Fall 2002 - Spring 2003
I bought a 1990 Toyota Supra as a sophmore in college. Shortly after my purchase I decided to replace the head gasket. The MKIII supra is notorious for its failed head gasket. Typically the gasket fails around 80,000 miles. I purchased Campbells with 140,000 miles. Figuring that it was a safe bet that the car had a blown head gasket, I proceeded to remove the head to replace the gasket. Unfortunately, removing the head revealed a scratched #4 cylinder wall. As a result, I decided to pull the block as well and have it fixed. A good friend of mine and I spent many winter weekends in my parents garage struggling with the infernal machine. However, that following spring, 2003 I believe, we got'er all back together and amazingly, our set of amateur skills were enough to get the car started again. Expensive? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Worth it? Yes. I learned a lot that winter on the cold concrete floor fighting with the mess of metal that once was an engine.
It just so happens that although I fixed the head gasket, a few oil leaks, other small problems, and a power steering leak, it wasn't enough. Gradually the car lost boosting pressure. In the Fall of 2003, the car didn't boost past 0 PSI, which when you have a turbocharged car, is very disappointing. Again, I started to dismantle the car to see if I could fix the problem. This time only removing what was found on the exhaust side of the engine down to the head. The first time we removed the head it had a crack that was fixed and in order to properly refasten the exhaust manifold to the head, we used Heli-colis to fix the striped threads. As lucky as I am, upon removing the exhaust manifold and turbocharger, it came to my attention that both had cracks. Although the cracks were significant enough to warrant replacement, being a college student, I didn't have the money for a new manifold and especially not a new turbocharger. The cracks, it was decided, would remain, since they didn't seem to affect its ability to idle and drive. When putting the exhaust manifold back on, the threads that had so recently been fixed with Heli-colis would not hold 22ft/lb of torque. It was very disappointing. But again, no money means no fix. Putting everything back together didn't fix the boosting problem. Later that Fall, my good friend, who could weld, and I removed the old, nearly factory exhaust, replacing it with 3 inches of straight pipe.
This may have not been the most legal or the best thing for Campbells, but when you're young, you do stupid things. Interestingly enough, removing the exhaust and cutting off the flex elbow for reuse led to a most unsettling discovery. The catalitic converter, now over ten years old, was plugged, and poor old Campbells was pushing exhaust through a hole about the size of a half dollar. Needless to say, 3 inches of straight pipe really freed up the turbo. I had never really seen the potential of that car. That night after we finished hanging the new custom exhaust, I pulled out on G44 not expecting a single thing only to be surprised by what I never knew that car had. There's nothing quite like getting your head thrown back into the head rest when you least expect it.
Pulling the block was great. Solving the boosting problem was great, but as my luck has it, my car had seen too many days. One night, past 12am, I was driving someone home in the rain down a less used road. The car was struggling and didn't have power. I slowed down to turn, and the car died. Upon trying to start it, there was a knock in the engine. Apparently, a serious mechanical malfunction had taken place. The car was towed home and put into storage to wait for better days filled with a new block and a new head, not to mention a new exhaust manifold and new turbocharger. Campbells will run again someday, and far better than I have ever seen.
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