My first car. Purchased around 1983 for $750 or so. A reliable vehicle that I learned quite a lot from. I put about 100k miles on it, and a few scrapes. While the water pump had a minor leak, I loaned it to my brother (after warning him). He drove it until there was no water in the radiator for about 20 miles. I continued to drive the car about 6k more miles, but the block was cracked. I sold it (still running) for parts to an enthusiast for $250.
I switched manifolds, carbs, and rebuilt the engine. I changed the springs, shocks, anti-roll bars, wheels, tires, and added many gauges and aerodynamic accessories. A good friend convinced me to put on a large blue sticker from pep-boys that said 'turbo'. This was in 1983, and is where my nickname came from. After a few minor scrapes some very artistic folks that were rock-climbing with me decided they needed to spray paint the car. 10 different colors. Quite unique. About 190 HP at the rear wheels thanks to a 351W and a FMX auto trans.
A killer fast vehicle. As purchased, it had a 4 speed M-20 trans, and a 455 Olds engine that put out 320 or 340 HP at the wheels. I decided I needed more, and switched the cam and intake manifold. Now I have over 400 HP at the rear wheel (limit of dyno) at 4800 RPM. Now I needed more traction. I decided to get a Torsen diff. Problem is they didn't go in the GM 12 bolt that I had. I had a Ford 9" fabricated for my car by Currie Brothers. Quite an improvement. Needed better braking, so I got 16*9 Gotti 3 piece modular wheels and 4 wheel disk brakes (4 piston all around eventually). Got a Doug Nash 5 speed trans, and a McLeod street-twin clutch and could go 140 MPH with 2 cylinders misfiring. Got Herb Adams VSE anti-roll bars (1 5/16 or so in the front, and 1 1/2 in the back). Got new springs and shocks. I could drive Willow Springs International Raceway in 4th gear in 2 minutes, 4 seconds (a 9 turn track). Lotsa improvements courtesy of Jim Robinson (several time Winston West NASCAR champion) before he had an argument with a wall at Phoenix International Raceway (bumped from the rear while in 1st place).
I got some nice seats and 6 point belts in the front. Added 6 gauges, a new steering wheel, and a nice stereo. A power steering rack from LEE. Lotsa other goodies. A free-lance socialist (thief) decided to liberate it from its cruel oppressor (me). RIP.
Purchased for $1. Charged the battery, added some trans fluid and gas, and drove it home over the freeway about 25 miles. Removed the front seat, and a few other goodies (to install in my 1971 Ford), and sold to Pick-A-Part for about $80 (I gave 1/2 back to the folks I bought it from).
My first new car. Purchased after I realized my Ford's engine was cracked. This car is a limited production vehicle made by Shelby Automotive. A friend had a GLHS, and I decided I wanted a Shelby also. 175 HP, and front wheel drive. Handled ok. 4 wheel disk brakes. The throttle steer is interesting as is the turbo lag.
I got the Shelby stage II computer (smog legal), which increased the horsepower to around 213 or so, and I bought Eibach variable rate springs, and new shocks. A few more gauges (like a pyrometer), and some new seats and 6 point belts. Quite a fun car.
At about 120k miles the head developed a some cracks between the intake and exhaust valve. This is a high-stress area, since it gets really hot, and cracks are common here. I decided to get a rebuilt engine, with lots of Mopar (now called Direct Connection) fast parts, including the 'Super-60' parts. The new engine put out around 250 HP! Unfortunately the Super-60 head, Mopar's best, had a casting porosity between the number one combustion chamber and the coolant passage. It took the very wily folks at Tuttle-Click Dodge awhile to figure it out. Less wily folks were sure it was the head gasket...
After gluing the crack didn't work (gluing is done to SuperStock drag big-block heads with good success), a new head was fabricated with similar flow characteristics. Again, things were good....
Unfortunately, while the compression was going into the coolant system, some water was also going into the combustion chamber. Too much water. Toasted the crank bearings, and the piston came to know the head much too intimately. Time for engine #3, along with custom forged pistons, as the different piston sizes available is pretty poor. A fast car again....
It turns out that the 'Super-60' cam has a heat treatment problem. The guys at Mopar Performance deny it, but it is a well known problem. But it wasn't known to me at the time of engine #3. So my cam went flat. It started out pretty subtle, but things got worse and worse. Fortunately, it was caught before major damage. Time for engine #4. No Super-60 cam, no Super-60 heat. I had the well-respected folks at Dick Landy Enterprises do the engine. They seemed friendly enough, and competent, however it took them at least 5 months to rebuild the engine. Some of this isn't their fault as they were waiting for parts, but still, an inexcusable delay. Soon everything will be back together and I will be speed racer again.
One notable problem, is the drivers side door handle broke. I ordered another one, and with a friend's help, we replaced the door handle. I think it the handle has a poor design. It is made out of plastic, and is a long lever which is used to open the door. Of course, where the lever attaches to the door, is a high stress area. It should have been reinforced enough to take the stress. Of course, it broke there. Of note, the original door handle was secured with what look like oversized sheet metal screws. The replacement handle has threaded metric holes, for metric bolts. No doubt a superior design, but I had to go to a hardware store to buy some metric bolts to secure the door handle.
The transmission has 4 speeds, unlike the 1998 Camry which has 3 speeds. It also has a poor design where the planetary gear axles are poorly secured to the carrier. Over time, the hole where the axles go become elongated. After enough time, the axles wobble and will eventually break. You can get the part replaced with a factory part with the same problem. Or you can get a remanufacturered part where the flimsy axle securing area is significantly beefed up to reinforce the area, which will likely eliminate the problem. If Toyota can improve the design of the replacement door handles for the 1998 Camry, why can't they improve the design of the replacement transmission parts?
Like my 1998 Camry, the 2002 Camry door handle broke. It is a slightly better design than the 1998 Camry door handle, and seems to be used by many Toyota models including my 2012 Prius. The handle pivots on the leading edge and the trailing edge moves, which opens the door. Of course, like the 1998 Camry door handle, it is made out of plastic. For 2002, there is a hook in the back of the rear side of the door handle, which engages a mechanism to open the door. Of course, the hook is a high stress area and is made out of plastic. In the above pictures, it is clear the hook does not have a lot of material. The hook area could have thicker walls, or be solid, or have reinforcing ribs. But none of those ideas were used to reinforce the hook area. After it broke, I tried to replace it without success. It turned out that the hook engages with two small pieces that engage with a nice gold colored steel rod in the door. Those two pieces 'went missing'. The Toyota manual doesn't show them clearly. The shop that fixed it had to tear the other door apart to see how the mechanism worked and called Toyota to get a fax showing how it all went together. The broken part of the door handle hook was found in the bottom of the inside of the door. The two missing pieces were nowhere to be found...
Well, the drivers side door handle broke again. This time it was the area surrounding the lock. Again, there is really thin plastic, and the really thin plastic area broke. I crazy glued it back together. No idea how long it will stay together. Plastic is a great material, if id is designed to handle the stress it will be subjected to. If it isn't, it will break. It seems Toyota has not properly engineered their door handles. I hope no more plastic parts break...
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