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Babalouie Project Aristo

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    Babalouie Project Aristo

    I thought I'd start a new thread, since the other one had ten pages of jibba jabba and that was before the car arrived :-)

    So here's the new rig: a 2001 Toyota Aristo, which was sourced from Japan by Iron Chef Imports, who are the biggest and the best. She's a super mint, Grade 4.5B 66,000km unmolested example of the V300 twin turbo model (more of which anon). Here's what it looks like as of today, with some of the mods already applied.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. A few weeks ago, Graeme at Top Secret Imports called to say that the compliance process was all done and the Aristo was ready to be collected...

    We excitedly went over to pick her up and the car looked to be in great order, so we gladly accepted the keys and set off for home.

    But along the way, the Aristo started to show some signs of being a little sick. There was an intermittent miss, but due to COVID the car's journey to Sydney was a somewhat protracted one, and it probably hadn't been driven in a really long time. So I threw some fresh fuel into the Aristo's belly and crossed my fingers, but if anything the refuelling made it worse. And now the mission was to get it safely back to the garage where I could attempt to diagnose it, and hopefully it wasn't anything terminal. On the freeway, the dash would suddenly black out, the engine would cut and there would be an interminable few seconds before the Aristo came back to life again. This suddenly seemed like it was potentially a simple issue though, if it was a power supply issue that was causing everything.

    After limping back into the garage, it turns out the negative battery terminal was quite loose, and covered in that furry corrosion. I sanded all that clean, refitted the battery and the car burst cleanly to life again! I guess the battery terminal may have been a little loose in Japan, then the car's long hibernation made the connection corrode, and when I turned up to take it on a long drive home, I was basically running down whatever little juice was left in the battery, which wasn't getting charged...and hence the intermittent miss got worse the further I drove. I was depleting the battery, which was just about enough to limp home, with the dash blackouts getting more and more frequent as I neared home.

    Hence the poor spark and intermittent miss...which was now addressed but hadn't totally gone away. So let's open her up for a look.

    The Aristo comes with the later VVTi version of the 2JZGTE, which means that it has three coilpacks in a wasted spark arrangement. That means that when each coil engages, two spark plugs fire simultaneously: one in the actual ignition stroke of the combustion cycle, and the other plug will fire harmlessly in the exhaust stroke of another cylinder. So to have a look at the plugs, we need to remove the three coilpacks, as well as the short plug leads that run to the remaining three spark plugs.

    It didn't take long to discover that the #3 plug was badly fouled. The other 5 were fine, with a dry brown deposit (what the JDM mechanics call "fox colour") but #3 is definitely gone.

    ...that's why she's spittin.

    Out with the old, and in with a new set of Iridiums, which I adjusted down to a smaller gap of 0.8mm to go along with the increased boost that we're planning to run.

    And with that, the 2JZ was now butter-smooth and revved freely. Much faster now too. Just to check that #3 piston is okay, I pulled the #3 plug a few weeks later and it's squeaky clean. Phew. I guess the power supply issue meant poor spark and incomplete combustion, and one spark plug had to fall first I suppose, and it was this one.

    Now we can enjoy the car!

    The Aristo is a V300 Vertex Edition; the V300 part means that it's the turbo version (the NA version is called S300) and the Vertex Edition is just a trim level. Getting the Vertex Edition meant you got bigger 17in wheels, a bootlid spoiler, and a charcoal colorway for the interior with black seats and black wood. The non-Vertex Edition got 16in wheels, and more of a grey/tan cabin.

    In both trim levels, leather was a pretty rare option.

    Mechanically all V300s are the same, and apart from having the twin turbo version of the 2JZ, the V300s also got rear wheel steering, with an electric rack in the rear subframe steering in the same direction as the front wheels to add high speed stability. I think I can...kinda...feel it working, the faster you go on a winding road, the more steering lock you seem to have to apply to turn in.

    My Aristo is stock with the exception of lowered Tanabe springs on oem-replacement shocks, and the surprisingly deep bodykit is the dealer option Toyota one.

    So how's it drive?

    Well...let me tell you that anyone who says that an Aristo is "the four door Supra" is engaging in a bit of false advertising :-) In stock form at least, it's very much the little brother to the LS400 than the bigger brother to the Chaser. The engine is whisper quiet, you can't hear the exhaust note at all, merely a distant hint of induction noise far away (basically...the same as an LS400/Celsior). And it is fast, as long as you're not expecting it to feel particularly urgent or responsive. The biggest factor is the very lazy 4spd automatic, which shifts up to top gear almost immediately. This means that the Aristo is never going to snap your head back when you sink the loud pedal, but it does waft along on a wave of torque at low rpms on the first turbo. The second turbo makes its presence felt at 4000rpm, but the gearing is so tall that in second gear this doesn't happen until about 90kmh (second gear redlines at 140). It feels like it might be good for a high 14s quarter mile, but it is definitely one of those 90s cars which goes much faster above 80kmh than it does below it.

    And Tanabe springs notwithstanding, it's one hell of a boat :-) It's wafty and soft, it floats over bumps and while it's surprisingly flat when you throw it into a corner, on a winding road there isn't a hell of a lot of feedback and adjustability, and you feel like you're guiding it rather than driving it. Basically like an LS400. The last thought that comes into your mind is that it's some sort of sports sedan, which it clearly isn't. And perish any thoughts of it being some sort of proto F-car that's the harbinger of the ISF; there is no ISF DNA in this vehicle at all.

    In stock form.

    But I was enjoying wafting along in it, it's got that 90's Toyota overbuilt feel to it, where everything is completely and utterly solid. The doorcards feel like billet plastic, there are zero squeaks and rattles and it feels like it'll last forever. Jack it up and the doors open and close without any body twist. But we can now begin the cleanup, which has to start with the horribly cloudy headlights. My go to product is Duragloss plastic polish, which works a treat.

    In conjunction with a cutting pad and a machine polisher, 99% of the haze was gone in just one pass.

    To provide some UV resistance to prevent the headlights yellowing again, I apply a few coats of Gyeon Trim, which will last about a year. You just put a few droplets onto the suede cloth, wipe it on evenly and then buff it off with a microfibre towel. Repeat a few hours later and that's it. This stuff works really well on the exterior plastics to make them glossy and black again too.

    I've left the big paint correction and coating exercise for another day, but she cleans up just fine.

    Actually it's in astonishing condition, with no dents or scratches, and it's all original paint except for the front bumper, which looks to have been redone at some point.

    The paint isn't even swirly, I just gave it a quick once over with Menzerna Heavy Cut to basically just decontaminate it, and it came up so good I didn't take it any further. Iron Chef always has that knack of sourcing me that perfect car, the previous one was the FD3S, which was also unfeasibly mint.
    Last edited by Babalouie; 05-01-21, 10:47 PM.
    Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars

    For the interior cleanup, I love the Bissell carpet cleaner. You fill it up with detergent and hot water...

    ...spray the fabric first to pre-soak it.

    Then you spray while the vacuum head sucks away the dirty water out of the fabric.

    What you end up with is a container of really black gunk in the machine, which is of course terrifically cathartic to throw out :-)

    The Aristo has the optional lairy 90's floor mats, and a quick once over with the Bissell got the colours nice and vibrant again.

    Now that the car is nice and clean, I can get back to work again under the bonnet...but first we have to address the radiator support. All Aristos seem to have this issue where the chassis black finish goes all chalky white. Generally you don't notice it, but we do have the see-thru grille that makes it quite obvious.

    So everything is removed and masked off so that we can give it a bit of a refresh.

    What I also like to do, is I order some random engine bay nuts and bolts. Aftermarket bolts never look right, and new ones are just $1 from Toyota, so ordering a few bags of new fasteners is a cheap exercise that makes a huge visual difference.

    I replace the most weathered ones at the front with the new ones, then the not so bad ones get redistributed to the rest of the engine bay to replace any unsightly ones.

    And now that the engine bay isn't so much of an eyesore, we can get to work.

    When I had to change the spark plugs that first day, the plastic wiring plugs that connected to the ignition coils were on the verge of disintegrating. They have a locking tab that needs to be pressed to clip them, but once pressed, they went "ping", cracked off and flew into the depths of the garage.

    I kludged it all back with cable ties to stop the plugs from unplugging themselves, but it was time to replace them, and to my surprise, there's HEAPS of parts support for the 2JZ. A pack of new replacement plug was sent from Goleby's soon enough.

    When I tried to extricate the pins from the old plugs, they basically crumbled to dust in my hands :-)

    In with the new. The new plugs came with new pins but I wasn't too confident of being able to crimp something this small, so I reused the old pins, but got a tiny little screwdriver in there to bend the female pin slots a little so that the male part fits tighter.

    Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the stock radiator top tank is going a bit brown, which is usually the sign that it's about to blow. I'd noticed this in the Japanese auction pics and had organised a replacement radiator, which was a "Winner Racing" one from eBay. I'd ordered a stock-replacement Koyo from Japan, but due to a mix-up the wrong parts were shipped, so I ended up going onto eBay to find a Chinese radiator. There had been lots of good reviews on drift forums for the Winner Racing ones, which were meant to be "rated to 750hp", and they were $550, which wasn't suspiciously I bought one. Out comes the old radiator...

    The Winner Racing one looks okay

    It's...somewhat thicker than the stock one...

    But when I tried to transfer over the radiator fans, they didn't fit. The lugs where they were meant to screw into were quite a ways off. Not sure if they were made on a plasticine jig or if Ray Charles was doing the welding, but see those little brass rings in the bolt holes of the fan shroud? They're there to reinforce the mounting points (god bless Toyota) but I found that if I pressed them out, there was just about enough wriggle room and if I cut this and that sorta fitted.

    The Winner Racing radiator also had a slight twist, so it needed to be manhandled into place...but a month later, I have to say that it's been totally watertight and has worked perfectly. I think next time I'll be patient and just order another Koyo though. One casualty of the upgrade was that the new radiator is so much bulkier that I couldn't refit the stock airbox snorkel, which snakes over the radiator. I'll have to work out a solution later.
    Last edited by Babalouie; 05-01-21, 11:29 PM.
    Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars


      always enjoy these threads, love your work


        With the new parts, the Aristo was now running very sweetly, but I had a thought that if the #3 spark plug was that covered in gunk...maybe the combustion chambers are also similarly carboned up. So before doing an oil change, I squirt a can of Threebond Engine Conditioner in, which is a product I've used for years. What you do, is find a vacuum hose on the inlet manifold, unplug it and squirt in 15seconds of the can. It'll inject a huge amount of something like shaving foam into the manifold, which will coat all the surfaces, before turning to liquid and running into the valve area, where it can pool. You leave it for 10mins to eat away at the carbon deposits, then start the engine and spray the rest of the can into the vacuum line. The engine will try to stall, so you'll need one hand on the throttle body, but as the carbon is eaten away, smoke pours out the exhaust. Shut the engine off just before the can runs out, leave it for another 10mins, before going for a drive. It really did seem to make a difference to the smoothness, so I went back to the garage and repeated it with a second can :-) I normally do this as a maintenance thing every other oil change, but I think the Aristo really needed it and I'll do it again on the next oil change.

        And now we can start modding :-)

        I'd found a Kakimoto R exhaust on Yahoo Auctions ages ago, and ordered it well before the Aristo arrived. Cut and paste "jzs161 アリスト" into Yahoo Auctions and HEAPS of aftermarket parts turn up. Pages and pages of coilovers, exhausts, bodykits, basically an unfeasibly huge supply for what is an over 20year old car that doesn't particularly have a big enthusiast following. The sad reason behind it, is that scores of Aristos are being wrecked and parted out in Japan, as their precious 2JZGTEs are plucked out, to be more profitably resold to repower Supras. Stock cars are still desirable, so they are kept within the dealer network, but s huge number of modified cars are being dismantled every week, and that results in a flood of aftermarket parts on Yahoo auctions.

        Depressing news out of the way, I actually visited Kakimoto in Osaka pre COVID

        Needless to say, it was full of cool stuff

        Not just exhausts but all kinds of random stuff

        Even an exhaust for an Alpine A110. Not the new one...the OLD one :-)

        Like a lot of these places in Japan, it always seems like they're mainly into racing, and making stuff for road cars is just to pay the bills

        It's a huge coincidence that I ended up buying a second hand exhaust from here, but it's nice to know where it came from :-)

        Back to reality :-)

        The thing that made this particular exhaust stand out from all the others on Yahoo Auctions, was that it was unusually mint. Generally Aristos are pretty slammed in Japan, and so all of the second hand exhausts are usually scratched and dented to buggery, but here was a perfect one and it was....half the price of the other ones? The reason was that the ad came with a caveat. Seller said that it's been cut and shut, and he couldn't guarantee that it was going to fit. Anyway, that seemed worth the risk, so I ended up being the only bidder and scored it for cheap.

        Now a Kakimoto R system is meant to be a four piece, with its own midpipe that bolts up to the stock cat under the turbos. Mine is a three piece and was missing that midpipe, and so I was gambling that the rear V-section was cut and shut to mate up to the stock midpipe because the midpipe was missing, and hey maybe it might work.

        Interestingly you'll note that the Kakimoto instructions tell you to chop quite a bit of material off the rear tow hook to make space for the muffler, and I fear that it's now so weakened that you can't really use it as a tow hook anymore :-)

        So off comes the stock system...

        Which is pretty restrictive, like all 90s Toyota exhaust systems were

        If you're planning to do any exhaust installations at home, it makes sense to spend 15mins making up a muffler hanger hook. It's just a hook made of threaded rod, attached to a handle,

        the threads mean the rubber donut won’t slip off the hook, and you can get up in there and hang your body weight off it to unhook the rubber hangers. It might look like plenty of space, but there's barely enough room to get a longnose plier up there, and you'll spend hours trying to get those tight rubber donuts off unless you have your own hook tool.

        Compared to the oem exhaust, the Kakimoto is huge in comparison.

        But also lighter too

        The reason for it being cheap become clear though. One side sat high and fouled the bumper, while the other side drooped a whole 2 inches too low.

        So we get a bit dodgy, and elongate the bolt holes with a round file

        Which gives just a few mm of wriggle room that I can bolt up the whole system parallel to the ground, instead of 5 degrees off the horizontal like before

        And the exhaust pipes sit nicely in the bumper cutouts now (which looked a bit undernourished with the tiny peashooter stock tips)

        And it sounds just right. I think because we're missing the front pipe of the Kakimoto system, it's not very loud, and inside the cabin you only hear a distant burble.

        But I'd forgotten how 90s turbo cars respond to little mods like this, the Aristo is much faster to spool up now and is a lot more responsive. It's less land yacht and is starting to feel more like a sports sedan.

        Hmm...maybe I should get a custom midpipe made up, maybe replace the stock cat with a highflow one. Next mod is coilovers though.
        Last edited by Babalouie; 06-01-21, 12:52 AM.
        Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars


          Another Thread worth Subscribing too...


            this is sweeeeeeet, do these come with LSD as standard?


              Love the plates!
              Looking forward to updates, subbed
              The Slowly IS300


                Originally posted by schnitzelburger View Post
                this is sweeeeeeet, do these come with LSD as standard?
                No, although the previous 147-series Aristo did have an optional Torsen, which seems to have been a reasonably popular option. I’ve got one of those, and am tossing up the decision as to whether we also track down a lower 4.1 ratio from an NA Supra as well before we install it
                Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars


                  always been a wish list car. very nice!
                  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 "


                    Loving this already! Also, cat back gives you minimal extra power, wait till yo do the front/dump pipe! Thats when she will open up!
                    Originally posted by The Property Guru
                    don't haemophrodites generally have tiny wangs?
                    Originally posted by oxy
                    No, that's asians
                    A80 Supra
                    80 Landcruiser


                      ...........I see that Hako is still there.


                        +1 on the Bissel cleaner love - I’ve got the same one. Unfortunately my sprayer has stopped working, and I really need to figure out why that is.


                          How long before this become a roll racing race car :D
                          "If you can make black marks on a straight from the time you turn out of a corner until the braking point of the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." - Mark Donahue Penske Porsche 917

                          "In Japan we no give fark for Subaru" - Trust Japan Technical Director
                          (TM - AVENGE)

                          "You can never have enough power. I remember when we had Group B cars... THEN we had enough power!"
                          Juha Kankkunen - Rally of Argentina '02


                            Originally posted by willsy01 View Post
                            ...........I see that Hako is still there.
                            Yes, in the end I sold the ISF instead, so Hako gets to stay
                            Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars


                              Originally posted by MR-PUNANNY View Post
                              Loving this already! Also, cat back gives you minimal extra power, wait till yo do the front/dump pipe! Thats when she will open up!
                              Thing is, the catback made quite a big difference, so I'm thinking I'll get the front pipe made and a nice cat installed when CHE comes back from holidays. If I go uncorking the whole exhaust system, I should fit a restrictor plate at the front of the system to keep a lid on boost spikes, yeah?
                              Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars