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Chronicling my adventures and misadventures building my dream '02

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Lots of fun things have been happening on the car - here's a run down:

1) The interior's gone! I was able to sell the whole set to another forum member, who's restoring a 1600 with his sons. Happy to see it go to a good home.


Complete interior pulled and off to its new owners


Rather spacious in here...

Meanwhile, that financed a bucket seat (Corbeau FX1 Pro) and a DOT-legal Schroth race harness. I'm finishing up a rear seat delete, custom (and very economical) carpet set, and some home made ultralight door cards (shoutout to my amazing fiance who's helping me sew them). I'll write a more detailed entry just on the interior mods, but the big takeaway is: I managed to shave around 100lbs out of the car! Now we're feeling sporty...


New interior in progress

2) Front suspension overhaul: What was to be a "simple" one day bushing job turned into ball joints, radius rods, a sway bar upgrade, complicated by stuck bolts, rusty mating surfaces, companies sending me the wrong parts... five weeks later, the car was finally driving again :0. I learned a lot about patience on this job... Thanks to Bill Williams and the guys at Ireland Engineering for helping me get this put back together right!


Anyone seen my suspension?


Lower arms going back together

3) Fixed the odometer, follow this wise forum member's advice:

While I was in there I gave the whole instrument cluster a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint. It's a bit easier on the eyes now.


Instrument cluster all fancied up

4) Fixed my driver's door lock so I can lock/unlock with the key again. Put in a new striker plate and adjusted it so the door will close all the way again. Also got the little plastic pieces ("acorns") so you don't have to slam the doors anymore, either. Doors. They're surprisingly complicated.

5) Replaced my junky plastic gas cap with a used original shiny metal one.

6) Repainted the front grill. Tried my hand at plasti dip... cue debate. I like the stuff, for now anyway. Zero commitment, minimal surface prep, and beautiful results (used it on the instrument cluster refresh too!)

More to come soon! Happy '02ing, everybody.


Let's Get Down Tonight.

blog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgblog-0840031001393576038.jpgFinally got my new shocks and springs on! My embarrassingly squishy, waterbed-like suspension is no more. I went with a set of Bilstein sports and Ireland Engineering stage II springs all around, to firm the car up for some more aggressive driving and lower it an inch or two.

The back half of the car was really straightforward. The shocks literally came off with two bolts, and the springs pulled out without too much more effort. Spring compressors made this a bit easier. You can borrow them for free at your local auto shop (Pep Boys, O'Reilly, etc.). Worth having on hand, if you ask me, and you'll want them anyway if you're doing the front too. I left the two-dot spring pads in on the top and the bottom, to try and keep the back end from dropping too low.


Gettin' my grease on


That's looking more like it!

The fronts were a little more challenging for me. To start with, I couldn't even budge the retaining nut on the top of the front shock - I literally broke tools trying to get it loose. I'd all but given up, when someone recommended I hit it with an impact wrench. Mine were getting replaced anyway, I didn't care about damaging them. I wasted HOURS with hand tools; an impact wrench knocked both off in a matter of seconds. Back on track!

I used the "compress the spring and lean the assembly out from under the fender" method (here: Saves a lot of time and effort by not having to deal with those pesky safety wire bolts at the bottom of the strut. Looks something like this:


Felt a little precarious at first, but worked just fine. DON'T LET IT SWING AND HIT YOUR FENDER, THOUGH. Don't ask me how I know.

After compressing and removing the springs, I was terrified to tackle the infamous gland nut. I'd seen nightmare pictures of people using pipe wrenches with ten foot long cheater bars to break them free after they rusted on. I got lucky... mine were anticlimactic, to say the least. I just touched them with a pipe wrench and they walked right off.


You ain't so scary after all.

Getting the old strut inserts out was harder than I expected - followed some wise wizard from the forum's advice and used this trick: clamp some vise grips on to the end of the shaft. Grab a hammer and smack the vise grips until the insert slides out. Easy peasy.


Smack here.

That's the worst of it... after this, just put it back together the same way I took it apart, with one exception. I tossed the all the spring pads in the front, and instead slid some 5/8" vinyl tubing over the top and bottom coil of my front springs. I wanted to drop the front as much as possible relative to the back, to avoid the nose-high look a lot of people end up with. Definitely peek through the stance thread for lots of ideas, information, and inspiration in that area.


Maximum drop, minimum squeaking

And that's it! I think the car looks a lot better, and I can tell you with certainty it drives a lot better. It no longer has a sinking-ship-like list to the right either, thank god. Once the shocks settle to a final ride height I'll be sure to post some before and after pictures.

Scope creep confessions: While in there, I noticed my ball joints are riveted on (likely original to the car). I don't trust those after 43 years of service, so new ones are in the mail. Going to replace all my bushings with urethane and upgrade to bigger sway bars while I'm in there, too. Excited to take that on... stay tuned!


Brake Time

Like I'd mentioned before, I've been swimming in brake fluid out in the garage lately. Every time I parked the car, it would pool around the passenger rear wheel. It was time to deal with it, because on a modest drive I could drain almost my entire brake fluid reservoir, no joke.

I got the car jacked up, pulled off the wheel, and pulled off the drum (make sure you release the two adjustment screws on the back, don't forget like I did. It's so much easier when you aren't fighting the brake shoes). This is what I was dealing with:


Might be a little tough to see in the picture, but the entire thing is soaked in brake fluid. My favorite culprit was the wheel cylinder in the middle of the top of the picture - it's the piston that pushes the two brake shoes outward. Had my buddy hop in the car and stomp on the brake pedal a few times, and sure enough, the fluid started coming out of the seal on one side. Gotcha!

You can take the wheel cylinder apart and change the seals if you're really motivated, but a whole new one isn't that expensive. I ordered one up along with new brake shoes for both sides. Pulled everything apart and got the new bits installed; looking a lot prettier down there now. And best of all, it's staying dry as a bone! As a bonus, the braking is much better - and maybe it's my imagination but the pedal feel is a lot firmer too.

Another problem off the list. Just scored a great deal on some Bilstein Sports and IE stage 2 springs... sloppy suspension, I'm coming for you next!


New (Old) Wheels

First fix finished!

Like I'd mentioned before, my highest priority problem on the car when I bought it was the tires - the fronts were bad. I mean, dangerously bad. The outside had about 1/4" of tread left, but the insides were worn completely smooth. Anyone have problems with tire wear like this? I've heard these cars are happy with some camber, but this just seems excessive.


I had a hard time finding replacement tires for the wheels that came on the car, and I just decided I'd take the opportunity to switch to some better wheels too. Keeping budget in mind, I looked around the forums and saw some of you mention that the bottlecap wheels from e30's fit the '02. Not only that, they're an upgrade to a 14 inch rim, a lower profile tire, and almost a full inch of extra tire width too! I found a set for $200 cash with good Kumho tires all around. Bolted them on and instantly have a better looking (in my opinion) and better performing car. Happy days!





For bonus points, I'm making a habit of weighing everything that goes on and comes off the car. Looked like the OEM wheels (with tires) were 30.0 lbs even per corner, and the bottlecaps were 30.3 lbs. 1.2 pound total weight gain? Buys its way on the car easy as far as I'm concerned.

Side note - anyone want to buy four good condition OEM wheels?

Next up, it's time to tackle my hemorrhaging passenger side drum brake. We're talking draining half the brake fluid reservoir in a ten mile drive... yikes. Look for that in the next few days!

Until next time,




blog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgblog-0470569001391850575.jpgHi all! After years of enviously poring over your projects and pictures, I'm happy to say I've finally managed to pick up a 1971 '02 and start a build of my own. I'm going to do my best to document my trials and tribulations here - hope you enjoy following along!

My dream '02 is simple, light, very autocross oriented, but still barely streetable for a trip around town every once in a while. For an idea of what to expect on the blog, here's a list of my goals:

Short term, I'm mostly working on safety and reliability - adding some rubber with bigger wheels, fixing the brakes (which are streaming fluid!), "suspension" (right now it's a bit like driving on a half empty water bed), and other small assorted issues.

Next up, I'll follow my main man Colin Chapman's advice and try to "simplify, and add lightness." Think bucket seats, a steering wheel, and not much else.

The next challenge, which I'm sure will be a big one, is to strip the induction and ignition systems off and replace them with a Megasquirt EFI and EDIS setup. I want something efficient, reliable, expandable, and most of all something I have a bit more control over (I'm an engineeer, and very happy playing with programming and tables of numbers).

Long term, likely after going through the motor, I'd like to conservatively boost it with a small turbo. Not looking for insane power - roughly speaking, something in the 175hp range.

I understand a lot of this work is pretty ambitious, and much of it is subject to revision on advice from all of you - a resource I welcome and I'm thrilled to find. I'm very happy to join the community here, and will try to feed back at least as much help and information as I get.

I'm hoping with some thoughtful modification and a lot of hard work, I can create something unique and special, a car that's exactly what I want it to be. Check in every once in a while, and enjoy the ride with me!


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