New car

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Four years and 65k miles later the LR3 is still going. It’s taken me across the country several times, often with a trailer in tow. It’s comfortable, capable, and surprisingly reliable. But it’s a terrible city car. So I’ve added an Audi:

Land Rover LR3

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I sold the T100! And bought something to replace it. The 4Runner was supposed to be it, but the seating position is unbearable. I initially thought it was due to thrashed stock seats, but even after replacing them with low mile ones I could only stand 30 minutes at best. I’m going to keep it around for a while as a backup, but the new daily is now a Land Rover LR3.

It came with the ARB bumper, HSE luxury package, and the sought after HD package (rear locker!) I have a trip coming up quickly, so I replaced the junk tires with Toyo Open Country AT3s and ripped off the running boards. The next step was a trial run at the T33 Plane Crash trail, where I immediately discovered that the LR3 does in fact have a longer wheelbase than a Jeep TJ.

The ledge is steeper on the far side of the picture and I was stuck hung up on the frame of the LR3. Looking back I could have taken another line and avoided the obstacle entirely, but eventually stacking rocks got us out of it. Along with upgrading driver skill, I’ll be looking at getting rock sliders for when this inevitably happens again.

Side by Side

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I recently took the T100 and 4Runner out for a road trip through southern Colorado. The trip was a combination of highway driving and unimproved roads and with myself in the T100 and my SO in the 4Runner, and it was a good chance to see them side by side. On the highway the 4Runner showed better gas mileage than I expected, 11.3 vs 12.6 gallons for the T100 over just about 240 miles. With the same engine between them, the difference has to be down to weight and the manual transmission. While that impressed, washboard roads early on did uncover a problem with the 4runner:

With over 208k miles on it, the original shocks were still in service. The passenger rear shock ended up failing at the top bolt due to metal fatigue. It was an easy fix once the game of “what’s that noise???” played out.

After that excitement we took the million dollar highway down to Durango, then back up to Silverton where we picked up the road to Animas Forks on our way to Engineer pass. While the road wasn’t particularly challenging, the views were incredible.

We continued on to Wheeler geologic area, a site with eeie volcanic ash hoodoos in the middle of nowhere Colorado. The road to it was 16 miles of loose rocks and confirmed that the T100 ride is miserable. What the 4runner could do at 15mph was a pain at 10 in the truck.

On the way out of Wheeler we hit a surprise section of forest road marked “damaged”, which made for the roughest roads on the trip. In hindsight, I can’t believe the road was ever not damaged to begin with.

All in all everything worked as expected and I’ll moving forward with selling the truck. It’ll be hard to let it go, the bench seat and extra width make it more comfortable on the highway than the 4Runner, but just about everywhere else the 4Runner comes out ahead.

Why you replace Ball Joints

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1996 to 2002 Toyota 4Runners are reliable, reasonably sized, and were the last generation available with a manual transmission. Add in the Toyota tax and they are nearly always priced higher than a 20 year old truck should be. So while I wasn’t really looking for a 4Runner, I couldn’t pass up a deal on an otherwise clean one with a failed ball-joint.

It was first listed for $1000, but even with the collapsed suspension I ended up bidding against other buyers and had to go up to $1700. Considering that’s what I paid for the T100 4 years ago, I’m considering it a lucky number.

Though compared to the headgasket on the T100, it much easier to get back on the road. At a minimum it need new upper and lower balljoints on the passenger side, along with a CV. Considering the rest of the balljoints were just as likely to fall apart, I went through the driver’s side as well and threw in new tie-rods while I was at it. Once it was back together I swapped over the tires from the T100 and it’s now taken over as my commuter.

4Runner back on the road with BFG KO2s in 235/85r16

Topper and Tires

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After just about two years, I’ve sold the topper:

Compared to the pop-up campers, it was a much better compromise for a daily driver. I ended up not camping out of it that often, but when I needed to it did well enough.

For the rest of the time, it did it’s job of generally keeping things dry and out of sight. I ended up selling it for the same reason I swapped out the tires and rims, it’s time for a new project.

Old photos

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Not much of an update, but I stumbled across old photos of my ’92 F150 (and canoe.) Didn’t think I kept any, I didn’t own it for long before I traded it for an Explorer.

Clearing out the garage

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I’ve been planning to start work on the RX-7, but first I needed to clear another project out of the garage. I have a Honda Nighthawk 650 with a bad ticking noise coming from the top end of the engine. It sat for a while before it developed the noise, so I was pretty sure air had made it’s way into one the of the hydraulic tappets. The fix was easy, but getting to the tappet meant pulling the valve cover as well as the upper part of the bike.

Halfway done

I made a short video for anyone else who runs into the same problem, finding the right procedure to bleed the tappet was hard to find on youtube.

Now that the bike is back together and running great, I’m out of excuses to avoid working on the RX-7. First up is the roof, body work supplies are already starting to arrive.

Road Trip Complete

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The road trip was a success and the RX-7 is back in Colorado! And more importantly, the T100 didn’t self destruct on the drive.

The RX-7 in tow.

Overall retrieving the RX-7 went better than expected. Other than a layer of mold and pine sap covering the surface of the car, it doesn’t seem to have suffered much from sitting outside. I put it down to it sitting on pavers in relative shade, but maybe I was just lucky. When prepping for the tow home, the exhaust and driveshaft even came off easily and the tires held air just fine. The interior is pretty much how I left it, no dash cracks or new smells (just the usual old Japanese car mustiness.)

The dolly turned out to be the right choice, the extra weight of a full trailer would have been a struggle once the T100 started gasping at higher elevations. Even with the lighter weight there was a moment in Iowa when the A/T Temp light came on, though that might have been down to user error. Overdrive had been working well earlier in the trip, but something about the heat, elevation, or gradual upward grade kept the torque converter from locking in 4th gear on that stretch of road. Turning off overdrive brought the temp back down for the rest of the drive.

It was a miserably long drive, but it was worth it to drag the RX-7 into a car wash for the first time in nearly a decade. The mold washed right off and it’s now looking like the car I’ve been daydreaming about since I was 19.

Before and after.

For a full walk around of the car, see the video embedded below. The first step, which will take a while, will be addressing the body damage and rust. So far everything looks fixable, though fixing the paint will eventually mean a full respray. For now that’s in the distant future and hopefully I can get away with spot repairs in the short term.

Road Trip Prep

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This weekend I’ll be heading out on a 4000 mile road trip to tow back the Rx-7. The truck has been running well, but it’s as good an excuse as any to finish up some of the projects I’ve been putting off. The first has been sorting out the electrical system in the bed. I had a spare battery in back when I had the camper in place, but with the topper installed the battery is now in the “living” area. Instead of trying to rig up a sealed box and external vent, I’m planning on moving the second battery under the hood instead. That will require building a new battery tray, so in the mean time I just ran power back from the main battery to a fuse panel and removed the second battery entirely. I’ll have to be careful not to kill it, so for the moment it’s only powering a light and cigarette lighter socket, a fan and inverter will have to wait.

While I was messing with the wiring, I installed the backup camera I bought a while back to replace the one that left with the Four Wheel Camper. It was another cheap ebay camera, however this one must have been meant to mount under a bumper or other lip. I made a mount out of a spare piece of aluminum, but the angle still isn’t great. I’ll see how it works on the trip, but I may end up replacing it.

Good enough?

Next on the list was to build a shelf over the front part of the bed. The idea is to have a place to store camping gear while leaving space for a mattress underneath. I considered a platform with drawers instead, but decided to go for something simple this time. I made it out of 5/8″ plywood with an aluminum L channel to brace the front. I think it came out pretty nice.

Storage for the topper

With the slope of the cap, it’s a tight fit between the bed rails and won’t be coming out any time soon. But so far it looks like it’ll work to keep everything out of the way.

Comfy.