This one may be a little overdue but we’ve hit a couple of roadblocks on our way to getting this one out the door at the level of quality our customers expect from us….  more on that in a minute.  First off let’s start from the beginning.  My absolute favorite part of this job is receiving new cars, it’s sort of like Christmas only that the unwrapping part is a little different.  I guess the other major difference is that these presents aren’t really for me but I guess I just don’t feel that way about it for some reason.   I was so eager to get a good look at the car when it came off the transporter that I soaked myself washing it in the rain and pulled it back into the shop to dry it off.

Pretty clean! You may notice the pipe that is holding the muffler up, this one had a torn exhaust hanger that was a pretty quick fix.   The skies cleared up the next day and allowed me to take it outside for a couple of proper shots.

Needless to say I was very pleased with the exterior condition of this car…  not much to complain about here.  The original L20 came pretty nicely equipped with a nice header and some 40mm Mikuni side-drafts with what?  Air filters?  Those of you that follow the JDM style of L-series tuning will know that air filters aren’t a very common, but welcome sight to see.

The interior was also looking pretty good, with the only modification being the Momo steering wheel and Impul shift knob.   One thing I may have to address are the sorry kick panels and lack of carpet.  It  has the vinyl that runs along the sides and carpet on the transmission tunnel but in the center there were just floor mats.  This is also something that I see quite frequently on the cars we import so we are working with a great local upholstery guy to design our own kits.

I always enjoy seeing the dash in perfect shape because cracks are always so common on old cars due to them being constantly baked in the sun.

Headliner looks good too.

The one thing that shocked me about this car was the cleanliness of the trunk.  You could seriously have lunch in there.

A quick trip up the lift shows the undercarriage and floorpan were just as good as the top of the car.  So far so good….

I guess at this point I should probably say that this car, like the Celica were both purchased before they hit U.S. soil and our customer that we’ll refer to as “P” was very pleased with the condition as well.    It’s very rare for any 40 year old car to be perfect however, and this Hakosuka  had a couple issues of it’s own.  But that’s why we’re here right?   On to the repairs!  Electrical issues are probably the most common issue I deal with on these cars and this one had a few more than most.  The headlights looked like this:

And the brake lights, turn signals, and hazards looked like this….  nice chrome though right?

After a bit of boring wiring stuff I won’t get into, they later looked like this:

And this….  good progress so far.

It was sometime around this point that I noticed something that I didn’t quite catch at first glance.   The vinyl that covers the A-pillar was a little lumpy.  Hmmm…

And the passenger side was worse.   Uh oh…..  I hope that isn’t what I think it is.

Sure enough, unfortunately my suspicions were correct.

Ugghhh…  see what I mean about unwrapping that present?  And I thought I was pretty good this year ;)  Moral gut check time, do I do the shady used car dealer thing and cover it up with new vinyl and pretend I never saw it?  It sure would make my life a little easier and our profit margin much better but fortunately for “P” I have a conscious, and sending a car out like that isn’ t the way we do things.   After I come to grips with the fact that this just got a little more involved, it’s time to figure out a solution.

Due to where the rust was located I could have gone a few ways about performing the repair.  And as many ideas as I tossed around in my head with different levels of difficulty and quality there was only really one way I knew that would be a PROPER repair.    My method of repair first involved the always fun removal of the dash and door panels to provide adequate access to the affected areas as well as protect them from damage.

And unfortunately the other part required removal of the windshield as well which meant time to get on the horn with my main man in Japan.   To be honest I really didn’t think that finding windshield moldings would be all that difficult because all of the Japanese restoration shops we usually deal with had them listed on their sites.  But after contacting almost every shop they all seemed to be out of stock, with no idea of when they would be seeing any more.  Well, thank God for Yahoo Japan as we were finally able to source a complete set.  We only needed the front but I’m sure we’ll find use for the rear sooner or later.  After a few weeks of waiting, they finally arrived…..

Time to yank the glass and see what we’re working with here.

After removing the surface rust it turned out the driver’s side wasn’t too bad and could be repaired with a couple of patches.

The passenger side however was a little worse, this one needed a bit more than a patch.

Finding a spare KGC10 A-pillar was out of the question so it was time to get a little creative.  Luckily all of the rust was confined only on the inner A-pillar skin so I started with getting the profile  so I could make a replacement piece.

And using a variety of tubing, channel, and angle iron, I started on making a sturdy replica to form a new skin around.

The tubing I used was pretty thick walled but I decided to TIG weld 2 of them together to make the form extra durable to resist any deformation.

Geeze, I need some new gloves ha ha.   After MIG welding a few of the sections together they needed to be ground flat to make a smooth form.

And the finished form was a pretty good match, just slightly undersized to make up for the thickness of the metal shaped around it.

After the form is complete the first step is to select the proper gauge steel and use a hammer to make the first bend.

Like so….

My next plan was to cut a 2″x4″ piece of wood to fit in precisely where I needed it, and make some removable retainers to hold it in place.  The metal sitting in the form is to make sure I have the proper clearance and fit.

Then on to the press….

It didn’t work out quite as perfectly as I had imagined in my mind but it gave me a very good starting point.  As you can see the wood I was using doesn’t quite get into the corners as deep as I would like.

But that’s why I made it durable, so time to clamp it back in place for some more hammering and you can see it now fits nice and tight in the form.

And here we have our almost completed A-pillar skin.

It’s quite a bit more work to do it this way but like I said before there was never really any other option in my mind of a proper way to repair the problem.  And the great part is that I now have a mega-burly form at my disposal should I ever come across this problem again in the future.

It may take “P” a little longer to get his car than we previously thought but I think he (and myself) can take solace in the the fact the it’s being repaired the right way.  There’s much more work to be done so check back and see how this all comes together in part 2.