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ae86andkp61 HalfDork
1/21/17 9:49 p.m.

I'm 98.5% done with my latest AE86 project and have been feeling really bogged down by my inability to find the stuff I need to finish the last few details. I also feel like the parts situation doesn't bode well for the future of continuing to own this car. It seems that these cars currently sit in a really awkward spot where there is a now a ton of stuff you can't get new from Toyota anymore, but the aftermarket restoration companies are in their infancy and aren't filling the gap.

What do you guys do in these kinds of situations? So you have an idea of what I'm dealing with, here's a few specific examples:

-Door cards. They aren't flat, they are 3D parts that are a mix of molded fiberboard plus stamped sheet metal with compound curves, covered with a mix of vinyl and carpet, with an integrated rubber/felt weatherstrip moulding at the the top, so they aren't easy to reproduce. Mine are cracked, warped, and some of the fasteners which connect to the door have pulled out because the fiberboard got waterlogged at some point and has lost a lot of structural integrity. I can't get them new, and everything I've seen used over the past decade or so is in similar or worse condition to what I have, plus it is expensive, and is often the wrong color or wrong trim level for my car.

Here's what they should look like:

Here's what the aftermarket offers at a little over $200 shipped (and I could produce the same for less, but it would still look like crap):

And here's what you get for $700, yup...$700 smackeroos:

:( It's not even berkeleying upholstered, for crying out loud! $700 dollars and no door pockets!

My other options are to spend several hundred dollars on used door cards that look pretty much like the ratty ones I already have, or spend $150 dollars on Yahoo Japan auctions for door cards that look pretty much like the ratty ones I already have, plus aren't the right color, plus fees, plus domestic shipping, plus international shipping.

-Dimmer switch. Mine is currently on the fritz...hasn't been available new from Toyota in about a decade. Rock Auto luckily sell just the switch component (and this aftermarket availability is a rare exception for electrical bits with this car) for about $60, but I think my issue is not the switch, but wear/breakage in the stalk/housing. I have little faith in the used market being able to produce anything better condition than what I have, but as it is, my headlights won't switch off, and I have no control over my low/high beam, maybe at best a suggestion of which I would prefer some of the time. I carefully disassembled, cleaned, and adjusted everything in the points contacts as best I could, but to no avail. Here's the part in question:

The pivoting part of the turn signal portion of the stalk seems to have worn to the point where it is messing with the contacts for the dimmer part of the assembly. It is AE86 specific, and LHD specific. I spent a long time researching potential parts cross-reference to no avail.

Interior. I have dozens of hours into plastic welding and plastic/vinyl painting on the intrior of this car. Last time I tried to order interior trim clips (about a dozen of them) I was told they would have to order from the warehouse, which didn't surprise me, and then I got a call a while later saying that Toyota's parts warehouse had 2 (two) of the dozen clips clips that I wanted, so my order would be only partially filled, and that part is now listed as NLA. I got the last two in the country, if not in existence.

I feel like it would be a great shame to take a 98% resto-modded car and start cobbling together half-assed parts in there now. Sure, I could get the headlights working with a bank of toggle switches, build my own wiring, and a row of holes drilled in the dash, but that wouldn't fit with the rest of the car. I could replace the ratty door cards with a sharp-edged sheet of aluminum and a pull-strap, but this car is a nice driver, not an SCCA racer, and it would be out of place.

Do I ditch the nearly complete project in frustration? Do I hold off on driving it while dedicating the next year of my life to haunting eBay, Yahoo Japan, etc, (even more than I already do) and keep spending hundreds on used parts that are often about the same as the worn stuff I already have? So far I've fabricated and modified a ton of stuff on this car to get it to where it is. I've machined coolant necks caliper mounts and rotor hats, molded small-scale interior plastics, fabricated and welded brackets, crossmembers, control arms, and small sheet metal parts, but I don't have the skills/tools for big interior trim or electrical parts, and I'm not aware of an affordable way to manufacture the stuff I currently need. If I can't make it, and can't put up the money for a production run, how can I try to convince someone else to make it?

I'm feeling near the end of my rope, which isn't good when I've been working for years and haven't even driven it much yet. What do you guys do in these types of situations?

mazdeuce UltimaDork
1/21/17 10:18 p.m.

You either figure out something from another car (in the case of switches) or learn to make things (in the case of door cards) or you pay or you go without. There are a whole host of 80's and 90's cars that are all facing the same fate right now. The plastic is breaking and no one will ever make it again.
Having a car from the same era that does have everything available isn't exactly a picnic. I can buy every part I could want for my 1991 911, but some of them are absurd. The center plastic panel between the taillights is $500. The lights themselves are $300. All the same crappy 90's plastic so it's all pretty much shot, but it's $1100 to refresh the lights on the back. Door cards are available too. $1800 in vinyl or $2800 in leather. These are probably simpler than your Toyota ones.
And that's what happens. Only expensive cars with owners who will pay end up getting parts made. It drives me crazy. I don't have an answer.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/21/17 10:19 p.m.

I feel your pain. The first gen CRX isn't much different, especially if you have a blue interior.

If the aftermarket can't provide, you have to become the aftermarket. For the door cards, use your existing ones to make a fiberglass replica that can then be covered with upholstery. For the switch, find a way to build up the worn areas. For the clips...that one's going to be a challenge. But I'll bet you can cross-reference something that's close enough.

Not all cars get to the point of having aftermarket restoration parts available. AE86 might be a magical name to the dorifto generation, but they're not worth that much when restored. It's difficult to make a business case to duplicate door cards that came in a variety of trims and for which $200 is considered expensive.

bluej UltraDork
1/21/17 10:26 p.m.

Post a bunch of pictures of the problems with the parts you currently have and see what cornucopia of ideas the hive spits back. At least you'll get commiserations from us

G_Body_Man SuperDork
1/21/17 10:35 p.m.

How hard would it be to cut new fiberboard and fix what you've got?

TRoglodyte UltraDork
1/21/17 10:36 p.m.

We basically improvise and drive it, somehow, someway, it burns fuel.

ae86andkp61 HalfDork
1/21/17 10:46 p.m.

My post might have come off slightly differently from my intent. I'd happily pay for door cards if someone made something restoration-worthy, but they just don't exist. I'd be ecstatic to pay $450 for something close to stock. I'd probably also begrudgingly pay $600 for the same if someone made some. $200 isn't expensive, but I'm not going to pay $200 for a sheet of aluminum with one 90 degree bend, two holes, 10" of nylon webbing, and one fastener; I could make that myself I wanted that look.

Another part of this rant is that I've done enough fiberglass work to realize that I'd rather pay someone else to deal with the itchiness and the toxic, stinky chemicals. Failing a magic AE86 restoration line popping up tomorrow, would I be better off trying to take the upholstery off the stock panels (thinking of the sticky carpet and door pockets on the bottom) or wrap the originals in plastic, make a negative, and then modify the mold to "remove" the upholstery? Also, how do you find a match for vinyl with a complex pattern?

Tk8398 New Reader
1/21/17 10:56 p.m.

Probably spend years hunting for the last of the parts you need in usable condition and then put it in your garage and never use it because something might break and you won't ever find another one. Its difficult to deal with those cars that everyone bought and destroyed at least 1 in high school/college. I actually didn't have much trouble finding parts for the Alfa milano I had, but try finding parts for an mk2 be now. That's a big part of why I got into Mercedes, they are good about making parts for many, many years, and most used parts aren't too bad because they only make a few body styles at a time and make tons of them.

ae86andkp61 HalfDork
1/21/17 11:00 p.m.

In reply to G_Body_Man and bluej:

I'll try and get some detailed pics in the next couple days. The two big challenges with the door panels are joining the fiberboard to the sheet metal (which connects to the window moulding) and the molded armrest/door pull and the raised portion at the top front corner (blends into he dash and side mirror controls.) AFAIK, fiberboard is usually flat, so this features would need to be built somehow.

Regarding the dimmer switch, given my recent plastic trim repair and plastic welding experience, I'd be happy to try building up the worn areas of the pivot if I could get the thing apart, but it just isn't made to be serviceable. The stalk connects to the turn signal half (which rotates with the stalk when signaling) and pivots on the body which bolts solid to the column. The headlight dimmer makes contact between these two moving parts, and they don't come apart. I'm afraid trying would break the entire thing.

Stefan MegaDork
1/21/17 11:04 p.m.

Reach out to CorsePerVita here, he has a friend who does composite work in the Bend/Redmond area and could probably help you out with new door cards, especially if there was a market for them. Then you could have them upholstered to match your desired colors/fabrics.

As for the dimmer switch, 3D printing is the solution for some of these issues. The trick is getting the parts scanned, printed and tested. From there, again it becomes a marketable product, even if it is just for the plans.

It sucks, but that is the way of the world as cars have moved towards being made from recyclable and self-destructing materials and society in general has moved away from preserving cars for long term use.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/21/17 11:07 p.m.
Stefan wrote: It sucks, but that is the way of the world as cars have moved towards being made from recyclable and self-destructing materials and society in general has moved away from preserving cars for long term use.

You can't buy a lot of parts for my solid steel Cadillac either. It's more a matter of these parts being made with techniques not available to the home builder.

Tom1200 HalfDork
1/21/17 11:23 p.m.

As Keith said you,can simply make up fiberglass pieces and then upholster them. They won't be factory but the should look good.

On one of my old cars I built up the turn signal with plastic epoxy and carefully built it up till it fit. The Japanese are known for electronics but for some reason switch gear seems to be there weakness, especially on 80s cars.

A friend found a turn signal high/lo beam switch that fit over the column and under the plastic then made an adapter plate to mount it. Then he drilled new holes to move the pins for self canceling.

These little frustrations are why so many cars don't get finished. You just need push through, the trick is not worrying about getting OEM parts but just going with something that looks OEM.

As mentioned cars come in two favors; those that every part ever made is available, at a price, those like my Datsun 1200, Keith's CRX and your AE86 that have annoying bits that are NLA.

If it helps you push through I have a Toyota newsletter introducing the GTS and if you PM me your address I'll mail it to you.

oldopelguy UltraDork
1/21/17 11:24 p.m.

You should have tried owning an Opel in the pre-internet days.

Pretty much you buy another car with the parts you want or make it yourself. For the door cards, make a mold so you can turn out yours and 5 more to sell.

SkinnyG Dork
1/21/17 11:27 p.m.

If you can hang on a couple years when I rebuild my AE86-based Locost, I'll mail you my steering column guts and light switches.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/21/17 11:49 p.m.
oldopelguy wrote: You should have tried owning an Opel in the pre-internet days.

Or an old Rover. When I got mine, it had a bad clutch slave. Someone tried to fix it by attaching a long rod to the release arm. The idea was that you would push down on the rod to release the clutch. I think it would have taken something like 200 lbs of pressure, though. But when you can't find the parts, you get desperate, I guess...

Knurled MegaDork
1/22/17 5:30 a.m.

I literally have a garage full of orphans. The parts tap is rapidly drying up for 1st-gen RX-7s, and one of them is a pre-84, which cracked their dashes after about a year - you NEVER see one with a nice dash, we just accept that. Door panels, all sorts of important interior trim, all NLA for a long time. Emissions parts NLA. Engine components NLA. Some companies are cutting down 13B rotor housings to 12A size and putting coolant grooves in them, but this doesn't help you when your rotors are junk too, which is always.

The other one is a VW that VW seems to have disavowed its existence. VW isn't allowed to sell most of the parts because Audi built them (???) and the VW-specific parts haven't been available since the car was new.

EvanR SuperDork
1/22/17 6:52 a.m.

The upholstery and door cards for my Acura are not only NLA from Honda, but they've deleted the part numbers from their systems so it's impossible to even LOOK for NOS parts.

I know that's not helpful, but I wanted you to know I feel your pain.

petegossett UltimaDork
1/22/17 6:56 a.m.

In reply to ae86andkp61:

My suggestion - now would be the perfect time to start stockpiling these cars. Prices will likely drop somewhat as others start experiencing your same frustration, but these have such a strong following that it seems likely the aftermarket will catch up. At that point values will probably start climbing again.

chandlerGTi UberDork
1/22/17 7:29 a.m.

You know that $100 Triumph 2000? Yeah...

Knurled MegaDork
1/22/17 7:33 a.m.

In reply to petegossett:

I was having this conversation with my landlord yesterday. His day job is in estate liquidation. The problem with weird old things is that the market for them is small because they aren't common.

I see it as a curve. When anybody with $1500 and a pulse could buy a given car, there will be a good amount of demand for parts. When the cars get less common, people who have hoarded parts find that there's no longer anybody to buy them, so they just throw it out.

He mentioned a yacht that he was watching one of his colleagues deal with. A 1948 something-or-other that just had its listing dropped from $250k to $190k. My thinking is, there's one guy in the world who would pay a quarter million dollars for a 70 year old yacht, and he just died...

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
1/22/17 7:39 a.m.

Yeah, try owning a Lotus. Or 5. Make it yourself, buy someone else's if available, source it from other cars, DIY fix/rebuild it, find another hobby. That's about your choice there.

It does help to have a lathe and welders. Not so much for door cards, but for everything else.

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
1/22/17 8:33 a.m.

Somewhere there is a hoarder that has a metal building with stacks and stacks of the door cards you want. They were probably taken off and stored in the 90s. Said hoarder has no Internet presence. Step 1 is to find this individual. Step 2 is to somehow convince them to actually sell something.

I've seen it with my own eyes in the MR2 world. I'm sure there's a similar guy that was into AE86s.

Knurled MegaDork
1/22/17 8:41 a.m.

In reply to Tyler H:

I've met a few of this type in the RX-7 world. What ends up happening is they give the stuff away when they realize they don't care about it anymore, and you find yourself balancing what you might need in the future over how much storage space you actually have.

If I had a huge pole barn in the late 90s, it'd be full by now.

That company in Columbus that specializes in Fiat parts basically started this way. Gigantic factory-sized warehouse full of all manner of esoteric stuff that they have because they have enough space to have it in the first place, so they could buy out all the dealerships and parts hoarders.

I know someone who is nearing 100 who used to own a Studebaker dealership. He has, in storage, LOTS of NOS Studebaker parts. He mentioned that he has six complete supercharged Avanti exhaust systems, brand new, along with all sorts of stuff. He sat on this stuff since the 50s. Trouble is, in my mind, none of that is every really going to be useful because the market for old Stude stuff is so small. And to be frank, if he tried selling it off today, it would all sell at such a trickle that his kids would be stuck with the burden, and they'd probably just as soon Dumpster it all.

mblommel HalfDork
1/22/17 9:04 a.m.

Have you considered vacuum formed plastic for the molded sections? You'd need a pretty heavy duty setup to make parts with an acceptable thickness but still the molds can be made from hardwood so that's fairly low buck.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
1/22/17 9:23 a.m.
Tyler H wrote: I've seen it with my own eyes in the MR2 world. I'm sure there's a similar guy that was into AE86s.

I have a non-cracked dash for a '87 sitting in my shed. Problems: 1. Who wants it? The market is small. 2. Shipping. So, there it sits.

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