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Ke55-S Xx Coupe

Mechanical Sympathy

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Hey Rollaclub,


I've been posting here for a while now - lurking even longer - and figured it was about time I shared some details of my current projects, being a silver KE55 XX coupe and a buff KE55 sedan. First the coupe...


I first owned a yellow KE35 when I was 16 in 1989. It's my profile pic.




After a couple of years I had thoroughly trashed it, so traded "up" to a VK Commodore, then an XF Falcon, then a ZA Fairlane before picking up another bright brown KE35 around 1997 for $800.




I drove that 35 around for 6 years before blowing a head gasket. At which point I bombed it up with a 5K, extractors, paint & interior and polished XX alloys, then regrettably sold it too cheap around 2003 (no photos of the done-up car unfortunately)


Throughout the last 10 years I kept the twin carb sprinter manifold, hoping that one day I'd get another coupe. Suddenly I realised there didn't seem to be many around any more and started getting anxious about finding one. After a bit of hunting I picked this one up in Toowoomba for cheap. While it's a bit rough in places - there's some rust coming through after the previous owner gave the paint a freshen up - there's a lot to like about this car.


It has a reconditioned GEM long motor that has done 1500km. Everything is tight. Doors go "thunk" when you close them. Everything works. After two or three years of sitting idle, it fired right up and purred away. Underneath the car is clean, neat and thankfully rust-free.


Anyway I finally got it home this week, after sitting in a friend's truck yard in T'bar for the last 6 months. Time to get my excitement out and start tinkering! Here's some snaps from when I got it home;











Future plans:

A quick snick back, deal with the rust in fibreglass (I'm going to fit TE37 replica flares over it anyway) and paint in acyllic and clear coar - probably in a grey colour.

Fit my twin Sprinter carbs to the GEM reco'd engine.

Maybe pop the head off clean it up and slip in a cam. I'd really like a 7K (or a 3RZ long term!) but the 4K will do for shits and giggles until someone takes out the sexist leftie tards at the child support agency.

Extractors and a 1 3/4 exhaust

Go over the brakes and suspension, repair replace as necessary for rego.

KE30 front and rear chrome bumpers.

I have some Gold 15x6 Superlites (currently on the sedan) that I'll test fit, but I reckon it'll need 15x8's by the time I fit the flares.

Drive it on Sundays.


Thanks for looking. Updates as they happen!

Edited by Mechanical Sympathy
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I wiped down the engine bay with a fumey rag. The previous owner told me he put a GEM reconditioned long motor in it 1500km before he got a job 600m from his home and parked the car permanently, and that it still has the running-in oil in it.






Edited by Mechanical Sympathy
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey thanks Springer!


So last night, with an ale in one hand and masking tape in t'other, I got busy on the bodywork.


I was never really a fan of the KE55 body-coloured wrap-around bumpers. Even "back in the day" I reckoned the extra overhang was a fairly ugly and heavy-handed ADM attempt to update the styling of the Corolla for the Eighties.


First thoughts were to fit some '35 chromies as the '55 front bumper fouls on these TE37 replica flares. But now I wonder if the extra bulk of the flares suit the chunky 80's bumpers. In which case I could cut the ends of the front bumper around the profile of the flare. I'll be keeping the square headlights on!


More beery mock ups of bumpers, flares and wider wheels will be required to decide... Or I could solicit the opinions of fellow Rollaclubbers!






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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

would love to hear some updates on this thing! I love the photo of you at 16 with your rolla, because funnily enough, 25 years later and I'm in the same position ;) just another 16 year old with a mustard yellow ke35 haha

if you're still having trouble deciding on the bumpers, you could go for a japanese look and take them off all together, even slant your rectangular lights for a kaido racer look as theres no other ke corollas around with that look at the moment as far as I'm aware of. it'd suit your over fenders and minilites too!

anyway, chuck us some more photos and updates if you get a chance! cheers!



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Thanks for the kind words guys. Progress has been slow - probably more still at the "planning and procurement" stage, but there have been some developments.


It's important to me that I don't fill the yard/shed with wrecked cars, so both my KE projects remain intact and driveable unless I'm embarking on a specific repair or upgrade. So often I've seen fellas get a perfectly good old car and strip it to bits with big ideas to rebuild it, only to get overwhelmed and flog it off as parts in a fire sale. I also need to make sure I don't get carried away, buying everything I need at the expense of things like, you know, bills.


Anyway enough pontificating. A couple of months ago I got a bit excited and picked up a bulk buy of parts comprising (most of) a full 2TG into KE3x conversion. I've wanted a 2TG since I was a kid and despite funds being tight, it was in my budget i.e. cheap.


I had a look at it on a weeknight and came back the following weekend with a trailer. An agreed sum swapped hands and I took home the following;



2TGEU long motor, starter, alternator

Breakerless distributor and TRD leads

Twin Mikuni Solex carbs from an 18RG (I'll confirm that before I kit them)

T50 20 spline 5 speed

Exedy HD clutch in good condition

clutch master and slave cylinders

Full 2" exhaust from extractors to tail pipe

KE30 brake master and booster

2 clean straight reproduction (L&R) front guards

KE55 bonnet similarly clean and straight

KE30 front and rear chrome bumpers

Crack free dash and fascia

KE35 horizontal lines grille

Round H4 insert headlamps

32/36 Weber parts and KE adaptor plate


Now I like to think I'm a canny fella around an engine but when buying an unknown engine, learn from my mistake! Always, always turn any prospective purchase through 360 degrees before you buy it. I took a spanner and turned it, but clearly not far enough. I must've been busy talking or just too excited with my luck in snagging this gear. Either way I just gave it a little turn and noted it wasn't seized.




When I got it home and eyeballed the ports I saw this. Or I didn't see this, depending on your perspective. No valve head in exhaust #4. It's inside the engine.



Looking over the engine I reckon someone spent decent money on a rebuild when dropping it into a Corolla, only to drop a valve 20,000km later. It's jammed in there. Spark plug was smashed. If I was lucky the bore would be ok and the head would need welding, machining and new valves. Probably a new piston too.


Somewhat disheartened, I set about getting it on a stand and planning a rebuild. At least I felt I'd got a good enough deal on the other parts that I could write off the motor. Bah!


Nek minnut, a bare 2TGEU long motor came up on Ebay. It never rains but it pours. It was local and poorly advertised so with a single bid and $100 later I was the owner of an assured was-previously-running but stripped 2TGEU long motor, with EFI manifold, rail, injectors and computer thrown in. Sprayed some oil down the bores and got the spanner onto it.Seems to have good compression. Cams are clean of corrosion. Valves seated after I blew the wasps nests out.




And that's about where I'm at presently. I've been doing some work on the sedan to finish it off and get it out of the way but then I'll get back into the coupe.


I stripped the early model 1600 rocker cover which I'll polish up, and paint the block black or gun metal grey. I'll kit the carbies and swap over all the bits and pieces from the other motor.



I'll need to source a 2TG twin carb inlet manifold, get a converted hydraulic pedal box from Jordanrolla and encourage him to do the T engine to K crossmember blocks mounts he's got on his long list. I know many people fudge TA22 mounts onto a K crossmember but that offsets a T engine's crankshaft to the right (same as a K engine) causing clearance issues between carbies and master cylinder and making the engine appear skewed in the bay. I don't want it like that. The correct mounts will also tilt the engine slightly to the left.


Quite a bit of body work to do before a quick snick n spray first though. Realistically that could take a year or two..


Lastly, I found a photo of my second KE35 around 1997


Edited by Mechanical Sympathy
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  • 1 month later...

Put the motor up on the stand to blow the cobwebs out and dropped the sump to clean the gunk - there really wasn't much. Lower walls of the block were a bit tarnished so I sprayed them with WD and wiped them out.


Rebuilt it with a can of wrinkle black and a couple of cans of enamel then dummied it up with the inlet manifold.






Painted up the new 2TG mounts and T50 crossmember from KE Conversions.




Next will be to kit and clean the carbies, source some stainless dome nuts, sump gasket, rear main seal, spigot bearing, throwout bearing, gearbox front seal, inlet and exhaust manifold gaskets.


And so much more - clutch master and slave and line, KE30 brake master, throttle cable, convert radiator outlets. The little bits add up!

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  • 5 months later...

So I've been plugging away at this as time and funds permit. I set myself an upper limit of around $200 a month for parts and materials so shit doesn't get out of control and I don't try to rush toward some unnecessary, imagined deadline. It's been a few years since I sold my fire-snorting Saturday night special Rx-7 and I'm feeling low on street cred.


Around August I got tired of mowing around the coupe so started pulling bits off, labelling and boxing them for the day they get cleaned and detailed and put back on.




With each of the panels off I've been able to repair one at a time and make them good.




Some will scoff at my body shop skills, but I'm no metal worker. If this lasts 5 years parked in my dry shed I'll be happy. Where I found rust, I cut/drilled out what I could, stone ground the rough bits then generously rust treated it. I lay fibreglass on the inside, then fibreglass on the outside, bastard filed it into shape, then another couple of layers on the inside for strength and good measure. Rubbed back the outside with 60 grit then smoothed it all over with some filler. This door has been rubbed into shape and is just about ready for some high build primer. It's rock hard and ain't going anywhere.







Guards, bonnet, other door and rear quarters are all getting similar treatment.


In the meantime I've been collecting parts for the engine swap. If you haven't heard me going on about Amayama Trading before, I'll reiterate; they are a great source of Japanese made OEM parts. I ordered a sump gasket, rear main seal, spigot bearing, clutch release bearing, gearbox front seal, associated gaskets and exhaust gasket. They were delivered within the month all for under $100.




I also ordered kits and spare parts for my Mikuni Solex carbs. Rodger at RM Carburetors is a champ.




A few little gems have come up on eBay also. Makes it hard to stick to the budget.


New old stock headlight covers. The scuff marks buffed out!





And a new old stock Aunger




And I couldn't believe it when these 13x6.5" Jovites came up for sale locally and cheaply. Luck happens! I'm considering painting the centres red and leaving off the flares for now (to suit these wheels).




Santa will get an engine crane off layby next week and I'll keep plugging away at body repairs over the holidays so that hopefully I have some more updates early 2015. Thanks for reading.

Edited by Mechanical Sympathy
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