Rebuilding The RAM DT-R: A Rugged Racer's Rebirth

Bringing my battered bruiser back to life

3y ago
5.6K

In my previous post, I described the long and varied history of my recently acquired Dutch Vrije Standaard racer. The car's story up to that point ended with a bang, as the previous owner smashed it into a dirt wall. With a broken driveshaft and sheared off suspension, the car failed to make an impression that weekend in Germany, despite several hasty repairs.

After the ordeal, the stricken machine was put into storage until further notice, as its owner, my father Danny's former teammate Alexander Groothuizen, had more pressing matters to attend to, including setting up a racing consultancy firm. There it sat untouched for the better part of two years, until he finally threw in the towel after going back and forth for a while.

The car was in a pretty sorry state when it arrived.

The car was in a pretty sorry state when it arrived.

When the car arrived at our base of operations in March this year, it was understandably in poor condition. As the torn up front suspension had never been looked at since the incident, it was effectively a three wheeler. Unsurprisingly then, first order of business was to reattach the left front wheel.

To this end, the car was lifted up on its good side, and supported by two stacks of tires to enable my father to access the damaged components. The task at hand was quite extensive, as the coilover had bent enough to resemble a certain yellow fruit, the wishbone had taken a rightful beating, and all attachment points had been sheared clean off.

Utilizing his decades of experience as a welder and auto mechanic, my father was able to repair the car with relative ease. Since most of the VW-based parts were easily found in a junkyard, replacing them wasn't a major issue.

In fact, both sides of the front suspension could do with a spot of welding.

In fact, both sides of the front suspension could do with a spot of welding.

To get the car in full working order, a replacement for the hastily welded-together left-hand side driveshaft also had to be found. Luckily this wasn't much of an issue. Unlike nearly all of our competitors, we simply never had the budget to source a custom short ratio gearbox and the accompanying strengthened driveshafts. This disadvantage also had its merits, as it was remarkably easy to find a replacement part, because the transmission had been taken directly from a diesel Mk3 Volkswagen Golf.

With the hard mechanical work done, we turned our attention to the neglected parts of the car. First up were the brakes, which had predictably all but rusted shut after spending two long and taxing years in a humid shed.

Though I left the more technical stuff to dad the master mechanic, I made myself useful by attacking the brake pads, discs and calipers with an angle grinder fitted with a sanding disk. As soon as this was done, I reassembled the brakes with a little help, and the car was good to stop.

Dad helping to put the brakes back on.

Dad helping to put the brakes back on.

With the mechanical side of things all but done, we turned our attention to the biggest problem with the car: me. More specifically, the rather generous size of me. At 1.96m (6'5") tall, I comfortably towered over the previous owner, who barely crested 1.70m (5'5"). Naturally, this presented a bit of an issue concerning the cockpit.

The car's living quarters were a bit too cramped for my liking

The car's living quarters were a bit too cramped for my liking

In order to remedy the situation, we started by putting the seat as far back as possible. However, this didn't do me much good. Due to my lanky build, I could still reach the pedals perfectly, but was having trouble reaching the wheel. As money was too tight to mention, we couldn't just order an adjustable steering column off the interwebs.

The crude beginnings of the extended steering column.

The crude beginnings of the extended steering column.

With this in mind, my father started work on a custom botch job. The car's Audi 100 steering wheel was ditched in favor of an example taken from a 1970's Opel Rekord complete with the stem. Unfortunately this approach didn't quite work out, forcing us to find a different solution.

The hub and wheel taken from my Calibra.

The hub and wheel taken from my Calibra.

I proposed using the Momo-pattern hub I had recently ripped from my Opel Calibra, as I couldn't stand looking at the cheap aftermarket wheel attached to it. This worked much better, so I set out ripping the cheap plastic trim off the tiny wheel, as it was coming apart already. In its stead I wrapped the wheel in electrical tape, making it and adequate placeholder for the time being.

Though the finished product made life in the car that much more comfortable, the tiny wheel wasn’t exactly ideal. Considering the fact there was no such luxury as power steering, I’d undoubtedly have a hard time pointing the car in the right direction. Additionally, it wasn’t quite as close as I’d have liked. After browsing the webs for a bit, I found a cheap 350mm deep dish racing wheel as a worthy alternative.

As the car was reaching completion, I started agonizing over the next big step in the resurrection process: a fresh coat of paint. But what on earth would I put on? All I knew was the disgusting white/pink combination had to go by any means necessary. Coming up with a replacement livery however, proved to be quite the challenge. Luckily, inspiration would soon follow, albeit from an entirely unexpected source.

The hideous paint scheme just had to bite the bullet.

The hideous paint scheme just had to bite the bullet.

At around the same time, I had won two tickets to the London Motor Show through a contest started by DT Community Manager Patricia Pedrosa. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting a large part of the Drivetribe team, including quizmaster James King.

During our chat, I brought up the car and my struggle to come up with a color scheme. James then kindly offered to provide some Drivetribe stickers, which inspired me to dress up the entire car in DT’s trademark black and white design.

Prepping the car for paint.

Prepping the car for paint.

Meanwhile, word came back from the UK. Unfortunately, Drivetribe hadn't yet launched a selection of stickers, and the Store was still in its infancy. This meant James wasn't able to get any large examples. I thanked him regardless and made use of the smaller stickers, but realized they weren't quite going to cut it.

The stickers James King provided weren't exactly up to size.

The stickers James King provided weren't exactly up to size.

In response to this, I went to a local DIY store and picked up some large lettering to spell out the name of this glorious site. A handy masking tape and spray paint session later, the car sported a large DT logo on its bonnet.

After these first tentative steps had been made, I inevitably went a bit mad. Through the magic of the internet, I was able to order custom-made stickers celebrating the history of the great trio until my fingers bled.

As a result, the list of orders piled up, and the car's definitive livery began to take shape. While I was plotting this out, the car received some more TLC in the form of a dollop of injection cleaner, helping to clean out accumulated muck built up during its long slumber.

I regret nothing.

I regret nothing.

It was at this point that I reconsidered the color scheme to reflect another influence on the project. I had roughly modeled the shapes on the livery currently in use by Porsche's GT team, and I was mindful of the variety of Porsche parts that had found their way into the car, such as the injection system and the rear coilovers.

Considering the obvious influence, I decided to take things one step further. Using a can of fire red lacquer also left over from the renovation of my apartment, I proceeded to apply a big stripe on the border between the two existing colors. The new addition helped break up the car's rather dull appearance, and made it stand out that much more.

The icing on the cake came in the form of large script down the sides, broken up by a D_TRB logo. Though the bumpy, torn up, and sometimes even holed bodywork proved to be quite the challenge, I was able to make a faintly adequate job of it.

Applying stickers to the ruined sides was particularly frustrating experience.

Applying stickers to the ruined sides was particularly frustrating experience.

I couldn't resist taking the brush out again to touch the car up in a couple of key places, but last Wednesday, all major work had been completed. After working two nights a week for eight months, the car was finally finished.

The finished product, still shod in a bit of masking tape.

The finished product, still shod in a bit of masking tape.

While I was at it, I changed all four wheels, as the car's debut will be at Ter Apel's oval track. The venue is the only tarmac track on the calendar, meaning the DT-R's rally and winter tires are utterly useless there. At 500 meters (1640 feet), the track might not be the biggest on the roster, but the hard surface guarantees considerably high speeds.

Polderputten Circuit, Ter Apel.

Polderputten Circuit, Ter Apel.

Because of this, the car has been retrofitted with 16 inch alloy wheels show in used road tires on three out of four corners. On the left rear corner however, a 15 inch alloy taken from my parents' recently wrecked caravan has been fitted, giving the car a slight (but very accidental) oval racing lean into the corners.

The car in its current "tarmac setup".

The car in its current "tarmac setup".

I will be taking the car out for what hopefully will be two fun heats, trying to gain as much experience as I can. As I'm not willing to spend the money to hire a transponder, I will be excluded from the final, but I'm more than happy to just get a few miles in without kissing the wall.

Hopefully my three patron saints will protect me.

Hopefully my three patron saints will protect me.

Considering my first ever drive in my father's car went quite badly, I'm aiming to take it easy during the day, but I never know what happens when the flag falls. The race is planned for the 14th of October, leaving me with three and a bit weeks to prepare my legs for the unassisted brakes. I can't wait.

Thank you for reading. Next Time: Race Report From Ter Apel.

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Comments (11)

  • I assume the A-team theme song never stopped playing during those eight months.

      3 years ago
    • Verily. I've only very recently stopped chain-smoking fat cigars and coming up with ingenious plans which somehow always happened to come together. I inexplicably loved it when that happened.

        3 years ago
  • Btw, what engine does it have?

    I'm curious

      3 years ago
  • NIce to hear that the ram dtr is restored.

    Good luck!

      3 years ago
  • Love this Dylan! You guys are having a ton of fun. I'll bet you just race around the yard all the time, don't you?

      3 years ago
    • Thanks Ben! It's actually not our yard, so we tend to keep things as civilized as possible. The racing's reserved for the track. My car is done now, so we've turned to dad's, which has just received a fresh coat of paint.

        3 years ago
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