Monday, October 20, 2014

How KARR Came To Be

I needed a new daily driver and I could not pass up a 1987 Fiero just looked so cool! For an already 27-year-old car, it was in remarkable shape both inside and out! However, there were a few things that needed to be addressed. 

Since starting Project: K.I.T.T. I have found that I am a lot less intimidated about taking on car projects. Such was the case with the Fiero. I really started with just a few things that I really wanted to take care of and I just couldn't stop there. By the time I was done I had completely gutted the interior down to the metal frame. Here is a list of everything that I did:
  • I replaced both door strikers.
  • I removed the trunk carpet and scrubbed and power washed it with Resolve Spot and Stain Remover to remove heavy staining.
  • I removed the spoiler and reattached it with new hardware and butyl tape to seal up a leak in the trunk which caused carpet staining.
  • I applied POR-15 to a few spots in the trunk that had rusted from the water leak.
  • I thoroughly checked all wiring for any issues. None found.
  • I removed the seats and thoroughly cleaned them and treated the leather portions. I also cleaned and greased the tracks.
  • I ordered and replaced the missing seat belt holder trim for the seats.
  • I removed the center console trim and fascia. The Fiero made use of padded rubber interior pieces that offer a really neat looking and feeling interior. It had one major drawback though, and that was as it aged, the rubber let loose from the plastic under skeleton and would curl around the edges. I removed each piece and then heated, stretched, re-glued, and clamped the rubber back into place. This was done in sections and because of the glue needing to cure, it was done over a few weeks. The result was amazing though, as you can see from the pictures. It looks like new.
  • The center console arm rest area's plastic skeleton had cracked from the previous owner leaning on it too hard. I used clamps to get the piece to stay in the proper shape and to get the cracked pieces to align properly. Then I used POR-Patch and PowerMesh to reinforce the plastic skeleton. It was as solid as ever once it cured.
  • I removed all of the trim pieces from the interior and cleaned them thoroughly, power washing where necessary. There were a few pieces that were cracked or broken and I repaired these with POR-Patch.
  • I had to remove the seat belts to get all of the trim pieces off, and I noticed how stained they were with what looked like grease and/or oil. I figured I would have to replace them, but I had an idea. I pulled them out of the retractor as far as they would go and then clamped the belt so it could not retract. Then I placed them in a plastic tub and saturated them with Resolve Spot and Stain Remover. Once it had soaked for about 15 minutes, I took a carpet brush and scrubbed them thoroughly and then power washed them. They look brand new without a stain to be found.
  • With everything already out of the interior of the car all that remained was the carpet. It looked like someone had spilled about three gallons of coffee on the passenger side carpet and just left it. So I removed it and gave it the Resolve and power washing treatment. The stains were completely removed on the passenger side and about 95% removed on the driver side. The carpet showed some fading, but other than that it looks really good. It has a Berber style carpet unique to the Fiero.
  • I hand washed the entire metal interior.
  • There were a few places on the plastic skeleton where the screw holes had cracked or were splitting. I clamped and treated these with POR-Patch and they are nice and solid again.
  • I rewired the speakers, which had been upgraded with Kenwoods in the front and Pioneers in the rear. The sub woofer was shot and the amp unhooked. I rewired all of this and replaced the sub woofer with an aftermarket factory replacement. I installed a new Pioneer head unit with Bluetooth and wired the mic up to the steering column for use with my phone.
I am going to take a break from the list of stuff I have done to the Fiero and tell you what else was going on about this time. I had activated KITT earlier this year in July, but other than that had really not done much with KITT. I was, however, trying to find him the upgrades he had requested. While searching for parts for the Fiero and/or waiting for glue to cure, I would hit the Knight Industries parts bins to see what I could find. 

While searching for the right Random Access Memory modules for KITT, we came across some of the right type but of an older revision. They were badly worn and scorched in appearance. I cleaned up the contacts, applied power and attempted to access them. What I found was astonishing. They appeared to be AI memory files although only the audio was intact. I extracted one of the files and saved it to my computer. Then I played it back and what I heard sent shivers down my back.

It wasn't just any AI memory file; it was KARR's memory files! Somehow the Knight Automated Roving Robot's Random Access Memory survived the destruction of the Knight 2000 prototype.

I extracted the rest of the files, some of which were badly damaged and need some reconstruction and restoration. To my surprise, they form a complete record of everything KARR said after his reactivation by Tony and The Rev up until his destruction in the desert. I dumped these to a new Flash Memory Module and decided that it was only fitting to install this in the Fiero as a lasting tribute to the Prototype that gave us KITT. When activated the module allows KARR to speak again, although not interactively. I shudder at the thought of giving him that much power again. It is better that he be given a chance to speak and be heard through a fitting tribute.

With the discovery of KARR's Memory files, Sara pointed out how the Fiero was even painted in the same silver and black paint scheme that KARR was so fond of. If KARR's memories were going to live on in the Fiero, then it was only fitting that he have an amber scanner on the front nose. I did not want to cut into the nose of the Fiero, so I bought a scanner that could be affixed to the nose without making alterations. I removed the LeBra the previous owner had installed and mounted the scanner.   

Okay, back to the list of stuff I have done to the KARR:
  • I ordered MY KARR personalized license plates.
  • I put the carpet back in KARR and installed all of the interior pieces and trim. I had to replace a few of the retaining clips for various trim pieces and also found screws for many of the center console pieces that were not installed properly to begin with.
  • I ordered and replaced the power window switches and their mounting plate.
  • I wired up a switch for the scanner so that it can be turned on and off from the center console.
  • I ordered blackouts for the gauge bezels to cover the worn stock brushed aluminum ones. This gives KARR's gauges a totally new look.
  • There was a light out in the RPM gauge and it was not a burnt bulb, so I took apart the dash to access and repair the contacts for the bulb.
  • I ordered and replaced the leather e-brake boot.
  • I replaced the headlight switch and the mounting plate as the original one no longer had the print on it.
  • I replaced the trunk release switch.
  • I replaced the courtesy floor light bulbs and the license plate light bulbs.
  • I ordered black Rubbertite custom all-weather floor mats.
  • I ordered and installed fold up cup holders as KARR did not have any.
  • I hung my Pac-Man keychain just in front of the sun roof release.
  • I waxed and detailed the exterior.
That's everything that has been done to KARR since I got him in July. I still have a list of things I need to do to finish him up:
  • I need to remove the inner door panels and clean and lube the window tracks and door lock arms. I will also thoroughly clean the door panels at this time. I have a new auto door lock button for the passenger side panel.
  • I need to adjust the passenger window as it is currently catching on the rear sail panel depending on the angle the car is sitting at.
  • The dew strips on the door windows are shot and have left fine scratches on the door glass.  I purchased new dew strips and just need to install them, and then have the scratches in the windows buffed out.
  • I need to have the windshield weather strip replaced.
  • The AC system has a leak and the part that needs to be replaced has long since been discontinued. I am searching the salvage yards for a replacement. At least the entire AC system had previously been converted to the newer R134a, so that is a bonus.
  • The previous owner removed the catalytic converter, so I need to have one installed again.
  • I need to purchase snow tires and wheels. This is my daily driver so I will need it to be able to get around in the snow. I have been assured by multiple Fiero owners in Canada that these perform just fine in the snow with proper snow tires.
  • I need to paint the rear passenger caliper red to match the other three. I believe the previous owner replaced this at some point with an unpainted one.
  • The vent grills for the ECM on the sides of the center console were warped. I need to use my heat gun to warm these up and straighten them out before re-installing them.
That is all that is on my list at the moment, but I am sure there will be more things I will want to do to KARR in the future. Here is a collection of pictures I took throughout the process. I did not take pictures detailing everything because I was not originally planning on the Fiero being part of Project: K.I.T.T. Now that it is, I will continue to add pictures to this album as I finish working on KARR.

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