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Thread: 87 Corolla FX16 GTS Track Toy Build

  1. #1

    Default 87 Corolla FX16 GTS Track Toy Build

    Hey everybody. Some of you that have been around a while may remember my old Cressida Wagon build. Last year I sold that car and decided to move on to something new. I'm starting to move into more road-course type events, and wanted to get a car I could beat the snot out of and not care, which is where the FX16 came in. I've been autocrossing in my MR2 SC for the last 10 year or so, but I'm going full track-toy with this car.

    June, 2017

    I recently finally sold my 1986 Cressida wagon, not due to any fault of the car, but just due to lost interest. As much as I liked that car it just didn't have that spark for me any longer. I realized as cool as the wagon was, I wasn't driving it often enough, and didn't enjoy the car as much as I used to. After riding with some friends in their Miatas as VIR, I realized I had to get on track. I have too much emotional attachment with my MR2 to flog it on a road course, what I really need is a normally aspirated light weight car that I can be confident in flogging - both mechanically, and with regards to my own personal driving skill (or lack thereof). As it just so happens, a friend of mine recently moved and was unable to bring his 1987 Corolla FX16 GTS with him, and it had just sat at his place of employment for over a year. He offered me what I think was a good price, and I brought the little 'Rolla home with the intention of making it a track car.

    When I went to pick the car up, it started right up when jumped, and drove onto the trailer under its own power. However when I got home, the car would just crank and crank without starting. It was then pushed into the garage so I could start tearing into it. The first step was a new battery so I didn't have to jump it every time. The previous owner had already relocated the battery to the trunk/hatch area, so I replaced the (very dead) group 35 battery with a new group 51R for a little weight savings. I also refined the relocation by adding corrugated plastic sheathing over the power wire to protect it, as well as adding a cutoff switch and a 150A fuse, mounted to a panel I made out of totally-not-a-stop-sign.

    The first thing I had noticed when I opened the hood was the intake duct from the airbox was wrapped with duct tape and possibly a huge vacuum leak. The previous owner had left an intake pipe from a Jeep or something in the car, so I chopped that up and welded it back together to fit.

    Considering it was my first attempt at welding, I don't think it looks too terrible. I did do a couple extra passes to make sure it's air tight.

    I also had to add a barb for some vacuum lines. A quick coat of paint later and it was installed in the car. However it still wouldn't start. At this point I had a feeling it was a fuel issue, so I loosened the fuel line fitting at the cold start injector and cranked the car again. Some fuel came out, but it didn't seem like the pressure was quite where it should be. The big thing I notice though was the fuel smelled like paint thinner. I ordered a new Denso fuel pump, and with the help of some friends, spent a Saturday dropping the tank.

    Once the bad fuel was removed, new pump installed, and fresh gas poured in, the car started right up. Now that the car was running, I could start thinking about some weight reduction modifications. The rear half of the interior came out pretty quickly, as well as the spare tire. I also removed the rear wiper arm and motor, partially for weight savings, and partially because it's ugly as hell.

    Being a front-heavy car, I want to remove as much weight up there as possible. On my MR2, I replaced the heavy cast iron exhaust manifold with a stock 20v 4A-GE part, so I wanted to do the same on this car. The 20v manifold is tubular steel so it weighs less, can be heat wrapped, and flows a little better. However unlike the MR2, the FX's starter is on the exhaust side of the engine, which means more extensive modification of the manifold is required. That will be covered in future posts, as I am currently waiting on parts.

    While the exhaust was off, I went ahead and removed the EGR. Just say "no" to higher underhood temperatures, carbon buildup inside your intake, and extra weight, folks.

    Also included in the car was the original front grille, which really ties the looks of the front end together. However that had to be removed again so I could start removing AC components.

    An anonymous local dumpster kindly donated a few large alumacore signs for future aero projects. Alumacore basically consists of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiching a layer of rubber or plastic between them. It's not the lightest thing ever, but it's very rigid for how thin it is, and is a great cheap material to make splitters and other aero parts from.

    Next on the list of stuff to be upgraded was the brake system and shifter. The aftermarket for the FX16 is basically nonexistent so I spent a lot of time cross-referencing part numbers to see what parts from other cars would fit. I discovered that the front brakes are identical to 85-86 MR2s, which means 87-89 MR2 front brakes are a bolt-on upgrade. Unfortunately the guy I ordered calipers from sent me the wrong ones, so I'm currently waiting on the correct caliper brackets to come in. The upgrade is really in the rotors, as the calipers and pads are the same, you just need the correct brackets to accommodate the larger MR2 rotors. For pads, I discovered that rear pads for a Celica All-Trac are the same, so Porterfield HP R4S pads were selected front and rear, and Motul 600*F synthetic fluid will be going in. I've had great luck with those on my MR2 in the past.

    AW11 MR2 stainless lines, Celica All-Trac rear pads, new stock rotors, and Motul 600* fluid should work great for a rear brake setup. Also note in this picture that the rear struts have been replaced with KYB's. This will make building my own coilovers much more difficult for the rear. I'll cross that bridge later.

    MR2 brass shifter bushings fit great, but are a serious pain to install. AC lines, intake, and charcoal canister all get in the way. It was so much easier on the MR2! I also took the opportunity to grease all the pivot points and rotate the 'little square bushing' where the arms meet for much better shifter feel.

    Remember how I said aftermarket support for the FX16 was nonexistant? That includes shocks. Koni no longer makes shocks for the FX so I'll be forced to use parts from other cars. BC makes a set of coilovers, but I've heard that while that brand is perfectly adequate for spirited street driving, something a little more established is better for track duty. That's why I'll be going with a DIY coilover solution using Koni adjustable shocks. I removed one of the front struts to take measurements and compare with some MR2 parts I had laying around. Left to right, we have AW11 front (modified for coilovers), AW11 87-89 rear, SW20 rear, and finally the FX16 front.

    Here are the rough measurements I took. The FX16 front and AW11 rear housings are almost identical, with the AW11 housing being a couple mm longer. The SW20 rear housings are similar, but are a little longer still, and do not have an eccentric upper bolt hole. Another big difference is the MR2 housings have a courser thread for the gland nut, but the FX16's thread is much finer.

  2. #2


    July, 2017

    With the front suspension measurements sorted, it was time to figure out what to do with the rear. The design of the mounting flange is completely different from any of the MR2 housings, and the struts themselves are sealed units.

    However the diameter is identical to an AW11 front housing, and the length is within an inch or so. I thought by removing the top of the FX housing, and welding on the threaded top portion of an AW11 housing, I could make it work.

    After a little time with the angle grinder, I removed the top of the FX housing, and used a blown AW11 Koni to test fit. The diameter is indeed perfect, it just needs a little extra length.

    My old AW11 housings donated their top few inches. These were left over after I upgraded my MR2 to SW20 front housings. After being tacked in place and another test fit, they were welded up and ground smooth.

    Here's all the housings welded up, ground down and waiting for parts. Note on the left, the AW11 rear housings, going on the front of the FX, have the brake line bracket transferred over. Having a CV shaft wear through a brake line at the track would be an absolute disaster.

    Since I was waiting on coilover bits to come in, I got to work on a few other tasks, including lining the heat shields for the starter and distributor with DEI reflective tape.

    I also finally got around to making a block off plate for the intake side of where the EGR went.

    The engine mounts on the FX16 are notoriously weak, especially the front which takes the brunt of the engine's forces. I used urethane casting compound (available from Energy Suspension or McMaster-Carr) to fill the voids in the mounts and hopefully stiffen things up a bit. I've had good luck using this technique on various applications in the past, so here's hoping it works here.

    For some reason the timing belt covers were not installed when I got the car, so those got put back on as I don't like having fragile vital components exposed like that. This was way harder than it had any right to be.

    The front brake parts I was waiting on came in and the 87-89 MR2 front brake upgrade was complete.

    After having a closer look at the front end I realized how little air flow actually gets to the oil cooler. The bumper cover was in pretty rough shape anyway, so I figured a little ghetto cooling mod was in order. A couple hours of sweating in 105*F+ heat with an angle grinder and sawzall later, and this is the result.

    It's not pretty, but it will work. I plan on finding some sort of duct opening to disguise my crooked horrible cuts at some point.

    To do the planned 20-valve exhaust manifold conversion, a new downpipe flange and O2 sensor relocation are required. These flanges from MatrixGarage will go on the downpipe when the time comes.

    After finding some appropriately-sized piping from a local metal store, I attempted to extend the runners of the manifold to clear the starter. It worked, but I was not happy with how the welds turned out. I was still learning, and the weld quality was just not satisfactory yet. This particular project will likely be shelved until a later date, with the stock manifold going back on for now.

    At long last, a package arrived from TechnoToyTuning with the front coilover conversion parts, as well as my new custom antique plates.

    fter welding the rings to the housings (with much better welds than the manifold), the front coilovers were assembled and installed. The final parts combination was 87-89 MR2 rear housings with Koni adjustable shocks, MR2 rear T3 coilover sleeves with 450lb/in springs, roller bearing upper hats, and AE82 camber plates.

  3. #3


    August, 2017

    Once the front suspension was together, I took a few days off from working on the car until the rear parts arrived. Is there anything better than getting car parts in the mail? I submit that there is not.

    An interesting thing to note - the FX16 rear camber plates say "AW11" on them because, like so much else on this car, they are the same. I did have to reverse the center sections though, as they were set up backwards.

    And here it is on the car. Final parts combination - FX16 GTS rear housings, top sections cut off, AW11 front top sections welded on for proper length and gland nut thread. AW11 front Koni adjustable shocks, T3 coilovers/camber plates with 350lb/in springs.

    Remember the motor mounts that got filled with polyurethane? Those were installed as well. I hope they hold up as well as ones I've made in the past.

    As I was redoing all the welds on the exhaust manifold, I ran out of gas. Not terribly excited about the possibility of running out mid-project again, I swapped out my 20lb bottle for a 40lb one. Time to rock and roll.

    With the welds significantly improved, it was time to add some wrap to help keep underhood temps down.

    The manifold fit great, clearing the starter and the radiator, just. Now the trickiest part will be making a downpipe so the rest of the exhaust can connect to it. That will be part of a later post.

    With the welder running at full steam again, I addressed an issue that had been bothering me since I got the car. The chassis has several points where flex will happen under heavy cornering loads, with the rear strut towers being the most obvious. Nobody makes any bolt-in rear bar for the FX (of course) and I'd also like a solid point to mount harnesses in the future. I decided to make my own bar and weld it in. The attachments at the towers are 1/4" plate steel. These are stupid strong and aren't going anywhere.

    When it came to the bar itself, it was nature that provided the answer in the form of a neighbor's tree falling on a section of my fence. An undamaged section of the top rail I replaced was ground down (to get the galvanization off) and welded in place. This bar is very thick wall and incredibly sturdy, much stronger than the new rail I got to replace the damaged section on the fence. I would feel comfortable running a tow strap around this thing and pulling the car, it's that strong.

    A friend of mine just got fancy new Sparco seats for his NA Miata track car, so he sold me his old well-worn Momo for a good price. Miata rails are significantly narrower than the FX, so some thick steel bar and reinforcement plates were welded on to allow the seat to bolt in.

    My welds are still far from perfect, but it's satisfying to see how much improvement has taken place.

    Here's the seat bolted in. The cover is well worn, but it will do the job just fine. The seating position is several inches lower than stock, which will improve the driving experience immensely. The stock seats are actually really awesome, but they sit really high up in the car, as well as lacking adequate side bolstering for track work.

    The clutch pedal on this car had some pretty terrible feel. Every time I pressed the pedal, I was greeted with crunchy, squeaky action. I had installed a roller bearing clevis on my MR2, so I ordered one for the FX thinking it would be pretty close to the same. The threads are indeed the same, but the AW11 clevis is much longer than the stock part. I ended up having to cut around 3/8" off the back side to allow for enough adjustment, but it does work.

    Here is the clevis installed. Pro tip - when you cut aluminum with a cutting disc, it gets REALLY hot. Like melt your glove into your finger in a split second hot. Just, you know, FIY.

    Since I was already fiddling around the pedal box area, I removed the gas pedal and used my bench vice to apply a slight bend in it. This moved it "out" towards the driver slightly, and closer to the brake pedal, allowing for super easy heel-toe action.

    Using a sheet of coroplast (corrugated plastic, often used for yard signs), I made air block off panels to keep air flowing through the radiator, rather than tumbling around behind the headlights. This stuff is very cheap, easy to work with, very light, and fairly rigid for its weight.

  4. #4


    September, 2017

    Now that the suspension was done, it was time to move on to getting the car back to a drivable state.

    That meant finally finishing the exhaust. The 20-valve manifold has a completely different flange and sits at a different angle than the stock part. To fit the flange, I made two cuts in the downpipe to allow me to spread the "Y" portion wider, then welded the seams back up.

    I used the same "slice/bend/re-weld" method to alter the angle of the downpipe.

    Here's the downpipe painted and wrapped. Unfortunately shortly after I took this picture I realized I forgot to add the O2 sensor flange, so it all had to come right back off. Oh well.

    Finished downpipe pre-wrap, this time with the O2 sensor flange mounted.

    Once the downpipe was mounted to the manifold, I was able to weld up the new flex pipe to complete the exhaust.

    Before I ran the car too much I went ahead and changed the oil and filter. It seems like 10w40 is the preferred weight for track use with the 4A-GE, so that's what I went with.

    Time for a test drive. The Miata wheels that came with the car wouldn't clear the upgraded front brakes, so the track wheels were used. I ordered spacers for the front that evening.

    Looks pretty sharp. However on the test drive there was some immediately apparent issues. The power steering pump was making quite a bit of noise, the clutch engagement point was far too high, the gas pedal was a little too close to the brake, and the alignment was terrible. How terrible? Enough toe-in that the front tires were squealing over 15mph, and the car was almost uncontrollable. Once warmed up, the idle would surge over and over as well, which was very irritating.

    Back on jackstands it went. The gas and clutch pedals were re-modified and front wheel spacers added. As for the toe-in, when I went to adjust it enough to limp the car to work, I found the outer and inner tie rods seized on one side. Rather than cut them off and replace them, I decided to remove the steering rack and use the vice to help separate them. Then, while it was out of the car, I could de-power the whole thing properly.

    After reading some guides online for de-powering racks in Miatas and RX7s, I felt comfortable enough to tackle it myself. After disassembling the rack, I removed the rotary valve from the pinion and welded the shaft solid. I also removed the rack itself from the housing and cut off the internal seal. This will allow for less internal friction and less effort behind the wheel.

    Here's the rack reassembled, re-greased, and all the ports blocked off. The effort behind the wheel is totally acceptable and is actually less effort than my MR2 with it's quick ratio rack and smaller aftermarket steering wheel.

    This is all the stuff I was able to remove by ditching power steering. Due to the way the belt and tensioner are routed, I couldn't remove the AC compressor without also removing the power steering pump. Both of these heavy accessories and brackets are on the very front side of the engine, in the worst spot for weight balance in the car. It also frees up the engine with less things to turn. The only belt left on the motor is for the water pump and alternator. Like Colin Chapman once said - "simplify, then add lightness".

    Once the toe was reset using my very scientific 'eyeball' method, I was finally able to take the car to work to get a much needed proper alignment. Hopefully soon I'll be able to figure out the surging idle, clean the car up a little, and have it ready for it's first autocross event this coming weekend!

  5. #5


    September, 2017

    Here's the final specs I ended up with. Just a hair toe out all around, for better turn-in and easier rotation from the back end.

    After getting home, it was time to add numbers and class. Eventually I'd like to get a vinyl or magnetic number set, which will look much nicer.

    While I was aligning the car, a co-worker decided to reverse-vandalize the car by polishing half of one fender.

    The paint went from a faded flat pinkish orange to a shiny almost new factory red! You can even see the reflection of my 4A-GZE phone case! Looks like I have work to do now.

    That Sunday I drove over to RIR where the Virginia Motor Sport Club was hosting an autocross event. I met up with my friend Billy, who's S13 has been my benchmark for a few year now.

    It's a little ironic, I went from autocrossing a rear wheel drive sports car (MR2) to a front drive platform, and Billy went from a front drive sedan (Maxima) to a rear drive sports coupe.

    This thing loves to three-wheel. This being my first event in an unfamiliar chassis, on untested suspension, I wasn't very fast. But there is definitely room for improvement and some tweaks to be made.

    I came home a little disappointed in my performance, but with some clear goals for the future.

    After a long day, back into the garage it went until the next time I was able to work on it.

    One major issue that was immediately apparent was around 15* of play in the steering. No new u-joints are available, but when I cross-referenced the OE part number, I found that Previa vans with tilt steering columns use the same part. One trip to the junkyard later, and I had myself a new joint with no play.

    One evening I grabbed some dry ice from the local Kroger and went to work chipping out the sound insulation in the hatch. I got around 7-8lbs of it out before it got too late to be hammering in the garage making all kinds of noise.

    One Saturday I had to go into work in case there were any issues closing tickets for month end, which mean usually I don't have much actual work to do. So I pulled the car in and decided to finish what my reverse-vandal co-worker had started.

    It's amazing how well the paint responded to some compound. From flat pink-orange to shiny red!

    There are still spots that can only be fixed with a respray on the front bumper, roof, and rear hatch, but the rest of the car looks almost brand new!

    I'm so happy with how it turned out!

    That's it for this post. Hopefully soon I'll have the IACV block off parts, more of the sound insulation removed, and some kind of limit strap solution to keep the rear suspension from unloading too much under hard cornering, as it clunks when that inside rear wheel decides to come back down to the ground.

  6. #6


    November, 2017

    After bringing the faded paint back to a shiny glory in the last update, it was time to address one of the most annoying problems with the car - the bouncing idle.

    Bouncing idle is a common problem on the 4A-GE, and can be caused by any number of things. After checking the timing, looking for vacuum leaks, and burping the coolant, the last thing to try was bypassing the Idle Air Control Valve (IACV). This fixed the issue, so I a ordered block-off plate from KSD Engineering to do away with the valve altogether.

    The main drawback of deleting the IACV is that when the car is cold on first startup, you have to keep your foot on the gas to keep the engine running for a minute or so until the engine starts to warm up. On a car rarely driven on the street, I think this is perfectly acceptable.

    I also took the time to clean up where the sound insulation was removed in the back of the car. Remaining residue was cleaned off with a wire wheel, and the areas were coated in some off-white spray paint I had laying around to prevent corrosion.

    The MR2 needed some garage time, so when I moved the cars around I decided to take a few quick glamour shots. Pupper bonus pic too!

    I got a fever. And the only more 80's Toyotas!

    I got really tired of the hilariously long shifter throws on this car, especially compared to the MR2, so I decided to try something I spotted in an Instagram picture from someone in Latin America and make my own short shifter. The first step was to cut a 2.5" chunk out of the middle of the lever itself. As a sleeve, I used a standard socket and welded it all together. Who uses standard sockets anyways?

    Of course, shortening the lever would make the shifter harder to reach, so I built a stand out of angle iron to lift the entire shifter assembly up around 3". The shifter is welded to the stand, and the stand bolts to the floor.

    The end result is a shifter that's as easy to reach as stock, but with a much shorter throw. Obviously this wouldn't work in a car that still had an interior, but it works great in this application!

    Unfortunately, at the next autocross event I went to, the clutch went out in a cloud of stinky smoke. I was able to limp the car home, but if I gave it any more than 1/4 throttle, the clutch would just slip. So for the next event I was relegated to racing the daily driver Matrix XRS in the rain. Looks like I wasn't the only one there using my daily.

    While disconnecting things to prepare for transmission removal, I noticed the outer CV boot on the RH axle was leaking a little bit of grease. Another thing to add to the list, I suppose.

    After unbolting the starter, shifter cables, thermostat housing, speedometer cable, removing the axles, and dropping the crossmember, I braced the back of the oil pan with a jackstand and a 2x4 to keep the whole thing from tilting too far down.

    In around 2.5 hours from jacking the car up, I had the transmission sitting on the ground. Next time I'll have a new clutch and hopefully a few other things to add.

  7. #7


    January, 2018

    As part of the whole "while you're in there" thing, I went ahead and replaced the rear main seal, because I really don't feel like taking this trans off again any time soon.

    The flywheel showed obvious signs of overheating and clutch slippage.

    The clutch disc itself actually looked decent. It was worn, but not excessively so.

    Because I'm on a pretty tight budget, I couldn't afford to upgrade to a larger flywheel/clutch setup from an 87-89 MR2, so I just had the stock flywheel resurfaced instead.

    I went with a stock replacement clutch kit from Exedy. If it can last me a year or two until I can afford an LSD and drop the trans again, I'll be happy.

    With everything reassembled, it was time for the last autocross event of the year. I even invited my friend Steve to co-drive, since he's not really ready to commit to racing his Miata.

    Racing with good friends is a really fantastic way to finish out the season.

    On the way out at the end of the day, I couldn't resist the opportunity for a mini photo op by the entrance.

    See you next year, VMP!

    Over the first half of the winter, I haven't had quite as much time to work on the car as I'd like, but I did get a few small things taken care of, such as removing the rest of the sound insulation from the car.

    A few more hours with a heat gun, hammer and chisel, and the rest of the heavy matting was removed.

    After cleaning up and painting the formerly-insulated areas, I added some grip tape to the floor which really helps with getting in and out of the car.

    I saved all the insulation to weigh. By the time I was done, around 20lbs of weight was removed from the car.

    Next I wanted to address something that had been in the back of my head for a while - the driver's seat mount. The way I had set it up before just didn't look strong enough to be safe in the event of an accident.

    By disassembling (by which I mean hacking up with a power drill and angle grinder) the Miata rails on the seat, as well as the rails from the original stock seat, I was able to weld up something with much more weld area that feels much stronger than before.

  8. #8


    March, 2018

    With the driver's seat now safely mounted in place, I decided it was time to start playing with some aero. Using an old sign generously donated by an anonymous dumpster, lawn edging, and some other bits I was able to make a basic splitter.

    A little black spraypaint and it was looking pretty snazzy. I also modified one of the tie-down hooks for use as a tow hook. The lawn edging on the splitter allowed me to keep it lower than the stock lip would have allowed, while being light, cheap, and easy to work with.

    Adding in a pair of Longacre support struts and it's pretty much done. This is only version 1.0, and it definitely can't support the weight of someone standing on it, but for now it will do. I'll continue to refine it over time.

    With the first event of the year fast approaching, there were a couple small jobs I wanted to finish first. The main one being reducing the noise in the rear suspension. Given this car's propensity to three-wheel through turns, clunking rear coiloves were very annoying. A pair of Hyperco helper springs and Eibach couplers helped greatly.

    A relatively minor annoyance was the screeching belt on cold starts. A new Gates belt quieted that right down. Having only the bare necessities on this engine makes working on it so much simpler than it could otherwise be.

    I still don't have any fancy magnetic or vinyl numbers yet, so printed paper taped inside the rear windows will do for now.

    With those jobs out of the way, it was time to kick off the new season with my first trackcross at Dominion Raceway. A trackcross is formatted similarly to an autocross, with the cars staging on the main straight of the track, and running the twistiest sections (roughly turns 1 - 9) for time. No cones, no work assignments, and tons of fun.

    I was running around like a maniac between heats, trying to get different angles with my trusty old GoPro Hero2 which is practically an antique at this point.

    Second heat was delayed a bit by a particularly bad crash by a young man in a 370Z Nismo. Fortunately he seemed ok, a testament to how safe modern cars have become, and how dangerous track driving can be sometimes.

    The little Corolla made it home safe and sound. The only problems I encountered throughout the day was the windshield trim nearly blowing off on the highway (hence the blue tape), and a slightly leaky fuel pulse damper.

    What an amazing way to start the season. I can't believe I waited so long to check out a track that was so close to where I live, I can't wait to go back.

    The results of my frantic GoPro positioning really paid off too. Check out the videos below!


  9. #9



  10. #10


    May, 2008

    After a very successful trackcross event, a few small issues made themselves known that needed to be addressed. The most obvious issue was a strong fuel smell coming from the engine bay. Turns out the culprit was the pulse damper for the fuel rail. It had failed internally and was leaking out from the screw on top.

    This was replaced with a banjo bolt to prevent future failures. I had done a similar mod on my old Cressida Wagon and had no issues, so hopefully this will be the same.

    The next issue to tackle appeared when reviewing GoPro footage from the trackcross. In the suspension video you could see the rear-most bushing on the front control arm has a ton of lateral play and needs to be replaced.

    Obviously this was a perfect opportunity for an upgrade to polyurethane bushings by Nolathane.

    Of course, nothing about working on older cars is as easy as it seems. The front control arm bolts thread into a captive nut inside the chassis, and on both sides these captive nuts broke loose. This resulted in the bolt just spinning but not coming out. The only way to remove them was to cut them.

    With the bolts out, I was still left with the issue of the captive nuts in the chassis. By cutting an access hole, I was able to remove the old nuts and solidly weld in replacements. This should be much stronger than the rusty cage brackets holding the original nuts.

    Some new bolts were ordered from Toyota and went right in. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the "after" from cutting the holes, but they were welded shut and everything received a generous coat of rubberized undercoating.

    Here are the new polyurethane bushings installed on the control arms. They really helped stabilize the front end.

    The wheels that came on the car were these NA Miata daisy wheels. I'll throw these on for occasional street driving or to go to events more than 10 minutes away. These wheels were looking pretty bad so I gave them a coat of brown paint I had laying around.

    Next up was painting the tired trim a nice coat of satin black. Just because it's a track toy doesn't mean it can't look decent.

    Much better.

    Another cheap upgrade to keep the front end nice and tight was this set of polyurethane steering rack bushings from Ricochet Polyurethane Technologies I found on eBay.

    I had forgotten how much of a pain it is to get to these bolts. For the driver's side I had to remove the rear engine mount and bracket from the transmission!

    With these mods installed clearly the best way to test them is.....another trackcross event! This time my buddy Brian in his 4A-GE swapped FX came along. I don't know that I've ever seen two of these in the same place together before.

    Brian did great for his first trackcross event. We even swapped cars for one run just to see the differences between them. His car is much cleaner and is his daily driver street car so it was definitely softer, but still loads of fun. Of course the day wouldn't be complete without some sort of mechanical oddity. Brian's distributor cap and rotor essentially melted, resulting in an emergency trip to the auto parts store after the event. Fortunately it happened near the end of the day so he still got almost all his runs in.

    I didn't get away scot-free either.This time it was an apparent fuel leak from inside the chassis rails, as it was leaking from the pinch welds. Upon further inspection it was determined that the charcoal canister vents to inside the chassis rail right above where the fuel was leaking from. Usually this type of issue is caused by overfilling the tank, but I only filled to the first "click" as always. Additionally, the fact that this happened at the end of the day after driving an hour to the track, the whole morning session, and half of the afternoon session leads me to believe it was a fuel sloshing issue. I was definitely pushing the car much harder later in the day, and I think the fuel in the tank sloshed up into the pressure vent tube, filling the canister.

    With the canister essentially ruined by fuel saturation, I decided to remove it along with all the other vacuum lines I no longer needed from other accessories long since deleted. I extended the vent line all the way back under the car, exiting roughly near the left rear wheel well, away from anything hot. I also re-routed the throttle cable behind the engine, under the intake manifold. All of this really cleaned up and simplified the engine bay.

  11. #11


    July, 2018

    It's been a little while since I've posted an update on the FX, and a few little fun things have happened in the intervening couple of months. The first thing of note was that I acquired a rivnut tool.

    This is something that's been on my list for a while and has come in extremely handy multiple times already. Most notably for using rivnuts (also called nutserts) to attach Billy's updated rear wing on his S13.

    I also used them to replace the plastic threaded clip inserts for the rear wing on the FX16, allowing for the ghetto spoiler to make a return, secured much more sturdily.

    I also ran an autocross event with Billy, where I fully realized the extent of how dead my R888 tires really are, as well as having some awesome pictures snapped by the very talented Brian Kay (curiousBK Photography), who took the photo used at the top of this post.

    Now, since going to Hyperfest, a couple good friends Corey and Pierce have caught the track bug. Unfortunately the car Pierce was going to track this year needs an engine rebuild (not saying because rotary, but....) and I told Pierce that if he supplied me with a seat that we could both fit in, he could autocross the car. So a week after making the offer, he showed up with a used Kirkey seat and the three of us spent an evening fabricating a mounting solution that would work for all 3 of us.

    Since personally, I'm looking to do less autocrossing and more HPDE/Trackcross type events, I decided that a little neck safety was in order. Now, I know this is no substitute for a HANS device, but since I'm on a limited budget and the cheapest HANS out there is around $500, I figured a $30 foam collar was better than nothing.

    Another consideration when doing higher speed track events is oil starvation. Since I'd already experienced fuel sloshing in the tank, I decided to add in some baffles from TwosRUs to the oil pan just to be safe. These little trap doors will hopefully keep the oil around the pickup where it belongs, even in long right-hand sweepers.

    Since my first HPDE day is coming up in August, I wanted to make sure that the oil cooler was doing it's job. The FX16 GTS comes with an oil cooler from the factory, but the sandwich plate sending the oil to the cooler opens and closes based on oil pressure, not temperature. Instead, I'm using a Mocal thermostatic sandwich plate with Derale fittings to run to the stock oil cooler.

    First, remove the huge, bulky factory sandwich plate assembly.

    To delete the thick factory plate, you have to get an oil filter union from a 4A-FE or 4A-C engine (Toyota part number 90404-19001).

    Now just run the stock lines to the new plate, put a plug in oil pan where the old return line went, and you're good to go.

    I've also been making my way around the interior stitch welding the seams to get this chassis as strong as I can. I'm about half way done so far I think. Next time hopefully I'll have a new battery setup, all the stitch welding done, and maybe some other bits and bobs.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Austin, Texas


    very cool! I enjoyed reading this, I wish there were more budget track build threads!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    South Wales UK


    Really like the look of this, keen to see how it progresses

  14. #14


    Since the last update I finished going around the interior and stitch welding the seams.

    The B-pillars, roof rails, and strut tower areas were the areas I concentrated on most.

    I was also able to start installing the driver's harness. The lap belts bolt into the stock seatbelt mounting points, as they are already pretty reinforced and seem to allow the belts to sit at a good angle according to RaceQuip's instructions.

    The shoulder belts wrap around the welded in rear strut tower bar. I was concerned about the length of the straps, but according to RaceQuip as long as there is 4" of tail left after properly routing the belt, it should be acceptable. Obviously in the future once I have a proper roll bar, the harness will be mounted to that, but this should do for now.

    For the 5th point, I welded in a reinforcement plate and a double-shear mount I had leftover from the limit straps from my Cressida. The mount is angled so the belt pulls more or less straight.

    With all 5 belts mounted, the harness is done. As far as I can tell, all the belts are mounted in such a way that the angles match the instructions supplied by RaceQuip, meeting SFI specs (for whatever that's worth).

    Though not directly related to the FX, I took the time to finally give my workspace a much-needed cleaning.

    Look at all that metal dust. That's 2.5 years worth of metal grinding/cutting.

    Making a semi-organized pile is my preferred method of sorting.

    To think, the floors by the walls were packed with stuff to the point I could barely make room to jack up the car!

    Larger specialized tools took up residence in the workbench cabinet.

    Nothing like a semi-organized toolbox. Now maybe I'll be able to find a damn 10mm when I need one (which is always).

    I really **** the process of cleaning, but man the finished product really is worth it.

  15. #15


    With a nice clean workspace, getting the car prepped for HPDE was a much more pleasant experience.

    The passenger harness install went smoothly. Now the instructor will have the same level of safety equipment as the driver.

    The length of the shoulder straps is a little long, but still within spec per the instructions included.

    I also whipped up this little metal bracket to keep the intake from flopping around. This was one of those little things that was just nagging in the back of my head for a while.

    Finally the day of the HPDE arrived. After a brief panic over a forecast for 80% chance of thunderstorms, it ended up being a beautiful day.

    I was really glad to be able to run the shaved RA1's I'd bought used a while back. These tires are so freaking sticky it's nuts.

    FX16 Chasing Chevy SS Video

    In the first session everyone was still getting used to just being on track. Having done a few trackcross events at Dominion before, I was casually familiar with the twistiest section. I was even able to chase down a Chevy SS and a Nissan 350Z, two much more powerful cars.

    By the end of the day, multiple people had walked by and asked what I had done to the engine to be able to keep up with much more powerful cars. The look on their face when I replied telling them that the motor is basically stock, making around 100 horsepower, was priceless. Lots of people were also surprised that I was able to fit all my stuff in such a small car. Hatchbacks for the win!

    Quick Lap at Dominion Video

    Here's one of the quicker laps I got on camera. I wish I had remembered to record the third session when I got to play around with my friend in his EK Civic, but alas I forgot to hit the "record" button.

    The car performed nearly flawlessly at the track. The only issue I encountered was the water temperature gauge going up to 3/4 after being on track for 10 minutes or so. It never went above that, but still that's not good. Before I even left the track I had ordered a radiator on Amazon. Of course, nobody makes a drop-in radiator for the AE82, so I ordered one for an AE92 knowing I'd have to do some tweaking to get it to fit.

    As it turns out, the AE92 radiator is pretty darn close, but there are a few key differences. The most obvious is the upper hose fitting is in a completely different spot. This is not an issue if you just order an upper hose for an AE92. The lower hose fitting is slightly different as well, but not enough to need to change hoses.

    One thing I really don't like about this specific radiator is these plastic drain plugs. They sit too close to the exhaust manifold for my liking, so I will be replacing them with metal plugs instead.

    The fan mounting points are slightly different as well. For the top two mounts, you just need to drill new holes a few mm over from the stock ones. The bottom mount needs to be cut off of the shroud, as it interferes with the drain plug and lower hose fitting.

    I welded on a little tab in the right spot and now the stock fan is mounted up, ready to rock.

    For the upper brackets, I drilled a hole in the radiator support and put in a riv-nut to relocate the passenger side bracket. Both brackets need a new hole drilled and the excess cut off to fit.

    And it's in! Hopefully this will keep temperatures under control at the track. Having to back it off in the middle of the session sucks. Other than the little plastic plugs and a longer hose for the overflow, it's pretty much ready to go. I'm really happy with how little modification this needed to fit, and recommend it to anyone with an FX that isn't afraid of doing a little drilling/welding.

  16. #16


    Since I'm still on the wait list for the wait list for the last HPDE in October, I decided to go ahead and do the trackcross this weekend. It was raining all day, with the paddock basically covered in 1" of rushing water at times. The track, while wet, didn't seem to have too much deep standing water on it so the event was not delayed. Rather than get soaked changing tires in the paddock I just left the 185/60/14 Michelin all-seasons on it and decided to just send it and learn some low-grip handling.

    The first session went fine. Tiny crappy tires and wet surfaces meant I couldn't push the car as hard, but man were the limits easy to find. The car turned in surprisingly well, with lift-off oversteer easily managed with more throttle. FWD is actually pretty fun when you can just initiate the oversteer and just ride that fine line between a slide and understeer. I feel like I learned a lot which was nice. Also, out of 45 entrants I managed to score 15th fastest time overall in the morning heat, somehow beating out cars like WRX, Focus ST, Golf R, E63 AMG, Camaro ZL1 1LE, and a few turbo Mini's including a JCW GP!

    The rain actually got so bad during lunch I considered just leaving, but it cleared up to a slow drizzle by the time my second heat rolled around so I stuck it out. On my second run I got yellow flagged because the Focus ST ahead of me pushed a little too hard and wound up in a jersey wall about 50' from the track. I slowed way down and completed the run under caution. The next run I was making my way around turn 7 "Jack's Hammer" and all of a sudden my car became like 8 billion times louder. I limped it back to the pits with my head feeling like it's about to explode from the noise, and confirmed that I was done for the day.

    Turns out my hack-job on the downpipe had finally had enough. Honestly I'm kind of shocked it lasted this long, but now I have a chance to do it properly. I called a friend who trailered me home (Billy I owe you a steak dinner or something!) and if we can make it through the hurricane this weekend unscathed, I'll start putting together a plan for a new, better downpipe.

  17. #17


    It's been six months since the last time I posted an update and some pretty cool stuff has happened in that time.

    I added some aluminized tape to seal off the gap along the top of the radiator. This will help keep air flowing through, rather than around it, increasing it's cooling efficiency.

    Two M16x1.5 oil drain plug bolts replaced the plastic plugs in the radiator. The exhaust is too close for comfort when it comes to plastic right there.

    With the radiator to keep things cool, it was time for another trackcross. Unfortunately the weather was less than ideal.

    On one of the last runs of the day the car suddenly became 100x louder. I limped the car back to the paddock, ears ringing, and found a broken downpipe. The slice/bent/re-weld method had bitten me in the ass. Fortunately a good friend of mine towed me home and then the car sat while I accumulated parts to fix it.

    After getting the right wire to weld stainless I was finally ready to start creating a new downpipe.

    It's not pretty but it should be stronger and flow better than the old one.

    Can't forget the wrap! Heat is the enemy.

    The car was up and running just in time to make it to the fall cruise. Clay and Brian also brought out their FX's!

    I've never seen three in the same place before, so this was a really cool experience.

    I love boxy cars!

  18. #18


    Last time I tried to align the car I just could not get the rear toe right. This is because of the eccentric cam sleeve design of the adjuster. What often happens on these is the bolt, cam, and inner sleeve of the arm bushing all seize together. I already planned on replacing all the rear bushings, and really wanted to get rid of this stupid system at the same time.

    Yep, the cam was definitely seized to the bushing sleeve. The only way to remove the arm from the car was to cut the cam out.

    That thing was not budging. Even a sawzall wouldn't go though, I had to use an angle grinder.

    This is where the cams allow the bolt to slide back and forth to adjust rear toe. The goal is to eliminate this as a point of adjustment, and instead use an arm that has an adjustable length.

    Theoretically you are supposed to be able to turn the round part independently, but rust and time have eliminated that possibility.

    I had replaced the front bushings with polyurethane a year or so ago, now it's time to finish the rear as well. The following Super Pro part numbers will do all of the rear suspension arms:
    SPF0825K - outer bushings for the control arm and toe arm (go in the knuckle)
    SPF1216K - inner bushings for the control arm and toe arm (go in the arms)
    SPF0823K - bushings for the trailing arm (one pair in the arm, one pair in the knuckle)

    Once you remove the brakes and sway bar the whole assembly can just drop down. Easy peasy. Well, after you cut through the stupid cam sleeves.

    A combination of propane torch, hammer, and various size sockets in the vice will get the old bushings out. This makes a huge mess and lots of very toxic smoke so definitely wear a respirator, glasses, gloves, etc.

    After a few very messy hours you'll end up with this!

    I contacted TechnoToyTuning about making some custom arms, giving them the measurements from the stock arm for reference. They did a great job, except that I had totally mis-measured somehow and ended up with arms that were 2 inches too long! Once I realized my mistake we swapped out the center sections with ones of the appropriate length.

    Since these arms are using off-the-shelf components for other cars, there was a little shimming necessary at the knuckle end, but T3 included most of the washers I needed.

    I did have to special order some bolts and nuts to replace the sleeves that were cut out. These are the part numbers I ordered from Fastenal:
    Bolts: 11114726 - M12x80 960-10.9 bolts (2x)
    Nuts: 11508302 - M12x1.25 nylock nuts (2x)
    Washers: 1140359 (bag of 25)
    Total spent on hardware: $7.23

    Not only do these look great, but they will make adjusting the toe much easier.

    Pardon the ugly welds, as my welder was running out of gas. I do think I may end up changing this, as I'm not sure the washers are up to the task of keeping the bolts securely located. I may end up cutting/drilling plates to fit in the little tabs where the cam used to ride. But this works for now.

    And here's the progression of how I eliminated the stock adjuster. No more seized sleeves for me!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Oregon, USA


    Quote Originally Posted by MR2_FTW View Post
    fav pic so far. cool to see how much fun you're having with this

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Sofia, Bulgaria


    Great, now you made me look for one of those.
    Love how you just get in there and do stuff, even without aftermarket support. Bet it's a fun little car to be in on a track.
    Keep it up, I love it!
    "You could roll an E30 in a BMW showroom today and people would think:
    Well, they finally got the 1 series right!"

    3.0 L e30 ground up build

  21. #21


    Quote Originally Posted by Miroteknik View Post
    fav pic so far. cool to see how much fun you're having with this
    Car looks awesome. Nice!

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Cape Town, South Africa


    Definitely a fan of this, car looks sick.

    Roof spoiler makes it standout even more.

  23. #23


    This car is so sick, I want one as my track toy!

  24. #24


    I had the opportunity to strap the car down at a local dyno day last month and put down a whopping 105 wheel horsepower. For a stock (other than intake, exhaust, and removing accessories) 16 valve 4AGE with over 260k miles, those are phenomenal numbers. No smoke out the exhaust either!

    I was the lowest power car there that day and was probably the most excited about the results. The next car up was a Corvette that made more than 5 times the power and he was not excited at all! Big thanks to Kevin at FlimFlam Speed for hosting the dyno day!

    Something that's been in the back of my mind for a while with this car is the need for some auxiliary gauges. I was fortunate enough to pick up lightly used oil pressure and oil temperature gauges for a good deal.

    The oil pressure sender is surprisingly heavy, and hanging off the block can fatigue and crack the fittings over time. Solution: remote mount sender to chassis and run a -4AN line to the port on the block. The block is actually threaded for 1/8 BSPT, so some adapter daisy-chaining is needed.

    The sender is mounted to an aluminum bracket, surrounded by some foam insulation from an old radiator hose for extra protection.

    For water temperature, this will go in the upper radiator hose. It has a 1/8 NPT thread for the sender, and makes for a simple, clean install.

    This was probably the easiest of the senders to install. After this picture was taken, all the wiring was covered with a corrugated sleeve and secured.

    For the oil temperature sender, I got an m12x1.25 to 1/8 NPT adapter that will thread into the oil pan. I used a two-wire plug from a spare scrap harness I had laying around, in case I ever need to disconnect it. Due to proximity to the exhaust, I put a sleeve of insulation around the wires for protection.

    The old location where the stock oil cooler return line bolted up is going to be my first try, but it looks like it may be too high up to get a reliable reading. If not, I'll put it in the drain plug location.

    Here's the sensor installed. Hopefully this location gets a good reading, and that this is even the right sensor. It was included with the used gauge so it may or may not even be the right one for this application.

    I made a mounting plate where the factory radio went, and all three gauges are easy to read from the driver's seat.

    At the last HPDE, my hands were covered in blisters by the end of the day. A decent pair of gloves should make that last session much more comfortable. By the third session the fuel level starts to run low, and my standard gas can was a massive pain to use without spilling fuel everywhere. This new can fits into the filler on the car much easier and without spilling.

    The first track day of 2019 is coming up in less than a week, hopefully all this stuff works!

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Mar 2019


    It's looking good.

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