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An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/getting-healthy-in-leeds-with-v-physique-body-by-design/

Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]

 

Archive for April, 2011

Resurrecting an Evo

Posted By Dave on April 26th, 2011

If you read the last post about the black Evo I bought in February then you’ll have correctly guessed that I had a bit of a job on bringing this thing back from the brink.  While there didn’t seem to be one major thing that was the source of the problem, it looked like a number of smaller problems had just compounded on top of each other and not been dealt with until I’ve picked the car up.

Before the rust could get taken care of at the body shop, the car needed to be driven there.  In order to do that, the headgasket had to be rebuilt and the internals checked out in case there was any other damage.  And so i set about taking the cylinder head off the engine.  It hen became clear to me that someone had attempted to do some repairs on the car but completely messed them up.  Not one, not two but three bolts had broken off the rocker cover at the top of the engine.  These usually just have to be fingertight plus a little bit.  Looks like they had been torqued down until the point they break.  So do you get broken bolts drilled out and repaired the proper way?  Of course not, you just fill the hole in the cover with RTV sealant!  Again and again…  Piece of advice: RTV and bolts are not to be interchanged at will – they have different purposes and don’t give the same results!

When the engine was running previously I could see smoke and smell an exhaust leak.  It was soon easy to find out where it was coming from.  For a start, a number of the nuts holding the exhaust manifold onto the engine had been loosened and then not torqued back up, and one of the bolts connecting turbo to manifold had broken off (not replaced with RTV this time, praise the lord).  That was not good though, as it had meant that a hardened steel bolt which had been hardened further through heat cycling had been broken off in the turbo housing.  It had to be removed but I certainly didn’t have the tools or skills to do it.  In the end it took two or three carbide drill bits to get through the damn thing.  The turbo was dropped out of the car and the downpipe portion of the exhaust removed (the thing was nearly falling apart; lucky I have an aftermarket replacement to go on there straight away).  The picture below shows the “flexing” part of the original downpipe on there.

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And then it started to become clear that I would be wrestling a few issues I hadn’t expected.  When the turbo came off I took a look at the metal gasket to see if I could get by with using the same or whether it would need replacing.  Folks, this is how your gaskets will use if they are far too small for the passages they are going between:

That’s going to cause poor & disrupted airflow, and god knows what else.  And just for comparison, this is a correctly-sized replacement gasket with the older one below it.  Spot the difference!

The thing is, it takes effort to make something like that not fit.  The turbo has a sealing metal ring that is just smaller than the hole in this gasket, and it all fits together.  With the smaller gasket, someone must have made the decision to throw away the sealing ring on order for the gasket to fit on there.  The mind boggles sometimes…

With the head off the pistons and block were exposed.  The pistons were black from carbon deposits obviously, but the tops of them looked in reasonable condition.  That is no guarantee the ringlands at the side will be fine though, and my memory goes back to the pistons on the last 4G63 engine I rebuilt.  I could have bought brand new early Evo pistons, but was given the opportunity to pick up some low mileage Evo VIII pistons and connecting rods from the Cayman Islands in very good condition.  The main benefit of these later Evo pistons is that the tops of them are forged instead of the normal cast items, which I believe makes them somewhat lighter and stronger.  Sure they are not as good as fully forged items, but they were also not at the price of brand new forged pistons.  For my power requirements now and in the future they would be more than enough so I pounced on them.

The oil pan was dropped (and after many hours of wrestling with it I have found that unbolting the passenger side driveshaft on the gearbox makes it completely painless… typically I found this out after the event) and the pistons pushed out of the top of the block.  To be fair they looked in good enough condition, but you’re never sure how stressed they can be.  That’s especially the case when the headgasket has blown, the car overheated and plenty of other unknown factors being in there.  The good news was that the cylinders had no scoring and just needed a little bit of honing to make them ready for the pistons.  That was done, and the block and head cleaned up for the new composite headgasket (my least favourite job) before everything was put back together, some ARP head studs to make sure that the block and head stay right where they need to be.

Everything was put back together slowly, trying to make sure I didn’t mess anything up.  And once it was I was ready to turn the key.  I never have confidence with the stuff I do on my own with a car so was full of nerves when I put the key in the ignition and turned it.  As I did the car… well if you want to know what the car did you’ll have to wait a day or two as this post is getting a little too long!  Will tell you all very soon

Posted in Cars

The Mountain: Timelapse Beauty

Posted By Dave on April 21st, 2011

The Mountain is a timelapse photography video in the same vein as that amazing video, Hayaku, that I posted a while ago.  This video captures the Milky Way from the side of Spain’s highest mountain, El Teide.  The photographer who took this is a guy called Terje Sorgjerd from Norway.  Anyway, enough talk and onto the video.  If you really want to give the video any justice at all, double click on it to bring it to fullscreen mode and put it in high definition.  Enjoy.

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Move… What Move?!

Posted By Dave on April 21st, 2011

It was all going just that bit too well.  I’d got the Evo running (more on that in a post to come very soon), the new job was going great and everything was going through for my new apartment & I was due to pick up the keys on Saturday.  And then a couple of days ago my guarantor (保証人 in Japanese) for the apartment fell through, causing the whole deal to fall flat on its face.

In Japan when you rent an apartment you need a guarantor of some sort.  This is usually a friend or someone close to you that can act as a contact and in many cases who will be responsible if you don’t pay your rent for a number of months.  With the housing agency I was using that wouldn’t even be an issue as the rent is actually paid to an insurance company who then pays the agency and sorts everything out.  The only reason they would need a guarantor in name is so they have an emergency contact, and because of the Japanese fondness of going everything by the letter (you have to have all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed here).

So I looked at who I could ask.  other foreigners were out of the question (I had plenty of people who could help me, but foreigners certainly can’t be trusted 😉 ).  As for my Japanese friends I had a couple I was pretty sure would help me out as there’s no risk or trouble, and it just involves signing a couple of forms after checking the contract.  “Ahhh…errr…can’t really…” kind of sums up the response.  So I went for my third choice; a friend  wasn’t really wanting to ask but someone I could rely on.  “Sure” was the answer and everything was good to go.

Until the start of this week when I got the familiar “Ahhh…errr…can’t really…”.  Not to be deterred I found out that there are some companies that will be a guarantor for you.  Basically you pay them a bunch of money and they work as the third party the housing agency needs.  typically though, the agency in question won’t accept companies being guarantors for you; it has to be a person.  With me being all out of friends, I lucked out and at the moment am just waiting for a call back from the agency so I can tell them I can’t take the apartment in a couple of days’ time.

And so that’s the end of that!  To be honest, I could sit around and be unhappy about it, but I don’t really have the time to do that.  I didn’t cancel anything connected with my current place as I knew things were never completely in my hands.  I also know how quickly problems can emerge here in Okinawa when deadlines are approaching and so never really assumed I would be moving.  Nothing was even packed or organised for moving at the start of this week (although even if everything had been finalised it’s debatable whether anything would have been!).  So I’ll just make the 35-45 minute commute to work each day – it’s what I have been making for a year anyway.  Am I disappointed that the 3 Okinawan friends of mine I thought would have my back through things refused to help or backed out at the last minute?  Sure, but what’s the point in being down about it?  Doesn’t get me anywhere.

I’m just waiting now to see how much (if any) of the 1500 pounds I had to pay to the housing agency for the privilege of actually moving in I get back.

Back in Black

Posted By Dave on April 6th, 2011

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/back-in-black/

No, unfortunately this is not going to be a homage of a post to rockers AC/DC.  But just for those desperate for their metal fix then you can see the video and hear the song [url=ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h44LIiaZhHE]here[/url].  No, this is about something a little different.  People who’ve site updates from a couple of years ago I’m sure remember the black 1992 Mitsubishi Evo I that I had.  In fact, I’ve just noticed that it’s still listed on my site in the page entitled “about my car“.  it was my first foray into modifying and racing cars and I loved the thing.  I modified it, tuned it, raced it and gained podium finishes in drag events.  The video below is the first time I competed in a drag event and by the end the car was much different.

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But all good things do come to an end and that was brought very abruptly to an end one rainy day where I decided to do some unintentional drifting.  Yeah… that wasn’t so good.  About 6 months after that I bought a 1991 Mazda RX-7.  when I bought the car it wasn’t running and I spent a good few months learning about the rotary engine and trying to bring it back to life.  I managed it in the end and got it running very nice and smooth.  But even though it was nice to look at (much more so than the Evo), it never really excited me when I drove it.  I missed the AWD and working on an Evo, and so was very interested when I heard about one being for sale for just $500.

If you’re thinking, “That’s cheap… what’s wrong with it?” then you’re thinking right!  I went to see the car and the condition was just as described.  It had 2 and a half flat tyres, looked like it hadn’t been moved in a year, the owner didn’t know anything about how the car works,, it was said to be overheating, and the battery was dead so it couldn’t start.  In short, it was perfect!

That is, perfect for a little project and to get me back into what I enjoy doing.  I talked about it with one of my good car buddies and we decided that we had 3 full engines between us, a couple of powertrains including driveshafts, transmissions etc, and a bunch of other stuff so whatever happened we could probably deal with it.  So the paperwork was done, some cash handed over, and like the its predecessor, my new car was put on a towtruck and brought to my biddy’s garage where it could be worked on.

 

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No, it wasn’t going to win any races or “Best in Show” awards as it stood, but it wouldn’t be a project if all was well with it.  So you know some of the bad with it but I’ll continue with that before I go onto the good:

  1. The boot (trunk if you speak Americanish) lid was rusted pretty bad.  As in you really wouldn’t want to lean on it too hard or you’d go through it! The boot lid also bizarrely had an Evo II spoiler on it; checked the chassis number with Mitsubishi though and it is an Evo III.
  2. Linked to the above, the spare wheel well was almost completely underwater!  Looked awful but nothing that a drill and a few carefully placed holes can’t sort out
  3. And again linked to the above, the interior carpet was pretty wet.  It looked like there was a leak coming from both rear corners of the roof, next to where the rear windshield sits.  That’ll be a job that will have to be taken care of once the car is running and I can get it to a bodyshop.  A little unexpected and an expense, but not the end of the world.
  4. A/C has been removed (anyone who’s been in Okinawa during summer knows tha is not a good thing)

Having received some battery power from the mighty Alto Works and its throbbing 660cc engine, the Evo did actually crank into life and wasn’t running too badly.  It sounded good and wasn’t really missing a beat as it warmed up.  There didn’t even seem to be much in the way of fluids coming down.  But then it reached operating temperature and it was like someone had shaken a bottle of cola with the amount of bubbles that was coming from the radiator.  Not so good.  Sounded like a headgasket but would need to tear into the engine to confirm that.  A compression test confirmed things weren’t right, giving results of about 120psi across all 4 cylinders.

So far you’ve gathered that it’s got a rusty body and a broken engine.  But there are a couple of lights at the end of the tunnel!  First of all, at the least it might just be a simple headgasket fix; at worst it could be a whole engine but whatever it is I would have the parts or access to them.  It’s got  full set of Cusco coilovers on it, which look in decent enough condition, and overall is just in need of some love and attention.

But before everything can be put back together, the inside has to be ripped out to collect the standing water, and the engine pulled apart.

 

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Posted in Cars

Japanese Defence Minister Thanks US Military Relief Operations

Posted By Dave on April 5th, 2011

While some politicians in Okinawa are trying to find some way to put the US military back in a bad light in the media, I thought it best to show that these are not the views of the majority in Japan.  It was good to see Japan’s Defence Minister publicly expressing his thanks and those of beleaguered Prime Minster Naoto Kan to members of the US military for their role in relief efforts following the March 11th earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Onboard the carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazwawa tearfully said, “All of the disaster-struck people and Japanese people were touched by the hard work exhibited by U.S. troops in rescue efforts.  We will make an all-out effort to overcome this hardship, while obtaining cooperation from you…I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally.’‘

He went on more personally: “I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally”.  While this is a national tragedy of immense proportions for Japan, it could strengthen US-Japan relations in the (in the short-to-medium term at least) which have become a little strained over the past couple of years.  And for the US military here in Japan it does show that their efforts are being noticed and appreciated at this time.

Now all we need is for all this money that the Japanese Red Cross has accumulated from donations to start being distributed, as many reports are going around saying that none of it has been allocated yet.

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