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Project Rolla, The Demise and Version 2.0

Well, it was a good run with the Liftback Corolla, but unfortunately it’s become unfeasible to keep it going.

Back in December, I posted about repairing the rust in the A pillar. At the time this appeared to be a good solid repair, with new metal being welded to good thick, solid metal that I treated with rust converter.

Unfortunately, 4 months later, the pillar was full of paint bubbles. I was hoping it was just lifting paint due to the humidity when I painted the repair, but once I started poking it I knew I was kidding myself and it was all game over. Note in the below photo the line of bubbles running rearward too.

I poked at it, removed all the paint in the area, poked some more and end up with some holes. It wasn’t looking good. The metal around the repair had gone from nice solid weldable metal that had been treated, to thin and full of holes. The repair was holding up really well, but everything around it was crumbling.

In this instance, I didn’t want to weld it again. The metal is too thin and too close to the windscreen. My only real options were to have some professionally fix it at a large cost (and removing/replacing the windscreen) or to fill it with a fibreglass/metal body filler. I did the latter. Not before absolutely filling the area inside and out with rust converter, and then a zinc-rich epoxy paint. The filler is a rust inhibitor too, so there are three things trying to stop the rust there now.

A slapped on some of the New-tech reinforced filler, making sure to thoroughly jam it into the holes and make sure it was a nice solid part of the structure.

And sanded the super hard hairy filler back

A layer of normal body filler went on over top to smooth and shape the repair

Next was a coat of primer, more sanding and then base and clear coats.

It’s not my finest work, there are sanding marks and the blend to the older paint is harsh, but for a quick redo to slow the rust down and keep the panel weather tight, it’s not bad.

I’m not kidding myself anymore though, I know the rust will be back. It’s super aggressive. The car previously lived by the sea (as shown by the underbody rust), so I’m wondering if that has been a contributor to how bad the rust is. The previous repair before mine was rubbish, and if it had been letting salty sea moisture in before it was fixed, it might explain it.

Anyway, so the days of the Liftback were numbered. I knew this. I was planning to limp it through its next WOF or until the pillar needed more work again and then replace the car with another Corolla that doesn’t have rust, and transfer all the good bits over, and revert the LB to standard and sell it at auction as a cheap runner.

As it turns out, this popped up on Trademe, with a stupidly low price.

A 1997 Toyota Sprinter Carib BZ Touring. Basically a JDM AE111 Corolla wagon with a different face (the Corolla was a bugeye like the Liftback), oh, and a 165HP 20V 4AGE that revs to about 8000rpm with ITBS and a close ratio 5 speed manual.

I figured if I was sticking with the Corolla platform so I could reuse all the bits I spent money on, I might as well upgrade and get a more grunty engine. The 7AFE is a good reliable unit with decent down low pull, but it runs out of puff easily, doesn’t like to be revved and isn’t a sporty engine.

I asked some questions to the seller, who was a young guy that had had the car in his family for about 10 years. It had been everywhere, done everything, and had over 300,000km on the clock.

The car had failed its WOF a couple of months ago on a few simple things. A couple of bulbs, a leaky rear shock, a rear brake imbalance, and a rusty fuel pipe. Nothing major.

The seller was kind enough to drive the two hours today to meet me closer, so after having a good look around and taking it for a drive, I paid the man and drove the Carib straight to the lockup to wait for the parts from the liftback to be available.

It’s well worn, and had a hard life. It’s also had a…. typical Kiwi Toyota life; Run on 91 petrol (should be 98 due to high compression), bare minimum servicing, no receipts.

It feels all of its 301,000km; wobbly, loose and tired. Thankfully other than a couple of scrapes and dents it doesn’t really look like its age/mileage. It needs a damn good clean inside and out and the paint will benefit well from a machine polish, but there doesn’t appear to be any obvious peeling paint or major fade. The “underside surface rust and rusty fuel pipe” looks very minor, and may even be less rusty than the Liftback had before I went over it with a wire brush, rust converter and epoxy zinc.

The engine smokes at high RPM but as far as we can tell it’s all black smoke from the shitty fuel it’s running and not blue. The engine also feels real flat, which will be a combo of that fuel, and the VVTI pulley rattling like a diesel. The seller did advise he tops it up occasionally, but since it’s got a few pretty bad looking oil leaks, I’m not overly surprised. But hey, the AC and heater both work. Winning.

It needs more work than anticipated, but it’s kind of expected due to the price, KM and deferred maintenance (why is that such a running trend for cars I buy?!). Now to make the list, and order some parts.

So thats where I’m at for now.

As it stands I’m hoping to transfer the front hubs/brakes/shocks, rear crossmember/arms/shocks/hubs/brakes, wheels, towbar, radiator (liftback one is near new), radio, and steering wheel between the cars. The only thing I’m not sure about is the towbar, everything else should go straight in. The Carib has ABS, so swapping hubs should be OK.

Front control arms and swaybar will be polybushed at the time as that was the one thing I didn’t polybush on the Liftback.

The liftback will then be rolling on the old Carib parts, and will be sold with the remainder of its WOF as a $1 reserve on Trademe, to try to get some cash back. There are a couple of parts the Carib failed its WOF on that I’ll need to pillage from the Pick A Part wrecker for the Liftback since I can’t reuse them, but nothing hard to get.

I’ll miss the Liftback, its been a great little car and my first foray into actually modifying cars. I have fixed a lot, but never really modified anything.

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