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Sterling #869 -- W. Daugherty -- Central Pa (USA)
Time Left: 201m, 6d Ad ID Number: 11 Views: 2881
Car Specifications
Engine Type (in general):
        water cooled 6-cylinder
Engine Details (Specific):
        V6 turbo from an '85 Nissan 300ZX
Type of Chassis:
        significantly modified Bug Chassis
Brake Configuration:
        undecided / to be determined
Top-lifting Mechanism:
        hydraulic pump and cylinders
Condition of the Car:
        major project / not running
        Sterling - original (includes most)
Headlight Style:
        open bay
Dash Style:
        custom dash / majorly modified
        IRS VW Bug -- beefed
Canopy Style/Modifications:
        stock canopy / solid roof
Member Info
Posted By:
        Central Pennsylvania
More listings from this member:
        View Other Listings
        Send an email to farfegnubbin
Private Message
        Send a PM to farfegnubbin
Additional Photos
Image Thumbs
Of all of the car projects I've been associated with, big and small, this is the one that is close to my heart. I've had this particular Sterling body since my sophomore year in college (1992). It was the first Sterling I owned, and it it the projects I've put the most time, thought, and creativity into. For all my years in grad school and my residency, this was the project that kept me sane on the evenings and weekends. I have many hundreds of well spent hours in this project slowly making every little mount, bracket, and embellishment on it despite the fact that it still looks like a total mess and is still a very long way from being on the street. Nonetheless, this project is probably my "favorite."

I found the car through a little inconspicuous ad in the back of Kit Car magazine. It was sitting out in a farmer's field in Illinois with corn growing up through it. I was told it had been a mounted body/running car at one point but, as I found it, it was just a pile of parts without a chassis.

I couldn't afford to have it shipped, so my only option was to go out to pick it up myself (with my girlfriend riding shotgun) through a 22 hour round-trip adventure using an old boat trailer I'd turned into a poor-man's flat bed using lumber from an old house deck. It was a cool adventure on the way to pick it up. And on the way back... it was truly the beginning of the "Sterling owner experience": Even with the car in that incredibly rough condition, even sitting on that ugly old rig, the car still drew a small crowd of onlookers at EVERY gas station and restaurant we stopped at along the way.

And such began my adventures in attempting to bring a Sterling back to life.

My goal for this car in particular, since the very beginning, was to try to customize/update it to the point that it 1) fit me like a glove and 2) had every major modern creature comfort I could stuff into it. Whether a fair assessment or not, many kit car owners I had met along the way had spoken fondly about their projects BUT were always very quick to add that the cars were dreadfully uncomfortable, impractical, and sometimes unreliable. My goal for this car was to make it a daily driver that was comfortable, reliable, and...well...really friggin' fast. The bug engine is a wonderful engine, but I wanted this car to have a modern engine in part with the hopes that I could also transfer the large majority of other modern accoutrements from the engine donor to the Sterling at the same time.

I wanted a Sterling with comfortable seats, power brakes, pedals that fell exactly where I wanted them to, and...A/C. Nice, cooooool A/C. The Sterling already looked awesome in my opinion, but I wanted it to walk the walk, too.

The first major choice was which engine/donor car to use. I did a whole lot of late night thinking, and made many a sketch on pieces of scrap paper. And I carried around the Kennedy Engineering pamphlet like it was the Bible. (At one point long ago, I probably had that thing memorized word-for-word.) I knew the basic pros and cons, weights and dimensions of various engine options, etc.

I was many years younger and didn't trust my skills to be able to do anything fancy like try to make a custom/mid engine chassis. And I was broke. So one of the 'givens' was that I was going to use a Bug chassis and transaxle and try to keep most of the critical parts of the suspension stock.

But I was worried about the weigh of a bigger engine on those skinny little Bug frame horns. And I was worried that my state wouldn't let the thing on the road without full, REAL, chassis mounted bumpers. So I decided to fabricate a frame-extention that sort of piggy-backed onto the VW frame. If I had to do it a second time, I would certainly make some changes. But overall, I'm proud of what I have thus far. The frame is now strong as a Sherman tank (which is my dad's nickname for the project). And the engine and all it's surrounding parafinalia fit into it rather nicely!

Knowing that there would be a LOT of necessary testing and tweaking, I designed the upgraded chassis so that NOTHING other than the steering column passes through any part of the body. As such, I can pull the body back off and would theoretically be able to drive it around kinda like a dune buggy. That said, I need to put the project on hold a long while back, and its engine hasn't run yet.

Ah yes...back to the engine. After much research, I originally chose the 2.2 liter turbo out of a Dodge Daytona. At the time (1992-ish) these were very plentiful and were just perfectly old enough to be maximally inexpensive. It was the sweet spot age for the donor car. It wasn't antiquated, but it was old enough to be inexpensive.

I did a lot of work with that engine in mind and at one point actually had one mounted up to my chassis. But as time went on, I liked it less and less. I was hearing many bad stories about blown head gaskets and maintenance concerns. Plus that engine was surprisingly tall. Plus, I wanted to use as much of the donor cars wiring harness, gauges, switches, etc as possible, and the Daytona's just didn't float my boat.

Busy with college, I put the project on hold for a while. When I started working on it again, it was a few years later and I was living in Pittsburgh. After dusting off all the cobwebs and reorienting myself on the project, I picked up the local classifieds one morning and saw an add for a Nissan 300ZX turbo that was "in perfect running condition, but bad rust problem...$600." I went to look at the car, fell in love with its odd digital graphic dash and controls, realized how much BETTER a V6 fits the engine compartment compared with an inline 4-cylinder (ironically), and...okay...I got a bit of a woody at the thought of 200 hp stock with the potential for a transaxle-breaking 400 hp modified engine.

From that day forth, the project became a Sterling based around the workings of a 300ZX nestled into a modified VW chassis. For better or worse.

The project is still very rough. I got as far as virtually completing the chassis and all the new mount points for the Nissan steering column, pedals, power brake assist, seats, relocated battery box, new engine and bumper mounts, etc. I also fit and modified almost all of the wiring harness from the Z and was starting to plumb both the cooling system and the air intake, including a rather absurdly overkill intercooler.

And I came up with some interesting options for a rear bumper, spoiler, tail lights, and headlights.

Then life got busy again as I started my career and, although I certainly haven't been without projects, my sad, lonely blue Sterling was put back under wraps for the time being.

Currently the project sit pretty much exactly as it was four years ago. If you've read my other posts, you know that I've picked up a running Sterling (or two) to scratch the itch of having a running Sterling.

But when I pass the blue car in the garage, it still beckons. And honestly, it still is the one with the most potential for being (almost) exactly what I want.

One of these days I'll dust the cobwebs off it again and will bring it to life.

(I just hope that fossil fuels still exist when that far off day arrives.)
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