(submitted by Michael Leckie) Way back in the mid 90’s, when I was a teenager looking for my first car I fell in love with the many JDM Celica XX’s (Celica Supra) that cruised the streets of Auckland. I looked, and looked, and looked for ages to try and get one, initially just manual 2.8’s then considered autos, 1G’s, turbos and even the poxy SOHC 2.0, but they all had a killer combination of being relatively expensive, and rusty! As a first time car owner, with a Dad who wasn’t in the least bit mechanically minded it was a bit too daunting. So eventually I gave up, and ended up with an ST162 Celica, which served me well. In all honesty it was probably a better and more suitable car at the time in many regards.
Fast forward a good few years, and in 2011 I ended up with a bit of cash I could use and thought to myself that I’d like to get a “toy”. So I started considering my options. I was working at Nissan New Zealand at the time, so thought about a Silvia, or 180SX, considered a Skyline etc, but I kept coming back to two cars that I’d always loved, the ST205 Celica GT-Four, and the MA61 Celica XX. I’d sort of kept an eye on MA61’s showing up on Trademe over the years, and thought about buying one in the past, but the timing was never really right. I finally found an MA61, and scored her for NZ$5500, after getting a little more carried away with the bidding than I probably should have.
The next problem was that it was at the other end of the country. This was a draw-card for the purchase however, as it was in Alexandra, very appealing for a rust prone car. So I got her shipped up, and went to pick her up. Did I mention I’d bought her sight-unseen? She was a little rougher than I expected. I could see from the pics online that she’d need a serious cut and polish at least, and figured she may need a repaint. Well, when I had a good look I could see that both sides had had repairs and been repainted at some point, and she was a number of different shades of red. There was also a patch of filler lifting in the RH quarter, which wasn’t really mentioned in the ad, but I didn’t let that worry me too much, I figured that I’d just bring my plans for a repaint forward.
So here’s how she looked when I got her:
So, I’d gotten the car, and needed to plot a course for what I wanted to do with it. I had to decide between three options. A full, back to original restoration (as you can see in the pics there’d been an attempt to make her look more like a Supra, rather than the XX she is). A fully modified, all out performance car, packing a worked 2JZ (NA), or a kind of middle path, with the car lightly modified, but fully able to be brought back to 100% stock. The middle way was the one I chose….
So I decided to theme my build as a modern interpretation of what I would likely have done to it IF I’d had one back in the mid-late 90’s. So I started collecting parts. Meanwhile I considered what I would do regarding the body. As previously mentioned there were some less than perfect repairs that had been done in the past, but I wasn’t quite ready for a full bare-metal restoration, so I decided that I’d get a repaint done, and have the repaired areas tidied up. I eventually (when my kids have grown up) plan on doing a full strip and rebuild, but I figure what I’ve done should keep her well enough for the next 20 years, given a little care. I had to decide on what colour to go for, as I wasn’t particularly enamored with the red/black, and I’d always thought they looked sharp in white or silver.
In the end though I decided that it’d be best to keep the colour standard. So in late 2011 I sent her off to GT Refinishers, a well-known and respected shop. I’d been feeling a little under-motivated with the car and the build, but after getting it back from paint I was revved up, and really started to appreciate the colour, I don’t think I’d have any other on her now! Along the way I got a set of original wheels, and when I had the car repainted I got the holes for the mouldings welded up. The drivers side one especially was a bit rippled, and I didn’t really like the look of the moulding just a little above the block of the two-tone. I thought it’d look a bit cleaner without them. So that was that. Gone.
I still have the mouldings , so if I feel the need I can always remove the tabs and reapply with tape. At the same time I also got the holes in the tailgate from the sunshade welded, I should explain that the pre-facelift JDM MA61’s didn’t get that shade, and on my particular car it had been attached by some very crude holes in the tailgate and self-tapping screws into the shade. I got a reproduction rear decal, and it looks great.
Getting the car repainted gave me the shot in the arm that I needed to get cracking with the rest of the work, but I wanted to enjoy it a bit, so I drove it around some, then got the exhaust done. The last owner has owned it for a good 15 or so years, but most of that time he’d had it stored, and just took it out for short drives. The exhaust system was shot, and I suspect it was from condesation from the type of use it was getting. So I collected some mufflers (Borla) and scored an OBX-R header on Ebay for cheap, and took it off to get all fitted up. Well, the header wasn’t going to fit, due to the steering shaft being in the way, which obviously isn’t a problem in the USA, where it’s made! I only bought it because it was cheap, and knew I was taking a punt, so wasn’t too disappointed. I got the exhaust guy to make me up a 2.25in system, from the manifold back, with a muffler where the cat was (cat is not required here for a car of that age), and a single-in, dual-out muffler at the back. I picked it up, and wow, it sounded so lush. Absolutely perfect, nice purr at idle, good bark under throttle, but nice and quiet at neutral throttle while cruising – exactly what I was looking for! In this pic you can see the new exhaust, and the difference between the rear as it was when I got it, and now with the correct (reproduction) decal, and the upper shade gone.
Feeling even more inspired, I put her up on the stands and got to work with the suspension and brakes. That took me a while, but finally got it all done. I took her for a drive, and it felt good, took it to work one day, and on the way home had a problem with lack of power. I did a bit of research, and pulled the fuel line into the pump, and yep, the little pre-filter was clogged. Cleaned it out, and she ran great again…… for about 100km. When it happened again I decided I should pull the tank and get that all cleaned up. I got a POR15 fuel tank re-sealing kit on order, in the meantime my first child was due. Needless to say it was a few months before I got around to that job. What a horrible task, hopefully the last time I ever need to do one of them, next time I’m going pay someone else to do it! But, finally, all back together, and no problems since, so back on the road, and loving it!
So after getting her on the go again it was time to start taking her out a bit. I’ve been to a couple of meets with an on-line forum/club that I’m a member of (oldschool.co.nz), and probably the best outing so far has been the two morning meets I made it to at Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Ranch in January, they were meets that kicked off at 7am and finished up at 9am, a good 1.30-2hr trip from my place in Auckland. It was awesome heading down super early in the morning, and still able to be home by lunch time! Here’s a pic that as I was leaving the second one.
I made it to the Toyota Festival, which was good to check out. And Aftermarket Photography shot about the best pic I have of my car so far!
After the Toyota Festival I picked up some new wheels from a friend. They’re 15×8 on the front and 15×9 on the back, all 0p, running 205/50R15’s. I’m pretty happy with the fit:
So that’s pretty much up to date. She’s back in the paint shop to get a wee bit of damage I did to the bonnet fixed up (dropped the bonnet on to the PS reservoir cap that was sitting on the strut tower!), and to get some other detail stuff tidied up, cowl painted, wiper arms etc. I’ve also got some other 17×7.5 wheels that I’m getting painted black, just for a different feel, I’ll likely use them more for “touring” type driving.
Apart from that the future plans are to chuck some tints at it – I know, I know, not cool on an old car, but I think they will suit the colour scheme, and it’ll help to keep the interior good, and remember, it is themed on what I would’ve done as a teenager in the late 90’s. I’ve also got to sort something out for sounds, I’m looking for something modern with bluetooth etc, but I want something that is reasonably subtle, not some silly Pioneer/Sony light-show, and some reasonable speakers to put in the factory locations. I still need to tidy up the engine bay. Apart from that it’s just drive it as much as I, especially for the next few months as I’ve got another baby due early Feb, so I’ll probably not be driving after that!