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The Orange Eyesore - 1977 RA23 Celica

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    The Orange Eyesore - 1977 RA23 Celica

    I went through all of the threads I've started on this forum but couldn't find one for my longest long-term project, the RA23 Celica I bought circa 1995 for the explicit purpose of engine conversion shenanigans and other irresponsible modifications. I guess there wasn't much point starting a thread because the reality is I've done SFA on this project, largely thanks to the Supra I bought in 1999 which quickly became the focus of my attention. And it still is!

    Anyway, I originally bought this particular RA23 because it had a good straight body with little to no rust (rare even back then), but was cheap because the mechanicals were completely shot. That didn't bother me because my intention was to throw everything in the bin immediately - 18R-C, 3-speed auto, rickety suspension, glass diff, all gone. The plan was to purchase a twin cam 18R-G ex-Japan, throw your standard Celica 5-speed behind it ($100 at any wreckers back then), "do something" about the suspension, then go and rip mad skids with and maybe get on the cover of Hot 4's magazine.

    I did get the engine + transmission conversion done pretty quickly, it is after all about as easy as engine conversions go even for a complete novice like I was. Here's what the filthy lump looked like with its fully sik dual Solex sidedraughts:

    Oh you remember that part about "little to no rust"? I heard all you first-gen Celica aficionados laughing at me. Yes, it was actually a rust bucket, of course it was. So I set about learning how to repair rust and kinda sorta did a passable job. Here's what it looked like after some very bad sheetmetal welding hidden by some strategically placed body filler:

    Then after a quick and dirty rattle-can paint job which was meant to be very temporary:

    Of course fixing the bad paint job immediately took a back seat to mods, like upgrading to MA61 Supra brakes:

    I also got the shits with the carbies and got hold of an EFI setup from a later model 18R-GEU. After lots of fucking around with the ancient analog injection system I actually managed to get it running. Just check out that ace wiring job:

    I also upgraded to some awesome 14x7 alloy wheels and some sort of lowered suspension happened at some point:

    That's pretty much the whole story up until now. The last time I actually drove the car was when I moved it to my new house a bit over 10 years ago, and it's been sitting neglected in the shed ever since.

    Anyway, the reason I'm starting this thread is because things are finally going to happen in the near future. Step one is to move the car out of my small "storage" shed and into my large "getting shit done" shed. To that end I've decided I need to get the little nugget running again. In theory it should be functional, it ran mint 10 years ago, it's just been sitting in a shed since then.

    The paint doesn't seem to have fixed itself in all those years of neglect:

    The engine bay is just as filthy as ever, maybe a bit dustier. The wiring has improved though, I put a Haltech E6X in it back when they were state of the art:

    Today I bought the cheapest oil and oil filter money can buy. Tomorrow I'm going to do a quick oil change and swap in a new battery. Oh and the fuel might have gone off since 2009, so maybe some new fuel. Then turn the key and see what happens! Any bets?

    Stay tuned...


      Hurricanes, awesome!

      I had a $150 ‘74 RT104 for about a decade. Half wish I’d parked it in the back of a shed in 2009 - ended up taking it to the wrecker when the alternator died and it wasn’t economically feasible to put a new one in, I gave that thing away three times - people kept on giving it back.

      This will start easily. I once picked mine up from my parent’s place where my ex left it under a tree for 18 months, jump started it and then drove it to Rockhampton to give it away to my next girlfriend.


        The General Ree!
        Rust is lighter than carbon fibre.

        My Italian 510


          I remember that hair lol
          Turns out, far too much has been written about great men and not nearly enough about morons

          Originally posted by seedyrom
          my neighbours called the cops...... not because of the sound of me working in the garage was too loud, but because i taped a cardboard box to my back, covered my self in vaseline and pretended i was a snail on their lawn


            So many embarrassing memories!

            Other duties got in the way so the car hasn't moved yet and is still being used as a storage shelf for Supra parts:

            I did manage to dig out one of my lucky finds from years ago, this cast iron 18R-G turbo manifold with an ancient external gate and hilarious screamer pipe attached:

            It has a T3 flange I think but it has with an adaptor plate for the turbo it came with when I bought it, some sort of TD06 from my very vague recollection?

            I can't see any markings on the manifold itself so I'm not sure what it is or where it came from, but I know HKS sold a turbo kit in the early 80's so this could be it (or bits of it). In any case I think it's super retro cool and I'll for sure be using this in the build, but with a modern turbo and wastegate and maybe a slightly more subtle wastegate outlet.

            And for the real proof that I was serious about this project at one point, here's my 18R-G race motor, still wrapped up on the pallet from when it was delivered in 2011:

            It's been so long since I even thought about this thing that I've completely forgotten all the specs, but I know it's been fully rebuilt with custom forged rods and oversize pistons, ARP head studs, oversize valves, big cams of some description (TRD I think), all new timing gear, a custom made crank trigger wheel so I can ditch the distributor, and other stuff I've likely forgotten. The guy who built it (Jason was his name, he posted as YelloRolla on the Toymods forums) said it should happily spin to 9000 RPM and take plenty of boost. Who knows how much power it will make, probably not much compared with a modern 4-banger, but it will sound cool and looks like it belongs in the engine bay so it's just right for this project.

            I guess I should mention what I'm aiming at with this build. Basically I want to restore it to mostly original but modified in a somewhat period correct manner. So if I'd owned this thing in 1980 and started modifying it then, what would it look like? Of course I'm going to modernise it in many ways (eg engine management) but I want to keep the look fairly old-school.
            • Body wise it will go off to the panel shop to get my amateur-hour rust repairs re-done properly and the whole shell resprayed the original orange.
            • I'll probably also get some reproduction GTV stripes made up in white, even though it's not a real GTV. I'm thinking about getting a bootlid spoiler of the type available back in the day, but apart from that it will be externally original in appearance.
            • The 14x7 Hurricanes are definitely awesome and I'm keeping them!
            • Engine will be the rebuilt 18R-G, mystery turbo kit + new turbo, Haltech Elite engine management and suitable modern fuel system bits.
            • Transmission will be a W58 (currently has a W50 but that has to go), I already have a brand new lightweight flywheel for it and there's an R series to W58 bellhousing in my stash somewhere.
            • Not sure what I'll do about the diff - I definitely need something stronger than the original T series, and the G series Hilux swap that everyone does feels like overkill. I have an F series diff out of a MkII Corona but it was left out in the elements for a while and the housing is rusted pretty bad, possibly beyond repair.
            • Suspension probably won't change much from what I have, maybe a weld-on coilover kit for the front struts, and I'll see about getting some adjustable swaybars if possible.
            • Interior will be original as possible but everything will need to be restored/retrimmed of course. I'll allow an aftermarket steering wheel (something old-school of course) and some upgraded instrumentation, but nothing too modern.
            That's all I can think of for now. I should stop talking and start working, there's a lot to do!


              Bloody hell, it’s epic that you managed to keep these cars and parts all this time!

              Sounds perfect, though I’d go 15’s for tyre and brake choice.

              This one I love, but maybe not so hellaflush!



                i think i had a (small) hand in building that motor! Jase (Meyers/YellowRolla) was the fella who taught me to TIG, and also did all of the alloy work on the ITBs for the UZA80. spent waayyy too many hours in his company's machine shop milling adapters and making big piles of swarf. that 18RG was always banging around. i gave him a hand doing something with the rods, eventually getting the slugs in
                Originally posted by Keith Duckworth
                "I think that in a racing engine, the closer it is to disintegrating, in general the better its performance will be "


                  Originally posted by Mr Purple View Post
                  Bloody hell, it’s epic that you managed to keep these cars and parts all this time!
                  I'm a bit of a hoarder to be honest. That and I'm way too stubborn to give up on a project I started, even if it's a sensible thing to do!

                  Originally posted by Mr Purple View Post
                  This one I love, but maybe not so hellaflush!

                  That thing is awesome, and amazingly close to what I want my car to end up looking like. It's even the same colour!

                  Originally posted by doctor ed View Post
                  Jase (Meyers/YellowRolla) was the fella
                  Ah yes that's the name I was trying to remember. Stupid brain.

                  Originally posted by doctor ed View Post
                  i gave him a hand doing something with the rods, eventually getting the slugs in
                  Haha it's a small world. I hope you did a good job!


                    Originally posted by doctor ed View Post
                    i think i had a (small) hand in building that motor! Jase (Meyers/YellowRolla)
                    If you've got tapered fabricated inlet runners, then me too! I held the oxy torch while he did all the work
                    Originally posted by Marlin
                    Chickens will slip under water in the cover of darkness like a seal team and FUCK YOU UP.


                      Nah he just built the long motor for me. I'll be using stock 18R-GEU inlet runners.


                        A little more progress happened on this. I finished the oil change, removed the plugs, put a small amount of oil down each bore and turned the engine over a few times by hand. It rotated easily so that's a good sign!

                        Next step was to turn if over on the starter for a while (with ECU unplugged) to get oil pressure up, but first I had to sort out the boot where the battery is. I'd been using it to store a bunch of random stuff, mostly gardening supplies (the car lives in my garden shed after all), and after pulling everything out I discovered there'd been a few boxes of grass seed and fertiliser in there which had disintegrated and/or been chewed by rodents, spilling their contents everywhere and making a giant mess. So it was out with the shop vac:

                        That improved things considerably, looks like there is very little rust in the boot floor, which is rare for one of these:

                        With that done I was able to chuck in a fresh battery, then I hit the starter and it turned over no worries. I think that means I can put some fresh fuel in it and see if it starts?

                        I'm actually a bit worried about using the fuel tank after what I saw the Supra tank was like so I'm thinking I'll disconnect the fuel hoses from the tank and shove them into a 5L fuel can I have lying around in the shed. That way I can be reasonably confident I'm not sucking up whatever debris has accumulated in the bottom of the tank. It only needs to drive 50m to the other shed so hopefully that will work, and should be extremely safe.


                          I'm sure this is perfectly safe:

                          I got re-acquainted with how annoying it is to work on the fuel system of this car. The fuel lines come out the top of the tank which is about an inch below the parcel shelf, so you have fuck-all room to get in there to loosen the hose clamps and disconnect the hard and brittle hoses. I got there eventually and after some trial and error figured out which hose does what. I also had to reverse-engineer my bodgy wiring from ~15 years ago, eventually tracked down the fuel pump relay and was relieved to discover the fuel pump still works.

                          So I've got to the point where the fuel pump switches on, the fuel system pressurises and nothing leaks. I don't think there's anything stopping me from attempting to start it now - hopefully that will happen this weekend and I'll see if I can get it moved to the new shed! Once it's out of the way I'll have access to the rebuilt engine so I can relocate that as well and put it on the engine stand. I'm keen to see what it looks like under all that plastic wrap!


                            Well it happened. I got the shits with work yesterday, knocked off early, went out to the shed and cleared all the shit off the top of the car in preparation for its maiden (sort of) voyage:

                            Look at all that genuine barn dust!

                            Originally posted by Mr Purple View Post
                            This will start easily
                            I was sceptical but you were right, I hit the starter and it fired up on the first revolution then settled into a steady-ish (but very smokey) idle. I was slightly shocked, it has been over 10 years since this has run but you'd never know! Gotta love the old 18R-G.

                            Note the exhaust smoke is because I poured oil down the bores before starting it, I don't think the engine itself is that smokey although I expect the valve stem seals might be a bit sad after all this time.

                            So I hopped in and backed it out into the harsh light of day:

                            Yeah it's not exactly looking mint, I think it's going to need a bit of TLC.

                            Here I am driving it to the big shed:



                            I haven't driven anything with non-power steering in a long time, it's especially fun when the tyres are half flat! But I made it without incident, I was slightly worried about my bodgy fuel can setup tipping over and burning the whole thing to the ground but I took it easy and everything was fine.

                            Quick rinse off, didn't want to get too much of that barn dust in my new shed:

                            Then rolled it into its new home next to the Century:

                            I've got a nice collection now:

                            So that's that done, I'm pretty stoked! Things can actually start happening now, and my plan is to start doing little things on this car when I have downtime on the Supra project (eg when waiting for parts to arrive etc). Obviously I won't be able to devote all my time to it for quite a while, I do want to get the Supra on the road as soon as I can so I can't get too distracted. I guess we shall see how that works out!

                            Anyway there's plenty more to get done. My job this weekend will be to clear out the old shed so I can start using it to store the various bits and pieces I don't need immediate access to that are currently in the big shed. I also want to move the wrapped up 18R-G to the big shed but I'm not sure how I'm going to manage that just yet.

                            Oh and I need to sweep the floor. Believe it or not all this dirt under the car was from the 2011 floods, I had water flowing through this shed and it left all this silt behind, but the car never moved since then so I couldn't sweep it up until now:

                            That and I'm lazy.
                            Last edited by Norbie; 26-10-19, 10:10 AM.


                              Looks like you may need to invest in pallet racks to organise your shit and maximise your shed space.