It's now 3:30 PM on November 19, and we're still applying clear coat on some parts of the car, assembling the interior and installing some last minute parts of the engine. We are far from done.
“Guys, 6 hours to go until the car carrier gets here,” I say.
“Okay,” was the only reply I got from all.
Every single one of us is on edge. The clock is winding down and the night is setting until our ingress for the 2014 Manila Auto Salon. We face a very real chance of actually not making it to the show for the third time; a result that is unacceptable.
Welcome to the last installment of the AutoIndustriya.com Mitsubishi Lancer Restoration Project, one that has been a year in the making. Despite that, however, it looks like this is going to be a photo finish.
Third time's the charm
When we started this project car in the middle of last year, we thought we could make it in time for the 2013 Manila Auto Salon. Boy, were we wrong. We realized it when we took apart the car and realized the scale of the work that needed to be done.
That said, we also thought we can make it in time for the 2014 Trans Sport Show. Boy, were we wrong again. So the 2014 Manila Auto Salon really was our last shot; a full year plus a few months in change to get the car done, and it was going to come right down to the wire.
I do, however, have a confession to make: I was never a fan of show cars.
To me, a well built car is made to run on the open road and enjoyed for what it can offer in terms of driving thrill, not be in middle of a convention hall sitting still. Ditto goes for the scantily clad model, something that has stolen the show from the cars. If you wanted to see women in various states of undress, you should have gone to Quezon Avenue.
After taking part in the 2014 Manila Auto Salon, however, I have to say I'm a bit of a convert and no, not with regards to the car show models. Well, maybe just a little...
Finishing the Sixty Three
In reality, the most complex hindrance to our completion of the 4G63 in show car quality were sourcing the parts; either it was stuff I needed or stuff I wanted. Allow me to explain.
My mechanic, Karlo Carreon of K's Racing, was incredibly focused on getting the details right; the automotive equivalent of OC. For instance, many of the stuff when the engine was originally installed were not OE or original equipment for Mitsubishi models. Things like the A/C compressor, the compressor bracket, the wiring, the fuses, relays and everything else in between were from various other car brands. Even the A/C hoses and fittings were soldered into place. Needless to say I was kicking myself hard for not observing the work being done in the past.
The real pain, however, started when we started really looking more closely. We realized that many of the screws, bolts, nuts and washers did not match each other; some were even of the 'auto supply' variety; you know, those yellowish/rainbow-ish bolts you can get at your friendly neighborhood auto shop. They work fine, but they stick out like pimples; and they're all over the place.
So a lot of the time that we had was spent on going through every surplus auto parts yard or warehouse we can go to and looking at their parts bins for the components to match. That's tough work. We were literally sifting through jars of screws, rummaging through crates of compressors and even physically removing bolts from whole engines just to get the ones we need. A good pair of gloves would definitely come in handy and your bartering skills will be put to the test.
Thankfully we didn't have to worry about hoses for the engine and all around the engine bay, as Dynamics Performance Engineering pitched in and provided all the hoses we would ever need and more. I actually preferred their silicone radiator hoses and other piping as the neutral gray would look good and not steal away from the valve cover.
Here's a tip if you want to put a surplus motor in your car: don't just buy the engine as a standalone piece regardless if the seller or shop says it's 'complete'. Buy the half-cut or the engine-bay cut if you can, that way you'll (hopefully) have every bolt, part, and anything else you might need right there.
If I had a half cut instead of just an engine, we could have finished in a week or two.
Wiring, thou art a cold hearted bitch
In the midst of looking for all the parts that were mismatched, we had to get the car properly rewired. That was clear when we yanked all the existing wiring from the engine bay and under the dashboard.
To put mildly, it was a mess. The guys who initially installed the engine didn't bother to properly wire it. Splices were everywhere. Wires were just twisted together. Many connectors led to nowhere. I look at that harness and it was clear: amateurs did the job.
That was the mess that needed sorting out, and while it can be done, it will take at least a day or two and will undoubtedly be costly. Once the electrician did his work, the wiring looked neat and original. I didn't opt for the wire tuck (hiding the wiring harness in the fenders, etc.) because (1) I thought it would look odd (they look good on Hondas though), (2) it would consume more time, (3) it would be more expensive and (4) it would be harder to service.
Another tip: if you're going to put in a new engine, have the wiring done as close to original as possible, that way you can easily have it fixed if any problem arises. It also pays if you buy a relevant service manual (i.e. Haynes mechanic's manuals) or download some from the 'Net. A club forum for your respective car is a treasure trove of information.
Ready for final assembly
After we built the engine, wired it, piped it and installed everything we needed on it, we brought the Lancer back to MJ Autoshop in Metrowalk, Ortigas for the final assembly. There was still a lot of work that needed to be done, and we had just 4 days to do it. This will be a photo finish, no doubt.
The next day, I went to JASC Car Seats in Autocamp, Ortigas and brought the reupholstered front seats (off of a Mitsubishi FTO), the rear seats and the door panels/sidings back to the Lancer for installation. Apparently I had forgotten one major detail: the cabin needs major cleaning.
We ripped out the carpet, sponged the interior and removed anything that was worn but we could do without. We also ripped out the window tint film for a cleaner look as V-Kool's clear film will be used for the car; the kind that blocks out a very sizable percentage of UV and heat.
We finished the day with the interior clean, but bare. All this was done while Karlo was working the engine bay and the guys at MJ Autoshop were working the body with clear coat and cleaning up the trim pieces, door handles and mouldings, but we were far from done.
Tomorrow night is the ingress for the 2014 Manila Auto Salon, and it looks like we're going to have to pull rabbits out of hats to make it in time.
This is it.
I had cleared my schedule this day to get the Lancer done, and something tells me it won't be enough... not if we wanted to make the ingress in about 12 hours' time.
Again I passed by the interior guys, brought them to the car and went to work right away. We were installing the newly washed carpet, the repainted panels, the seats, the center panel, buttons, shift boot, the center console and everything else in between. The center console and side vents were actually wrapped by my fiancee with a 'carbon fiber' sticker because it was the best, cheapest fix we can do, as brand new center panels and side vents would have cost upwards of PhP 5,000 for the set. Not really worth it. The sticker wrap also serves as extra support given that the panels had various cracks (which I repaired) in multiple places.
JP Tuason of the Tuason Racing School (the official distributor of OMP products in the country) provided OMP parts such as the tow strap, the Liscio 2-spoke deep-dish steering wheel, shift knob, pedals and the trick looking FIA-spec quick release hub. All these components simply came together to create a clean, functional race-inspired look without going overboard.
All around the car, the guys at MJ Autoshop were in all-hands on deck mode, painting the details, touching up, buffing, waxing, mounting and more. Door handles were being refitted, locks were reinstalled and brushed out dirt from every nook and cranny around the now pristine body painted in Cromax's Rouge De Feu (fire red). Typically a coat or two of a good wax would give you a nice finish, but when it comes to show cars, the number of coats go way up to eight or ten.
Over in the engine bay, everything was being detailed and made to work properly. Karlo was pulling out all the stops and working double and triple time. The Cusco front and rear oval strut bars were also mounted; these parts were ordered from Upgarage.com by Iori Suzuki specifically for this purpose. I also worked to clean the Brembo discs so that they're show worthy, and also walked around the car a few times to check the details. The Stivo custom prototype exhaust manifold looks wicked good.
The result? We finished everything we can by 9:00 PM, just 30 minutes to spare until the car carrier arrives, time we used to give the car a quick pressure wash before the show.
We were hungry, we were tired and our muscles ached, but it was job done. Now it's time to bring her to the show.
The other side of automotive passion
Once we arrived at the SMX Convention Center in the SM Mall of Asia complex, it was clear that the cars and trucks at this year's MAS were insane. This is by far the largest ever and represents the absolute cream of the custom car crop.
Technically we were not competing at the Manila Auto Salon, as the level and the money that went into the cars for this show is extreme. Think Toyota 86's that had nearly triple the cars' pricetags in bodykits, paintwork and custom parts. My car was not about to go up against those guys as I was simply ecstatic to have the AutoIndustriya.com Project Lancer make it and in show worthy conditions.
When we had her in her display spot at the lobby of the 2014 Manila Auto Salon, I just sat down and breathed a sigh of relief, and only then was I able to admire what we had achieved.
We took a 21 year old Mitsubishi Lancer that had been flooded, had a shoddy engine job, had crapped out interior and paintwork that might as well have been flat black and turned it into a show worthy machine, gleaming in the light at its place at SMX. It was at that moment that I realized that this is another side of automotive passion and enthusiasm.
Beyond the expensive body kits, the accessories, the trick wheels, the immaculate paint jobs, the pristine engine bay work, the big temporary structures, flashy lights, the huge banners and the other parts that make up the cars and a major show there is a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of attention to detail, a lot of time and heaps of passion. This is how the other side does it, and we've only taken part in a little bit of it.
For me, right now, staring at the car and admiring the work we did, all I can say is that I'm mighty proud of what we accomplished. That's what it's all about, and that's a different kind of automotive high.
There are plenty of photos below. See for yourself.
Cromax by Axalta Coating Systems is distributed by HLT International located in 124 Shaw Boulevard, Pasig City. For inquiries, contact 635-5196 / 635-5197 / 634-3346631-0640 / 747-9550 / 747-9551.
MJ Autoshop is located in Metrowalk along Meralco Avenue in Pasig City. For inquiries, contact 0917-630-8370 or 0922-864-7667
Stivo Concepts is located along Main Avenue just off of the West Service Road past Bicutan if you're headed southbound. For inquiries, contact 0917-550-1193. You can also visit www.stivoconcepts.com
JASC Auto Interiors is located in the AutoCamp compound fronting The Medical City along Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City. For inquiries, contact 02-468-7308 or 0916-640-2133.
AutoPerformance PH is the official distributor of Brembo and Sabelt products in the Philippines. They are co-located with ARC Automotive along Chino Roces Avenue in Makati City. You can contact them at 02-478-6283. You can also visit www.autoperformance.com.ph.
Dynamics Performance Engineering automotive radiator and silicone hoses can be found in many major automotive shops and accessory stores.
OMP racing products and accessories are distributed by the Tuason Racing School. Visit www.tuasonracing.com or contact 02-820-4203.