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KwSs "boring car" - 1997 Carib BZ Touring Project

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I didn't leave it long before I got stuck into playing with this thing. I needed to first check what sort of baseline for maintenance we had.

The engine bay was filthy, and the battery had been dead (I had to jump-start it when we got there to look at it), but that's all I knew. Battery went on charge overnight and seems to be behaving its self, but will monitor it closely and replace it if need be.

You can see there had been some "coolant" explosion at some point. Lots of muddy brown, rusty water staining near the battery and coolant overflow tank. No doubt the whole system needs a damn good flush.

Thankfully the coolant is currently green, and although the thermostat is stuffed and takes ages to warm up and cools down again when driving, it doesn't overheat when sitting, and the fan cycles as it should. The radiator looks quite new, but that could've been replaced when it had its front end bump (more on that later).

The first thing to check was the air filter. Dirty, but useable for now.

The rocker cover gasket has given up, there is oil everywhere. It's also possible the distributor O-Ring has failed too, but it's hard to tell with so much oil everywhere
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I found the brake fluid was black, and was on the MIN mark when I got the car, to the point that the warning light kept coming on and off during the test drive. I topped this up for now, but will flush the whole system when I upgrade the brakes.

There is a bit of confusion with the spark plugs on these. It looks like the early cars used a different model and heat range spark plug, to the later cars, but the one consistent is that the gap should be 0.8mm.

These plugs were... Old. Maybe the wrong heat range too. I will be replacing these with BKR6E.
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A 1.25mm gap, on the high side of the central electrode, which is worn away on an angle

The same story applies for the distributor cap and rotor. Both seriously worn out. There is a huge amount of buildup on the cap terminals.
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The oil, although jet black, was 3/4 full, which considering the oil leaks, is good. This will get changed anyway, just so I know what's what.

This is where it started to get a bit weird. After checking everything, and reassembling, the car was hard to start and idled very low and rough. I started to do my usual checks of the throttlebody and found a few things. First, the throttle stop has been wound right out so wasn't touching the throttle pivot, leading to the throttle over closing and jamming, causing a sticky throttle.

Secondly, I found the TPS was loose and a goose. There is a gap between it and the throttlebody

Removing the TPS showed that the metal tab that should stop the TPS winding back too far had been bent and no longer served its purpose. It should stop at that diagonal line at about 4 o'clock.

I bent the tab back and reset it

Using feeler gauges and a multimeter I reset the throttle stop and TPS adjustments. Long story short, use 0.7mm of feeler gauge between the throttle stop, and adjust the TPS so that on the two lower pins you are just on the edge of going from having resistance to being open circuit. This should more or less set the idle switch.
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It turned out to still idle rubbish after that, so I pulled the throttlebody off, removed the idle valve and cleaned the whole lot. The idle valve was stuck, so freeing that up should be good.
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It idled better after all that, but the idle speed was still all over the place. Sometimes low, sometimes really high. A split vacuum hose to the FPR was found and replaced, with no change. I did find that the base ignition advance was set to 15deg, when it should be 10deg. Changing this back slowed the idle enough to bring it into a reasonable speed. Replacing the thermostat should help too, so parts are on the way.

In the mean time the idle is a little random, but when I took the car out earlier it behaved perfectly. A little high when cold (started OK but crept up), but as the temperature went up the idle went down as it should until it settled at about 600rpm in gear. That's how it should be.

I do wonder if someone had been messing with the throttlebody to try and fix the idle issue, and just didn't do a good job of it. No surprise there.

Service parts will be here in a couple of days, so I'll spill some more oil and coolant on the ground, and see how we go after that.

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One of the first things that annoyed me was that the car has had a small bump in the LH front corner. Nothing major, but it had pushed the grille, grille panel and headlight out of alignment with the bonnet.

It bugged, me, so I set to work fixing it.

Stupidly I didn't get a good photo of the alignment beforehand, but you can kinda see it here

So, to fix it, I made it worse

And using a combination of hammers, pliers and other bendy bashy things, I ended up with something that looked like this
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It's not perfect, not much is on a 22 year old car with 260+k on the clock, but it's far better than it was. The panel almost aligns with the bonnet now, and since the headlight is bolted to that grille panel, the headlight is now pointing straight
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Speaking of headlights, whoever decided they should be secured to the car with these bloody things is an arse and should be flogged mercilessly.

What they should look like this isClips.jpeg

But of course, the metal bolt rusts into the metal insert, causing the thin sheet metal that the clip attaches to, to slice into the only thing stopping it spinning, and suddenly you have a free-spinning bolt you cannot undo. What an arse.

I ended up using a 14mm Irwin bolt grip to bite into the plastic piece and hold it so I could undo the bolt. I replaced then with a washer and standard nut instead.

Getting there. The car doesn't look like a derp now, so that's a big win in my books.

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Before we can get into doing fun things with this car, I needed to undo some neglect and deferred maintenance.

My inspection the other day showed that there were a few issues, mainly just from either not being maintained for ages or having the bare minimum to scrape along (typical Toyota life, it will put up with it and keep going).

Using my connections in the automotive trade I picked up a big box of parts this morning and set to work.

The first and most important thing I needed to sort was the thermostat. The car ran cold, took ages to warm up and when it did the temp would drop when moving. I'm sure this was causing some of the idle issues too. No good.

The thermostat lives up under the distributor. I tried to drain the radiator via the drain plug, but it was taking too long so I kicked the drain tray further under and just slowly slipped the radiator hose off and drained that way. Got most of it in the tray, which is unusual for me.

Just looking at the neck of that housing doesn't bode well. A bit crusty.

Excuse the blurry pic, the housing is tucked away in the darkness, but this is the thermostat housing and the two nuts you need to remove. I doused them in CRC first and had no issues undoing them. Undoing the wiring off the distributor and pushing it aside helps, as does removing the top of the airbox.

Eww, this is the old thermostat. The gasket shouldn't be chewed up like that.

This might be the reason it ran cold; daylight

The thermostat was jammed open, so even when stone cold like it was, it would let coolant flow on by.

This poor gasket. What has someone done to you?

The new genuine replacement thermostat and gasket looked much better. Nice and sealed closed.

Before refitting the housing I took it over to the overly-enthusiastic parts washer and gave it a good scrub. It was covered in old oil outside, and scale on the inside. A wire brush made the neck and mating surface a bit less crusty.
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The new thermostat was fitted with the new gasket, making sure the jiggle-pin is located at the top. The nuts got a good lubing to make sure they are easy to bust off in the future.

Since I was in the area I also took the time to swap the distributor cap and rotor. I used a genuine cap and aftermarket rotor, just due to cost. These are the old ones.

Nice shiny new

Next on the hitlist was the spark plugs. The old ones were very worn out, with huge gaps (1.3mm). I'm also unconvinced they were the correct heat range (5).
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A set of cheap, but reliable NGK BKR6E gapped to 0.8mm as per the spec went in. The leads look original but are in good visual condition so they will stay for now.

Before the final part, the oil change, I had to run the car up to temp to get the oil hot. This required topping up the coolant I drained and bleeding the system. This was done with the radiator cap off, heater on hot, and squeezing the hoses to burp air until the thermostat opens and the bottom hose gets hot.

Once it was bled I popped the cap back on the radiator, jacked the car up and drained the oil. The oil was jet black, but it had enough to keep it happy and I wasn't panning for gold. The filter is a pain on these, being tucked up under the exhaust manifold (which is hot), and right next to the alternator and AC pump. I managed to crack it with a three claw tool, a short extension and a ratchet.

With the oil drained, filter replaced and 3.9L of Penrites finest 10W40 semi-synthetic oil in the sump it was time to fire the car up to fill the filter and check for leaks. All was well, and the engine was noticeably quieter already.

The last thing to do was to give the engine a quick clean and degrease. It will get a proper clean later on after I replace the rocker cover gasket, but I ran out of time to do that today.

One does not do all this work and not just take the car for a "road test", that would be silly. So off I went, making sure to check that WOT and redline both work as expected, which yes, they do. The rolly polly suspension isn't ideal for the twisty back road I road test on, but it's still fun to just fang around in. I'm looking forward to driving it in manual form.

The engine is running and driving better than ever, with a nice stable and controlled idle, a smooth progressive rev to redline, and a good stable temp on the gauge. I'm tempted to wind the timing back up to 15 degrees for more power.

A great win overall. I thanked the car for being good by treating it to some LED bulbs in the interior and replacing a blown reversing light bulb.

Hopefully, if the weather plays nice I'll be able to hit Pick A Part tomorrow and start grabbing bits to replace the broken things on this car, and also start hoarding manual conversion parts.

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It stopped raining. This was a good thing, as it meant I could finally get to Pick A Part and grab some bits for the Corolla.

The plan was for me and a fellow Corolla friend to head there and pillage an E110 wagon of its sweet sweet manual bits to use on my car, but whilst there I knew they had a liftback like mine and I wanted to see what state the interior was in. If it was good, I wanted it.

It turned out to be a cracker of a day, only really let down by the fact I'm an idiot and didn't use any sun protection so got slammed by sunburn.

The liftback was good. Someone had attacked some bits on the dash already, but the seats were good. That's what I wanted. Mine were filthy, torn and generally worn out.

Being a Japanese built car, unlike mine which is NZ built and full of "local content", it had some slight differences, such as different seats with more padding and better bolsters. The fabric appears more hard-wearing too.

In a jiffy, we had the seats out
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These were bulky, so after a trek to find a trolly I loaded them into the car before heading back in. I really like the tumbling seat base in the Corolla which gives a nice flat load floor with the seats down. Lots of space

Then we spent the next couple of hours tearing into the wagon to relinquish it of its manual parts, since some bits are E110 specific. No photos because some of it was shitty, hot and hard work. Nothing like working in the foot wells of a car that has a thick layer of animal fur hiding the carpet

Once home I unloaded the car, and set to work on a couple of things. One of them was to replace the stupid bodged passengers mirror glass with a replacement from the liftback.

This is what the tape was hiding
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Removal of the glass is easy, just pull outwards from the bottom of the glass to unhook the two bottom clips, and the. push it upwards to disengage the two hooks at the top.

Unfortunately, this is one of the localised content I mentioned above. The mirror is different, which means the mirror glass is different. Who knew?

They look very similar, but the spacing of the clips is different and cannot be interchanged. Stupid.

I was a bit annoyed at this fact, so deciding I had nothing to lose, I peeled all the broken bits out of the backing of the NZ mirror, and hacked the backing off the glass of the Japan mirror to create something of a hybrid with the Japanese glass in the NZ mirror backing.
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It's not perfect, and the glass appears to be curved which I don't like, but it works in the meantime. I might have to try and track down the proper NZ glass. Hopefully Pick A Part gets an NZ built one in soon.

Pulling the Corolla out of the garage I got to have a look at the seats I picked up.
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Originally I didn't think they looked that dirty, but looking at the photos now I can see where they hide the filth. The good thing is that they are all in good condition with minimal wear and no rips.

Using my Bissell Little Green I started the task of cleaning the seats. There was no point going to the effort of replacing the seats if I was just going to throw in 20+ years of someone else's butt sweat.

This was the first seat I tried. The RH bolster has been cleaned. Some filth in there for sure.

I thought this was bad at the time... little did I know...
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...that I was going to come across this. The whole back of the seat base, and a couple of areas on the bottom of the seat backs, was full of this brown liquid. It took a lot of passes for it to stop coming out dark brown.
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I left the rear seats to dry overnight, and the next morning set about fitting them to gain some space back in the garage (its easier to store the seats I don't care about than to try not to get the new seats dirty again). I vacuumed everything from the front seats back, and fit them. I had to swap one of the buckles as the Japanese center seatbelt is different to the NZ one and wouldn't fit the buckle. I'm glad we grabbed that. It does mean I have one black buckle now, but oh well. When I find myself at PAP again, if it's still there, I might grab the matching grey buckle. I have gained a (useless) center headrest now though.

Bit of a difference from the old ones

The fronts were a bigger job to clean. They were dirty from use and bulky to work on.
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The passengers side came up well

The drivers seat was dirtier. Here's a 50:50
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There is still some marking and staining on the seat, but considering its age I'm happy. It smells fresh now, which is a result.

The method I used on all the seats was to saturate the fabric with the solution (a mix of water and Bissell Spot & Odour remover) in the Little Green, and vigorously scrub with a medium stiffness brush. Once scrubbed I would spray the fabric again, and then work on extracting the liquid. I worked on a small section at a time, and used both push and pull, in multiple directions, with varying pressure, to extract as much as possible. I'm not a pro, but it works. I love the Little Green, it's such a handy tool. Its almost like I have talked about it before.

Anyway, enough about awesome machines. Before I fit the seats I thought I should check the belts work with the Japanese buckles on the seats, sure enough, no. I had to swap them from the old seats too.

To swap the buckle over I had to remove the old seat. That revealed this
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A vacuum, more Little Green work, and I had a half decent carpet that didn't smell anymore

And here is the new passengers seat next to the original drivers seat. This clearly shows the difference in bolsters and padding. They make the NZ made seats look quite low cost in comparison.
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The drivers side wasn't much better.
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This tool is brilliant for this sort of work though. Its a powered brush head that runs on the suction from the shop vac. Works really well. I got this from Supercheap with a pack of other attachments which I have misplaced 

A vacuum got this carpet a lot better, but there was a lot of staining in various places
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I spent quite a bit of time with the Little Green on this side, just getting rid of as many stains as I could. It came up really well
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The side of the console got a clean with Valet-Pro APC, and the new seat was fitted

Much better than this

I'm very happy with how the interior is coming together. I still need to clean a bunch more things, especially around the well used cup holders, but it's getting there.

After fitting the interior, since the carpet was still wet and the car will be in the garage overnight, I had a chance to fix a couple of other small things too.

Like the missing positive terminal cover

And I tensioned the alternator belt correctly as this was far too loose and squealed on a cold start or when at full lock. I haven't driven the car since but it was silent when I started it before.

I could turn the belt completely over. A properly tensioned belt should turn about 90 degrees and no more when twisted. The tension is adjusted by a threaded adjuster under the alternator, and backing off the pivot and locking bolts.
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One last little teaser I will leave is the spare rocker cover I picked up, all stripped, cleaned and masked, ready for paint.

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Once again, a previous owners lack of maintenance is something I end up having to fix. This time it was the torrent of oil being poured out of the rocker cover.

When I got the car I could tell immediately that the rocker cover was leaking; there was oil down all sides of the engine, and it had that leaky oil smell when you popped the bonnet. It covered everything.
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I grabbed a Permaseal gasket kit (get the kit, it has everything you need including a new seal for the oil cap), but although its an easy job, I wanted to make it more complex by painting the rocker cover to give the engine bay a tidy up. The easiest way to do this was to grab a donor from Pick A Part and paint that so I didn't have to wait for it to dry before I could use the car again.

So that's what I did.

The donor cover got a thorough scrub in the parts washer to get any old oil off it, and once dry-ish the spark plug tube seals were removed using a hammer and punch. These are pressed into the cover from the underside. The tabs all need to be bent back to both allow the seals to be removed, and to fit the replacements.
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With that sorted, the cover was masked off. I didn't want paint on any surface that a bolt tightens against, down the spark plug tube holes, or where the oil cap seals.

Next was a few coats of the black wrinkle paint. The trick is to heat the can up in hot water, and heat the cover with a heat gun as you go. After a few good coats as per the instructions, a heat gun is used to gently dry the paint and start the wrinkle process. The rest of the baking happens on the car.

I gave the painted cover a day or two to dry and prepped the car for replacement. First I had to degrease and get rid of as much of the old oil as I could. I didn't want to dirty or stain the new cover by cleaning afterwards.

Then it was a matter of moving the wiring harness (disconnect the main feed from the alternator and it slips over the end of the cover), undo the four retaining bolts, remove the leads, and then carefully lever the cover off

I was disappointed to find that instead of replacing the rubber seals under the retaining nuts, someone had just slathered them in sealant, despite them being as hard as a rock and brittle.

The condition of the head pleasantly surprised me though. For over 262000km, this is very clean. Just a nice golden colour, and no sludge. Note the narrow angle "FE" twin cam 16v head. The cambelt drives the exhaust cam, and the intake cam is driven via a gear from the exhaust cam. It's quite a neat little setup.

All the mating surfaces got a thorough clean, and the multiple layers of old sealant removed. There is a little metal cap on the head at the LH end of the intake cam in the above photo, this was also leaking so I removed, cleaned and resealed this.

The new spark plug tube seals were fitted to the painted cover (using a 36mm socket to gently hammer them in flush), and the new perimeter gasket was placed into the groove. Sealant was applied at the sharp points on each end where the cover goes over the exhaust cam, and a small amount of sealant was applied over the top of the end cap mentioned above. The cover was fitted next. The four retaining nuts are torqued to 9NM.

Annoyingly at the time, I had misplaced the replacement plastic cover that I got with the replacement rocker cover. This cover is meant to go over the wiring loom and tidy it up.

I did a few KM in the car after fitting the new rocker cover, which both baked the paint on nicely (and boy does it stink), but also shows the oil leaks are gone. Everything is nice and clean.

The missing cover did turn up, but not before I bought a second one from Pick A Part for a couple of dollars. It turns out I left it in the parts washer when I cleaned the rocker cover. Oh well, this gave me two to play with.

One, in silver

And the other I painted in wrinkle black

I think the black one suits it best, so that will be staying.

A nice easy job with good results. There is no excuse to either reuse an old gasket and slather it in sealant, or just go along ignoring the leaks. Painting the rocker cover is just an added bonus of freshening up the bay a bit.

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As cool as the standard radio, tape and cd player were, I just couldn't keep limping along with a volume control that was either turned to eleven, or nothing. I had to replace it.

The criteria was that it had to be cheap, had to have at least AUX if not Bluetooth, and had to have NZ frequencies without a band expander.

After trawling TradeMe and Facebook for a bit, I stumbled across a near new Blaupunkt Hokkaido 100. I watched it for a couple of days, and when the buy now price was dropped, I pounced.

The Hokkaido 100 is a basic, cheap, mechless (no CD player) unit with Aux, USB and... Bluetooth. Nothing that fancy, but does exactly what I need. Not bad for $35.

This is the old unit I'm removing. If the volume knob wasn't failing and I could have the volume somewhere between off and deafening, I might have kept it for a bit.

It ties into this factory CD player. Yes, single din, single disc, player, not a changer.

Removal of the upper radio housing is quite easy. First, the center dash vents have to be removed. This is done by using a trim removal tool to lever the bottom clips out. The bigger top clips need to be pushed down slightly to completely remove the vents
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Once out of the dash the connector for the hazard light switch needs to be disconnected by pressing the little tab and pulling the connector out.

With the vents out there are two bolts in the recess that need to be removed. These are the only things holding the radio housing to the dash. They are 10mm.IMG_20201122_124932-copy.jpg

Now the housing can be pulled free

Pull it forward enough to access the plugs in the back of the radio and disconnect them. The whole unit can now be removed

Now it was just a case of working out the wiring using this diagram

And these wires (which make no sense btw, the red/black/yellow/white are all speaker wires, not power)

To solder the harness on the radio to the relevant harness adaptor for the car. I was given one by a friend recently, so many thanks for that as it came in handy.

The old radio was removed from the housing, and the replacement installed. I had to scrounge some short screws for this as they were different from what the original radio (and most other radios) used.

Before installing the assembly back into the dash it's always prudent to test the wiring was done right first and everything works as it should

Looking good. Everything works, so it was just a case of tucking the wiring back, refitting the housing and remembering to fit the two screws that hold it together (because if you forget, you will need to take the vents out again to do it).

Sound quality is about as good as you can expect through the standard speakers, which isn't actually too bad. I'm not an audiophile, so I'm just happy to have Bluetooth and a working volume control

A job well done. Quite easy too. I've done other radio installs where you have to remove half the dash to get the radio out, which sucks.

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Since replacing the valve cover gasket, once the paint smell had burned off I could still smell a faint smell of burning oil from under the bonnet. This was strange since I spent a lot of time degreasing the area before replacing the gasket, there shouldn't be any oil there.

A quick poke around under the bonnet revealed the culprit though; the distributor O-Ring was leaking. It was obviously leaking previously, but with so much oil and muck everywhere from the valve cover gasket, there was no way to tell until now. The area under the distributor was now slick with oil.

No worries, it's a fairly simple job to do. Toyota had the part on the shelf (9009914127), although almost $19 for an O-Ring is daylight robbery.

The easiest way to make room is to remove the airbox lid and filter. The base can stay in place. This gives plenty of access with a socket and extension

Before starting I marked the valve cover with a Sharpie to align with the point on the distributor which I had previously painted white. This is so you know where to align the distributor when refitting. Mine is turned out of alignment as I wanted to advance my timing slightly.

There are two bolts under the distributor that secure it. One at the front (partly removed)

And one tucked under the rear

With the two bolts removed, and the two electrical connectors disconnected, the distributor can be carefully pulled out. Yeah, I think I can see where it was leaking.

Take care not to spin the shaft as although there are only two ways the distributor can engage with the cam, you don't want to be 180 degrees out when you refit. If you are paranoid, you could remove the distributor cap first and note the direction of the rotor and make sure its in the same position when refitting.

Yup, its bit of a mess down there. Clearly the O-Ring was doing nothing to stop the oil pouring out.

The old O-Ring was completely flat and flush with the shaft, and when I used a pick to try and pry it out the O-Ring snapped.

The new O-Ring slips into place nicely and is much thicker. Its no wonder it leaked. I smeared some rubber grease on the O-Ring to aid installation.

Now it's just a matter of slipping the distributor back into place. This can take some wiggling, but take your time and it'll go into place fine. Remember to line up the mark you made before tightening the distributor down. Reinstall the air filter and box lid, and you're done.

A quick test drive to get the engine up to temp, and no signs of oil coming from the distributor and no more oil smell. A nice easy repair, which should hopefully be the end of my leaks.

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I don't know if the previous owner liked to pick at it, or if they just had a casual chew on it, but the original four-spoke steering wheel was manky, so needed to go.

I managed to source the correct three-spoke "sport" wheel from a facelift AE101 BZ Touring wagon, which is a feat in its self as they seem to wear badly and often have tears in the leather. This wheel is also used on the AE111 Levin/Trueno BZ-R models, and is a plug and play upgrade for the AE112R, airbag and all.

Obvious it's not in "like new" condition; the donor has over 280,000km on it, but with no holes in the leather it was good enough for now.

When it arrived I gave it a darn good scrubbing with some simple green and a couple of microfibre cloths. This was disgusting as the cloths just turned black straight away. After cleaning, I did a few rounds of conditioning the leather, which has left it much less shiny and feeling a bit softer.

I believe this is the same wheel, with a different airbag, as the European special edition Corolla G6 and G6R models (3 door hatch version of my car with 6 speed manual, bodykit, and various other nice bits).

As a reminder, this is why I'm replacing the standard wheel (other than being a giant bus wheel and not being sporty)

Fitting is pretty easy. First, disconnect the battery and leave the car for about 10 minutes. This is to discharge the system and make sure the airbag is as safe as can be.

Now remove the airbag from the original wheel. This is done with two Torx 30 screws, which are under little removable plastic covers. Pop the covers out and you will see the screws.

To remove the airbag you need the screws to pop into little clips, I found the easiest way to do this is to pull gently forward on the airbag as you undo the screw.

Do this for both sides and the airbag should come free. Before yanking the airbag off and biffing it over the neighbours fence (probably don't do this though, eh), remember to disconnect it. The connector has a white clip on the top that you slide backwards to disengage.

Now biff the airbag carefully away. Before you can remove the wheel you need to disconnect the spade terminal for the horn. This is just slipped onto the tab. Mine was stuck on quite well, but a couple of jabs with a screwdriver freed it. Its partly removed in this photo.

Now using a 19mm impact socket and rattle gun I cracked the nut off. Always leave this on the shaft a few turns when removing the wheel, lest you take a wheel to the face when it suddenly comes free. A few violent pulls on alternating sides of the wheel and it came free with a pop. Remove the nut, and pull the wheel off whilst carefully feeding the wires through.

Fitting of the replacement wheel is the exact opposite of removal. Feed the wires through the wheel, slip it on the spline, spin the nut on. Remember to refit the spade terminal for the horn.

Tighten the nut to 34NM, connect the airbag up and pop it into the wheel. The screws should be held in their captive clips, so give them a push as you turn them and they should push inwards and start to screw into the airbag. Reconnect the battery, and marvel at the difference a nice wheel makes.

I've only taken the car for a quick drive so far, as it doesn't have a current WOF, but already it feels much nicer to use. I need a wheel alignment though as the wheel is slightly off center, and moving it over a spline just made it off center in the other direction. Typical. That will come after all the suspension work anyway.

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Yes, that old game. I bloody hate rust, but unfortunately, I have found myself the proud owner of a car with some. Not bad, but in a bad place.

Before we start, a short word. PPE. Wear it. Almost everything in this post (and most other posts) will kill or seriously maim you if you don't wear the correct Personal Protective Equipment. I can't stress it enough, use a quality mask, ear plugs/protectors, gloves and safety glasses/goggles. You don't want to breathe any of this in or get it in your eyes. When welding use the appropriate face/eye protection, gloves and fireproof clothing (and check your surroundings). Stay safe.

Another word; I am not a professional. I have never done panel/body work/paint before (but know my way around a welder in a basic sense), so don't take what I have done as a guide. If in doubt, consult a pro.

It all started when I got home and noticed these little pimples in the paint. Sadly I didn't notice them when viewing the car because it was bucketing down and quite frankly I wasn't paying attention, and these aren't really known for rust.
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Balls. I had my suspicions that someone else had been here before, too. That ain't a factory paint match.
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I got bored one day and decided to see what the pimple was hiding. Turns out the pimple is lifting bog, and under that is very thin metal. So thin, your screwdriver pokes a hole in it. Now I've done it. Well, since I have one hole, why not two?
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Rust here is very bad news. A car cannot have rust within a certain distance of the A Pillar, so there was no way it would pass a WOF like this (and the WOF has just expired).

I had two options. One, take the car to a man and get it fixed. Two, be that man and fix it myself.

Option two was the way forward, of course, because hey, ain't no learning experience like being thrown into the deep with lead weights on your feet. Plus, this is a "cheap" car, I don't want to have to pay someone too much to fix it, and it doesn't have to be perfect, just strong.

I sourced an old bonnet from a friend and set to work cutting it up to calibrate and practice with my welder. I haven't touched this at all since I welded the handbrake back to the floor of the Mini, over two years ago.
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No, it's not pretty, but it took a lot of dialling in to get the flux core wire (hollow wire with flux inside to shield and protect the weld during welding) to play nice with thin panel steel. I got there in the end, and a couple more practice patches meant I was ready to give the real job a shot.

First I had to remove the old paint and bog to see what I was working with. I grabbed one of these stripping discs for my grinder and woah its amazing for this sort of work. No sparks, no damage to the metal, it just made the paint and bog suddenly disappear.

But yes, this is what I found. Lots of bog (or not much, as I've been told, but more than I wanted). It doesn't bode well for me having to reshape the panel afterwards.
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I then got out the old poky tappy slag hammer, and poked more holes in it. I had to find solid metal as I couldn't weld good metal to thin crappy metal. I poked a lot more holes after these photos were taken.
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With the holes poked and solid metal found, out came the cutting disc.

The bonnet provided good solid metal for the patches. In hindsight, I would've made this patch a bit bigger as it would've been easier.

And then out came the welder. Before welding, the windscreen and side windows were covered with wet sheets and rags to protect them from welding spatter. The previous repairer didn't do this, and there is a couple of spots of welding spatter etched into the side window glass.

It's not pretty, but it's solid.

With panel steel you can't just run a nice tidy bead around the edges, you have to do a series of small tack welds all around it and stitch it in. If you weld too much it will overheat the panel and warp. To keep the heat down I used a combo of an air blower on my compressor and cold wet rags. With flux core, I also had to keep stopping to wire brush the welds to clean them (as flux leaves a residue that will make any welds that touch the residue contaminated). I wouldn't do this job with flux core again, its way too finicky. A real PITA.

But, as the saying goes, "A grinder and paint make me the welder I ain't", so I hit it with a grinding wheel, also being careful to keep heat to a minimumDSC04961.jpg

Also, note that random screw. I had to screw this into the panel in order to attach the negative clamp for the welder as there was no other good area to use. Its easier to drill a small hole, screw that in and then plug it with weld later than to mess around with a bad ground.

With the rear hole welded up, I cut the front section out. This was a better size cut (and the screw was moved to a new location)

The inside of the panel was full of chunks of flaky rusty rubbish. I vacuumed it out both times I opened the panel up and treated the inside of the panel with rust convertor.

This is the panel I cut out. Note the unprotected metal on the back, as well as the big lump of weld where someone had just pointed the nozzle into the hole in the panel and filled it with liquid metal.
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A fresh new patch was cut from the bonnet and trimmed to fit. "Aviation snips" were the best tool for this; like scissors for metal.

Obviously the flat patch on a curved panel was no good, I'd need as much bog as the previous repair did to just level that out, so with some careful hammering, I curved the panel to fit better. The edges were also cleaned so I wasn't trying to weld on paint. Ignore the ground down spot in the middle, this is what happens when the bench grinder snatches the patch out of your fingers and jams it between the grinding wheel and rest platform. Oops.

Anyway, it was time to start gluing this patch in place with metal. On this one instead of just wire brushing the welds as I went, I chose to grind them down as I went, which made it much easier to spot holes and gaps I needed to fill, as well as reducing the amount of work on the final tidy up. Here is about a quarter done

And completely welded in and ground back

The next day I was planning on cleaning the metal back and applying filler. This was delayed slightly by my discovery that the windscreen was cracked.

A small blob of superheated welding spatter had somehow got under two layers of sopping wet rags, and a wet sheet, to land on the windscreen. This concentrated heat causes it to crack.


With nothing to lose, I decided to give a DIY repair a shot. I went out and grabbed a Rain-X repair kit

It has the cutest little bottle of resin

Long story short, you fill the crack with the resin, push the air out by gently pressing on either side of the crack from the inside, and then lay some clear strips over the crack/resin and leave in the sun for 10 mins to cure. A razor is used to shave the excess dry resin off, leaving a clean and smooth surface.

The results were actually quite impressive. You can see a thin line where the crack was (especially in the black surround), but the crack has no depth to it now. It is really hard to photograph though

A+ would use again. Not sure how it goes on chips as I haven't tested that, but it certainly works on cracks.

So moving back to the panel work, it was time to ice a cake panel. I started by using a 30 grit flap wheel on the grinder to clean the areas up and then used some 80 grit to key the panel. Then I slapped the bog on.

Having never used bog/filler before, this was a bit of an experience. Lots of Youtube videos and googling pointed me in the right direction, and it seems to have worked. One trick I was told, was that if you don't have a fancy non-stick board like the pros use to mix and spread the filler, stick a sheet of baking paper to a board. The filler won't stick to the baking paper or soak in, and it's much easier to work with.

Once the filler was dry, I started to sand it back. Using an 80 grit on the orbital sander I knocked the majority of it back, and then used 80 grit by hand to shape it more. I found this a hugely messy job with the orbital until I realised my workshop vac fit the little dust outlet on the sander (it usually has a small filter bag attached). This meant most of the dust got vacuumed up as I went, and reduced the dust a lot.

This uncovered some low spots, so I mixed more filled and filled them in and sanded it back again
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This was a really hard area to shape. There are curves in so many directions all joining here, but I did the best I could with the skills at hand. A final sand with 300 grit to smooth off the filler and we were ready for primer.

After a thorough clean, I used some filler primer to protect the area and fill any small marks.
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After a few coats of primer, the masking was removed and the primer was left to cure overnight before sanding.

I sanded this back trying to smooth the edges and blend the transition better

As you can see I also sanded the clear next to the primer as this was covered in old overspray from the previous repair. In hindsight I think this was where I started to go wrong. I could have got away with not sanding this and painting a much smaller area as I had intended (only planned to paint as far as the primer, into the ditch).

Anyway, my failure will become apparent soon, so let's move on. After cleaning I masked up the area, using the fold back technique to try and give a soft edge (it didn't work).

After even more cleaning (cleaning is key), I started to lay down some paint.

I could already see the paint was a slightly more red shade but hoped it would dry more orange. I also had issues with the spray can spitting drops of paint. Thankfully more coats seemed to cover these up.

Waiting for 10 minutes between coats for the paint to flash off, I laid down 3-4 coats

The coverage was good, there was no sign of the primer through the paint and it looked even.

Next was clearcoat. I had been warming both cans in warm water as I find this makes the can spray better.

Three coats of clear were sprayed

Unfortunately between the first and second coats I opened the big garage door to try and vent more fumes (the clearcoat is very cloudy), and the humidity in the garage spiked to about 88%, which is way too high. This lead to bloom, and a cloudy/milky finish to the clear. I was not happy.
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You can see a hint of how it should be

It's a great colour, with so much flake

Youtube and google told me I might be able to save it with a heat gun on low, to warm the paint up and the moisture might clear. Now, this DOES work, but you have to be bloody careful or the paint can and will blister.
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After causing a couple of small blisters I called it quits; I couldn't risk more damage to the new paint. I'd just have to see if the rest of the bloom clears by its self.

Unfortunately, despite drying a more orange shade, it was still tinted slightly red. The match wasn't perfect

Here was the worst of the bloom left. You can also see that the area I had repaired turned out pretty well in terms of shape and smoothness.

There was one step left that might save it. Wet sanding.

I left the paint to dry for over 24 hours and then backed the car into the drive for its first wash since I bought it.
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It cleans up pretty well really. It was good getting all the dust off, as it was filthy from all the grinding/sanding. No signs of any wax though, not a single bead in sight. I also used a clay cloth on the paint as it felt like sandpaper. The paint is nice and smooth now.

Just as I was pulling the car into the garage again to dry off, I hear a *SPLAT*, and see a bird has decided my nice clean windscreen was the perfect place to take a dump


So now it was time to sand the paint. I set about wet sanding with various grades from 1200 grit to 5000 grit. I had a few issues, like some paint in a certain patch lifting loose (where I had painted over the original paint with minimal prep), and a couple of patches where I burnt through on an edge. Once again, in hindsight, try to minimise the amount of sanding on the original paint as its really hard to polish out the sanding marks afterwards. A stronger cutting compound would help, but I only have Ultimate Compound.
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After wet sanding and drying off, next was to machine polish the paint to bring back the shine.

This is the end result. It's really obvious where the repair is as the colour is quite different. I should have stuck to my original plan and only painted as far as the gully that runs the length of the roof. I chose to paint further out to try and correct some of the overspray from the last repair, which I could have just fixed afterwards anyway.

I do need to keep reminding myself that it doesn't need to be perfect though. This isn't a show car, it's a $1200 beater that I'm going to modify and beat on. The goal was to fix the rust, not fix the paint.
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I couldn't stop there though, since I had a nice shiny roof the rest of the car looked really dull. So, I machine polished the whole car (except the bonnet, which has no clear left to polish). It's bloody shiny now. A good coating of wax, all the windows cleaned inside and out, and it was finally time to kick the car out of the garage.

In the natural light, after the polish and wax, the colour difference isn't actually too bad. You can notice it if you're looking, but otherwise you might dismiss it as a shadow or reflection. Its miles better than what was there, even without the rust the paint was a worse match and had no gloss or shine to it.
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I wrote most of this post in advance, so today was WOF inspection day, and by some miracle (not really, its a beast), the mighty Corolla passed with only an advisory for surface rust on the fuel pipe under the car (which I will treat and protect). The inspector was very impressed with the car and had only good things to say.

So with another 6 months of motoring on the clock, it's time to open the wallet again and spend more money. Now its time for the expensive bits. With any luck, we should be ready for the first track day at the end of January.

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Ever since looking for a Corolla, the goal was that it HAD to be manual. Autos are lame, and no good for a fun weekend/track toy. With my car, I made the compromise of an auto based on availability and cost, but with the knowledge it would be manual swapped in the near future. Well, that time has come.

I've been squirrelling away parts for the swap since I got the car, and a couple of months ago the big bits fell into place. A C52 manual transmission, flywheel with near new clutch and various other bits I need.

During the Pick A Part run when I first got the car (the same time I got all the seats) We also pillaged a manual AE111 wagon there for the other major manual bits we would need like the shifter base with cables, master cylinder and pedals.

With everything finally falling into place I arranged a time to take up some space that Iain, the friend helping me with the swap, has at a lockup, as doing the swap there with ample space will be easier than in my garage.

We planned that with the two of us it should take two days, but we were realistic that if anything goes wrong it would be pushed out, and that was OK, but it had to be done by the end of the week.

The plan was to remove the engine and box complete. I had debated if this was the best way and came to the conclusion that it will be easiest to deal with the various bits we need to swap over (such as fitting the shifter cables which is a ballache with the engine in place), and if I choose to do the cambelt and waterpump at the same time this would be a lot easier than in the car. Having the engine out of the car means we wouldn't have to try deadlifting the gearbox up onto the engine from under the car and line it up. That's never fun.

The day before we were due to pull the engine out I had a list of jobs to do to prepare the car for the work. The main one was to strip all the interior dash trims out to gain access to the pedals and center console/shifter. Taking it out now means not having to do it at the lockup.

To remove the panels the first part that needs to go is the center console with armrest. This is held in with two 10mm bolts in the armrest storage area, and two screws on the side. Under this was festy (this is a word you will hear a lot when I'm talking about the interior of this car...). Much crumbs.

Next, the center stack needs to come out. To do this remove the three climate knobs, and the recirc slider and then remove the two screws behind the far knobs.

The center stack will just pull out after that. Its held in with some clips at the top so might take some pulling. Be aware there is some wiring going to the cigarette lighter socket, and that will need disconnecting.

This leaves you with the bare climate control and whatever is in the center area (a useless CD player and single DIN pocket in my case)

Now remove the contents of the center stack, usually a double din bin. There are four screws securing it. This reveals the ECU (and lots of festy as all hell mould from leaking drinks).

Next the glovebox needs to be removed. This is done by removing the small trim at the bottom of the A pillar that tucks under the kick panel. Behind that panel is a bolt, remove that, along with the screw in the opposite bottom corner of the glovebox panel and then the three screws along the top edge of the glovebox when open. The glovebox will pull free.

The other part to remove is the trim above the drivers legs. This is once again held with a bolt behind the little trim panel at the base of the A pillar and a bolt in the opposite corner. The top edge is held in by tabs. Behind this, there may be a steel plate, which I guess is some sort of impact protection thing, and this is held with three bolts.

Now you can remove the rest of the center console. Its held with two screws on the far left and right top corners (would've been behind the glovebox and knee panel). It clips in at the top too. To gain more access to the shift cable retaining plate under the dash I also remove the footrest; this is done with a good hard yank toward the rear of the car.

Feels a bit weird driving around in a car with only half a dash and no center console.

With the interior ready to go the only other work I needed to get done was to replace the axle seals on the gearbox, and replace the shift linkage bushes.

The axle seals are easy enough if you know what you're doing. First note is to take photos or make a note of how recessed the existing seals are. In my case, they were at the base of the chamfer, but I didn't take note of this when fitting the seals, instead hoping they would bottom out (they don't) and I ended up pressing them in too far.

This was a cockup that resulted in my wasting new genuine seals and having to fit aftermarket seals instead as removing them damages them. Removing the seals with the correct tool is easy enough though

To drive the new seals in, place the old seal over top and use a hammer on the old seal to drive the new seal into place. Take care it goes in straight, and to the correct depth. It also helps to lube the outside of the new seal to help it go in. Once the seals are in place slather the inside lips in rubber grease to reduce any risk of the axle tearing the seal when refitting.

The shifter linkage bushes were easier. Under the rubber cap is this nut. Remove it.

The linkage will then slide off. Take care of the lower slider as that can fall off, and the orientation of the rubber boot. There is a bush in the arm, and one in the rubber cap above the arm

The old ones weren't too bad, but they were running dry with no lubricant at all.

If your slider is plastic you can replace it, but in my case mine is metal so I cleaned and lubricated it before refitting. The slider is the bit in the centre of the photo. The new bushes got lightly lubricated before fitting too.

Refit the washer, nut and then the rubber cap

Job done. The car was loaded up with all the tools I thought I'd need (Needed more), all the various parts, and the next day it was driven to the lockup to begin work.

I met up with Iain at the lockup, and backed the car in. After unloading, off came the bonnet and we looked at what we had to do. Iain had taken the time to write up a very comprehensive list, which we started ticking jobs off as we went.

Up on stands, and this is how it spent the majority of its time. Quickjack would have hindered us in this job as it would have restricted access to under the car, as I spent a lot of time with my legs sticking out the side.

With the car on stands, all the fluids got drained and the battery removed. Of course, the drain tap on the bottom of the cheap radiator isn't drilled through so doesn't act as a drain tap. We also cracked the hub nuts as this requires a lot of force and someone to stand on the brakes to do. They're torqued to 215NM, so quite tight.

It's interesting how dirty the auto trans fluid was too. I haven't checked it since I got the car, and the trans was shifting fine (for a late 90s 4 speed auto). The fluid was black and stank; well overdue for a service.

The wiring loom was disconnected from inside the car, and fed through the firewall. The body side of the fuse box was disconnected and the engine side was left to go with the engine. The radiator was removed, and all the coolant hoses disconnected from the engine and tucked aside. The heater side of the heater hoses can be hard to remove and risks deforming the pipes, thus we removed them from the engine instead.

This is the big lump we're aiming to scrap

Next the axles had to come out. These are a pain to remove as they have a spring clip inside the gearbox. One of the shafts is accessible from the top, with a long bar and a hammer to whack it free, the other is only accessible from underneath, which resulted in me under the car on my back beating the CV with a pry bar and hammer until it popped free. When hammering on the shaft there are notches in the CV cup that you can use without causing damage

Before we could hoist the engine out we had to sort one critical thing, the AC. I didn't want to degas the AC system, and since it worked really well we had to be careful to keep the system intact. We unbolted the compressor from the engine and lowered it down onto a jack. This moved it away from getting caught up but stopped it hanging on its own hoses.

The last thing to do before removing the engine was to disconnect the mounts. The Front and RH mounts are easy. The rear is a pain due to access but isn't impossible. Stack a bunch of long 1/2" extensions out through the RH wheel well and use a rattle gun on it to remove the through bolt; it has a captive nut.

It's a different story when it comes to the LH (transmission) mount. On the auto, Toyota has made it as hard as possible to reach all the fixings to get it free, because hey, why not eh? In the end it was a mixture of ratchet spanners and squeezing hands into spaces that are too small that got the bolts out.

With that done it was time to lift. A leveller is essential for this job, it's basically the only way you can get the engine in and out without smashing a whole bunch of other things in the engine bay. To get the engine in and out you need to tilt the trans hard down.

The poor engine crane was making some interesting noises lifting this lump. It's amazing how much heavier the auto and torque convertor is than the manual.

We finished the first day with the engine and auto out and on the ground ready to split.

Its a bit oily down here. Most of this is from the valve cover and distributor O-Ring that were leaking when I got the car. It must have been leaking for years.

Its also left a bit of a mess on the crossmember

So the plan for Tuesday was to do the things you don't want to do with the engine in the car, such as the master cylinder and shifter cables. We also needed to fit the pedals, and run the clutch hard lines on the firewall.

To be continued.

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After a long and eventful first day, it was time to get stuck into the manual part of manual converting.

The first job of the day was to crack into cutting holes in the firewall for the clutch master cylinder. Toyota was kind enough to stamp the firewall for where it should be but wasn't nice enough to stamp where the holes should be. Dicks.

Using the gasket on the master as a template, the three holes we needed were marked out and center punched. Apparently, my center punching isn't so much "center" punching as just stabbing around in the dark, but hey, winnings winning. Next, the holes were drilled. The two small holes were done with a step drill, and the large hole was done with a hole saw. Note for future me, don't oversize the pilot hole for the holesaw or it just tries to bugger off all over the show.

Regardless the holes were drilled and test fitted. It was pretty close, and a small tweak with the Dremel on the edge of the big hole made it a bang on fit. Like a bought one.

With that done a rag was placed behind the holes and the edges were protected with some black Zinc paint.

Whilst we waited for the paint on that to dry we moved onto the next job. Pissing the auto shifter right the hell off. Horrible, festy thing. With the mounting bolts removed, and only a little skin removed from my hands undoing the cable retaining plate under the dash, it was out. A 10mm ratcheting spanner is a lifesaver for those retaining plates.

That meant we could feed the cables through for the manly shifter and mount that. Attaching the external retaining plate involved me sitting in the engine bay as it was easier to reach that way, and it wouldn't be the last time I was an engine. You can see why it would be a ballache with the engine in place. Much respect to Iain for pulling the cables out of the donor with the engine still in, that didn't look fun.

Looks like it was meant to be there all along. I may have sat in the car making car noises, shifting the unattached shifter...

Since the paint was about dry, now it was time to climb up under the dash again and replace the brake pedal with the smaller manual one and fit the clutch pedal.

This isn't a job I want to do again in a hurry. It kept fighting me the whole way, but in the end I got it sorted. No real tricks to this, but a cordless ratchet helps a lot, and don't forget the screws at the top of the pedals that go in vertically. If you forget these you end up with the whole lot floating around when you use them, as I had in the M328i

With the master cylinder in place, we could then fit the hard-line for the clutch. This runs from the master down to a bracket we had to add to the brake proportioning valve. This was the other time I had to sit in the engine bay as we couldn't get the bolts for the prop valve to line back up. In hindsight, I would say remove one bolt at a time, not both. You could also fit the clutch hose to the hard-line now too.

The last thing to do in the engine bay whilst the engine was out was to replace the fuel filter. Its tucked away down in the back corner and a bit of a pain to access. I'll tell you what, it's pretty easy to get to with the engine out. The old one is stamped 2001!

One tip when fitting the new one is to attach the inlet pipe on the bottom first, and then mount it to the bracket. If you mount it first it's hard to get the pipe to line up.

Now was the fun part, splitting the auto from the engine. We had the engine suspended from the crane, and used a plank across the legs of the crane to support the trans. Under the engine, pop out the little plastic cover and undo all the torque converter bolts. Now it's as simple as removing the starter and removing all the bolts that hold the engine and trans together. Be sure to disconnect and remove all the wiring off the trans, and then use a pry bar to split the two.

And send the auto to do what it does best; be a door stop against the howling Wellington wind.

The manual box is a hard single person lift. The auto box is a moderate two person lift. Its a lot bigger and quite a bit heavier.

With the auto off, the torque converter and flex plate were removed. There are a couple of spacers on the crank, neither of which are retained. The flywheel is offered up and the new bolts torqued to spec with some Loctite on the threads. A long prybar was used on the flywheel to counter hold for torquing.

By some stroke of luck, I happened to obtain a universal clutch alignment tool many years ago with some tubs of SD1 parts I purchased. Sure enough, it worked a treat. It's the style where you use it to center the clutch disc on the friction surface of the pressure plate and then attach the whole lot to the flywheel before removing the tool. If the disc is central on the pressure plate, and the pressure plate is centered on the flywheel, it should all line up. It worked perfectly the first time.

Then it was a matter of torquing the pressure plate bolts down, and fitting the gearbox.

Before fitting the box I had to fit the brand new clutch fork I ordered. The reason for me sourcing a new fork was that the previous one in the gearbox had cracked in a couple of places and been welded, so I chose to go with a nice new one. I ordered it based on a Corolla the gearbox would have come out of. When offering it up to the pivot point I noted it was quite loose and didn't "click" into the retaining springs as it should. We decided to proceed anyway, thinking that everything looked OK, maybe it would sort its self out.

It didn't, but thats tomorrows story.

We used a similar method to removing the auto to fit the manual box. Suspend engine by crane, tilt it slightly end down, and then manhandle the trans into place whilst trying to slip a long bolt into a hole to take the weight. Took a couple of tries but went together easy enough.

With the bolts all in and torqued to spec, Iain used his expertise to rewire the inhibitor and reverse light switches. The inhibitor switch usually stops you starting the car unless in Park or Neutral, so first we needed to fake the car into thinking it was in Neutral to start. This was done by joining the two big wires on the connector (Pins 2 and 3, Black and Black/White). Next was to join the manual reverse light switch on the box to the two wires from the inhibitor switch that would usually do that job (Pins 5 and 6, Red/Blue and Red/Black).

The rest of the redundant wires which would normally go to the indicator lights in the dash cluster (which my car never had) and OD solenoid were snipped back. Everything was soldered and heatshrinked nicely, and covered in corrugated loom. Sadly no photos of the completed job, but Iain did an outstanding job, looking like it was there from factory, and it all worked first time. You can spot it in some photos if you're keen.

Before reinstalling the engine I took a look at the cambelt and waterpump. The belt had very little wear and the pump looked like it had been recently replaced. Everything looked so good we decided to leave it for now and just run it as it is. Despite its filth and looks, someone had looked after the basic maintenance at some point.

All that was left was to haul the engine and manual box back into the engine bay. This is where two people are a must, and a third would be handy. Trying to change the level of the engine, whilst pushing it around in the engine bay, checking it's not going to hit anything like the AC condenser, and still trying to control the engine crane, was a mission. It's doable though.

A couple of tips; First, make sure you put the right bolt through the rear mount. If you don't, it'll be a real bastard to get the wrong bolt back out again and you will waste a bunch of time trying to line it all up again. Second, don't fit the LH trans mount until the engine is basically in the car. It's much easier to do is when the trans is where it needs to be, and use a ratchet spanner on the bolts in the side of the frame rail. You can also fit the plastic clip for the AC lines afterwards too which gives more room.

So thats that, the engine was in!

It was quite late by then, so we left it for the day. The first job for tomorrow is to plumb in, bleed the clutch to check it is OK (as I had this niggling feeling).

More soon.

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The manual swap wasn't the only improvement on the cards for this car. Whats a sporty weekend/track car without some handing and braking upgrades?

Thankfully knowing a couple of other fast Corolla owners means that a lot of the heavy lifting on the work I was about to do has already been done. I more or less knew what parts I needed to get to make it all work together. It's all Toyota Lego.

The plan was to upgrade the brakes, suspension, wheels and tyres. This is what I went with


7/8" Brake Master Cylinder from an AE111 Levin BZR (with Super Strut)
Znoelli 275x25mm Front Rotors from a ZZE123 Corolla Fielder
Big single-piston calipers from an ST202 Celica
EBC YellowStuff pads
NICE Products NS381 wheels studs (48.4mm long)
3mm alloy spacer behind the rotor hat

Rear disk brake conversion from an AE101 BZ Touring Wagon (hubs/carriers/handbrake cables/calipers/brake hoses)
Stock replacement pads and rotors
Stock AE112R Corolla front studs moved to rear hubs

KYB Excel-G Shocks
Vogtland 35mm Lowering Springs
New front top mounts
16mm rear swaybar from AE101 BZ Touring Wagon
New swaybar links front and rear
Polybushed link arms, trailing arms, and rear swaybar D bushes
Changed solid link arms for adjustable arms

Wheels and Tyres
NB MX5 15x6 et40 Alloys
Hankook Ventus RS4 195/50R15
Black steel open ended wheel nuts

Not a bad list. There is still some other work to be done, like fitting poly bushes to the front arms, but funds were starting to run low, and this was the most work I could do at one time.

With the car in the garage and on the QuickJack, the first part of the job to be done was to remove as much brake fluid from the system as possible and remove the old master cylinder.

The old fluid was very manky. Clearly hadn't been changed in a while. I used a big syringe to suck the fluid out of the master, and drained each caliper with a bleeding bottle.

In order to completely drain the master, the filter needs to be removed. This rotates counter-clockwise and then it can be removed

With the master drained, it was a case of undoing a couple of bolts that hold it to the booster, removing the two lines, disconnecting the wiring and out it comes. Refitting is the reverse.

Now its time to remove the wheels, and start stripping the front brakes down. Off came the small stock calipers and rotors.

Here's a comparison of old vs new. Old caliper (with bracket) on the left, replacement on the right (without bracket). The old caliper is a 51-18, which is a 51mm piston to suit an 18mm thick rotor. The replacement is 57-28, a 57mm piston for a 28mm thick rotor.

Stock 258x18mm rotor against the 275x25mm on the right. Both are vented, but the stock rotor is significantly thinner.

Before the new brakes could go on I had to replace the front studs with slightly longer ones. Due to the 3mm spacer behind the rotor, there wouldn't be sufficient thread engagement with the stock studs. You can see the difference in this helpful photo I stole from a friends build thread. Left to right are Aftermarket stud (going in front), stock front (going in rear) and stock rear stud (going in bin).

Pressing the old studs out is easy. You can either use a big hammer and bash them out, or if you intend to reuse the studs and don't want to risk damaging the end of them, use a balljoint press.

I honed this method by first pressing the studs out of the rear hubs on the bench.

The new studs have a slightly larger diameter base, which makes pulling them into the hubs quite a workout, but using one of the new nuts that came with the studs, a big breaker bar and my long pry bar to counter hold, I managed to wind them in all.

I had a pair of 3mm thick alloy spacers machined down to fit within the hat of the rotor, which pushes the rotor out away from the hub by 3mm. This centers the rotor in the Celica caliper carrier.

After cleaning the hub face up the spacer and rotor were fitted

On went the bracket

Pads fitted

And finally the caliper, with a test fit of the stock hose (which is a perfect fit)

Next on the list was to pull the strut out. Three bolts on the strut tower, and two through the knuckle and the whole thing falls out. Remember to disconnect the ABS wiring first.

Compress the spring and zip the top piston nut off

Unfortunately this is about where I confirmed the old top mount, which I intended on reusing, was poked. Lots of play in the bearing, and feels rough to spin. A quick call around and I had some ready for collection the next day.

The new Vogtland springs are so pretty

The old shocks were beyond stuffed. No resistance to pushing the piston down by hand, and no rebound of the piston. You push it down, it stays there. It was basically doing nothing, no wonder the car lurched around like an old Jag. The dust shields and bump stops were in pieces and useless.

The original shocks were old KYBs, which I guess is one of the "upgrades" the NZDM cars got. Toyota has/had a history of upgrading NZDM cars to better suit our roads and driving style. The famous racing driver Chris Amon was instrumental in tuning and tweaking NZDM cars for a few years, and there were a few limited "Chris Amon Edition" cars, from Corollas, Coronas, and even the GT86.

The next day, with new strut mounts in hand, I began to assemble the new strut.

As a note, when reassembling, the top spring retainer has to be indexed a certain way. On the top "OUT" is stamped into the metal. This arrow needs to line up with the lower knuckle mounting tabs on the bottom of the strut.

One new strut, with new spring and new top mount. Only parts reused were the top spring retainer plate and spring rubbers.

Back in the car again

This is the height difference in the lowering springs. Its about 1 whole coil less on the Vogtlands but the Vogtlands are a thicker coil

One last little thing to change before moving to the other side was the swaybar link. The old ones were stuffed. I will eventually change the front swaybar bushes too, but haven't got that far.

I rinsed and repeated on the other side of the car

Now it was time to turn my attention to the rear of the car. Before I could do any work there though I needed to drop the exhaust, as it runs below the crossmember that I need to drop. This is held in with one mount on the rear muffler, and a clamp joining it to the front pipe. The fixing on the clamp was well rusty, so the angle grinder was employed to cut it off so I could remove the clamp.

The remainder of the stud turned out to be spot welded to the bracket, but nothing a BFH and some percussive persuasion couldn't fix.

I replaced the whole rusty lot with a new bolt and nut

Now it was time to drop the rear subframe. First I had to disconnect the handbrake cables, trailing arms and brake pipes. I chose to split the struts from the knuckles, but you could drop the whole lot as one if you wanted.

And then it was a case of turning it all into an exploded diagram

With the rear end out I took the time to wire brush and rust treat the surface rust that had been noticed during its WOF inspection, especially the surface rust on the fuel hard line I had an advisory for. Once the rust treatment was dry I gave it all a good coating of an epoxy-based black zinc paint. This should keep the rust at bay, and it looks a lot better under there.

The next day I had the help of a friend to knock out of jobs on the rear suspension. Two people made light work of it.

First on the list for the day was to strip the adjustable arms that were removed from the car ready for lubricating and polybushing. First I used them as a guide to set up the other set of adjustable arms I had already lubed and polybushed previously so that the alignment would at least be similar to what was on the car already and I wasn't starting blind.

These are the arms after being stripped, bushes pressed out, new polybushes pressed in and heaps of copper grease on the adjuster threads

The other arms had a similar treatment (and damn the lock nuts and adjusters were tight. Very dry threads and obviously hadn't been touched in a long time. I was swinging on the spanner with all my considerable weight to crack them), and were set up to match the length of the old fixed arms. The whole lot was then attached loosely to the subframe, ready for fitting to the car.

The reason for lowering the subframe for this job was due to the long through bolts for the link arms not clearing the fuel tank, so the arms cannot be removed in situ.

The reason I'm using two pairs of adjustable arms instead of the stock pair of adjustable and pair of fixed is that you can adjust the two arms on each side together to adjust the rear camber. The stock configuration only allows for toe adjustment.

Before fitting the subframe we used a jack to support the fuel tank, undid the RH strap and wriggled the old 15mm swaybar out, and slid the replacement 16mm bar into place. This is best done with the subfame out of the way, and disconnecting the tank strap allows you to turn the swaybar towards the rear of the car so it clears the fuel filler hose.

The rear shocks didnt miss out on the same treatment as the front. These needed to be removed too. To remove them all you need to do is pop off the speaker panels via the small notch on the leading edge, and bam, there you go.

Undo the three 12mm bolts and the shock drops out. Once again they were filthy and stuffed. Similar to the fronts they had no pressure in them at all. No signs of leaking through, so technically still able to pass a WOF inspection, which is scary.

The top mounts on these are able to be retained. Do note when reassembling the strut, that like the fronts, the top mount needs to be indexed to the knuckle mounting tabs too. This is done by lining up the letter moulded into the mount with the tabs. Of course, I only found this out after initial reassembly, and then proceeded to make a mess of it and end up jamming my ratcheting spanner on one of the spring compressors, and since it isn't reversible the only way to remove it was with a big pry bar to pop the spanner off.

The rear subframe looks weird with the arms hanging down

The trailing arms were polybushed and refitted

With all the arms in place again and all the bushes replaced, it was time to offer up the knuckles and hubs for the rear disk setup.

And join all the arms to the knuckle

Everything was fitted loosely as the bushes need to be tightened when at about ride height. I used a jack to simulate this and used it to lift the bottom of the knuckle up, and then everything for torqued to spec.

With everything torqued down, I pressed the old front studs into the rear hubs, fit the new rotors and caliper brackets

Before I could proceed further I needed to strip the calipers down, clean them up, wind back the pistons and remove the handbrake cables to make them easier to fit.

Unfortunately this showed some issues, such as this lovely rusty bleed nipple. Thankfully they are the same as the old front calipers I pulled out, so I swapped them over the cleaner one.

The other issue I encountered was one of the handbrake cables was seized solid. I tried to free it up but in the end I had to do a mad dash to Pick A Part and relieve this AE111 Levin of its cable. This car is super crusty underneath, so much fun was had removing the cable, with clouds of rust falling in my face constantly.

With that slight issue out of the way, the cables were fitted without further problems. I also took this time to refit the exhaust and new swaybar links and bushes.

The rear pads and calipers got assembled, and the rear brakes were done

That was it. I was done. All that was left was to bleed the brakes, fit the wheels and see what happens when it's on the ground.

In order to get fluid through the completely empty system, I had to use my pressure bleeder. I hardly use this as I get better results from the normal little one-man bleeder bottle with a valve in it (which is also what I used to complete the bleeding on this car), but needed the suction to pull fluid through.

According to the manual, the bleed sequence is a bit weird too. Start on the LH FR, followed by RH FR, LH RR and RH RR.

Once I had sucked about half a litre of fluid through the system I moved to the one-man bleeder and bled the system until there were no signs of bubbles.

And then for the first time, the MX5 wheels were fitted. Thankfully they fit and even clear the big brakes (which is the reason for the 15s, the 14s don't clear the caliper).

On the ground again

Looks pretty good so far. The springs haven't settled yet, but I could still get the QuickJack out without jacking the car up.

This is how far it settled after a drive.

The first drive went OK for the most part. I did a few laps of the blocks around my house bedding the brakes in and removing the protective coatings. The pedal feel is getting better each time.

All was going well until I stopped to take some photos. Thankfully I thought to take the torque wrench along for a ride, as three of the four nuts on the LH FR wheel had come completely loose. I torqued them back up again, but that was a worry. I can only think that maybe the studs on that wheel haven't quite completely seated. Will monitor it and see what happens.

In regards to the ride; the car no longer rolls and lurches like a drunk. The ride is still quite plush and compliant over bumps, but you can now feel the dampers actually doing something. I'll see how it feels when driving the car hard, but so far I'm happy with the Vogtland springs. The height is OK too, although it'll be nice if the front settles just a little more as it's going for a slight reverse rake at the moment with the rear being lower.

Without further ado, photos.

I'll drive the car again some more today and see if the wheel keeps trying to fall off or not. If it does I'll need to remove the brakes and wail on the stud some more to pull it in harder, if not, I'll book it for a wheel alignment later this week.

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Well, it was a good run with the Liftback Corolla, but unfortunately it's become unfeasible to keep it going.

Back in December, I posted about repairing the rust in the A pillar. At the time this appeared to be a good solid repair, with new metal being welded to good thick, solid metal that I treated with rust converter.

Unfortunately, 4 months later, the pillar was full of paint bubbles. I was hoping it was just lifting paint due to the humidity when I painted the repair, but once I started poking it I knew I was kidding myself and it was all game over. Note in the below photo the line of bubbles running rearward too.

I poked at it, removed all the paint in the area, poked some more and end up with some holes. It wasn't looking good. The metal around the repair had gone from nice solid weldable metal that had been treated, to thin and full of holes. The repair was holding up really well, but everything around it was crumbling.

In this instance, I didn't want to weld it again. The metal is too thin and too close to the windscreen. My only real options were to have some professionally fix it at a large cost (and removing/replacing the windscreen) or to fill it with a fibreglass/metal body filler. I did the latter. Not before absolutely filling the area inside and out with rust converter, and then a zinc-rich epoxy paint. The filler is a rust inhibitor too, so there are three things trying to stop the rust there now.

A slapped on some of the New-tech reinforced filler, making sure to thoroughly jam it into the holes and make sure it was a nice solid part of the structure.

And sanded the super hard hairy filler back

A layer of normal body filler went on over top to smooth and shape the repair

Next was a coat of primer, more sanding and then base and clear coats.

It's not my finest work, there are sanding marks and the blend to the older paint is harsh, but for a quick redo to slow the rust down and keep the panel weather tight, it's not bad.

I'm not kidding myself anymore though, I know the rust will be back. It's super aggressive. The car previously lived by the sea (as shown by the underbody rust), so I'm wondering if that has been a contributor to how bad the rust is. The previous repair before mine was rubbish, and if it had been letting salty sea moisture in before it was fixed, it might explain it.

Anyway, so the days of the Liftback were numbered. I knew this. I was planning to limp it through its next WOF or until the pillar needed more work again and then replace the car with another Corolla that doesn't have rust, and transfer all the good bits over, and revert the LB to standard and sell it at auction as a cheap runner.

As it turns out, this popped up on Trademe, with a stupidly low price.

A 1997 Toyota Sprinter Carib BZ Touring. Basically a JDM AE111 Corolla wagon with a different face (the Corolla was a bugeye like the Liftback), oh, and a 165HP 20V 4AGE that revs to about 8000rpm with ITBS and a close ratio 5 speed manual.

I figured if I was sticking with the Corolla platform so I could reuse all the bits I spent money on, I might as well upgrade and get a more grunty engine. The 7AFE is a good reliable unit with decent down low pull, but it runs out of puff easily, doesn't like to be revved and isn't a sporty engine.

I asked some questions to the seller, who was a young guy that had had the car in his family for about 10 years. It had been everywhere, done everything, and had over 300,000km on the clock.

The car had failed its WOF a couple of months ago on a few simple things. A couple of bulbs, a leaky rear shock, a rear brake imbalance, and a rusty fuel pipe. Nothing major.

The seller was kind enough to drive the two hours today to meet me closer, so after having a good look around and taking it for a drive, I paid the man and drove the Carib straight to the lockup to wait for the parts from the liftback to be available.

It's well worn, and had a hard life. It's also had a…. typical Kiwi Toyota life; Run on 91 petrol (should be 98 due to high compression), bare minimum servicing, no receipts.

It feels all of its 301,000km; wobbly, loose and tired. Thankfully other than a couple of scrapes and dents it doesn't really look like its age/mileage. It needs a damn good clean inside and out and the paint will benefit well from a machine polish, but there doesn't appear to be any obvious peeling paint or major fade. The "underside surface rust and rusty fuel pipe" looks very minor, and may even be less rusty than the Liftback had before I went over it with a wire brush, rust converter and epoxy zinc.

The engine smokes at high RPM but as far as we can tell it's all black smoke from the shitty fuel it's running and not blue. The engine also feels real flat, which will be a combo of that fuel, and the VVTI pulley rattling like a diesel. The seller did advise he tops it up occasionally, but since it's got a few pretty bad looking oil leaks, I'm not overly surprised. But hey, the AC and heater both work. Winning.

It needs more work than anticipated, but it's kind of expected due to the price, KM and deferred maintenance (why is that such a running trend for cars I buy?!). Now to make the list, and order some parts.

So thats where I'm at for now.

As it stands I'm hoping to transfer the front hubs/brakes/shocks, rear crossmember/arms/shocks/hubs/brakes, wheels, towbar, radiator (liftback one is near new), radio, and steering wheel between the cars. The only thing I'm not sure about is the towbar, everything else should go straight in. The Carib has ABS, so swapping hubs should be OK.

Front control arms and swaybar will be polybushed at the time as that was the one thing I didn't polybush on the Liftback.

The liftback will then be rolling on the old Carib parts, and will be sold with the remainder of its WOF as a $1 reserve on Trademe, to try to get some cash back. There are a couple of parts the Carib failed its WOF on that I'll need to pillage from the Pick A Part wrecker for the Liftback since I can't reuse them, but nothing hard to get.

I'll miss the Liftback, its been a great little car and my first foray into actually modifying cars. I have fixed a lot, but never really modified anything.


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So that is more or less up to date now.

Over the week I've been pulling the good bits out of the Liftback


And tomorrow ill be pulling the suspension/brakes out of the Carib and swapping in the good bits. Then its a case of getting a WOF on the Carib, and fitting the Carib bits to the liftback to make it a runner again and sell it cheap.

I didnt plan on getting rid of the Liftback so soon, I had hoped to get another year or so from it before moving on, but this is just the way its panned out. I really enjoyed driving it, using it as a momentum car and just driving everywhere foot flat and slinging it into corners. Unfortunately this has meant the Marina is on the backburner until the liftback is done and sold, even though i have everything I need to make the Marina drivable. #Priorities.

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Today was a big day, spent turning two average cars into one good one.

I've made the decision to keep running this as Project Rolla, as it's more a continuation of the work I was doing on the Liftback than actually being a full replacement. It's kind of a body and engine swap, whilst everything else, including the future plans, are the same.

So a couple of weeks ago, as you know, I picked up the Carib and dropped it at a friends lockup. I hadn't seen it since.

During this time I had been working on stripping the good bits out of the Liftback, ready to transplant them into the Carib.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but way back when I did this work on the Liftback I noticed that the lower pivot bolt in one of the hubs had almost no bolt poking through the nut when torqued up. I knew it was tight but wondered if I had cocked up and used the wrong washers or something. No, as it turns out, someone had cut the end off the bolt...

Well, I guess that's why it was shorter, someone had taken a cutoff wheel to the end. I don't know why, but I replaced it with a spare I had anyway, to be safe.

It's pretty clean under there, much better than the Carib, as it turns out.

I left the calipers to last so I didn't end up with a bunch of brake fluid leaking everywhere for too long. I also took this chance to check the calipers over and give them a tweak. The fronts were good, only needing some debris removed from the gap in the middle of the pads.

The rears I split to clean and grease the slides. Hopefully this makes the handbrake work a bit better as it's never really been good. One thing to take note of when assembling these calipers is that the rear has a piston that needs to be wound in to retract. This piston needs to be aligned so the notches are at the top and bottom, aligned with the bump on the housing at the top in the photo

I found one of the slider boots torn and not working as it should. As I had a rebuild kit spare (for the sticking caliper on the Carib) I pinched the boot from that. The old one was stuffed

The new boot was a different design but worked the same.

Hopefully that helps.

With that checkover done, everything was put aside ready to be transplanted.

Today was the day, the everything was loaded up into the back of the Honda, and taken to the lockup to be transplanted.

There aren't a lot of photos of this work as it's all been covered in previous posts, and we were working to a short timeframe.

The rear came apart and went back together easy enough. Nothing too major, except finding the rear muffler hanger has almost rusted completely through, so will need to fix that soon. The first of the new HEL transparent purple braided brake lines went in too.

They look quite pink in the harsh light, but they are actually quite a decent match to the purple of the Vogtland springs.

We had some real issues removing the hub nuts. We suspect someone turned the ugga dugga gun to 11 and just went full send. On the Liftback, we torqued the nuts to the required 250 odd NM, and to remove them I used a long pry bar in the studs to stop the hub rotating whilst I used a big breaker bar to crack the nut. I tried that on the Carib and only ended up with a couple of bent studs and a bent and broken pry bar.

This bar used to be straight

It's probably my own stupid fault for using a jack handle on the end of that long breaker bar. The amount of force when the pry bar let go and shot across the workshop was shocking. Thankfully everyone was well out of the way and only the pry bar got hurt.

In the end, the winner of the day was my trusty old Ryobi cordless rattlegun. I didn't expect it would ever touch it, but after a bit of ugging and dugging it spun that nut right off. I'll be going straight to the gun for that in future.

With those off the front could be swapped too, which meant more braided lines. But first, we had to remove the old struts, which are utterly caked in old CV grease, and exceed the threshold for festy and into some other realm of extreme grot.

The old, manky, black brake fluid was flushed through and the system bled. Full hovercar was required for this.

Once the brakes were all bled up nicely, we dropped the rear of the car down on its wheels, lifted the front higher and I slid under to replace the rear engine mount. This is a real bastard of a job, but it seems the easiest way to do it is to remove the mount through bolt, remove all the bolts in the subframe, lower it down and pull the mount out that way. We supported the engine with a crane but it seems that might have been a bit overkill.

I found it easiest to barely line the mount mounting bolts up in the subframe but before raising the subframe up again, wiggle the mount enough to get the through bolt in place first. If you do it later you'll find the engine sags and is miles away from lining up the hole in the mount. Once the through bolt in you can lift the subframe up again and bolt it in. I took the time to replace the front swaybar bushes here too since all the bolts were already out.

And that was that, the wheels went on and the car was loaded with all its remains. This caused some laughs at the rear ride height, as it was well dumped with all that weight in it.

Hopefully it still retains some lows with all the weight removed, but I'll need to wait and see.

Before heading home we snapped some more Corolla gang photos since my friends Corolla had arrived back today from having some work done.

Corolla Gang 1.0

Corolla Gang 2.0

The drive home was interesting. having to try and dodge as many bumps as I could due to all the loose stuff rattling around in the boot, but I did notice it retained the nice ride quality of the Liftback, as well as the nice progressive brakes. What it's lost is some down-low torque, but it also gained many thousands of RPM to play with at the top end. I'm looking forward to driving the back roads in anger in this thing. Keep the RPM up, and keep the engine singing, seem to be the go.

Unfortunately, a couple of issues were highlighted, the main one being the RH CV joint being destroyed. It makes horrific noises when turning, and even makes noise when accelerating. Ugh. I kinda guessed this by the boot being split and ALL the grease being on the surrounding suspension components.

Thankfully I know a guy down south that wrecks Toyotas, and sure enough, he has a good axle, so that will be with me next week. I can't install it until the garage is free though, so need to get cracking on the liftback, fitting all the old Carib parts to it and get it driving again.

It also needs a wheel alignment, but that will happen after the front arms get polybushed. I'm waiting on the bushes to arrive at the moment.

I'm still not sure if it's a better looking car than the liftback or not. I guess most people probably think it is as the bugeye wasn't the most loved design, but I like both designs. The wagon is a hell of a lot more practical though, with its low loading floor and high roofline. Its also got a split rear seat base which the Liftback didn't have, which means one side of the rear seat can be completely folded flat and the other side still a useable seat.

There's more work to be done yet, specifically a WOF, but it'll be a couple of weeks before I can get on to that.


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During 1998 tariffs on cars imported fully assembled ended as the final step of a long-term New Zealand Government plan for the industry. The remaining four local assemblers — Mitsubishi (June),[6] Nissan (July),[7] Honda (August)[8] and Toyota (October)[5]— all ended local assembly and switched to importing fully built-up vehicles.

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  • kws changed the title to KwSs "boring car" - 1997 Carib BZ Touring Project

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