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Perhaps your pet Corolla is too far gone to be restored

Wednesday December 4 2019

Toyota Corolla E90

I have come into possession of a Toyota Corolla E90 but, unfortunately, it is not in the best of shape. PHOTO | COURTESY 

BARAZA JM
By BARAZA JM
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Baraza, I have come into possession of a Toyota Corolla E90 but, unfortunately, it is not in the best of shape. I’m really considering restoring it by doing a proper paint job, replacing the old and broken side mirrors, door handles, all the lights, possibly even the bumpers, installing a body kit and revamping the interior. (I have already replaced the engine). In my research online, I have realised that the old Corollas have a huge fan club in the Philippines and would really like to have mine look like the AE92s I have seen on YouTube. The thing is, I can’t seem to find any dealer in Kenya that is willing to take up the project due to lack of parts. My question is, is it advisable to continue with this project since this is my first car and I am 26? Would you encourage me to import the parts from Philippines?

Allan

Allan, I think the issue here is less “lack of parts” and more “the vehicle is too far gone to qualify for a reputable restoration”.

You admit it yourself: the vehicle is “not in the best of shape”; and the Corolla has been Toyota’s best-selling nameplate since tyrannosaurs roamed the earth, so what exactly do you mean by “lack of parts”?

If there is a lack of parts, then how are these Filipinos keeping theirs on the road? I think the reason nobody wants to embark on that project is because it is, for lack of a more diplomatic reference, a fool’s errand. The vehicle may be too far gone to qualify for a convincing rebirth.

Now, some people insist that cars can be restored no matter how badly off they are, but these people are idealistic and unrealistic; the type that believe any random stranger can become the most powerful man on earth just because one Barack Obama wore that mantle. That is not how things work; a lot of people fail because they don’t give enough thought or research into a project before embarking on it.

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There is such a thing as material fatigue, typically manifest in vehicles that either may have been in a crash or have undergone extremely hard use. The metal stretches, warps, bends and loses shape; and no amount of paint or filler is going to make that car look straight again, which is why more reasonable restorers tend to junk them and look for something “cleaner” and “accident free”. Not every car can be restored. Perhaps your Corolla is one of them.

If you want to keep at it, then indulge yourself. The car is cheap to run and maintain, it is economical even when fitted with a carburettor (provided this carburettor is well tuned) and, as a first car, it is not too bad an introduction to matters motoring. You could even pursue your ambitions of replacing broken parts — in fact, you should — but when it comes to a body kit, beware.

The scope for tastelessness is dangerously wide and, if the vehicle is bent, the result will be an atrocity only curable by persistent conflagration.

Can I change my 4WD Ford Ranger gearbox?

Baraza, quick question, Sir. I have a year 2002 4WD Ford Ranger. It is a double cabin sporting a 2.5l diesel engine mates to a five-speed manual gearbox. I want to change its gearbox to become automatic for the sake of my wife and brother who use it in Kitale. Is it possible? Is it worth it or should I just sell it and buy an automatic car straight from the assembly line? If feasible, where can it be done professionally and what would be the probable cost? Thanks for your very informative articles, which I religiously follow. Your student,

Vincent

Vincent, much gratitude for the glowing accolades. It is possible to transform a manual vehicle into an automatic one, but the feasibility of such an undertaking isn’t worth the hustle. The reverse is the opposite; it’s usually fairly easy to convert an automatic into a manual. One of my cars has undergone just such an operation.

Sell the Ranger and get another automatic pick-up. Now that we are talking of assembly lines, Volkswagen comes to mind; and of particular interest is the Amarok double-cab. Its size may be intimidating (that truck is not small by anybody’s standards) but it comes with an 8-speed automatic gearbox that is quite the revelation: it takes off in a second when unladen, it returns better than 12km/l, and I recently did 810km of mixed driving on a single tank in a unit which DT Dobie was kind enough to lend me for a weekend. 810km, and by the time I handed it back, the low fuel light was yet to glow. Eight ratios in the tyranny means that in the lower gears it can pull a train, while in the higher gears it can clock well-nigh 200km/h or more, a factoid that I strongly discourage you and yours from verifying first-hand. Just take my word for it.

Any shocking challenges with the VW's DSG gearbox?

Baraza, thank you for the good work of keeping us informed on motoring. Keep it up. Why is the speedo clock of VWs from 0-40km/h graduated in 10km/h intervals and from there takes intervals of 20km/h? But look, the graduations interval between 0 to 10 to 20 to 30 to 40km/h is the same as the 40 to 60 to 80 to... 240km/h. What advice would you give a first-time owner of a VW Golf with a 2.0 TSI engine in terms of durability and availability of service parts?

Any shocking challenges with the VW’s DSG gearbox in comparison to Toyota’s CVT?

Kind regards,

Dennis M Kubai

Kubai, fear not, the engineers at Wolfsburg knew what they were doing when they calibrated the speedometer so despite the disparity in deviation from 0 to 40 and from 40 to 240, whatever reading you get will be accurate.

The reason for the unusual demarcations may not be immediately clear but we can make a few clever guesses. I tend to believe that most vehicles see a lot of city and suburban use compared to highway use, and it is mostly within city limits that we tend to find a lot of speed constraints that vary between 10km/h and 50km/h (which, you may notice in your picture, is marked by a red dash). That means you need your speedometer to be as accurate as it can get; perhaps the limit is 30km/h in the suburbs, 10km/h through road works, 20km/h outside a hospital, etc, and that is why you need a highly calibrated speedometer to keep to these very specific numbers. Very rarely will you find a speed limit greater than 50 within a town centre, and this is globally, not just in Kenya.

Once you get on the highway, anything goes, for the most part. You don't need extremely accurate readings of your speed since, in most (sober) cases, there is an allowance of between 10 and 20km/h over the limit where applicable, beyond which you now risk citation for a traffic offence, so there is no need for extreme accuracy.

Depending on where you are driving, the limit could be 100 like it is here in Kenya, or 120 like I saw in South Africa, or 140 like I saw in Italy. These are easier to read on your speedometer compared to 15km/h or 25km/h or 35km/h.

Another theory could be the Easter egg hypothesis. An Easter egg is a quirk or feature that is not immediately obvious but makes something stand out from the rest of the pack. It could even be a conversation starter of sorts. Most cars have standard deviations in their speedometers, so you could use this feature to brag to your friends about how extraordinary your vehicle is.

I’m torn between a Rav4 and Toyota Axio

Thank you for the insightful information about cars every week. I'm torn between getting a 2006/7/8 Rav-4 going for a million in the market and a Toyota Axio, newer model here.

The Rav-4 is my first option; will it be a good buy? I don’t mind the fuel costs; I’m only concerned with maintenance costs. Will I get a car I can drive with no absurd maintenance costs to keep it on the road?

PS: The Axio is only here if your advice makes me run away from the Rav-4, so no reviews are expected.

Wilberforce

Hi Wilberforce,

You’d be insane to run away from a RAV-4 in favour of an Axio. That is all I will say. For now.

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