November 22, 2006 - Sick and Tired...
Well, not of my Celica project. I'm literally,
sick and tired. I've come down with a nasty cold
and I'm tired. The fall is always a busy time
around our house. School is back in session, kids
sports activities ramp up, Holidays, Fiscal midyear junk
at work, shorter days, colder weather, etc.. I've
never been a big cold weather fan and I definitely don't
like the shorter days. Makes it hard to get
anything done after the workday because of the lack of
daylight and as I get older, I'm finding that my
night vision isn't as good as it use to be. So I'm
careful about what I work on at night in regards to the
Celica. Hate to do something stupid like scratch
or dent my car because I can't see what in the world I'm
So with all the rushing around and lack of sleep, I
find myself sitting here at my desk with a nasty cold
and feeling tired. But I wanted to get an update
in on the website before embarking on the Holiday.
So here we go.
This month I definitely spent more time under the car
than in the car. The Celica still has the stock
exhaust hooked up and in order to get the new custom
exhaust setup, I need to lower the car first.
You're probably wondering why. Well, the stock pea
shooter exhaust is small enough to route over the rear
axle. But if I'm going to go with at least 2.5"
piping I'll need to route the exhaust under the rear
axle. No biggy and we use to do it this way back
in the day. It's just that you got to have the car
height right otherwise the piping may hang down too low
or worse, not low enough and bang against the rear axle.
I've actually been dreading this part. Even
though I pressure washed the undercarriage, there's
still a fair amount of oily grime under the car. I
hate oily grime. I hate it because it gets all
over everything. The little oily crumbles of dirt
fall off and get stuck on your shoes and get tracked on
anything you walk on. Gets on your clothes, gets
on you... I hate it. I admit it, I'm a wimp.
Sitting behind my nice simulated wood desk banging on
the keyboard all day has made me soft. But hey,
it's not too cool when you're meeting with corporate
customers in a suit signing contracts with a Mont Blanc
pen and your fingernails are as black as the ink your
writing with. Cut me some slack. :-)
I'm all for high tech solutions. Heck, I work
in the high tech industry. So when I see cool high
tech suspension gear, I'm all for it. I definitely
would like to swap out a good portion of the Celicas
front suspension with something more high tech. I
mean, that ol' reciprocating ball and pitman arm
steering is cool n' all but... well, you know.
But on the flipside, I know when you start swapping
parts and changing geometries, you need to make sure you
don't make things worse by not doing you homework.
I also know that it's rarely a slam dunk installation
and requires quite a bit of testing and rework to get it
right. Right now, I just need to get the car on
the road. So I'll have to phase in some high tech
suspension stuff later.
So I opt for a low tech lowering solution and plan on
phasing in some cool stuff later on. So what's the
low tech solution? Cut the springs. Yeah, I
guess could buy some aftermarket springs but unlike the
newer aftermarket springs of today, aftermarket springs
for the old cars didn't lower the car too much.
Plus, it's hard to find aftermarket springs for a car
that's 30 years old in the first place. Besides,
I'm trying to keep the car true to the era it was from.
From that era, everyone cut their springs. :-)
So I start with the front of the car. Removing
the springs requires taking the whole strut assembly out
then put a spring compressor on so you can remove
the top cap assembly then remove the whole spring.
Without the spring compressor, when you remove the top
cap, it'll come flying off like that thing in that movie
"Master of the Flying Guillotine" from back in the day
and it'll definitely cut your head off if you get in its
You know, I just realized that these spring
compressors I have are over 20 years old. Man, I
With the whole strut assembly out, I figure might as
well put the new shocks and sway bar in. So I
proceed to remove the strut cartridge by loosening up
the retaining cap. I think Toyota has a special
wrench to remove the cap with. I have a special
tool too. It's called a pipe wrench. It's
even got a sporty red handle. How cool is that!
Loosening the cap was fairly easy. The issue
came up when removing the cartridge itself. For
whatever reason, the original Toyota strut cartridges
used the actual strut tube as part of the shock
assembly. So the cartridge itself isn't completely
self contained. Aftermarket ones are. So
you're probably asking, "so what?". Well I assumed
that since the car is like 30 years old that the shocks
were replaced a few times with self contained
cartridges. But when I removed the retaining cap,
a ton of oil leaked out onto the floor of my garage, all
over my hands, everywhere. Man, this car has the
original style cartridges. CRAP!
I quickly grabbed a coffee can to set the cartridge
in while it drained and poured the remaining oil out of
the strut into the can also. I thought there's no
way this car could be riding on the original shocks and
struts. But then again, you never know.
What a mess...
This picture was taken from my second attempt.
My first attempt(right side) spilled oil all over my
garage floor. This attempt I put a piece of
cardboard underneath but I still got oil all over the
The strut tower caps were in pretty bad shape.
Good thing I bought new ones.
So I get the catridges removed and everything cleaned
up and get ready to install the new Tokico cartridges.
Installation goes easy on the first one. The
cartridge slips right in and the locking cap fits
perfectly. I can't finish the assembly until I cut
and install the spring so I tuck the strut inside the
tower and got back to the right side of the car.
The floor is still a mess from all the oil that spilled
so I do a heavy cleanup on the floor then call it a
night. I'll install the right side strut tomorrow
The following evening I start working on the right
strut. I take the cartridge out of the box, prime
it once then install it into the strut tube. I
then proceed to install the locki... hey wait a
minute, where's the locking cap? I empty the box,
nothing. I search the floor of my garage, nothing.
I go back and search everyplace where the shocks were in
my garage, nothing. Man, this cartridge didn't
come with the hardware. I make a few phone calls
and the hardware should arrive in the next couple of
days. Okay, we're at a standstill again.
Might as well tidy up and start working on the springs
then. I really didn't want to leave the car up on
stands for an extended period of time but I really don't
have a choice. I tuck the strut tube back into the
wheelwell and tie it up so it doesn't fall over and jack
up my brake line.
Pretty sweet knot job don't you think?
So I look at the stock front springs and think, wow,
these suckers sure look big. Is this how big they
were back in the day??? I don't waste a lot of
time trying to remember because I don't remember much
from back in the day anyways. So the next question
is how much do I cut? I know it was at least two
turns but I can't remember if it was two and a quarter,
two and a half, two and three quarters. I know it
wasn't three. I cut three turns off a set of
springs in my white Celica and that thing was slammed.
Three inches off the ground actually. Looked
pretty sweet but a total driveway killer.
I make a few calls to the guys but no one can
remember how much to cut. But we have a few good
laughs about how we use to cut springs back in the day.
You know you're ghetto when you use a hack saw and a
vice to cut your springs. It takes so much work
that you and your buddies take turns with the saw and
when you get about 3/4's of the way thru, you take the
spring and slam it on the ground to snap the rest off.
HAHAHA Those were the days... At lease the
old Shoreline guys would flatten out the tips so they
sit correctly in the tower. Probably jacked up the
tempering of the spring but hey, we're not professional
racers and you probably can't even tell on the jacked up
streets of LA - specifically South Bay. Better to
have a spring that sits correctly and doesn't move than
ones that bounce perfectly the same then bounce out of
So I decide to take the conservative route and start
with two turns plus flattening the end. I break
out the air cutting wheel and a mapp gas torch.
Cutting the spring is fast and easy with the cutting
wheel. But I can't resist but relive my childhood
past and cut only 3/4's of the way thru then throw the
spring up in the air and let it hit my patio floor and
snap the end off. The sound of the spring hitting
the ground and the tinny sound of the tip snapping off
brought back memories. I have a good laugh by
neighbor is probably looking out his window and thinking
"what a loser".
I have no idea what Mapp gas is but I do know it
burns hot. REAL hot. If you ever do copper
plumbing in your house, don't waste you time with a
propane torch. Use Mapp gas. Stuff is great!
So I proceed to heat the tips of my spring then bend
them to match the stock bend rate on the tip. All
goes quickly and smoothly. I clean up the springs
then decide to paint them. Why I don't know.
But here's the finished product.
Don't forget to cut the bumpers off the boots too.
... and after.
Hmmm... focus is off a bit.
So I get a call letting me know that my strut
hardware is in. I call my buddy David Kayano and
ask him to pickup the part on his way home from work
since the shop is close to his office. He agrees
as long as I buy him lunch. Hmmm... If you
ever see David eat, you'll quickly find out that this
can be a losing proposition. Bruthah can put down
some grub. :-)
Later that day, I pickup the part from David then go
back home to install it. I try to install the cap
and quickly find out
that it's the wrong part. Man!!! The thread
pitch is way too large I make another phone call to try
and get the right part. Looks like I won't be able
to get the correct cap before we leave for a trip to San
Jose so I pseudo put everything back together without
the cap so the car won't have to sit on stands while
we're out of town.
So I put everything back together and everything fits
well. I also install the front swaybar which goes
fairly well too.
Gee, this bar is quite a bit bigger than stock.
I get the front of the car back on the ground and
immediately think, "Gee, not as low as I thought it
would be." Oh well, I figure I'll lower the back,
let the springs settle and see how it is then.
Lowering the back of the car is simple and goes
smoothly. I cut two turns off the rear and bend
the ends also. Put the car back down on the
ground. Hmmm... still sits kinda high.
I bounce the car a few times, roll it in and out of my
garage and take a second look. Yup, still kinda
high. I measure the distance from the floor to the
lower body line: 7 inches. Wow, I didn't think it
was that high.
Note to self, digital cameras struggle in low light.
Okay, I know I need to cut some more but now the
question is how much. The more I think about the
whole thing the more I think we use to cut two and a
half turns off the springs. So I start the whole
process over again and cut about another half off the
front and another three quarters off the rear. The
rear of the car sits about a half inch higher than the
front so this should get it down to a quarter. I'm
going to skip the pix of this round of cutting because
it's the same as what's above. I'm also going to
skip the pix because I didn't take any pix! HAHAHA
btw, I also found the correct strut cap in my mailbox
when we returned from San Jose. Thanks Wes!
Here's the car after the second lowering job and a
much needed bath. The car should still settle more
after awhile which will lower it some more. My
goal would be to get it to about 5 - 5.5 inches off the
My buddy Koich reminded me to paint my gas tank.
It's obvious I haven't taken his advice yet.
I've always dug the banana taillights! Thanks
again Koich and Inata-san for your help with getting me
Still need to put the Hayashi caps on the rims.
Still need to install the door weatherstrip and align
the door itself.
Okay, that's it for this month. I'm going to go
take some Nyquil and goto sleep for awhile.