Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Project SRT8: Issue After Issue After Issue...

There have been few posts about the progress of the SRT8 Jeep build because NOTHING has been easy with this project. When I say nothing, I mean absolutely nothing.

Let me start with the issue about which I most recently blogged: my steering wheel. You can read my experience and review here: Caveat Emptor: My Review of Dallas Custom Steering Wheels

Dallas Custom Wheel on the left (fits 2005-2007)
My OEM wheel on the right (fits 2008-2010)

My update to this story is that, after contacting both PayPal and my credit card company, I was told to, first, attempt to rectify the situation with the seller myself. So, I messaged the seller, now, for the third time and again explained my frustrations. At this point the seller escalated the dispute into a claim. I was asked by PayPal what I felt was a suitable resolution to the problem. My position was that I wanted to return the product and be issued a full refund, but that I would be satisfied with being issued a partial refund for half of the sale amount and be allowed to keep the wheel. Long story short, about a week later, I was contacted by PayPal and informed that I had won the claim and that I would be issued a full 100% refund. Boom. One issue resolved.

On to the next…

When I purchased the truck back in January one of the issues I wanted to address was the wheels. I actually love the OEM WK1 SRT8 Jeep wheels, but they were in tough shape with rash and curbing on each of the four wheels. To my surprise (as they are actually extremely difficult to track down), I was able to get my hands on (Well, figuratively…) a set of refinished and professionally powdercoated OEM forged SRT8 wheels.

The seller was legitimate. He was an active veteran forum member, active on Facebook in all the Jeep SRT8 groups. I had no concerns. I sent payment via PayPal and was pretty stoked as I had a plan now to mount summer tires on the new wheels with an aggressive 315/35/20 and 275/40/20 set-up and I would keep an all-season set of tires on the damaged factory wheels that came on the truck for the winter months. Win-win without breaking the bank.

One week…

Two weeks…

Three weeks…

Four weeks…

Five weeks…

Nine weeks. No wheels. 

"I had trouble finding boxes."

"I am away on business."

"There was an issue with the post office."

"I have been really busy."

"My brother was supposed to ship them out for me."

[Buyer files claim with PayPal.]

Claim won. Buyer refunded. Boom. Another issue settled. Unfortunately, however, no wheels.

My next concern is something that I should have discovered prior to driving the vehicle off the lot of the dealership in January. However, I suppose I did not believe it was necessary to confirm that the two headlights on the truck matched. Yes, the headlights, though rather subtle in the differences, do not match. Upon inspection, the lights appear to have been taken from a junkyard and put on the vehicle. My supposition is that the previous owner had, as many SRT8 Jeep owners do, modified the factory headlights and when it came time to sell, decided to part-out and sell them separately. Upon doing this, the cheapest replacements were attained and installed on the vehicle to trade it into the dealership. When I discovered the mismatched headlights and alerted the dealership, they refused to replace them for me. Of course! As I mentioned, nothing has been easy with this project.

I viewed this inconvenience as an opportunity to upgrade my lights while enhancing the aggressive nature and appearance of the truck. I researched some of the people and shops that modify headlights and settled on a company that has excellent reviews, many satisfied customers, and whose products looked top-notch in all the pictures I had seen. I explained what I wanted and they went over a few options with me. We then agreed on a final design. I was sent these in-progress pictures. 

Blacked out. Dual projectors. Demon Eyes. YES! These were going to give the front end of the truck the mean look I desired. Note the past tense there. Were

I was told these would take "a couple weeks at the most." Almost three months later and... No lights. Seller assured me they were en route and that there was an issue with paint that caused the delay. In the grand scheme of things, this was not a big deal. I was really excited to open the boxes when I finally received them. Then…

It is somewhat difficult to see in these pictures, but the final product is not nearly as impressive as I had anticipated. Cracks in the housings. Plastic pieces and dried glued "floating" around in the lenses. In short, another headache. I reached out to the seller immediately upon reception and expressed my extreme displeasure and frustration. To their credit, he apologized and offered to make it right for me, which is why I have not revealed the name of the company. I actually just dropped the packages off at FedEx today (paid for by the seller) to have them re-done. As one can imagine, this was not a cheap modification. I was quite frank with the seller and told him that I was extremely disappointed and that I was leaning towards asking for a full refund and just installing OEM headlights on my truck. He asked me if I would give him another chance to "make things right." Hopefully they come through. Time will tell if this is just another issue in the making…

Another update to the truck is some changes to the exhaust. The Gibson stainless steel exhaust system was one of the first modifications we did to the truck. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had had good luck with Gibson in the past so I was not concerned in buying a Gibson system for the SRT8. However, upon installing it, the tips did not look right to me. One of them was just the slightest bit cock-eyed and they extended about an inch and a half too far out from the rear bumper.

This was not going to cut it. On top of that, I have always believed that the 4" tips are too small for the cut-out of the rear bumper. Once again, I saw an opportunity here. I was able to find some tips that I liked. I needed 3" to 5" to be able to get the look I was going for. I learned that there are not too many exhaust tips out there that are 3-to-5, so it was not exactly a simple internet search. But I found some. Now, I HATED the design at first. It seemed cheesy and tacky to me. I was actually looking into ways of removing the etching or blacking it out so as for it not to be quite so pronounced.

They are Gibson Metal Mulisha tips. I loved the dull black finish and, when I ordered them, I did not realize that the skull image is actually a stainless steel molding and not etched into the tip itself. Believe it or not, the tips have grown on me. I do not mind them nearly as much as I thought I would. They are certainly different.

The next step was to take the tips to a custom exhaust shop and see if they could remove the current tips and install the new, larger Metal Mulisha tips. I anticipated the problem that we encountered. The Gibson exhaust system has two mufflers - a large one shortly after the cats and a smaller one from which the tips extend (labelled 'F' below).

There was really no way to remove the tips that came on the Gibson system and weld the new tips in without modifying the muffler and piping. No problem for my shop.

We decided to remove the second muffler completely. They welded in new hangers, fit new stainless piping, and welded on the new tips and aligned them to fit into the bumper cut-out far more precisely than the previous set-up. I not only love the look of the new tips, but the truck sounds like an angry monster.

Another headache… A few weeks ago, I decided to bring the Jeep in for service. Not knowing the history of the vehicle in terms of the maintenance performed by the previous owner, I decided to have all the fluids changed by the dealership. Upon this service, the mechanic sent me these pictures:

I knew the tires were close to shot, but I had no idea they were this bad… So, on top of a crazy expensive maintenance visit, I had four new tires shipped to the dealership, as well. So, my OEM wheels now have fresh factory-spec rubber. Then, no less than one week later, these arrived:

Forgestar CFV5 in Piano Black
Nitto Invo 315/35/20 & 275/40/20

I also ordered a set of rebuilt Brembo calipers and had them powdercoated in an 'Illusion Red' - basically traditional red with an insane amount of sparkle. Of course, even this process could not be easy. The seller forgot to include new Brembo decals with them, so they are en route.

These pictures actually do not do the calipers justice. They look much nicer in person. I would like to install new pads and rotors when I install the new calipers, so I am waiting a little while until my current brakes are a bit closer to death.

Unfortunately, I do not have any decent pictures of the truck as it sits currently. I will try to get some soon. I did snap this one picture today as I looked back at the truck in a parking lot. There is, no doubt, still much to be done, but, given the issues I have encountered, it has also come a long way… Please stay tuned for more.

JDMphasis… Innovation over Imitation

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Project Z33: Enjoy the Ride!

This project is by far the one that has taken the most time to get off the ground. That is no secret. The lack of blog updates on the progress of the build clearly illustrates that fact. Up until last week, I had put less than five miles on the car since I purchased it back in 2015. Five miles. I have simply been collecting parts for it and the car, needless to say, has been driven very minimally. 

This past week, however, due to some issues I have had with the Jeep (blog update coming soon), I was forced to drive the Z. I have not really driven a coupe since I sold the G back in early 2014 and I have not driven a Z since my first Z back in 2008 or so. I think sometimes I get caught up in picturing the final product and forget why I have the car to begin with. The "I need to do A, B, and C and then I want to do D, E, F, and G with the car…" mindset takes over and I get consumed with the final picture of the car as opposed to the car itself. This week reminded me again why I have the car. It is a bone stock 350Z that just hit 100,000 miles and only about 80 of those miles were put on the car by me within the past 72 hours, but I love it. I love driving it. It is stock. It is not the best-looking Z on the road, it is not the best handling Z on the road, and it is not the quickest Z on the road, but it is still a blast to drive!

I am somewhat ashamed that I have allowed myself to fall into that mentality where the project is never good enough. On the one hand, that mindset is what makes a build fun, but it also opens the door to losing focus on why we buy these cars to begin with. I have allowed a car to sit for almost two years without driving it because I wanted the car a certain way. I wanted the suspension dialed in with these coilovers and those sway bars, I wanted these wheels with these tires, and that aero with that paint and I wanted this exhaust that had to be built to this spec, etc… The car was never going to be good enough to drive until I had all these things in place and then, without question, once all of these things were actually done, I would have shifted focus to some other part or modification that needed to be completed before I would allow myself to enjoy the car.


I am doing it wrong.

Having been forced to drive my Z for the past few days, I was reminded why I bought another Z in the first place. Every day when I would walk out of my office, I would look forward to driving the few miles home. Of course, I am looking forward to improving the car's appearance and performance with all the parts I have stockpiled for it, but I am not going to let the fact that the car is not in its final form (whatever that even means) discourage me from enjoying it anymore.

Remember why you bought it.

A few shots of my stock 2006 Z33...

False advertising... For the moment.

JDMphasis… Innovation over Imitation

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Amusing Photography...

My affinity for the parts of the Japanese Domestic Market is not based on a personal assessment of performance superiority. It is about design, quality, and attention to detail. Likely my biggest obsession of the industry, Power House Amuse is quite possibly the superlative of JDM parts. Hardly boring or run-of-the-mill, the products that come out of their facility in Chiba are not simply functional components to be admired momentarily pre-installation only to be forsaken shortly after brusque acknowledgment of any performance benefit or gain. Every Amuse part contains an all-too-real element of genuine automotive artistry.
Justin's Z34 One-Off

Perhaps you have already seen this piece. It is making the rounds on the interwebz of late. This is Justin Ellwood's one-off Amuse exhaust system. There is no project more fitting for this piece of art to be featured than Justin's Z34. Enduring the long delays is one of the few downsides of buying Japanese parts, however, seeing the final product, one would assume that an 8-month wait for this system was surely worth it for Mr. Ellwood. A man who has not cut any corners with his build and refuses to adorn his pride and joy Z project with anything other than legitimate, authentic parts, this exhaust system will be right at home on the 800+ horsepower beast. Well done, sir. Keep up the good work!

'A' Body and 'B' Tails...

Gold Ring and R1 Titan logo on top...

Justin's Z will SING!

Attention to detail...

JDMphasis… Innovation over Imitation

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Caveat Emptor: My Review of Dallas Custom Steering Wheels

When I purchased my Jeep back in January, one of the very first things I noticed was the wear on the steering wheel. It is not falling apart or significantly distressed in any way, but it shows some signs of use, which is to be expected from a 9 year-old vehicle. So, early on, one of my plans was to have my steering wheel re-wrapped.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. 

I contacted Dallas Custom Steering Wheels to re-wrap/re-upholster my wheel. These guys have a solid reputation and I have seen some of their work. That was enough for me to consider them. So, I sent an email. I explained to them that I have a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. I explained everything that I wanted in terms of leather type/color, stitching, padding, etc... They told me that they could do everything I wanted. I was concerned about the "down time" as I knew I would have to remove my steering wheel and ship it to them, so I would not have a vehicle to drive for a while. That is when they informed me that they actually had a Grand Cherokee steering wheel in stock that they could do all the work on and avoid the inconvenience of shipping my wheel out to them. Perfect! Or so I thought… 

I sent payment. They did all the work within a few days and sent me some pictures. The wheel came out great! 

This is what I had them do:

  • Black Leather
  • Black Carbon FIber Leather on Upper Portion of Wheel
  • Grey Stitching
  • Extra Padding for thicker wheel
  • Thumb Rests

As stated, the wheel looked great! I was happy.

They shipped it out to me. I had it within a few days and took the day off from work and made arrangements with my shop to have the new wheel installed. My mechanic removed my OEM steering wheel and found out that, although the "face" of the two steering wheels are the same, the bases are completely different.
2010 SRT8 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What I received from Dallas Custom Steering Wheels

Side-by-Side Comparison

After doing some research, I learned that the steering wheel I received from Dallas Custom Steering Wheels is made for a 2005-2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee; not the 2008-2010 steering wheel that I need. I contacted Dallas Custom Steering Wheels and explained the situation and asked if I could return the steering wheel and be refunded. I was told that I could return the steering wheel and be refunded, but that I would be charged a 30% restocking fee. 


I expressed my displeasure at being charged a 30% restocking fee for what was their mistake. I had told them the make, model, and year of my vehicle when I initially inquired and I was told they had the steering wheel in stock that would fit. The gentleman I was emailing told me that because they had sent me pictures prior to purchasing that it is my fault. As mentioned above, there is no way to know that the bases of these two steering wheels are completely different if one has never removed the steering wheel before. I told them the vehicle I own. They told me they had a wheel in stock. When you have the words "steering wheel" in the name of your business, one assumes you actually know steering wheels. One assumes there is a level of expertise. One assumes that the company will not deflect the blame back on the customer.

I think having to pay 30% to return a product that I received and cannot use due to a mistake by the seller is a bit absurd. By this logic, Dallas Custom Steering Wheels could continually mislead buyers into buying products that do not fit their vehicles and, upon realizing it and asking for a refund, demand a 30% restocking fee, leaving the buyers without much recourse. Either way in this situation, I lose. 

Ultimately, I do not believe I am at fault here. I gave them the year, make, and model of my vehicle and they told me they had the product that would fit it in stock. They were wrong. That should be the end of it. Now I am stuck with a $600+ steering wheel that they sold me after telling me they had what I needed in stock. Of course, I never would have purchased this product if they did not tell me they had what I needed.

I realize there are many satisfied Dallas Custom Steering Wheel customers out there. I am just relating my story. Not only will I refuse to pay the 30% restocking fee, I will never give another dollar of my money to this company.

JDMphasis… Innovation over Imitation

Monday, May 15, 2017


JDMphasis sticker on this Subie. Thank you for the support!

(Capture Credit: ELH Photography)

JDMphasis… Innovation over Imitation