looked (more on that later!). Here's a picture showing just how good the tips looked.

At the time the car was my baby. I literally spent every dime I earned on it. In college while taking classes I worked part time in the IT department. On weekends I'd come home and milk cows. I did stats for the Vermont Tech basketball team when they had home games. I even took a one-time job off a college bulletin board. I spent 4 hours filling and hauling out bags of insulation in someone's attic for $80. One day a professor came into class and asked if anyone wanted a text book. I guess it was common for professors to be sent free books in hopes they may chose them for their curriculum. I raised my hand and sold that book on online:)

I spent a lot of time on the forums. I didn't really have the option to pay someone to work on the car. I was going to try and do as much as I could myself. Fortunately through college nothing major really went wrong with it and I was able to give it the transformation I wanted. Cosmetically I did the 99 conversion with a Cianci replica 99 vr4 wing and some moda R6 wheels. Mechanically I did new pads/rotors, an RPS LW flywheel with street max clutch, poly motor mounts, 3sx radiator, new plugs, custom Front Mount intercooler, vacuum reduction etc... It was a big learning curve for me as I had never done any of this stuff. I'm greatful for my cousin Jason who was able to help with the big stuff. I can do a timing belt job in my sleep now, but at the time it was a lot to tackle starting off. Being family and me being a college student, Jason was underpaid for his time for sure and the pizza my parents chipped in didn't cut it!

The car was perfect. It looked great, sounded great, and ran great. The summer after college I started going to car meets, car shows and the dragstrip. Despite having to cross the Candian border, Napierville Dragway was about an hour away. The best I did in my green vr4 with stock turbos was 12.8 at 112mph. I still have the timeslip framed on my wall along with a rare 3si magazine. I'd go on to run a faster time of 12.6 in my black vr4, but sadly they made some changes to the printer and/or ink at the end of the track. A stack full of time slips turned into a stack full of blank receipt paper inside my drawer.

Every Thursday night if the weather was good, a small group of us were going to Canada to race and eat Poutine. I remember at the gate they use to give everyone a coupon for "une biere" (one free beer). It's as if they encourage racing and drinking. We had a some failures at the track. My friend Tommy went through a blown transmission and several broken axles in his DSM. Triple A picked up his car a few times at the diner next door where he just "happened" to break down. My friend Trevin spun a bearing and only made it half way home. My alternator started to flake out one night so I left early. I drove all the way home in 2nd gear to keep the rpms up and I used my headlights sparingly.

My car was even in a Memoria day parade in St. Albans VT. It was an unusually warm day and if you were there you probably remember me. I was the badass looking vr4 overheating and losing coolant all down main street. Here is a photo I took before getting in line. The heat and slow traffic put my coolant system to the test and it failed.

Here is a video someone took of me driving it to World of Wheels in Boston the summer of 2008. I didn't enter the show, but my car generated some discussions in the parking lot.

Now this is where my story takes a turn for the worse.

The previous winter I had upgraded my turbos to 15gs and went to 550cc injectors and an SAFC. Here's a picture of me working on the actual car. This was all done in a 2 car garage at a house me and two friends were renting after college. The consensus is my tune (or lack of) was not suitable for WOT. My car broke down on the interstate after doing a pull and it wouldn't start. Little did I know I ended up destroying the land ring on one of my pistons. I had the car towed back home which also turned out to be a disaster. While riding in the tow truck I heard a noise. I looked back and saw one of the flatbed chains had came lose and was strung out straight up into the air about 15 feet above the trailer. As it came down it hit the spinning trailer tire and flung forward smashing the passenger window of the tow truck right near my head. I was covered in shattered glass but fortunately ok. The same goes for my car.

At the time I was really living paycheck to paycheck. It didn't help that I had also bought an 05 Subaru WRX STI as a DD which was a $561 monthly payment. I had justified the STI with the notion that I would sell my vr4. But after posting it for sale without any serious bites, I somehow found the means and justification to upgrade my turbos instead. Fixing the vr4 was just not in the cards and I knew I'd get no where near what I was asking if it had a blown motor. So I made a spreadsheet and entertained the idea of parting it out. And that's just what I did...

I sold anything and everything. Someone wanted some plastic clips from the hatch, I sold them. Window regulators... gone. You want the ABS pump? Sure here it is. To save time removing it I just cut the brake lines. All the modifications (many which I acquired as good deals) sold quickly. It helped that my old college roommate still had his vr4. He drove up from NH and grabbed some of the bigger items like my mint condition door cards. Not only did he also buy my beloved Borla exhaust with carbon Borla tips, but I actually installed it on his car on jackstands in the driveway. (Side note: this is the same exhaust I have on my black car. When my old roomate sold his vr4 I bought it, took my exhaust back, and resold it.) Someone came and said they would give me $50 if I could pull the windshield without cracking it. That was a mistake and waste of time. I didn't even have a cherry picker for the engine. I just disassembled it in place. I pulled the heads and sold them. Pulled the pan, rods and sold those. When it was just the block left attached to 3 motor mounts, I was able to manhandle it to the ground safely. When all was said and done I had made more money selling parts than I was even asking for the car.

At this point inside a 2 car garage of our raised ranch rental was my vr4 in a very sad state. I'm sure the landlords would have loved to see it. It was not a roller by any means and I hadn't really thought of how I was going to remove it. All I knew is that my cousin Jason would have some ideas. He came down with my dad and his trailer. I was able to make some rear struts out of wood and use 2 spare tires so that the rear of the car rolled. We were able to lift the front end and get it on the trailer. We put it on some cinder blocks in the barnyard of our non-operational farm and I covered it with a tarp. That is where it would sit for a short while.

I ended up selling the STI a week later. The payments were too much and I felt like the 2.5rs coupe I had prior to the STI was just more fun to drive. So I bought another 2.5rs coupe to daily drive. For about a month that was my only car and I started to modify it. That's about how long I lasted before I needed to have another vr4. I found a great deal on a completely stock black on black 94 vr4 with 37,800 miles for 14k. It's been 13+ years and I still own that vr4. There is a build page for it in the left hand pane.

Flash forward to 2009 and I'm in a much better state financially. I had tried to post my old vr4 shell on ebay with a minimum bid of $200 for Local Pickup Only. No bites. Something in my head started saying "Hey you should bring it back to life!" and that's just what I did. I found a good deal on a salvage title 95 TT stealth with a piston sticking out the side of the block. I think it was $800. I found a rusty green non turbo 3000gt that I drove home for $1000. And I found a 68k mile TT longblock motor with turbos for $1200. I had the partout experience and I knew what parts were worth. I figured I could take the best of everything, sell what I don't need and use that money to offset some of the other costs (new clutch, timing belt stuff). Here are some pics as I turn it back into a roller.

I pulled all the scrap parts from inside the car and slowly started cleaning and re-assembling. Having the two parts cars gave me a reference for everything. Remember I had cut the ABS lines? I had to carefully remove them from the stealth. It only took a few weekends for me to get the car in a running state. I was doing this work in my parents garage which was an hour away. I'd go up there for the weekend. I think they thought I was crazy (or stupid), but I pushed the shell into the garage with a 4 wheeler and ended up driving it out.

The first place I drove it was up the road to my cousin's house. He knew I was working on it again, but I think he was surprised to see it. I gave him the shells from the two parts cars so he could get some money from them in scrap metal.

Despite the car being multiple colors I did drive it around. I didn't care. It became even more flashy when I put a bright yellow 99 front bumper on it. Then I found a really good deal on an OEM 99 vr4 wing. I ended up with a puzzling oil leak around the front main seal. I had replaced the seal prior to putting the motor in, but it was definitely leaking. I replaced it again with no success. It's not an easy task as the timing belt has to be removed each time. It wasn't until the 3rd time that I realized the crank had a tiny scratch in it:/ As the oil heat up, it would seep through the scratch. The car sat for a few months until I discovered something called a micro repair sleeve. That finally fixed it for good.

At this point in my life I had bought a house with a decent sized attached garage and had some friends living with me. I decided I was going to tackle the paint. I had some body work experience, but I had never sprayed anything. I didn't let that stop me. I figured I can't make the car look any worse. I decided to do it right and strip the car down to bare metal.

Afterwards I used epoxy primer, then filler primer, block sand, sealer, paint, clear, wetsand, and buff. I had to watch some videos on cleaning/adjusting a spray gun, but it wasn't bad. I took my time and made sure I got around all the edges. I'm a pretty fussy person and I have had stuff painted for me in the past. When there is light coverage on inside edges of bumper covers or underside of a wheel well it drives me nuts. Everything was coated thoroughly and I was very happy with the way it came out. I wet sanded right up to the edges and was careful buffing.

A new windshield was put in and the car really did look brand new. I regret not getting some better photos of it right after paint.

So the story does not end here. My roommate (who owned the Evo you see in some of the pics) is the same person who broke down at Napierville earlier in his DSM. His DSM was getting rusty and he parted it out. Someone in Florida wanted to buy his stroker motor. I was also in negotiation on an STI 6 speed drivetrain for my 98 2.5rs Subaru in South Carolina. So this is what we did. We pulled out the entire interior from behind the front seats of my 3000gt. Then using blankets and straps, we somehow managed to safely secure his stroker motor behind us. We each took Friday off so we'd have a 3 day weekend and we drove from Vermont to Florida to deliver his motor. Afterwards we drove to South Carolina where we proceeded to remove the drivetrain from an 05 STI. It was on jackstands in the guys driveway. We then loaded it up (We are talking a 6 speed trans, axles, hubs, driveshaft etc... I even took the carpet.)in my 3000gt and drove home.

In some of the pics you can see how the car has a nice sag to it from it being loaded up. I wish I had a photo of the dsm motor in the back. I can't believe we didn't take a picture. Also that cat is from Shulers BBQ in Latta SC. It is by FAR the best BBQ I've ever had. I had discovered it on another road trip by dumb luck. We were hungry and an app called Urban Spoon suggested it based on our location. Now anytime I go anywhere near SC, I'll find a reason to stop there. It is that good. We slept for 4 hours in their parking lot waiting for them to open.

The following year I ended up parting with my 3000gt. I already had my black vr4 and really didn't need 2 identical cars in different colors. The biggest reason was I wanted to put money into my Subaru. So I posted it for sale. I ended up trading the vehicle to Joe. He's known on the forums as ByeByeSti. He had a silver vr4 in the past and had recently picked up a RHD JDM STI swapped 2.5rs sedan that he was having second thoughts on. The car was nasty and I knew it was worth more in parts than I was asking for my 3000gt. We made the trade. I had some registration tax credit so I registered the car and did drive it some. It had the RA gearing in the trans which made it have torque everywhere. RHD cars do take some practice. I can't tell you how many times I turned on my wipers when I meant to turn on my directional. Then when I hopped back into a LHD car I'd again mix things up. Someone offered to buy the Subaru outright from me, but I knew their offer was about 4k short of what I'd get in a partout. So that is what I did. Plus being an ODBI v4 sti motor in a ODBII year would make inspections difficult. Someone did end up buying the rust free shell with motor/wiring in place so I assume its still on the road somewhere.

Joe started dumping money into the vr4. He got rid of the wheels for some volk TE-37s. He went with a dual core front mount. He pulled the transmission to have it built with a billet end case. And he put on a single shot HKS Carbon TI exhaust, a 99 center garnish and some JDM tail lights. The car looked amazing.

Then more bad news... Joe was rushing trying to do something and he accidentally hooked up the battery backwards. He spent a few weeks troubleshooting. He could get the car to run but it was having all kinds of electrical problems. He gave up the car. He pulled the mods he had put on and posted it for sale as a project car. It didn't come with a trans, needed wheels/exhaust/intercooler and had electrical problems. My friend Patrick ended up buying it. He sourced a transmission for it, bought the same intercooler kit Joe had used, and found some wheels to make it a roller. He sourced a new hood too. I'm not sure if it was Joe or Patrick, but someone tried to close the hood with some tools sitting on the engine and it caused an exterior bulge. Patrick sat on the project for a while before contacting me. His friend had a 94 yellow vr4 parts car and the deal was I could get my car back and pull the wiring/ecu from the parts car.

So that is just what I did. I took EVERY harness from the parts car (royal PITA) and swapped everything out. The hood he found wasn't the same color so I plastidipped it black. The trans he sourced was good so I put it in. I then needed to find an exhaust for it. I ended up fabricating my own up using some cheap stainless pipe and an eBay CF muffler. I was trying to simulate the HKS Carbon TI exhaust without the costs.

I basically did what I could to make the car presentable and run and drove fine. I didn't want to drive it through winter, but I really had no choice. I fluid filmed the underside beforehand and it saw it's first winter. It was actually fun to drive in the snow and the fluid film did a great job. Next spring I ended up selling the car back to Patrick. That wasn't before I recovered the seats.

I hope you enjoyed this post. As a teenager with a non-turbo 3000gt, a vr4 was dream car. I had a lot of good memories with this one. Some of them weren't so great. Like the morning before I headed back to college to start my sophomore year, I decided to check my transmission fluid level. I had to drive onto some short boards in order to raise the front of the car high enough for the ramps. As I transitioned from the short boards to the ramps, the rear section of the boards rocked upwards into my sideskirts cracking them both:( That was a bad memory. One of my friends also shut my hatch with a screwdriver still sitting inside. If you open the hatch and look closely at the left hand side you can still see a minor imprint of it. That was an OK memory. Using a vehicle that I loved as a catalyst to meet new friends has been some of the best memories.

So what now? I'm not sure what will happen to the car. Patrick still owns it and the picture below is from his FB. He said I'll be the first to know if he ever decides to sell it. I won't be sad if I never own the car again. At the same time, I probably wouldn't pass up a sale on it. Patrick did pull the motor and was planning on doing a performance build and full repaint job to red. The clearcoat on the car has also started to peel. I think I would return it to a legit 2g vr4 body style as I already have a 1g and 3g. Maybe lowered with clear corners. I can't decide if I'd go with the 94-96 front bumper or the 97-98. But that is not something I shouldn't be worrying about now. Maybe someday I'll have that problem:)