It’s time for the next installment of Mustard’s ST Swap posts! As per the existing ‘practice’ for these, the main article is located over on fifteen52’s Project ST (PST) website so please CLICK HERE to head on over and check it out first! These accompanying articles here on officialTHREETWENTY serve to offer a bit more information and details regarding the whole experience/process instead of being the main documentation of the project; not everything makes it in to the PST posts due to space or frankly, if I feel it’s better suited for here as opposed to the formal articles. Today’s BTS post falls more into the latter category.
Speaking of today’s post, before I get in to it I also want to include a quick reminder that there are some YouTube videos accompanying these articles as well, and the video portion of Part 3 is what you see above! We didn’t film a ton during this part of the swap as we were massively stressed for time and also couldn’t show many of the steps when reassembling the car, but we did film it starting up at Advantage and that will serve nicely to lead in to today’s entry…
ST SWAP PART 3 – BTS
Today’s BTS post is here to shed more light on something that was quickly mentioned in the PST article, to answer a question that I have received a lot since the swap happened – why the sudden switch of dealerships?
So, yeah. I didn’t go into much detail on the PST post about this, but here I will. It’s not so as to keep it a secret or anything, but I felt that going off on this tangent was better reserved for here, my personal blog, instead of PST’s website.
As mentioned in the PST article, the unexpected hiccup (that we really didn’t need given the time pressure we were facing) was the planned dealership refusing to touch the car. I won’t name it but I’m sure many reading this will know which one it is anyway.
While we could handle the mechanical side of the conversion ourselves, there were some steps that had to be carried out by a dealer as they were involving the car’s computers. I stopped in at our then-usual dealer and booked the car in with one of the service advisers, but just before I left I was called over by one of the managers who heard about the booking and came to tell me that the job couldn’t be done. I thought at first it was just confusion over the process (understandably) so I reassured him that it was possible, and not just me hoping some trial-and-error process would actually work out. He still said no. I tried to reassure him again, saying that it had been done before on a few other sedans and that I literally had a list of instructions to follow to get it carried out. Again, no. This went back and forth and reading though the lines I quickly got the hint that it wasn’t a case of them thinking it couldn’t be done, but a case of them not wanting to do it. Great.
Back in our truck, sitting outside in the parking lot, I starting going through the listings of every other Ford dealership in town. The first few all went the same – I’d speak to a service adviser and explain the whole backstory of what had happened (that we put an ST engine in sedan), that this had been done before and we had instructions on how to get it running, but needed someone at a dealer with their computers to carry it out. Each time I was met with silence for a moment followed by a “Would you mind if I transferred you to our manager”? Understandably this was a bit more extreme than the usual calls coming in for oil changes or tire rotations, so I had no problem with being transferred to a manager; I understood the rather specialized case this was. Managers would talk to me, and ask me a few basic questions about the car (what year car, what year engine, what computers are in it, etc) before each one ended with declining to work on it. Again.
I then got to the point on the list where I called Advantage Ford (you can tell I was not going alphabetically, haha) and it started off the same way; I spoke to a service adviser, got transferred to their shop foreman, and explained everything again. Just as I finished answering the questions I was greeted with another moment of silence on the line and was starting to think to myself “Great, here we go again. Another decline” but then heard back instead “Yeah man, bring it on down. We’ll get it figured out!”.
That shop foreman that I was speaking to was Kevin at Advantage, and he was all for the project. As I later found out he owned a Mk3 Focus too so was especially interested in it, being an owner and fan himself. With a tentative date set I then rushed back home and we carried on with reassembling the car – I ultimately called him again and asked if we could push the appointment back slightly when we realized we needed a bit more time and he was fine with that. After a few more days of work we finally had the car to a point where it was complete enough to tow over and program, so AMA picked it up and carted it down to Advantage; I rode shotgun with the driver while Brian followed in his own Focus.
There, I met Kevin in person for the first time and thanked him again for taking this on. I explained it must have been weird to hear over the phone that such a swap had been done (by a bunch of ‘kids’ in a home garage no less) but he was excited to see the car and get to work on it. We had the tow truck driver unload it out front, so we walked outside and started to show Kevin through it.
After the introductions and quick showing of the car he ran back in to the shop to grab his computer equipment and get to work. He soon made a second trip back when we discovered that we’d accidentally brought him a car with a dead battery, but a booster pack brought it back to life and he got to work on his laptop.
Brian and I were just chatting while Kevin worked away, but suddenly a very recognizable (and loud) engine fired into life and we spun around – it was already running! In a matter of minutes Kevin had changed all the needed settings in the computers and we were hearing Ketchup’s engine run for the first time in months. After some jumping around and yelling at the top of our lungs (as if enough people hadn’t been looking at or been curious about the half-assembled car already, they sure were now), Kevin shut if off again so that Brian and I could get our phones out to record the car being fired into life – so the clip in the above video is actually Mustard’s second ever startup as an ST4. The excitement was no less for us, however.
The car was still a ways away from being a driving, road-legal car again but the final reassembly was a minor issue at this point. IT WORKED. Ketchup’s engine was healthy. It fired up and ran fine in its new home. We hadn’t ruined my car! We were ecstatic and I continued to jump around for a bit afterwards, high on the excitement. Any final uncertainties about this all working were laid to rest.
Some friends have asked me in person since the swap, why we suddenly switched dealers and went to Advantage; and this is why. The old dealership is one we knew well – my family had been dealing with them for nearly two decades, and I personally had been dealing with them for years as well, so we had many friends there. We bought cars from them, we brought them several for servicing, and they sold us countless parts; but when we really needed them, with a looming deadline, management refused. The swap had been no secret – it hadn’t been dropped on them out of the blue – but when it was their turn to help out in the process they declined. Advantage – and Kevin specifically – came to the rescue big time. He didn’t even mind that we had the instructions and proof that it could be done, he was all for the job and happily took it on regardless. The cherry on top is that when I asked him what the bill would be for the programming, he said there wouldn’t be one. I said to please let me pay, because it was only fair, but he said I would not be. His exact words were “It was worth it to work on this car”. His amazing help earned a customer for life and we have exclusively gone to Advantage since – and as a bonus, I also found out that day that my friend Marshall worked in the parts department there! So he is now the one I bug with really obscure parts order or pricing information requests (Sorry Marshall! Haha). Kevin has worked on the car a couple of times since when I brought it in for some additional computer work, and each time happily did so, while still refusing to let me pay. I initially debated putting that detail in, in case a higher-up at Advantage sees this, but it was just another way our experience has been amazing with the dealership as a whole. Advantage higher-ups, please know that any time someone asks us where to go we recommend you! The hatch now goes there for service, our parts come from there, and if we ever have really odd or specific programming jobs that need to be done, we know where to turn.
It’s important to note that I still have friends that work at the old dealer; nothing there has changed because they were not part of the issue. But as far as going to that dealer for buying cars, servicing cars, or purchasing parts, that all ended that day. If Advantage hadn’t come to the rescue we very likely would have missed the deadline at the very least, and I possibly would have even been stuck with a very expensive, completely unusable car.
On a lighter note, after Advantage stepped in and got the car running, as noted in the video it was then towed back to my house and some of the gang came over to witness it starting and running in person. Upon giving it a few revs (purposely keeping them quick to not be too antisocial) a few neighbours took notice; one then immediately called and complained, while another one immediately ran over to celebrate with us, check out the car, and see it running for himself. Can’t please everyone! Haha
Admittedly that final part (revving at home) is where part 4 will start on PST but it fit within this post too well for me to split it I felt; so you know how the next entry will begin.