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Carson Dork
11/1/17 1:53 p.m.

This is my 1996 Toyota Tercel in Ruby Pearl, though the pearl has mostly sun baked off.

When I got it, SWMBO said it looked like a little cranberry, so it became known as Lil' Crannie.

Some background: I love E36 M3 cars. They're so much fun. 5 years ago, I sold off all my cars and projects (and house) to move up to Boston to go back to school. I got a couple of degrees in Architecture, moved back to NC and as soon as I possibly could, I bought a E36 M3 car. I had been jonesing for an automotive project hard the past few years while locked away in a tiny apartment and in studio. I knew I wanted a Tercel and I stalked craigslist for months to find one. My brother and I had bench raced a Chump Tercel build for years. If you squint a little and catch them in the right angle, they look like a 7/8ths scale bmw e36. Which is hilarious.


Found this one in NC bought it cheappp sight unseen from Boston with a "blown auto transmission." No worries, I was planning on pulling the drivetrain to swap anyway.

I got it to dad's, looked at the transmission's bone dry dipstick, topped it off with ATF, drove it around the neighborhood. Transmission fixed.

But it did drink oil and coolant quicker than it did gasoline. Rumor has it not a single mosquito was spotted that side of the county all summer. You're welcome.


Towed to my house, I pulled the ailing engine and began to refine my plans.

I plan to have fun. I'm not building this to a rule book or to a class. I will autocross it and eventually track it (hopefully). I want a car that I can develop and experiment with, if I make a misstep, it will be inexpensive (I'm finding that new parts are often cheaper than what the junkyard wants for them) and I'll learn.


Eventual Goals:

200 horsepower, under 2000 pounds, under $2000. The weight should be easy as it left the Takaoka Plant already under that, but it fit the theme. 


I also thought it would be funny to attribute a performance brand to a car with such a limited performance following so made a quick little rendering of what it might one day be. Maybe I'll cut some vinyl for the deck lid.

dropstep SuperDork
11/1/17 2:03 p.m.

My aunt purchased one of these new in 95 to teach herself how to drive stick. Its one of those weird cars ive always had a soft spot for!

Carson Dork
11/1/17 2:07 p.m.

When it ran and drove the brakes were terrible. Warped rotors up front and rear drums that weren't doing anything. Turns out the drums were so barrel shaped with such a severe lip they were very difficult to remove.

First thing to address, then, brakes.

I did the popular front upgrade Protege/MX3/EGT rotors, which netted me 3/4" diameter increase and an 1/8" more thickness, and 7th gen Corolla calipers (in my case Geo Prizm) with a larger caliper piston.

Carson Dork
11/1/17 2:22 p.m.

For the rears I wanted to go with discs. Tercel/Paseos never came with discs so I decided to make my own using parts off other cars and a little time on the mill.


First I took the drums off and milled them down to be my new disc hubs.


Then cleaned them up on the lathe


I'm using NB Miata rear calipers and rotors so I needed to make a bracket to mount the calipers in the rear. I wish I still had access to a laser cutter and 3d printer like I did in school. Had to print an cut it out of paper to see if it will fit.

It does. Making the brackets this week.

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/1/17 3:14 p.m.

Dude...make a second set for me lol

Great Idea.  Alot of people swap in starlet rear discs...but with none over here...its hard to get replacement parts.

Ive wanted to figure out a oem-like rear disc solution.  Just never got around to it yet

midniteson Reader
11/3/17 12:58 a.m.

Wow, great work. cant wait to see whats next!


Carson Dork
11/3/17 10:16 a.m.


In reply to malibuguy :

Yeah, I've seen the Starlet swap but I'd rather spend a little time fabricating a few "forever" parts than track down parts from an other markets car. Especially wear items.

I ultimately chose the Miata rotors and calipers because they were the perfect combination of the diameter I was after, integrated park brake, and a range of pad compounds available. As a bonus, one hit the lot at the junk yard the day I was heading out there.

Ironsides Reader
11/3/17 10:17 a.m.

Wow, milling down the drum to make a hub plate is pretty genius, may have to investigate that in the future for my own car. 

einy HalfDork
11/3/17 10:36 a.m.
Ironsides said:

Wow, milling down the drum to make a hub plate is pretty genius, may have to investigate that in the future for my own car. 

Agreed ... curious to see how this conversation all comes together!

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/3/17 7:00 p.m.

Dude...so my buddy wants 2 sets of hubs and brackets and put me down for a set.  My other friends probably buy sets too

Carson Dork
11/4/17 9:06 a.m.

In reply to malibuguy :

Haha, let me get them all sorted and make sure everything works, then we can talk. 

echoechoecho Reader
11/4/17 9:38 p.m.

AWESOME! sign me up for a set too!

but I think in the end the drums are lighter than the disc set up

Carson Dork
2/4/18 12:01 p.m.

Long time no update. 

I've been making slow but steady progress. Only hampered by maintenance on the daily fleet and indecisiveness on direction on my part.

Since we last spoke:

Finished the rear disc mounts:


Made a little adapter to mount the Miata master cylinder to the Tercel booster, of which I can't seem to find a picture.

De-powered the steering rack:

Shown part-way through disassembly. 


Remade the crumbling rear parcel shelf out of .125 MDF and riv-nutted in place (will be felt wrapped):

The reinstalled factory trim pieces have hidden all my jig-saw wizardry. 


Temporarily threw on some BMW bottle caps with too-small tires:

If I keep these wheels on it, I think I'll turn down the stock Tercel center caps so they'll fit.


And made an adjustable panhard:

Tight welds (and machine shop access) courtesy of my little brother.


Currently scratching my head with suspension options but have some ideas.

Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
2/4/18 3:22 p.m.

Amazing.. Love the rear brakes, and that is some weld porn there. Great job

sethmeister4 SuperDork
2/4/18 3:30 p.m.

Wow, awesome work!  I too love crappy little economy cars.  Although Tercels aren't crappy, just economy.  I'll be following along, for sure!

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/4/18 9:17 p.m.

Excellent work my friend

Ive been slacking on making a panhard bar for mine.

Them bracket adapers are nucking futs!

einy HalfDork
2/5/18 6:04 a.m.

Concur with comment above ... beautiful welds !!!

Gunchsta Reader
2/5/18 8:41 a.m.

Man I hope the updates continue to come, seeing someone put this much love into a very pedestrian car is awesome. Also being from the rust belt that thing looks mint! 

Going turbo to accomplish your 200hp goal? 

Carson Dork
2/5/18 10:44 a.m.

Thanks everyone, it's been fun.

I'm really stunned there's so little in the way of aftermarket for these cars and the Paseo, especially in the US and especially now. There's a little more for them outside the US for the 90's Starlets, which we never got, but are largely the same mechanically. I knew this going into it, and it's been a thinking challenge as much as a fabrication challenge to come up with solutions.

In reply to Gunchsta :

Turbo, perhaps eventually. I think the 200 hp goal might be the only one I can't very easily hit. I think I'll be closer to 1800# than 2000# and that's as good as horsepower.

I have a bunch of ideas for engines that I'm currently weighing, both literally and figuratively. I'm not tied to a Toyota power plant. I'd like to get something in there to develop the chassis and suspension the best I can before adding power, I think without some pretty major adjustments to stock-ish, 200 hp will be wasted and unusable. The 1NZ-FE that malibuguy has planned for his is great and I'm watching that with interest. 


Additional challenge: as a '96 model year, my state and county require an annual OBDII inspection. Though '96 has the most lax inspection regulations of the OBD inspections, whatever I go with, it will be fully compliant. '95 and older just get a safety check, but I couldn't find a '95.

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/5/18 11:26 a.m.

In reply to Carson :

Luckily in MD we can have "historic" tags which have no emissions or inspection.  But cannot drive everyday.

I hope to get a pull-scale to weigh the differences in the drivelines for hard data

Carson SuperDork
3/14/18 8:16 p.m.

Progress has slowed while I explore different drivetrain ideas. 

I painted my panhard bar I made. It’s duplicolor Ford Pacific Green Metallic that I had in the garage for some sparkle sparkle.

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/10/18 8:20 p.m.

anything new???

Carson SuperDork
6/10/18 8:51 p.m.

In life? Yep. With the Tercel? Not a whole lot. 

Started a new job recently so I’ve been getting settled in with that. A bunch of issues popped up with my daily that took some time to sort. 

The tercel work has been moving forward, but not very glamorous. I degreased the engine bay and undercarriage. Removed and power washed the interior and reinstalled. Routed some brake lines. Dropped and cleaned 1/2” of dirt/oil/grime off the gas tank. And some other little fiddly things. The interior and underside look (and smell) factory fresh, the exterior still looks like an abused ‘90s econobox. Haven’t acquired an engine yet.

Wow I guess more stuff than I thought. 

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/10/18 11:01 p.m.

In reply to Carson :

well that is definitely some progress!

what are you looking for...2zz?

BirgerBuilder New Reader
6/11/18 2:29 p.m.

Thumbs up for bespoke CNC parts for a crap tercel. My brother had one of these as a cheap beater for a few years and it was a barrel of laughs. I believe we called it "The crotch of Luxury". Coined by his GF- turned Wife.

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