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Manual_Trans New Reader
5/3/24 3:26 a.m.

Okay, so I have officially deleted the air conditioning, the mechanical fan, and the giant fan shroud/overflow tank in the front of the engine bay. Here's a poorly-lit shot of the engine bay with just over 35 pounds of stuff removed. I can definitely feel a difference in power with the fan removed, which is super fun. I've seen dynos with anywhere from 5 to 15 horsepower gains, simply by removing a factory clutch fan from various cars before and I am now a believer. 

These trucks run a mechanical fan and an electric fan from the factory. The electric fan is just a backup and it comes on at about 215 degrees and shuts off again at around 205. There have been quite a few people who simply remove the mechanical fan and rely on only the electric fan at the stock settings without issue. I figured I would give that a try and see how it worked for me. If the fan struggles to cool it down, I can always splice in an aftermarket controller that will make it come on at a lower temperature. In fact, I might do that anyway, just to be safe. 

I plugged in my OBD2 scanner and connected it to the app on my phone. I brought up a digital dashboard to monitor the engine temps while I took it for a spin. While out cruising (in about 55-degree, dry weather) the temperature never once went over 205 in more than half an hour at various speeds. It mostly went back and forth between 201 and 204 and the factory gauge stayed right where it always does. I went out for a second drive a little later and pushed it a bit harder. Even when making the engine work fairly hard, the temps stayed at or below 205 the whole time, which is great. However, as soon as I pulled into my driveway, the temp started rising. I watched the digital gauge creep up past 215, heard the fan kick on, watched the temp peak at 223 very briefly, and then drop back down to 205, when the fan shut off. A few minutes later, it slowly crept back up to 215, the fan turned on, and it dropped from a peak of 218 down to 205 when it shut off again. So the factory electric fan seems to be pretty capable of keeping it from getting very hot in its current settings, which is great. 

Now for the not so good news. The factory fan shroud is also the overflow tank for the coolant, as well as the windshield washer reservoir. I have a solution for the washer setup and I'll install that later. The coolant overflow is what's giving me a headache at the moment. I purchased a nice Mishimoto overflow tank that looks like this:

I ran into a lack of space problem in the OEM location, so I tried a temporary mounting solution that I think might be the culprit for my current issue. It appears to be oozing coolant out from the top of the new reservoir tank. It's vented at the top, near the lid, and I can see coolant has been forced out through those vent holes and is dripping down into the engine bay. This is what it looks like in the current position:

Here's my (potentially stupid) question: is it leaking because of the fact that it's not straight up and down, or is the reservoir too small? It's at roughly a 45-degree angle right now, because that's all I could make work in that spot. Either that angle is causing the overflow to hit the vents on top too soon, or the tank is too small and can't handle the overflow volume. I'm not sure what's more likely. Maybe it's a combination of both. I just know that it's making a mess under the hood and preventing me from driving the truck anywhere at the moment, which is quite frustrating. There are guys who shove that overflow hose into an empty Snapple bottle without issue, so why the hell is my Mishimoto overflow tank spewing coolant? 

I have a whole lot more room on the other side of the radiator, so I could technically buy a longer hose and run it over to that side, with the tank placed at a proper, vertical angle. The extra hose would also expand the fluid capacity, which might help with the overflow issue if the tank is actually too small. Should I try that, maybe? If I keep it on the driver's side, I'm going to need to either cut away a big chunk of the battery tray or or make a big, weird bracket that moves the tank out from the radiator a bit. I'm not entirely sure how to fix this issue at the moment, so input from anyone who's struggled with a similar dilemma would be super helpful! 

Manual_Trans New Reader
5/3/24 10:05 p.m.

Today I addressed the overflow issue by moving the new tank to the other side of the radiator. I bought four feet of coolant line and ran it along the top of the radiator, and down to the bottom of the new tank. I installed the tank properly this time (no zip ties!) to the core support, on the passenger side. I have to say it all looks a whole lot better this way.

While everything fell into place pretty easily with the relocation, I took the truck for a drive and discovered that it's still losing a little coolant out the vent holes on top of the new tank. I actually saw it happen this time, though. When I got back home from my test drive, I let it sit and idle in front of the house for a bit while I monitored the temps on my app. I watched a little bit of coolant push itself out of the top of the tank, right as the temp hit about 220, but the fan quickly brought it back down to the low 200s and it never leaked again after that while I was watching. I honestly think that maybe I overfilled the system a little bit when I installed the new tank and it's just burping out the excess and it keeps happening because I'm topping it off before each time I drive it. It gets hot, fluid expands, and it overflows until it cools off. I'm not planning to add any more coolant before I drive it again and I'll watch to see if it still purges. I suspect it might be finished with that process. After driving around for a while and sitting at a few traffic lights, it never got very hot. The electric fan kicked on and brought it back down to the low 200s every time, so it's definitely not overheating. 

As sort of an insurance plan for preventing higher temps, I ordered an adjustable fan controller that I'm going to splice into the factory fan. I'm probably going to set it to kick on at or just below 210 degrees, and shut off a bit lower than the factory setting. I'm going to research some settings to see what's ideal. I also ordered a 180 degree thermostat to help keep it running a little cooler. I think that with the combo of the lower fan settings and the colder thermostat should be more than enough to keep it cool. 

The engine compartment is looking so much less cluttered without the A/C and the mechanical fan setup. I really need to clean it, though. 20+ years of neglect have left quite a bit of nastiness on the surfaces. 

Manual_Trans New Reader
5/13/24 3:02 a.m.

More progress under the hood. Today I installed a Mishimoto fan controller. The factory setting for the fan to come on was around 215 degrees, so I dropped that by about ten degrees. The truck doesn't even hit 220 anymore, which is a lot better than before I installed it. That's in warm weather, stop and go, with some aggressive driving when appropriate. I managed to find a great spot for the controller on the core support, just in front of the battery. This placement was perfect because it gave me direct access to the fuse box for power and a big factory ground point, which keeps the wires nice and short. I ran the harness under the battery tray to keep it all as hidden as possible. 

I soldered, wrapped, and tucked the wires away as nicely as I could manage without disassembling anything. The 12V switched source was tapped from a wire in the fuse box and the rest of the connections were hidden and tucked away. Since I'm using the factory fan, I cut off the OEM fan harness plug and spliced that onto the Mishimoto harness. That way it can be unplugged like the stock fan if I need to disassemble things and looks like part of the stock harness. Here's a poorly-lit shot of the finished product:

It's not much to look at and that's completely intentional. So far it works great and the peak temps stay 5-10 degrees lower than before. I suspect it will stay even cooler once I get the 180 degree thermostat installed. The truck really rips with the recent 60-ish pound weight loss (AC system, huge shroud, clutch fan, and carbon hood) and added power from the clutch fan delete. This thing is going to be nuts with a Hemi under the hood. I can't wait. 

Manual_Trans New Reader
5/19/24 3:46 a.m.

No changes to the truck, but I did take it to my first ever Cars and Coffee here in Tacoma. I wish I'd taken some pictures at the gathering because it was filled with some really cool and interesting builds. There were two older Z cars with LS swaps, a second gen Starlet with an engine swap and a turbo, a Lotus Esprit, a third gen Celica with a UZ (I think), and a bunch of other oddballs. The truck got a lot more attention than I was expecting. One guy even told me it was his favorite vehicle at the event, which was incredibly flattering, given how many cool cars were there. 

Once the meet started to thin out, I went for a cruise with some friends that I recently made. We drove along the water to a park that was very near my house. The truck ran flawlessly all day and kept up incredibly well in the twisty sections of the drive. The temps stayed well within safe parameters, so I'd say my fan controller is pretty much dialed in. I took a few quick photos of the small group in the final location. It was a fun day!

Manual_Trans New Reader
6/8/24 5:44 p.m.

Since I started piecing this truck together with a sort of JDM theme on the exterior, I have been eyeing Japanese license plates. I thought it would be a fun little detail to put on the truck for shows and photo shoots. I found a site called customjapaneseplates.com that allowed me to put together a completely custom, Japanese style license plate, in a variety of colors and layouts. It's embossed, reflective aluminum, just like a legit plate. I studied authentic plates for a while to make sure I didn't put anything on it that I didn't intend. I chose the temporary plate background because it was historically used to make just about anything street legal for a short period of time, in order to move race cars and show cars to venues and back. I thought that was cool, so I went for it. 

"Daji" is how people say "Dodge" in Japan. The kanji above that shows the truck is from Tokyo. The number has obvious significance in religious circles, but I don't subscribe to any of that. I put it on there because I like my vehicles to look mean and aggressive. Intimidating, even. And what's more ominous than the "mark of the beast?" The heart is just a silly thing I put on there to offset the connotations of the number. It's probably going to make people scratch their heads, but that's okay. I like it and that's all that matters. 

Manual_Trans New Reader
6/10/24 7:12 p.m.

This past weekend, I spent a bit of time addressing some things under the hood. First, I swapped in a Mishimoto 180 degree thermostat. The truck now stays an average of ten degrees cooler than it did previously and the fan basically never comes on while the truck is moving. I've been monitoring the temps and it looks great. Definitely cooler than it was before. 

Next, I finally got around to extending the K&N warm air intake to actually function as a cold air intake. To move the filter down to the front corner of the engine compartment, where the OEM box pulled in cold air, all I needed was a 90 degree elbow, a 6" extension pipe, and a couple of clamps. Easy. But the heat shield/box that went around the filter... that was a different story. I was determined to reuse this piece because the filter was being dropped down, only a few inches from the engine itself, and near the exhaust manifold. 

The K&N box is made from pretty thick, powder coated steel. There was a lot of trial and error with this. Lots of trimming, drilling, grinding, and bending. In the end, I used two factory mounting studs and a bracket that I made out of some aluminum stock. It fits like a glove and it's solid. The filter is directly in the path of incoming air from the grill, and it's isolated right next to the hole where air was pulled into the stock airbox. No more hot air! I also had to relocate that damn coolant overflow bottle for the second time, but I think it ended up in a more ideal place, so I'm fine with it. Since I scraped up the box, I was going to repaint it, but instead I decided to cover it with this great, woven titanium heat shield fabric that I found on Amazon, of all places. The weave matches the carbon on the hood and the adhesive on the back of it is incredibly strong. I finished it off with some generic door edge guard to protect any wires and hoses that might come in contact, as well as to keep the edges of the heat shield fabric from fraying. I really like how the whole thing came out. 

The truck really rips now. After these past couple of relatively minor engine mods and a buttload of weight reduction, I feel like the truck is finally starting to feel quick. It's not that fast in a quarter mile acceleration kind of way, but this thing really impresses me in the twisties. The combination of improved balance, better tires and suspension, and the added power really make this thing surprisingly quick on the back roads around my house. It's capable of going harder and faster than my personal abilities will allow. At some point when I get the brakes sorted, I'd like to take this thing to a track day and see how it holds up on a road course. I haven't done that in more than a decade and I need to get more acclimated to the truck at speed in a controlled environment. 

Blunder Reader
6/10/24 10:24 p.m.

Great project. I always liked the regular cab, v8, manual dakotas. I saw a nice one for sale a couple years ago with the factory purplish color. 

Manual_Trans New Reader
6/11/24 1:46 a.m.

In reply to Blunder :

Thanks! They're hard to find these days. I think the manuals only ever came on the "lesser" V8s (5.2 & 4.7), as well as the V6 and early four-cylinders. It's too bad they never hooked one up to the 5.9 in the R/T. That would have made a good truck even better. 

Manual_Trans New Reader
6/15/24 5:58 a.m.

I recently ordered a bunch of fun stuff for the interior of the truck and it's officially started trickling in. Today was an easy one. I finally ditched the stock knob in favor of this nice carbon fiber unit. It's another Mishimoto piece. I decided to start integrating some carbon fiber into the cabin to tie it all together a little more because I really like the way it looks and it brings the added benefit of being incredibly lightweight. More is on the way. 

I also took care of an issue that's been bugging me for a while. I installed the Corbeau seats almost three years ago and the truck had spent most of its life outside, up until about two months ago. As a result of this, the red stitching in the seats had faded to pink. I don't hate pink in general, but this was not a good look. I discovered videos a while back of people using fabric markers to change the color of the stitching in their cars, so I decided to use them to restore the color in mine. It turned out pretty well, but time will tell how effective this actually was. 

Instead of reapplying red to the second, redundant Corbeau logo on the seats, I decided to black that one out because I always hated the fact that there were two logos so close to each other. I think it helped smooth out the appearance a bit. Here's the before:

Here is the blacked out logo on the driver's seat, with the untouched passenger seat in the background. 

Once I finished the super tedious task of coloring almost every single stitch on both seats, they look like new again, basically. I kinda forgot to take a finished picture, but you get the idea. Red stitches are red again. Second logo is black. It's better. I'm happy. 


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