e've all been guilty of spending too much money on our project cars. We have girlfriends, fiancs, wives, ex-wives, moms, etc... nagging at us about the kind of money we spend on our junker but we don't care. It's our baby, our pride and joy. The joy and sometimes pain a project car brings will enrich our lives by tenfold compared to the money we spend. Money can always be made but the experience of building a project car is priceless. With that being said our project Corolla is a money pit with no end. There's always something needing to be repaired or replaced and the local Pick-A-Part has become our second home.
To date the Corolla has gone through some much-needed TLC. After graciously lending the Corolla to Sport Compact Car for a test they were performing, we noticed the brakes were barely working. In order to come to a complete stop we'd have to practically stand on the brakes with both feet. Everybody knows the saying "speed kills, and brakes give life," and we wanted to live just a little bit longer. After removing the front calipers from the knuckle the brake pads literally fell out in two pieces. The brake pads were so abused that the friction material no longer stuck to the metal backing (thanks SCC). Being the cheap bastards we are, we found a set of barely used rotors at the Pick-A-Part and had them resurfaced for about $20 total each side. In hindsight we could've purchased a cheap set of rotors from the local auto parts store for about $25 but then again what fun would that be.
After replacing the front brakes, we tackled the rear end that was giving off a god awful whining sound. Having owned two Corollas before I knew the ring-and-pinion gears were out of alignment and needed to be adjusted or replaced. In order to remove the entire differential assembly both rear axles had to be removed, which also requires the removal of the rear brake calipers. And, of course, to our surprise once again when we removed the right rear caliper of the Corolla the brake pad fell on the floor in multiple pieces (thanks again to SCC). Needless to say, that's the last time I loan a car to SCC. This time instead of rummaging through Pick-A-Part for GT-S rear rotors I coughed up the $18 for each rotor from Pep Boys. Once the axles were removed I was able to remove the differential assembly. Upon inspection of the ring-and-pinion we knew the gears were beyond adjustment and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, we had a spare rear end so we were able to salvage the gears and install them onto the TRD LSD.
With the Corolla all buttoned-up and filled with fluid we went on our test drive. It was music to our ears, or more precisely the lack of noise emanating from the rear of the car. We can actually hold a conversation in the car without shouting at one another. And what a surprise - brake pads are actually necessary to bring a vehicle to a stop. What a difference. Now we're not afraid of rear-ending someone each time we go for a spin.
Another problem we noticed after the fateful track day was that the front right shock had sprung an oil leak and started to feel unresponsive around corners. Upon disassembly the shock was blown, even though it was barely six-months old it died. Rather than spending money on another TRD short stroke shock we opted to reach deep into our pocketbooks and cough up the money for a set of brand new coilovers from GReddy. The GReddy Type-S suspension kit is an impressive piece. Unlike many of the coilover kits on the market that require using the factory shock and hacking it into two pieces and then re-welding it back together, the GReddy unit is all new down to the spindle. Also, another key feature to the coilover is the threaded base and spring perch, which allow for height adjustments to be made through the shock without affecting the spring preload or shock stroke.
The Corolla's factory rear shock setup is still retained, but height adjustment is made possible by a threaded perch. Additionally, the shock is threaded for the perfect shock stroke height. Shock dampening can be adjusted 32 ways with the adjustment screw that adjusts both compression and rebound at once. A smoother, softer ride is made possible on the street while a stiffer, more aggressive setup can be used at the track. The coilover also comes with a spherical bearing adjustable pillow ball mount. The mounts can be adjusted for positive or negative camber. Also, we were impressed that the spherical bearing could be replaced thus extending the longevity of the upper mounts.
The core of the GReddy Type-S suspension is the mono-tube shock design that uses a 46mm diameter piston. The larger diameter piston increases durability while still providing optimal precision dampening. GReddy designed the system to be very lightweight without sacrificing the structural integrity of the strut.
Also impressive about the Type-S coilover is their limitless adjustment possibilities. GReddy offers different spring rates allowing the driver to custom tailor the setup to his/her needs. Spring rates can be tuned to as low as 4 kg/mm (223 lbs/in) and up to 16 kg/mm (894 lbs/in).
On the road, the Type-S coilover is considerably more comfortable than the old TRD setup. The old setup was extremely stiff and horrible on the rough, Southern California roads. An additional benefit is that previously adjusting the dampening on the rear shocks required getting down on the floor and using a standard screwdriver to turn the adjustment screw. Now with the GReddy setup all you have to do is open the trunk and turn the adjustment knob. Finally, the rear of the car is much more stable around corners and doesn't want to kick out each time I go over a small bump.
While the parts on our Project Corolla cost more than the car itself, we get plenty of joy every time we drive it. With the new suspension, the Corolla is now able to go through several corners at Streets of Willow nearly flat out. Then again with only 100 hp under the hood it would be hard to hang the tail out.