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.
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.
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.
The T100 has always it’s share of squeaks and rattles, but lately it’s crossed the line for even a 25 year old truck. Two problems in particular were getting worse. The first was a noise from under the hood that sounded similar to the ticking noise from an exhaust leak. The problem was it was coming from the left side of the engine, opposite the exhaust. When I had the manifolds off for the head gasket repair I checked them for cracks, so I was fairly certain it wasn’t leaking from there. I could only hear it under load so I could never identify where it was coming from by sticking my head under the hood. Finally I gave up last week and went to a local Toyota shop to see if they could figure it out. A half hour of labor later they came back with the diagnoses of a cracked heat shield. No exhaust leak after all, just a rattle that was in time with the exhaust pulse. I took it back home and added a hose clamp to keep the heat shield in place.
The next noise was a constant squeaking from the rear of the truck whenever I went over a bump…or when I slowed down…or accelerated. This was easier to identify. The rear leaf spring bushings were shot. They were in bad shape last year when I installed the add-a-leaf, and half a year of carrying a camper only made them worse. Below is a 360 video of the bushing replacement.
It’s been a slow winter for the T100. With the camper gone it’s been serving as my daily driver, but with Spring just about here I’ve been thinking about setting it up for longer trips again. Since I won’t be spending as much time in it as last year, a full camper would be overkill and instead I’ve been keeping an eye out for a cheap shell for the bed. I finally lucked out and found this ARE topper on craigslist:
ARE Cap on the T100
It came off of a 270k mile T100 and needs some maintenance, but it has some great features for a camper shell. Came with a carpeted interior, compression boot where it meets the cab, hinged window on the left, and a slider on the right. The downside to it is the height. I had hoped for a flush shell, but for $200 I can’t complain. I also need to do something about the paint. At a minimum the white paint needs to be touched up, but I’m considering a full repaint to match the truck. Would look better, but I might regret it in the heat.
I’ve been living full time out of the Phoenix camper for the last few months, but with winter on the way I’ve settled back into an apartment. Since it wasn’t looking like I would get much of a chance to use the camper next year, I decided to sell it and go with something lighter weight for the T100. Should also mean a return of the trail videos. While the T100 was still fairly capable with the camper on the back, it never felt stable enough to really push the truck off-road.
Here’s a 360 video with a short tour of the camper from before I sold it:
The buyer loaded it onto a four door 2nd gen Tacoma, which handled the weight and size surprisingly well. While I’m sad to see it go, with cash in hand I’m already planning the next upgrades to the T100. Bumper, sliders, winch or is it finally time for a locker?
Loading the Phoenix with terrifying old-school FWC jacks
When I installed the 2″ lift kit, the final ride height measured out a 1/2″ higher in the rear than in the front. Since I knew the camper was going back on I left it as is and guessed I would see about 1″ of sag in the rear which would keep things roughly lined up. It turned out to be a bit more than that.
Purty, but saggy.
The total sag came out to 2″ in the back, more than enough to be noticeable. I debated adding rear air bags, but I was quoted >$600 to get them installed. The parts cost was less than half that, but since I’m living out of the camper for the next few months, I’m stuck without a good place to work on the truck. A lift block looked like a much easier installation and I was reasonably sure I could do it myself at a campsite. Toytec offers a 1.5″ block, so I grabbed a pair along with a set of 9″ u-bolts.
The installation itself was about as easy as it could be. The entire process is shown in the video embedded below:
The end result came out just about perfect. Air bags might have been nice for the adjustability, but I can’t complain about the simplicity of this set up.
I’ll start with the completed picture, the T100 is looking good again.
Sitting at 2″ all around
I’ve been running with just the rear add-a-leafs for the last two weeks, and the jacked up rear look was really getting to me. Installing the Toytec ball joint spacer was straightforward, I followed the factory manual ball joint replacement procedure and trimmed the upper control arm to fit the spacer before reinstalling it.
Ignore the gouge on the shock boot. I figured out on the 2nd side to remove the shock entirely.
I also ended up shimming the shock to get about a 1/2″ more down travel. Though the upper bump stop still isn’t fully compressed, so I might end up shimming the bump stop as well. The only real surprise was with the nuts and extended hex bolts Toytec included. All the online write-ups for generic spacer installs say to replace the hardware, but I had assumed Toytec would bundle decent quality gear with their kit. But sure enough the first time I tried torquing them down the nuts stripped off the bolt.
Nut stripped off well under 30 ft-lbs
I might have expected this kind of issue from an ebay seller, but not from a local shop. The bolts did look decent enough and actually had the same markings as the replacement ones I bought. Though after how easily the nuts stripped I wasn’t going to chance it and replaced everything.
Once it was all back together it measured out at a little over 2″ lift at the front wheels, which is close to the 2″ that was advertised but is a little more than I actually want. The rear sags about an inch with the camper on, so I’m planning on adjusting the front traction bars down a 1/2″ to get it to ride closer to level. Should soften things up too.
Last weekend I finally got around to installing add-a-leafs in the back of the T100. I bought a 2″ lift kit from ToyTec when they were having a black Friday sale, with the goal of gaining enough clearance to fit 33″ tires. The lift consists of the leaf for the rear suspension and a 1.5″ ball joint spacer for the front. The remaining .5″ up front is supposed to come from torsion bar adjustment. Though I’m expecting the camper to compress the rear suspension some, so I’ll leave it at 1.5″ and only adjust the front if it ends up uneven.
I put together a short youtube video of the installation:
What’s not shown is the driver side install. I had intended to replace the leaf spring bushings while I had it apart, but the new bushings turned out to be the wrong size. Which was unfortunate since I spent nearly an hour prying the front leaf spring pin from the old bushing.
The lift came out to nearly exactly 2″ in back. It’s riding comically high in the rear now since I ran out of time to install the front lift. I’ll show that install in a future update.
I can see through the window again! Last Thanksgiving I took the inaugural trip of the Phoenix camper. I used the tie down locations left in place from the Fleet camper, they turned out to be too close to the rear eyebolts of the new one and allowed the camper to slide forward. This resulted in a smashed rear window covered in gaffer tape for the past few months.
The other visible improvement is to the side window latch. The prior owner had used a lengthy piece of rusty wire to close the window shut. I finally replaced it with a genuine Toyota latch assembly. I rarely have passengers in back so I can’t see it getting much use, but at least now it’s less likely to stab whoever’s sitting next to it.
I installed a set of Bilstein 4600s this past weekend. With Amazon back ordered, I ended up finding the fronts locally at Four Wheel parts. The old shocks looked to be original, Toyota marked KYBs in back and Tokicos in front. Odd that they were different manufacturers, but both were stamped with Toyota part numbers.
Old vs New
It’s possible the previous owner had them replaced at a dealer, but given the condition they were in I’ll believe they’re 20 years old. The Bilsteins went in smoothly, though as warned in an Amazon review the mounting ears for the front shock had to be bent out slightly to fit the shock. The ride is much better already, though the real payoff will be when the camper goes back on. Carrying that much weight on blown shocks was more than a little unsettling.