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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 doing.

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 path.

You know, I just realized that these spring compressors I have are over 20 years old.  Man, I AM old...

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 place.

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 night.

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 your car.

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 myself.  My 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 ground.

My buddy Koich reminded me to paint my gas tank.  It's obvious I haven't taken his advice yet.  HAHAHA

I've always dug the banana taillights!  Thanks again Koich and Inata-san for your help with getting me these!!!

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.


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