Birth of Deancent Garage – Intro

Deancent garage was started to document Dean’s journey in the automotive world. Here is a quick overview of the history of Dean’s automotive experience up until now.

Dean’s passion for cars started at the ripe age of 4 years old. Cards were sent home each year to be filled out by the parents in grade school, and every year in the section “What does Dean want to be when he grows up?” was always answered the same, “A race car driver.” Dean obviously never grew up. Welcome to Deancent Garage.

Dean’s father taught him how to maintain a vehicle, like changing wheels and brakes. Dean always wanted to take it a step further but was too young and did not know where to begin.

Girl Changing Tire
Dean’s daughter helping change a tire

The Cavalier

In 2004, Dean became heavily involved in the automotive world when he got his first car at the age of 16, a 1997 automatic Chevrolet Cavalier in the beautiful color of Dark Mulberry Metallic, otherwise known to most as purple. The car had 176,000km on the odometer and a very tired 2.2L naturally aspirated motor.

1997 Purple Chevrolet Cavalier
1997 Dark Mulberry Metallic Chevrolet Cavalier

 

Before the car was even road ready, it was in a body shop where Dean was doing a co-op placement in high school.

1997 Purple Cavalier at the body shop
1997 Purple Cavalier at the body shop

 

It was there, the decision was made to go with a newer GM color offered on 2000+ J-body cars called indigo blue. Dean cleaned and sanded the car to get it prepped for paint. The owner of the body shop primed and painted the car and it was on the road 1 month before Dean turned 17 in April 2004.

indigo blue cavalier

After spending a good couple of years hooning behind the wheel of all 120hp thanks to lots of E-brake use. The transmission inevitably started to fail. It was once explained to Dean by a transmission specialist that if he was going to powerslide the car and accelerate at the same time, he should keep the wheels straight so both wheels spin at the same rate. The reason behind this is that it is very hard on the synchros of the transmission to be spinning the tires on pavement with the wheels turned: this can cause premature failure. He was informed of this after the transmission had already started to fail, hence his conversation with a transmission specialist in the first place.

The search began and ended nearly as quickly for a new transmission when the expected replacement cost was going to be over $1500. Dean only paid $1700 for the cavalier.

Time For A New Car

The search for a new car began. Two weeks into looking in the classifieds, Dean found a 5-speed 2002 Pontiac Sunfire with only 68,000km on the odometer for only $2700 but had fairly extensive body damage due to a front end collision and 1 big downside… It was a 4 door…

He called the number anyway in the ad and to his excitement, he found out the color of the Sunfire was the same color he painted his cavalier, talk about dumb luck. The car was also not branded (written off due to a collision) as the collision of the Sunfire only caused cosmetic damage. Dean’s cavalier is built on the same platform as the Sunfire, the GM j-body platform.

After a bit of research Dean soon realized the whole front end of his cavalier will easily bolt onto the Sunfire with only having to make slight modifications to the headlight harness to convert the single high-beam/low-beam bulb of the Sunfire headlight assembly to a dual bulb setup found on the Cavalier with separate high-beam and low-beam bulbs.

A week later, Dean and a friend drove an hour away in the Cavalier which no longer had a reverse gear and struggled to get into overdrive of the failing transmission. They had a plan to get the completely unroadworthy car home, of which, will not be mentioned here.

Their first stop was at a windshield repair shop to replace the destroyed windshield, then various zip ties and other unorthodox methods were used to make the Sunfire resemble something of a roadworthy car.

They then made a late-night trip an hour back home where both cars went straight to a garage to start on the front end swap and after about 6 hours, finishing up at about 4:30 am on a workday with the help of Dean’s Brother and Father, the front end was completely swapped over and all of the lighting worked. The birth of the “CavFire”.

Cavalier Sunfire Front End Swap
Swapping the front from a 1997 Cavalier to a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire

 

The car was dropped off at a garage, the day after being picked up, to go in for a safety check and was granted a safety with a promise to get a replacement driver side airbag only to get the horn working. Functioning airbags are not a requirement for a safety pass in Ontario, Canada but a horn to show other drivers you disagree with their driving, is a safety requirement.

Luckily for Dean, his sister was kind enough to write her 1998 Sunfire off a couple of weeks before he bought his 2002 Sunfire (she was fine). So naturally, Dean helped himself to the steering wheel airbag that luckily didn’t deploy, the front end was taken nearly clean off by a hydro post while she was traveling sideways. Thanks to Ontario’s icy roads.

Red 1998 Pontiac Sunfire Write off
Dean’s sister’s 1998 Pontiac Sunfire Write off

 

After all of this the 1997 Cavalier was parked and parted out over the course of 1 year then someone he worked with at the time bought what was left of the cavalier mainly for the engine and other various parts.

Cat sitting on blue cavalier trunk lid
1997 cavalier parked for part out

 

Dean then continued to hoon in the Sunfire, this time with more burnouts thanks to clutch dropping. The car still had a very gutless 2.2L LN2 OHV Inline 4 cylinder engine producing even less power than the 1997 Cavalier at only 115hp. How is that even possible you may ask, strict emission rules caused the drop in power. Needless to say, the burnouts were very pathetic as was nearly every aspect of the car performance wise but at the end of the day, it was still “his” car.

First Upgrade was a new cd player, shocking for a 20-year-old. Then Dean upgraded the speakers all around. Then he made custom black leather door inserts. Installed a blue LED light bar behind the grill and bought, modified, and had a new ss style hood painted to match the rest of the car.

Then came new 17 inch wheels all around. To go with the wheels the car “had” to be lowered. So Dean sourced used low mileage Koni yellow adjustable struts and cheapo lowering springs to go with the Konis. The look was ok, but there was still a  decent sized gap between the wheel and fender.

Sunfire koni yellow struts
Sunfire koni yellow struts and polyurethane engine and transmission mounts

 

A fiberglass TRD style front bumper was sourced from Michigan and soon installed which, in Dean’s opinion, really helped the look of the car. He started to receive friendly notes on his windshield that his car wasn’t a racecar especially when Dean had his weekend racer “I don’t give a s*^&” tires on.

Sunfire Ready For The Strip
Dean’s Sunfire ready for the dragstrip

 

Then came the eBay special black projector one piece headlights which looked great. These lights included 6 LEDs alongside the headlights and angel eye LEDs around each bulb. To add to the headlights, Dean added some VME HID bulbs which were also sourced on eBay and were a great addition to the overall look of the car.

Chevrolet Cavalier Black One-Piece Projector Headlights
Chevrolet Cavalier Black One-Piece Projector Headlights
Cavalier VVME HID Headlight Kit
Cavalier VVME HID Headlight Kit

 

Then came a black trunk lid from a 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier that never got painted to match.

2002 Black Chevrolet Cavalier Trunk Lid
2002 Black Chevrolet Cavalier Trunk Lid

 

Then he met Ryan B., one of the members of the JCO (J-body Club of Ontario) group where conversations began about swapping the engine of the Sunfire. It was discussed that a new and better-optimized engine originally from Saab is a direct swap into the Sunfire thanks to GM buying Saab and using Saab’s technology in late 2002 and later J-body cars. The engine was a 2.2L DOHC Ecotec, Inline 4 producing 140hp.

The deal was made and shortly after the swap began.

The Swap

Dean, Ryan and a couple of buddies met at Ryan’s place where the swap began at 2 pm and ended 14 hours later.

2002 Pontiac Sunfire 2.2L Ecotec Engine Swap
2002 Pontiac Sunfire 2.2L Ecotec Engine Swap

 

Not only was a new engine put into the car but also a new ceramic coated 4-1 header, an upgraded exhaust pipe from the measly 1.75” exhaust to a 2.25” exhaust all the way back through a new high flow cat and finally a 2.25” Magnaflow muffler. A new AEM cold air intake, as well as new polyurethane engine and transmission mounts, were also added to complement the engine swap.

Riding Old Sunfire Engine

Goodbye Old 2200 Sunfire Engine

Fresh 2.2L Ecotec Engine

Hello New 2.2L Ecotec Engine

14 hours later, Dean was driving home that early morning and the car had a lot of new life breathed into it. A very exciting time in Dean’s life.

Sunfire 2.2L Ecotec Clean Engine Bay
Sunfire 2.2L Ecotec Clean Engine Bay Thanks to Some WD-40

A week later Dean was back at Ryan’s, this time to lower the car onto new Eibach Sportline springs front and back which lowered the car 1.7 inches in the front and 2.3 inches in the rear.

Cheap Lowering Springs Compared to Eibach Sportlines
Cheap Lowering Springs Compared to Eibach Sportlines
Sunfire Lowered On Koni Yellows and Eibach Sportlines
Sunfire Lowered On Koni Yellows and Eibach Sportlines

 

The car now had a very well balanced suspension setup. The only way to improve it further was to get a coilover setup that likely would have exceeded the value of the car and was not worth it in my opinion. Turning up the stiffness of the konis made the car feel like it was riding on rails and just hugged corners.

He later tinted the windows with limo tint all around. Never do this. It was stupid and dangerous, he nearly hit people making left-hand turns at night as he could not see out the tint in the dark and regularly rolled his window down while making left hands turns at night even in the middle of the winter. It gets very cold north of the border but it beats injuring someone else, lesson learned. It did look great though, but if he were to redo it, it would be done with 20-25% tint on the front door windows, not 5%.

The taillights were tinted with VHT Nite-shades spray paint and the mirrors and door handles were spray painted to color match the rest of the car which turned out pretty well. A well-done paint job is about 90% prep and 10% actually painting. If you don’t properly prep your parts by degreasing, sanding etc. You will likely end up with a bad paint job.

Cavalier Tail Lights Tinted With VHT Niteshades Spray Paint
Cavalier Tail Lights Tinted With VHT Niteshades Spray Paint

Now the car was starting to look pretty Deancent.

Dean went to several JCO club meets and to a local speedway where they held a large J-body event filled with J-body cars, contests, and racing.

2002 Pontiac Sunfire at Drag Strip
2002 Pontiac Sunfire at Drag Strip

 

The best ¼ mile time this car ever reached was 15.2 seconds, not bad for a naturally aspirated grocery gettin’ 4 door “Cavfire.”

4 Door NA Sunfire 15.2 Second Timeslip
4 Door NA Sunfire 15.2 Second Timeslip

Over the years Dean had a lot of fun with the car as seen below in the footage taken in Mexico.

In 2013, the car was becoming a money pit, the body was rusting out badly. It wasn’t worth dropping over $3000 on a paint job, plus Dean and his wife had a baby and the car was not very child-friendly due to the loudness and near solid engine mounts. Lots of vibrations and a fairly annoying “droning” noise cruising down the highway.

It was time for it to go, Dean sold the car to an 18-year old for $1600 after enjoying the car for 6 years. The car didn’t owe him a dime.

Life became busy and Dean has been out of the car scene since 2013 but is now diving back into it and will be documenting everything he is doing as well as taking various videos of his journey in the automotive world. He will be attending car shows, local events, track days, creating vlog style DIY videos while working on his own cars and more with camera in hand. Stay tuned and expect it to be fairly Deancent.

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