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Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/22/16 10:59 p.m.

So this story started 7 years ago when a client of mine said she had an old station wagon that she needed to "get rid of". I asked to take a look at it and she took me back behind her husbands shop where I found this... 

Apparently the car got parked because of carb problems sometime in the 90's and hadn't moved since. After looking it over I offered $75 on the condition they delivered it to my place, about 4 miles away, and they accepted. What we didn't know (but probably should have) was all 4 drum brakes had rusted solid. They had the brilliant idea to try to pick the car up with a tractor and pull the trailer under it. I guess that's fine, but they picked it up too high in back and damaged the front bumper, passenger fender, and dented the tailgate with the tractor bucket. So that was annoying, not anything I can't deal with and I can't really complain for what I paid for it. After getting it home, getting the brakes apart, and realizing the motor probably had zero compression (I could turn the crank pulley by hand), and finding out how rare replacement parts are, I basically abandoned it like the PO. The basic plan was to try to get it running then restore it in stages but that obviously wasn't going to work. The last 7 years have basically been spent mulling over different ideas, the only thing that was really set in stone was if I was going to bother getting this thing roadworthy I wanted to update the drivetrain and suspension so parts could be sourced from pretty much anywhere. I went back and forth on ideas trying to find a suitable suspension donor car that was in my budget and waffled constantly on powertrain. A couple months ago I realized the paint on the hood/fenders was gone and had substantial surface rust. That finally motivated me to start making some real plans, as it was finally time to E36 M3 or get off the pot.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/22/16 11:36 p.m.

The Lexus transaction turned into a real clusterberkeley. It was about 90 minutes away, and I call the guy about halfway there as planned. Well he's on his way to work and forgot about the car.... He finds someone to cover for him and meets me at his storage lot like 30 mins late, but he's forgot the keys and the title. Neither of us wanting to leave empty handed I talk the guy down to $400 without keys on a BOS. I write up the BOS and pay the guy and it immediately starts pouring rain. Of course the car is facing the wrong way and at a funny angle with no keys so we chain it to the trailer and drag it straight and load it backwards because we're out of berkeleys and just want to get home. It's in pretty good shape though and I'll probably make a little money off it selling off the stuff I'm not gonna use.

 

 And there it sat for about 2 weeks while it continued to rain every time I had a day off.

JamesMcD
JamesMcD Dork
9/22/16 11:57 p.m.

Keep going....

Chadeux
Chadeux HalfDork
9/23/16 12:16 a.m.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/23/16 12:39 a.m.

So the wagon has been on blocks since I got it home. I never bought tires for it and I'm sure as hell not going to do it now since I'm not going to use them after the swap is done. So being cheap I drove out the wheel studs and bolted the Lexus wheels with some 5" grade 8 bolts and a ass ton of large nuts to space the wheels out far enough to clear the springs/tie rods. And it moves for the first time in 7 years...

I still have to make some space inside before I can get started cutting up the wagon so it's going to be a while before I get to the fun stuff. A few pics in the meantime. All this junk HAS to go!

 

It has a little rust...

That actually used to be the battery tray. The frame rail completely rotted out too compromising the steering box mounting location. It was one of the reasons I had previously abandoned the project. Even with 2" worth of "spacers" on both sides of the Rambler axle it's still 2" narrower than the Lexus' rear end.

 

This is primarily going to be street car, but I'm hoping to do some rallyX with it. So something is definitely gonna have to be done for clearance. Hopefully I'll be ready to start in on the fun stuff soon. Just have some other stuff to button up first.

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing Dork
9/23/16 8:13 a.m.

I like this project.

DaewooOfDeath
DaewooOfDeath SuperDork
9/23/16 8:52 a.m.

Very cool project!

ssswitch
ssswitch Dork
9/23/16 11:21 a.m.

You've been reading Murilee Martin's articles about the time he parted out an SC400 and what parts sold for the most on eBay, right?

Very cool project. I love that this forum is getting crazier and crazier with the "imma weld this body on this chassis" projects.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
9/23/16 1:53 p.m.

This should be a fun thread. How do the wheelbases and track widths compare for the two cars?

Two other measurements that I learned to obtain (post facto in my case):

Compare the distance between the front seats center to center. You don't want your donor chassis to be much wider in this measurement or you will be looking at the A-post as you drive. Moving the seat over is not a trivial thing.

With the seat adjusted how you like it relative to the pedals. Measure from the front axle to the middle of the seat-base. This will give you an idea of whether you are going to be jammed up against the dash or sitting in the backseat when done.

java230
java230 Dork
9/23/16 2:56 p.m.

Oh this should be fun!

Crackers
Crackers New Reader
9/23/16 7:34 p.m.
ssswitch wrote: You've been reading Murilee Martin's articles about the time he parted out an SC400 and what parts sold for the most on eBay, right? Very cool project. I love that this forum is getting crazier and crazier with the "imma weld this body on this chassis" projects.

I ran into his blog while trying reading up on the SC300. Actually that same pursuit is how I ended up on the forum here too. I'm not really sure how much selling some of the smaller bits is worth to me, and this car was just a rolling chassis so I don't even know for sure how much of the stuff even works.

Originally I wasn't going to do a wholesale body swap, but I started having night terrors seeing the car dog tracking down the highway. The body swap idea came later after seeing shawneecreeks Lumina and I immediately started getting more restful sleep.

Crackers
Crackers New Reader
9/23/16 8:22 p.m.
NOHOME wrote: This should be a fun thread. How do the wheelbases and track widths compare for the two cars? Two other measurements that I learned to obtain (post facto in my case): Compare the distance between the front seats center to center. You don't want your donor chassis to be much wider in this measurement or you will be looking at the A-post as you drive. Moving the seat over is not a trivial thing. With the seat adjusted how you like it relative to the pedals. Measure from the front axle to the middle of the seat-base. This will give you an idea of whether you are going to be jammed up against the dash or sitting in the backseat when done.

The Lexus chassis was practically made for this swap. I seem to have a missing post that talked about this stuff, I'll try to repost it in a minute here. I also took a couple pictures today to show how closely the two chassis' match up.

The seat thing hadn't occured to me before, though I don't think it's an issue. Measuring the width between the seams in the rocker panels, the Lexus is only 1" wider (albeit a fairly arbitrary measurement), but the distance between the inner door panels is probably 2-3" narrower. The passengers in the Lexus are likely positioned closer to each other than in the wagon since the wagon has provisions for a center passenger.

And since I'm on the subject of seating positions.... Just yesterday I was measuring the seating positions on the two vehicles in relation to each other. Since the wholesale body swap wasn't offically a go until earlier this week I hadn't put any effort into making decisions about seating positions since I figured seat mounts would all be have to be fabricated or at least relocated anyway.

As it turns out, the seating position in the wagon is actually further back relative to the front wheel than the Lexus even though the bulkhead is going to have to move back roughly 2" relatively. I was never very excited about any aspect of the wagon seating. For a while I wanted to keep the bench seat for the sleeper factor, but keeping my ass put takes precident, so I'm going to keep the stock Lexus electric seats for now to simplify everything. As a bonus, the seating position is great for me and the seats themselves are very comfortable with decent bolsters for an "all around" seat. At this stage I just want to get it on the road anyway.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/23/16 9:58 p.m.

So to back up a bit. I spent a ton of time actively researching potential donor cars. The short list included, Foxbody Mustang's, E36's, Thunderbird's, and RX7's.

All of them had plus' and minuses, and all fit into my projected budget, but none really fit the bill as far as having a knockout powertrain/suspension combo. I was ok with that, and had no problem with swapping out powertrain or suspension later to make them work in the long run. I didn't really want a MacPherson strut car or a live rear axle and with none of my budget friendly options really delivering on those I had little motivation to start looking at cars. (The RX7 did deliver, but it was pretty narrow and I really don't think it would have held up well under the heavier car)

About the same time I realized the wagon needed some attention/rust prevention on the hood/fenders I became quite a bit more motivated to make a decision, and as chance would have it, I had a Formula D video of an SC300 pop up on Facebook with some under car shots where I saw the front suspension setup I wanted. Being a Formula D car I immediately knew it was IRS and started researching.

I was completely blown away when I found out they were essentally Supra's with Lexus styling/ammeneties and almost all the drivetrain/suspension parts cross referenced directly to the N/A MKIV Supra.

A little more digging and I found the following

Wheelbase SC300: 105.9" (some stats say 105.6") Wagon: 106"

Axle Width SC300: 63" flange-flange Wagon: 57" flange-flange So considering the factory Rambler peek-a-boo wheel fitment with zero offset I figured an extra 6" in rear end width and nearly identical wheelbase, it sounded just about perfect. (as confirmed in the picture above with my janky wheel spacers)

So I brought it home, stripped it, and bought a new toy...

The extra power form the DeWalt vs Horror Freight/discount store options is 100% worth the extra money IMO. Epecially when cutting multiple panels simultaneously with these big 9-12" demo blades. I couldn't find the brand name blades in the store when I bought the saw, and bought the one pictured thinking I had no other options. I went in the next day and found the good ones in a different section.

A couple afternoons later...

 

I still have quite a bit of trimming to do, but the car and donor chassis are being assembled at another location and I don't want to get it too flimsy before moving it. Like I said above, I didn't make the decision to do a full body swap until earlier this week. I really wish I had made that decision before pulling the subframes because now I have to put them back on the chassis... I also probably would have been a bit more selective about my jacking points, but no biggie.

So the stripped floor pan is light enough right now I can drag it around myself by hand. So I got it roughly lined up alongside the wagon for S&G's and it's uncanny how closely the core supports, bulkhead, and rear frame horns line up.

 

The radiator for the Lexus sits between those 2 flanges pointing back off the core support. There will definitely be some sheet metal fabrication needed to blend the Lexus bulkhead into the "A" pillars of the Rambler and to Frankenstein the cowls together. The Rambler has the old style air vents in the kick panel that open with a lever. If at all possible I want to maintain that functionality. I won't know what the cowl/vent Frankenstein job will entail until I chop up the wagon, but they sure do eyeball close enough I'm optimistic I can get that done without looking like a hack job.

 

Another interesting measurement... Both cars, from the floor pan to the bottom of the windshield measure 26.5-27"

And the rear frame horns are damn close too...

In fact, everything is so close I'm afraid I'm missing something really big/obvious. I can't really be that lucky, can I?

rustyvw
rustyvw Dork
9/23/16 10:16 p.m.

When I was little, my dad had a 67 Rambler wagon that he turned into a pickup. I have always had a soft spot for AMC's because of that. Keep the updates coming.

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/23/16 11:01 p.m.

The Lexus was just a rolling chassis when I bought it. (slightly less so now LOL) In the beginning, I was just going to buy a stock imported 2JZ-GE and drop it in. Out of curiosity and in the intrest of future planning, I spent some time researching what's involved in the 2JZ-GTE swap because of course I NEED to know these things. Looks like some rather in-depth modifications to the wiring harness are needed. Multiple wires have to be repinned and extended about 18-20", otherwise it's a pretty straight forward job sans intercooler/charge piping work. (for swapping in the JDM Aristo import motors anyway) Not wanting to dive into that now, and trying to keep it simple as possible until I have it running, it would stay stock.

Of course pulling the dash apart it appears as though the PO did some real hack work on a previous sound system install, and probably cut the harness/pigtail off when they pulled it and just stuffed the disconnected factory head in the hole.

Oh, and they seem to have done the same with the instrument cluster...

Oh, oh, and... The 2JZ-GE ECU was just laying in the passenger foot well... Something was definitely up...

Finally, when pulling the wiring harness I realized the engine harness had been.... modified... in a rather familiar fashion. Seems a bunch of the wires have been extended about a foot and a half.... I wonder what that's all about?! I'm thinking starting with a 2JZ-GTE might be less work. Uncle Ben is going to use the Lexus HVAC system, which means incorporating the climate control computer. Which means Uncle Ben probably needs the entire Lexus harness transplanted, bumper-bumper. In light of the whole wiring clusterberkeley I now find myself in I ordered a factory wiring manual. The level of detail in this thing just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Full diagrams, pinouts, errything! So with that, you guys are pretty well caught up on The what/where/when/why/how I got to where I'm at now. Hopefully my future posts won't endeavor to identify me with the make of my chosen automobile, however I must not make any promises regarding excessive verbosity.

I think my 3 hours sleep last night is catching up with me. I must attempt to rectify the situation before sharing what I found inside the Rambler engine when I pulled the head today. Have fun!

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/24/16 11:20 a.m.

So I'm being really antsy about getting the wagon torn down. I didn't want to start the teardown until after I had stripped down and organized the parts off the Lexus. So 5.3 seconds after tossing the last part in a pile I started pulling the head off the wagon. With all the dust on the motor, Uncle Ben seems to be destined for rally.

I am really thinking I should have reconsidered trying to get little tiny infant baby Ben running before I tore him apart. I'm quite sure most of this would have flushed out with a quart of ATF before an oil change.

I mean the head gasket was obviously still sealing fantastically...

 

It also must have been some high tech lost technology that's not available today, because whoever put the head on didn't even feel the need to use the locating dowels in the block when they reinstalled the head. Awesome right?!

In all seriousness, I only pulled the head to see if I'd feel comfortable selling the motor. The carb was off and the intake open when I bought the car. I would have probably pulled the head before trying drive the car anyway. The cylinders actually look pretty clean, if it mic's out I might refresh it and sell it as a drop in motor. That will depend on what this engine is even worth though. (although I don't think I can make it worth less without trying)

The0retical
The0retical Dork
9/24/16 1:24 p.m.

I like where this is going.

84FSP
84FSP Dork
9/24/16 5:15 p.m.

The stuff you guys take on blows my mind. Have old Ramber Wagon - why not Body swap to an SC300? Please tell me you are going to do the cheapy turbo setup using the stock turbos and manifolds that the Supra TT guys discard the second day they own their cars?

Crackers
Crackers New Reader
9/25/16 6:29 p.m.
rustyvw wrote: When I was little, my dad had a 67 Rambler wagon that he turned into a pickup. I have always had a soft spot for AMC's because of that. Keep the updates coming.

Do you have any pics of that? What did he do for a rear window?

Crackers
Crackers New Reader
9/25/16 8:42 p.m.
84FSP wrote: The stuff you guys take on blows my mind. Have old Ramber Wagon - why not Body swap to an SC300? Please tell me you are going to do the cheapy turbo setup using the stock turbos and manifolds that the Supra TT guys discard the second day they own their cars?

I'm planning to buy a JDM import motor, so if I do go turbo it will be the oem setup. I don't want something that has to be down for weeks at a time waiting for parts, which is why I don't want to keep the AMC parts.

ShawneeCreek
ShawneeCreek Reader
9/25/16 9:08 p.m.
Crackers wrote: Originally I wasn't going to do a wholesale body swap, but I started having night terrors seeing the car dog tracking down the highway. The body swap idea came later after seeing shawneecreeks Lumina and I immediately started getting more restful sleep.

I love it! I'm glad I could help inspire you to save a cool wagon in a creative way.

Best suggestions that I can give you:

  • Measure twice (or three, or four) times, then cut. It's easier to remove metal than add it back in
  • Having said that, don't worry if you need to add metal back in. There's almost nothing that the magic metal glue gun (welder) and some creativity can't fix.
  • Be safe when you lift the body over the chassis. It's a lot of weight that you'll be working under
  • Take your time with the wiring and document all of your changes. You'll thank yourself later when you are troubleshooting issues.
  • Have fun! Remember, this is a hobby, not a job

I look forward to future progress and updates. Good luck.

Run_Away
Run_Away HalfDork
9/25/16 10:45 p.m.

In for this!

Keep in mind for the JDM 2JZ-GTE the factory turbos use a ceramic turbine wheel that are prone to cracking. One of the rare instances where North America got the better hardware vs Japan.

Are you building this all outside?

Crackers
Crackers HalfDork
9/25/16 10:57 p.m.
ShawneeCreek wrote:
Crackers wrote: Originally I wasn't going to do a wholesale body swap, but I started having night terrors seeing the car dog tracking down the highway. The body swap idea came later after seeing shawneecreeks Lumina and I immediately started getting more restful sleep.
I love it! I'm glad I could help inspire you to save a cool wagon in a creative way. Best suggestions that I can give you: - Measure twice (or three, or four) times, then cut. It's easier to remove metal than add it back in - Having said that, don't worry if you need to add metal back in. There's almost nothing that the magic metal glue gun (welder) and some creativity can't fix. - Be safe when you lift the body over the chassis. It's a lot of weight that you'll be working under - Take your time with the wiring and document all of your changes. You'll thank yourself later when you are troubleshooting issues. - Have fun! Remember, this is a hobby, not a job I look forward to future progress and updates. Good luck.

My setup isn't going to rely on an external lift system like yours did. I'm going to cross brace the body with the wagon on the ground and use a floor jack inside the car to lift the body up by the cross bracing. Then I'm going to use some rally style stands to support the body while I roll the complete wagon floor pan/chassis out from under itself. After rolling the Lexus chassis under the body I'll reverse the process. That way all the weight is on the floor pan and should be safer/more stable.

Actually, with that in mind I may not even pull the short block/transmission before I do this. This way I get a rolling platform for all my junk, and it gives me time to figure out what to do with the unneeded take-offs.

 

Sadly a full body swap reduces Uncle Ben's functionality. The stock Lexus shock/spring mounting locations will intrude on the wagons cargo area. I still want to use Uncle Ben for light duty parts running so this setup isn't going to work long term and I haven't figured out how to resolve that yet. Everything keeps pointing to cantilever suspension but I know squat about cantilever suspension and absent a better idea the stock Lexus setup will have to do.

Crackers
Crackers New Reader
9/25/16 11:59 p.m.
Run_Away wrote: In for this! Keep in mind for the JDM 2JZ-GTE the factory turbos use a ceramic turbine wheel that are prone to cracking. One of the rare instances where North America got the better hardware vs Japan. Are you building this all outside?

That's good to know. I know the OEM stuff is stupid cheap so if I do go the turbo route I'll probably buy a couple of those complete setups for spares.

No, I'm not doing all of this outside. Its not at my house right now, so I have to move it. Of course I have no indoor space at home so I'm not doing it here either, although I might end up doing most of the finishing work here so I don't have to move all my sheet metal equipment.

84FSP
84FSP Dork
9/26/16 4:50 p.m.
Crackers wrote:
84FSP wrote: The stuff you guys take on blows my mind. Have old Ramber Wagon - why not Body swap to an SC300? Please tell me you are going to do the cheapy turbo setup using the stock turbos and manifolds that the Supra TT guys discard the second day they own their cars?

Great plan sir. I know just enough on the subject to be dangerous but the oem turbos rebuilt with with factory bits and exhaust should be pretty rowdy and bullet proof. Only issue I hear about is factory transfer being a bit under built for turbo setups.

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