The Beater

We needed a daily badly. Upon arriving to the west coast, our Tercel as I perceived*, took a turn for the worse. It ran horrible, struggled to make power and was consuming oil at an alarming rate. We needed a daily.  Robin globbed $300 in my hand and told me to get us a car, a few hours later, I was back with a Corolla.

*I put that Astrix there for a reason. Turns out I was wrong. A plugged catalytic converter was the cause, but at that point, the car was gone.  In either case, I came home with an ’83 Liftback for $280. Not the most I’ve spent on a Corolla, but also not the least. A bit of a funny story, but I walk randomly around neighbor hoods, drive in circles, hunt through parking lots, and accost people on a daily basis. If they’ve got a car I like, I give them a little slip of pink paper, with my name and contact information and the reason why they got the note. I get a few calls but almost none.

On a random DOTS (Down on the street) car hunt, I spotted a hub cap and fender poking through a fence. I noticed it was an E7 and was excited. I ran around the side and knocked on the door. No one was home. A few weeks later, I came walking by, I decided to knock. A middle aged woman informed me it was her sons, he was taking it to the high school to ‘get work done’, and that it surely wasn’t for sale. She took my little pink slip anyway, and I was on my way. Again, a few weeks later I decided to stop yet again, no real reason at the time. The son wasn’t so sure of his plan. Soon after we needed a daily and I came a knockin’!

It’s a weird one, there isn’t many liftbacks in ’83 and for that reason you rarely ever see liftbacks with a factory 4ac. Auto, it was perfect for the girlfriend to begin learning to drive. The big issue? It was previously T-boned, if you look closely in the first photo you can sort of make out the damage, but alas I have no good photos of how bad it really was. The ‘sports’ models of the E7 corollas all had small roll down rear windows, with the B pillar set quite a bit back. This was a good and bad thing.

We could open the door, the A pillar, B piller, roof and rocker weren’t even touched, but the Sub-B-pillar, ahead of the full pillar was folded in, the door was mushed and the little roll up window was shattered. With some swift kicks and bumps the pillar moved back out 90%, and the door would now open and close easier. The window refused to roll up or down. I cut the skin off and “grafted” the skin from an E7 wagon door on. It’s hideous, but it allowed me to massage some of the metal in the existing door shell to allow the window to work. Replacing some of the broken window pieces in the door, it now functions 100%. The curse of the whole thing is it’s nearly impossible to find another door and small roll up rear window. We’ve been driving it for a few months now with no rear window.

The original owner had it painted red, originating as a silver car, we made it white. It’s horrible, all hand sprayed on with cans, it’s ugly but it works. The passenger door is heinous, but it starts every time. We beat the snot out of it. Burnt the brakes off it a few times, ran it out of oil twice, jump it, slide it, and it gets 2 hours minimum of daily use back and forth to Victoria. It’s a Beater.

Recently I’ve been playing with my spare parts bin. The most annoying thing, minus the passenger window rattle, is the blown front shocks. Yes it’s fun to pretend your a lowrider by tapping the brake pedal at stop lights. But it grows a bit old, quick. Shocks have always alluded me. I like to make my own things from scratch. I hate buying premade products, because you never get to understand the true dynamics of the parts your replacing unless you build them yourself, make mistakes and corrections. Shocks are something that have great importance to the handling of a vehicle, many people over look them, and although I try not to, I’m often forced to ignore them simply because of the costs. I’ve managed successfully in the past to convert other shocks from other cars, but I wanted to do something more aggressive.

A puzzle piece fell into place in an online chat, when someone suggested gear oil as a factory Toyota shock replacement. You see on the E7’s and E8 rwd’s, the shock is fully rebuild-able from factory. Toyota apparently used to offer rebuild kits for them, but stopped long ago. It was much easier and quicker for their tech’s to toss in a sealed unit, at a higher price, than to take the time to replace the seals and reassemble it. I pulled my spare set apart and threw in some gear oil. The results? Mixed at best.

For those of you not in the know, a shock controls the speed at which a spring moves. It’s purpose is to control the expansion and contraction of a spring, depending on the use intended by the vehicle. In a shock you have bound and rebound. Basically, bound is how much resistance to compression the shock offers. When the spring contracts, or compresses, the rate of bound determines the speed at the spring can compress. Rebound controls the decompression or expansion of the spring, the rate of rebound determines the speed at which the spring can expand.

The mixed results? This new gear oiled shock unit did perform much different than before, and no longer was blown. The new gear oil was too thick to pass the small breaks in the seal. The problem was, it was all the wrong valving. The bound of the shock was now nearly Nil, it was a 2 finger job to push the strut down. The rebound however, was completely opposite, it was a tremendous feat to pull the strut back up again. This would be ideal for a spring 3-4 times the strength of the stock one, but that’s not what I had to use.

With some spare FC3S RX7 front springs, I tested the new shocks out. The results sucked, the car would quickly nose dive on braking, and stay down. Deceleration in cornering would result in understeer by overloading the outside tire. A mess of an experiement. To top it off the upper spring perches from the rx7 springs rubbed the strut towers. Something had to be done.

Attempt #2. A friend dumped some old KYB Saab shocks on me.  I spent some time looking at them. Both pair were much shorter stroke than the original corolla shocks. Desirable, but not helpful really. One pair was regular, the other inverted. Without a welder, I couldn’t build short stroke casings, leaving me to space the regular shocks up to the top of the strut tube, only to have very little length left, even then, for a spring. The other set, the inverted set, was left. I got creative. I realized that the outer diameter, with some small grinding, cleared the inner diameter of the casing. I removed the old strut rod, drilled a hole in the casing, and put the inverted shock in. Passed a bolt through the casing, through the eyelet of the new shock, and mounted the spring, hardware and upper cap on. I only had enough hardware today to build the one. But I’ll assemble the other shortly and test them. The new saab shocks have a much greater resistance to compression, and also have a decent rebound. Hopefully they will be balanced with the cut rear RX7 springs. Nothing like making things from your spare parts pile.

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~ by discoquinn on October 20, 2010.

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