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Technical Corner : Project Cars : Eclipse GS-T Last Updated: Aug 16th, 2006 - 11:01:00

AWD Conversion: Picking up the AWD Shell
By Jacob Isaac-Lowry
Oct 12, 2004, 23:08

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On Friday, October 8th 2004, myself and Vlad Sushko, representing the AutomotiveForums.com staff packed up and heading to Baltimore, Maryland to pick up the newest component for the Project Eclipse. What were we going to get? A 1995 AWD Eagle Talon shell to convert the project GS-T to AWD.

The journey first started when we had discovered the Talon for sale via DSM Trader. While Baltimore is quite a trip, the price was right and we jumped at the chance to pick up a complete AWD drivetrain. While the Talon had no engine, included in the rolling shell was a complete Baer big brake upgrade front and rear with matching front and rear calipers, full 3" turbo back RSR exhaust, RM AWD swaybars, Tokico Illumina adjustable shocks, Eibach pro kit springs, B&M short shifter, 18" wheels with decent tires, and the suspension components came complete with energy suspension bushings installed. Not a bad find.

While we aren't planning on using the Illumina shocks, the springs, the Baer brake kit, or the wheels on the Project GS-T, most of the equipment will make great additions to the daily driver 1994 Galant GS which is mechanically very similar to a second gen DSM. What can't be used will be parted out.

Now for the interesting part of the story.

When we committed to purchasing and picking up the AWD shell there still remained several LARGE obstacles.

  • We had no truck
  • We had no trailer
  • We had no tow hitch
  • The Project Car fund was $2500 short
      The easiest way to describe the calamity is to break down the evolution of the trip by day.

      First on the agenda was to collect the money we needed. We began searching for ways to obtain rush financing to purchase the shell. We also began the search for a rental truck and a rental trailer to tow the Talon. After digging through the phone book, asking around, and searching online we tracked down a trailer. But it was in Danville, KY about an hour and a half away. At the end of Wednesday, we still needed the money, needed a truck, and had found a trailer an hour or so away.

      Success! Through the assistance of a nameless benefactor we collected the money we needed via certified check. Unfortunately we did not have time to deposit the check into the Project Car account. We also received an update on the trailer, it was no longer in Danville, now they had one available in Frankfort, a much closer location. Things were looking up. We lucked out too and found a company that rented trucks. However, that company did not allow towing with their vehicles and as such the truck did not come equipped with a tow hitch. In response we came up with a plan, we could get a tow hitch, bolt it to the truck, tow, and then return the truck to stock before turning it in. The only problem with this was that the company could not guarantee which type of truck we would be getting. It could be a Chevy, Ford, or Dodge. We would have to pick up the truck and then somehow get a hitch to fit it. I spent the evening trying to track down as many hitches as I could find to borrow. I only got one, a Chevy hitch off a late 90's Tahoe. We would have to see how everything worked out on Friday.

      At 8 in the morning we were contacted again by the company with the trailer, now it was in Versailles. Even closer, good news for us. At 9 we went to the bank to deposit the check. After that I had to go to work and Vlad had to go to school. At 1:30 I was contacted by the rental company, they had a truck in that our hitch would fit! I immediately called Vlad who was responsible for renting the truck… no answer. The truck would be given to the next person who walked through the door wanting one and if we didn't get it our trip would be screwed. After an hour of failed attempts to contact Vlad, things were looking bleak and I had to leave work to go to pick up the trailer in Versailles. The problem, I had no truck to go get it. A quick phone call to a friend with an S-10 saved the day.

      On the way to pick up the S-10 I stopped by the bank again to have a certified check made to the seller of the car. BIG PROBLEM, even though the deposit I had made earlier allowed me access to the money, I could not write a certified check until the next day. I couldn't do that because there are not bank branches in Baltimore. After a minor heart attack, the teller at the Bank cut some corners and pulled the original certified check out of the deposit stack and just gave it back to me to sign over to the seller. Talk about getting lucky. On to Versailles, I picked up the S-10 and headed out. I had no hitch or ball on the S-10 and the owner of the rental place was kind enough to point me down the street to the local NAPA to get a ball installed. 15 minutes later and I was back and ready to hook up the trailer. With everything buttoned down, I rolled out - sort of. Imagine a ˝ ton trailer tied to the back bumper of an 89 S-10. It was tricky going, but I had no choice. About 40 minutes later, I made it back to the house and unhooked the trailer. You can see just how big it was compared to the S-10 in the pictures below. Oh, and you might recognize the truck as the very first AA feature car. The dice shift knob made changing gears a breeze. The trailer however, made it terrifying. The little S-10 that could, leashed to the car trailer

      Score 1, we had the trailer, and over the course of towing it back I finally managed to get a hold of Vlad, he had been at physical therapy. We rendezvoused back at the house and he left to pick up the rental truck and I went to return the S-10, pick up my car, and head back to work. At about 7 PM Vlad brought the truck out to the shop where I work to sneakily install the hitch and tap into the truck's wiring harness for the trailer lights. Almost immediately we discovered that the truck was the right type of truck, wrong generation and our hitch wouldn't fit. Despair! At this point it was too late in the day to buy a hitch anywhere. But we were struck by inspiration, a quick glimpse at the owner's manual showed that the bumper towing capacity was roughly 5000 lbs, more than enough to tow an engine and trannyless Talon. We only needed a ball and not a complete hitch! Vlad had to meet some people for dinner and I had to finish up at work so we split. After work, I swung by Wal-Mart and picked up a ball hitch for the bumper and went to meet Vlad for a late dinner, i.e. midnight. Afterwards, in complete confidence we headed back to the shop to install the ball hitch. Huge problem, the ball we had was too short and wouldn't go all the way through the bumper. Back to Wal-Mart to find a longer one, turns out they don't have any longer ones. Uh oh. We then headed to Meijers in hope of finding a hitch. Fortunately, they stock ball hitches that are long enough but not the right diameter leaving us with 3500lb towing capacity. Cutting it close, but we figured we would be okay. Back to the shop again to install this one. Everything is going well so far, I tightened up the hitch with the impact and then noticed that it had cross threaded itself and wasn't tightening properly. Crap. When we went to take the hitch off, it wouldn't come off. After 5 minutes with a saw we were left with 2 dull blades and a scratch in the hitch. Time for the plasma cutter. We backed the truck up and I went to work. Keep in mind this in on the rental truck, which we have to return. After 5 straight minutes of cutting we had the hitch off.

      Pulling down the tailight wires to tap into Vlad decorating the rental truck Attempting to install the ball hitch the first time Me cutting the cross threaded ball hitch off the bumper

      My co-driver aggresively preparing himself for his leg of the trip Back to Meijers. Vlad returned the still smoldering hitch which had melted itself into the package and explained that it had become cross threaded and we were forced to cut it off with a 'laser'. The poor people working there had no idea what he was talking about and simply gave him another one. This time we used a couple fender washers just in case and presto, finally at 4:00 AM we had the hitch on. A quick trip back home to hook up the trailer and wiring and we were all set to roll out.

      We left the city limits at about 5:00 in the morning and had 550 miles ahead of us. I drove through the night and Vlad picked it up in the morning. We made it to Baltimore at 2 in the afternoon, met up with the seller and headed to go pick up the Talon. It took us about an hour an a half to get the car loaded up, collect the tranny, exhaust, axles, etc. and load them up in the truck bed, and stop at home depot for some rope to tie everything down. And we were back on the road.

      The Talon tied down on the trailer Refilling the huge gas tank on the truck...again The Talon tied down on the trailer Extra parts tied down in the truck bed

      Driving back through the mountains of West Virginia with a car leashed to the back of our vehicle made me truly proud to be an American. I mean honestly, were else in the world can you buy a vehicle that can tow 3500+lbs and not even care. It was awesome. For those of you out there that love trucks, I can now say that I completely understand. I've never towed anything before and I must say it was pretty cool, even if you love your zippy sports coupe like I do, there still isn't any feeling quite like cruising the road, 3 feet above everyone else and in command of 7000 lbs of mass.
      AWD Talon sitting in the driveway But I digress. In any event, we made it to Baltimore and back without any drama, a much needed relief from the overwhelming chaos of the two days leading up to our departure. Once home, we parked the truck, trailer, and Talon behind the house and crashed. When we woke up Sunday afternoon, it was time to return all of our borrowed equipment. We rolled the talon down off the trailer and I returned the trailer in Versailles. I took the ball hitch off the truck and replaced the plastic on the bumper. Vlad returned the truck on Monday after he had taken all his stickers off of it and our mission was declared accomplished.

      Looking out my window right now, I still can't believe that the Talon is sitting there in my driveway. After all we went through to track down the truck, trailer, somehow prepping the truck to tow the trailer, and driving 1100 miles in the 24 hours, it still hasn't sunk it that we pulled it off. Although, in retrospect the fact that we did pull it off is the most satisfactory part of the trip. But I think that once I nail my first AWD launch in the GS-T, I'll change my opinion on that bit about what's the most satisfactory.

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