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Project Rolla, My Friend Manuel – Part 3

I had some concerns about the clutch, so day three was started with us plumbing it in and bleeding it.


We were over time now, but were fairly confident that this would be the last day and we should have it ready to go by the end of the day. Oh how fickle Murphy can be.

The flexi was plumbed into the clutch system and the reservoir filled with brake fluid. We bled the system until no air was coming out, but the clutch pedal felt really weird (very soft with no feel) and there wasn’t a huge amount of movement at the fork when the pedal was pressed. The fork was also loose as anything and moved a lot by hand. Something wasn’t right. It looked like the pivot “mushroom” was too small for the fork as it just flopping about.

We decided to head to Pick A Part on a research mission. We checked the various cars there with the same gearbox and came to the conclusion that our mushroom was definitely too small.

Here is a photo of one from PAP. Note how you can just see the underside of the head, how thick the shaft is and how big the hex is in relation to the boss it screws into. The spring also sits against the shaft just under the head.

Now mine. See how much smaller it is in almost all directions. The spring is miles away from touching it, and you cant see the head at all. No Bueno.

Iain made a quick call to a local wrecker he has had good luck with before (Wellington Toyota Dismantlers in Wainuiomata), and we were very lucky that they agreed to sell us a fork and pivot. They don’t normally split them from boxes, so they really saved our arse.

After a “quick” drive to Wainui to pick the parts up, we went back and started the process of removing the engine again. Thankfully because we tested the clutch first there wasn’t a lot else we needed to remove.

We split the box from the engine again, and this is how different the two pivots are

Its a straight replacement, and the fork now “clicks” into place on the springs. Everything was cleaned and greased, and the new fork was installed with the replacement pivot.

And hey, its back in the bay again. It took us a couple of hours to pull the engine, split box, investigate and swap the pivots, install gearbox and reinstall into car. Not bad.

With the engine back in the car again we once again hooked up and bled the clutch. This time we had a positive clutch feel and movement at the fork. The fork now has little to no play. Big difference.

Since everything was going well, we proceeded with installing the axles, shifter cables and all the various bits we disconnected.

For the first time in a couple of days we were on the ground again

So much room for activites

Makes filling the gearbox easy

But eventually, the radiator had to be refitted, but you knew it was serious because the last thing I did this day was to refit my nice valve cover. I removed it initially so it wouldn’t get scratched or marked.

And that was it for Wednesday. Thursday was going to be a good day.


With only a few more things to connect up, and a couple more fluids to pour in, it was almost time to see if the car would even start.

We plugged it all back in, I checked the gearbox was in neutral and turned the key. Sure enough, the engine spun over. Win! The inhibitor wiring was good! Better than that, the reverse lights even worked. A+ work by Iain.

So that’s it, all that was left was to fire it up, run it up to temp and bleed the coolant out, which is exactly what we did. Whilst it was warming up, it even passed the “will it go back and forward” test.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for the thermostat to open and the fan to come on, it moved under its own power.

Corolla squad!

I cannot confirm, but it may have been driven on a (private) road with no bonnet. Its a weird view, seeing the back of the headlights

A quick check the fluids were still where they should be, and the bonnet went back on.

With everything cleaned up, all the tools packed in the boot, we set off for my place in a Corolla convoy (had to get the Honda home somehow, since it’s been my workhorse during this work).


That brings us to today.

A couple of little niggles have shown themselves. Nothing major, but the shift base is worn and hard to find gears (it came from a car with over 260,000km on the clock), and there are some subtle noises that seem new. I also need to reassemble the interior.

Before I can reassemble the interior I needed to replace the shifter base. From a quick check at Pick A Part most seem to have quite a bit of play in the main pivot, but one of the cars I’ve been pillaging for parts (a bugeye like mine) has only 160k on the clock and the shifter base was nice and tight, so I grabbed that, along with a good score of a nice near new, current model, Pioneer Bluetooth headunit for a significant discount.

I couldn’t fit any of the interior bits back in without cleaning them. They were all festy as hell, with sticky slimy goop everywhere. Maybe skip this section is you have a weak stomach.

Simple green does a pretty good job of cleaning it off, but ugh, people are gross

The cupholder in particular was pretty bad. It was the source of a lot of this muck. They must have spilled a lot of drinks over the years.

These were really sticky and hard to use. They didn’t so much pop out as just sorta grind their way into place. the cup holder can be removed from the bottom piece with the spring by levering the tabs out

Everything was like this though. Glovebox, center console, center stack, knee panel. Everything needed a damn good clean. I know it triggered some people that have read my earlier posts seeing how festy the center stack was.

The cup holders now work nicely, and with a little grease on the rails, they slide smoothly with a defined pop when pressed.

With all that cleaning out of the way it was time to reassemble.

I noticed that the climate controls had a couple of little bulbs. I wonder if they work, I asked myself. No, they didn’t. I popped a new bulb in to test

So I transferred the little green condoms over, and bam, climate lights

The ashtray light was also blown, so I replaced that with an LED since it goes through a green filter and doesn’t have a condom on it. I would have LED’d the climate too but I didn’t have green LEDs.

Now it’s just a matter of reinstalling everything opposite to how it came out. One exception is the center bin, which is replacing the CD player. I swapped the brackets over, gave it a clean and fitted it.

The cleaned climate trim went on. This also had a lot of gunk on it previously.

And the new headunit installed. It’s still not a high-end unit, but its much better sound quality than the previous one. The sound quality is so much better that it’s now showing how bad the speakers are. Check out that lit up climate control too. Flash.

Cup holders and center bin.

And the main attraction. 5 Speeds of fury.

With the interior now all back together, I couldn’t help but take the car for a decent fang around some local back roads. I can now conclude that having more control over the engine means I can out drive the brakes and suspension. Guess. I need to hurry up with the next lot of mods then.

So that’s the manual conversion done. The difference is huge. The car is more responsive, happier to rev and a lot more flexible in how you drive it. Looking at the height of the front now too I guess its taken a decent amount of weight off the front axle.

A HUGE thanks to Iain for taking the time to help with this swap, and for letting me use his lockup space. I couldn’t have done this without his help, but to be fair he’s the reason I had Corolla on the mind in the first place. Also, thanks to everyone else that has supported me with this car, even if it’s just a like on social media or a comment on a forum, it all matters.

Now to plan the timeline for the next mods. I have everything I need, it’s just a matter of getting it done.

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