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How To Tackle That Engine Conversion-


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I thought I'd write this for the guys just joining and full of enthusiasm to build a fully sik drifta. Hopefully some of the members who have completed projects (and some who haven't) will add their wisdom.


First- Decide on how much time you are realistically going to spend on the project, which means listing what you are going to give up to do it. We spent two nights every week and every Saturday working on the rally car when I was in South Africa for a decade, and that over-rode almost anything else. Without that sort of discipline it will be too easy to give up when you hit a hard part.


Then- make a list of what you want the car to do. Drifting, track-work, weekend warrior, night drags...and research what it will take to do that, searching this site and Toymods and whatever Google throws up, and PM guys on here who have cars you admire.


Next- Make a list of what you have to do to achieve that. Usually it involves an engine converson, lowered suspension, bigger brakes, locked diff..whatever..


Then- Get a budget together of what each part of the project is expected to cost. This is the real hard part of the planning, so don't think twice to PM some guy who has done what you want to do and ask him. Its not just buying the 4AGE that costs, it is all the conversion parts, the engineering work and the costs of Govt compliance.


ALSO- get a budget together of how much money you are happy to lose if the project goes sour and you never finish it. You can safely assume you will never get the money back that you paid for stuff, whether the project is finished or not. So treat every drive as the money spent on entertainment- that first blast will cost $9000, the second one means $4500 each, and by the time you've driven it every day for a year you are paying $30 each drive for the fun of the car you built!


Finally- Group the sub-projects together and decide which to tackle first. You might decide to do the suspension work first, and then include the brakes with it. Start saving money and buying parts for that little project and get that completed, which will tell you how much you REALLY enjoy working on cars, how much you know about working on cars, and how keen you are to stick with your original list of the other sub-projects like the diff, gearbox, motor swap. Things will change as you go along, believe me! Making sure you finish one part of it before starting another will keep the whole project alive, even if you can only drive it up and down the driveway with your new 20valve running but stock suspension and diff.


ALWAYS keep in mind that you might have to bail out before the project is finished, and that will be a cost of amassing parts too far ahead. It is extremely hard to sell a car that is half-done, or even 90% done and "just needs this and that to get mobile" Your $2000 wheels and tyres are not going to return you the money if the 4AGE isn't running or the car isn't engineerd and rego'd. You might get $500 back selling them by themselves, even if you've never driven on them once! Its even worse if you bought the tyres and rims, AND the 4AGE AND the coilovers and brakes all at once, then have to liquidate it all because your job vanished or you have to move house.


Decide on a time to bail before you start, be it 3months without touching the car, or 6 or a year, but have some idea of how long you want the wreck sitting in the garage stopping you from doing other projects. Most people (myself included) can't get rid of a half-done project to let a better one start, so they just close the door and leave it there.


You can see the projects that I've tackled on The Girls KE70 in my signature, finishing each of them and keeping it running as much as possible. For me, its the best way to keep my enthusiasm up.


Good luck!


Edited by altezzaclub
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Good write up.

Did almost the same thing when I started the FJ20 turbo conversion in dads 1600. Doing a proper plan is the only reason I kept the whole conversion including engineers certification for just under $7K.(I didn't scrimp on anything)


Speaking of engineers cert, I'd like to add the moment you decide what engine you'd like and if it will be rego'd speak to an engineer/mod plater to see if it's even a legal conversion. Also speaking to them in the earlier stages of engine conversions saves you having to do stuff twice!!!!



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Excellent write up. My project was WAY more than just an engine swap--but you described my planning process pretty much to the letter!!! It is impossible to overstate the importance of planning on a project (unless you have an unlimited supply of money, that is!).


Anyone who is thinling of starting a project should read this and give it serious thought.



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Research for me is key.


I have been doing the 2az project in no sensible fashion with regards to the above guidelines. I purchased the motor 3 or more years ago, and have been keeping a spreadsheet so in hindsight I can account for every dollar spent on it.


For this build, with no known work to go on, I had to work things out. There are I guess different levels of complexity that need to be considered when planning which engine to use.


Level 1 conversions would be ones that use mainly stock parts. I'm talking 16 v 4age into ae71-86 as a level 1. Stock mounts, exhaust, inlet, management. You just have to connect it up correctly to make it happen, and use parts that arent trashed to begin with.


Level 2 would be perhaps a 20v into an ae86-71. Where you have the opportunity to do some engineering (cooling bits, tune and management). You begin to see more variety in the finished results here, as peoples choices of components effect the outcome.


Level 3 would be maybe looking at something that requires mounts and crossmember fabrication to make it work, or extensive research of combinations of parts to construct solutions. Frequently in this business you can find there is already something in production that does exactly what you need it to, but sometimes its not easy to find or discover and it ends up being easier to just make it and be done with it.


Level 4 would be something that requires total re-orientation, mounts, transmission adaptation, be it off the shelf or home made. Where you need to fabricate your manifolds from scratch, design a full exhaust, mounts, cross members and re-engineer most external systems on the engine to make it fit. This is where I have found myself with the 2az build and its been exactly what I was wanting from a project. To some its surely retarded to invest this much in this way but I have a vision based on nothing more than an ideal version of a Corolla in my eyes and I want to make it real. To gel the old soul of a 30 year old chassis seamlessly with some modern exotic materials and some excellent homespun bespoke engineering. To make something that is in its entirety a manifestation of all your own ideas and research.


So you need to consider exactly what you want from the project. Is it a means to an end to get a little thrash beast on the road fast, or is it an opportunity to get involved technically in something that is a reflection of your own thinking? How far along the scale are you from one extreme to another? What are your goals? Is time important, or is spending no money the overriding decision definer?


Rookie mistakes:

1. Buying parts before you even know what you want or need. Throwing money around when what you need to spend is time.

2. Buying cars and parts for 'market' prices regardless of condition.

3. Buying a shit rusty car to rebuild that you will never be psyched to drive. Find the right chassis it might take some time.

4. Finishing it off too quickly, thus leaving a dozen small annoying issues that you may never fix.

5. Lending tools.

6. Taking on too advanced a project without the ability, just to compete with what your mates are doing.

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My T18 has been just over a year of love and hate, anything mechanical, bit of fab stuff I can do fine and most of the time enjoy and really get into and get it done, get a bit over it and take a break for 2/3 weeks then get back into it for another couple of months.


Been love and a bit of hate and one, only one thought of parting it all and selling my tow car I bought to buy a house, but I thought as above wouldn't make back the huge hours I have spent on the car, it's in the final stages just so many little things to go!


That brings me to this DO NOT underesimate the time, money and effort involved in these little things, I have spent more time on all these little bits and peices than making engine mounts, gearbox and customising the diff to fit, and probably just as much money on little bits add up.


I have a rough price of what I have spent on the car but I don't want to know how much in the end because it doesn't really matter to myself aslong as it does what I built it for and I enjoy it, some people say why spend so much on it, then I say to them why do you go out on the weekend and spend $4, $5, $600 in one night at clubs and they say to have fun, well that's why I am building this car.


Try not to part the car out, because chances are you don't finish one you won't finish another, my car has taken a while I think because of my job to be honest, I'm not too happy there working on other peoples cars all day then work on mine if I feel like it, money as well is the other reason.

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More good points above.


On the issue of parting out, as a frequent helper of others with their conversions, there's nothing worse than when you help someone build a car, and they get it so close to being ready; it just needs maybe another grand spent to finish it off right, and they get the first signs of life out of it and sell it.


Thus undermining and undervaluing all the hours others have helped them. Fair enough if you pranged it, it can't be helped, shit happens, but if you get someone's help to improve something a whole lot then sell it on a whim you just suck the life out of everything to do with it, including the person who helped you.

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You can safely assume you will never get the money back that you paid for stuff, whether the project is finished or not. So treat every drive as the money spent on entertainment- that first blast will cost $9000, the second one means $4500 each, and by the time you've driven it every day for a year you are paying $30 each drive for the fun of the car you built!


That's going on my signature.

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You can safely assume you will never get the money back that you paid for stuff, whether the project is finished or not. So treat every drive as the money spent on entertainment- that first blast will cost $9000, the second one means $4500 each, and by the time you've driven it every day for a year you are paying $30 each drive for the fun of the car you built!


I made a fair bit of money selling mine. Do I win lyf?

Buy when stocks are down, Sell when they are up.

Edited by It's_AUDM_Yo
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Something to add is if you need a professional to do something for you, shop around and find someone

that has a little bit of time to have a chat about it and that has some pride in their work. Even better rather

than present a problem, spend your own time on a proposed solution especially if its not a normal sort of job.

Be prepared to jackie chan if you don't do the above!

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I think the big thing is you need to get passionate about it.


if you are the type of person that gets bored of an idea after 2 months, perhaps an engine conversion is not for you.


especially these older cars/conversion, you gotta keep your eye out for months to track down parts. as you can't buy much of it new.


I reckon from the day i bought my first conversion peice, to the day i got my 4age running, was around 2yrs. Didnt help i was poor as well....


But you just trawl the forums, ebay, wreckers, untill you find that illusive missing part for a reasonable price. And be prepared to be in the rain at the wreckers at closing time, ripping an ae71 crossmember out, as you know if you wait til lthe next day some other bugger is going to get it first!!!

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