Swamp Thing

Repeatable results. If something can be repeated multiple times, does that make it reality?

I had been sitting on my hands, waiting. Money tight, homeless, still, with an ear sharpened for opportunity. Life math is a great way to make decisions. This algebra of social scenarios is a way to add things up and turn fantasies into realities. I had wanted a drift car ever since returning to Canada. Racing chariots are now my safety blanket, my teddy bear to sleep well at night, fending away the midnight monsters under the bed, chasing the freddies from my dreams. Unlike a sewn plush toy, they can’t be won at fairs, or snatched up used at a thrift store. I was sitting on my hands.

I had built a wagon in the past. Lemonade was the result of squeezing a whole orchard of citrus into a wagon cup. Glass half full. It was a 1982 Corolla wagon.

A result created from Junk. A $50 wagon, $100 12a Rotary, a $250 parts AE86 SR5, and 3 years of toodling in the forest, wrenching. Lemonade was a success of gradual yet grand proportions. Maxing out at a build cost around $500, it was a shitty little hot rod that drifted extremely well, and eventually became a reliable race car.

With a sudden burst of crazyness, I found my self running an illegal raffle in order to find a new owner for my obscurely assembled rat wagon.  It was won, and I was off to my new home in another country.

After returning to Canada, I was out of funds, out of energy, out of drift cars. I had tried in the past to build, legitimately nice race cars. When I consulted the algebra of the situation it seemed so illogical. Here I was, playing with the boys at the track, and my toy was just as fun, for an eighth of the cost. It didn’t make sense to me to change. Stubborness, falsely self justified?

I sat on my hands, one of them which was holding my wallet. I wanted to wait for the right situation to arise that I could repeat results. I did it once, I’m sure I could build some sort of race car for cheap again. What realities do I have to show that I couldn’t? Many I guess, but I did it once, and was successful. Success is repeatable.

The new owner of the wagon, after a season with the car ran into motor troubles with the Rotary that had been in it for 4 years. He decided to begin the swap to a more traditional powerplant for the chassis, a 12a. He had offered the car back to me when I had returned from Japan, but I had declined, I knew he loved it.

I asked. It’s a strong belief I follow closesly; it never hurts to ask. So I did. I wanted the engine swap parts, just in case, some miracle, some moon alignment, some pokémon master, some strike of lightning, were in fact to occur, that I would have the parts ready. He agreed, saw no use in the old parts from the swap, and they were mine for the taking. Sweet. I’ll just sit on thes….

I leave notes on cars, knock on doors, accost people in parking garages, and generally express a public interest in Corollas. This email arrived. A shell, same year as my old wagon, same body style, what are the chances. Lightning is kind today. This is still a partial equation, it’s not a complete problem, it’s missing important variables, so it’s currently unsolvable. I have a shell, and 12a swap parts, but no 12a….

The Duke of Sooke Hillclimb was an Annual event, 2 years running. The bastard? This FB RX7 donated for the events, beaten to oblivion. This car was trashed! I spoke to the duke about the engine, as the car was slated for junking. Here was my chance!!! THe duke’s reply wasn’t what I was expecting. He informed me the motor had already been called for and another local Corolla fellow had laid claim for their Corolla. Well shit.

CRACK, the lightning struck a 3rd time. The dibs on the motor was lifted, it was mine for the taking. The math seemed to suddenly to provide an answer to the equation of my drift car. My hands were nearly numb at this point, both from my continual sitting, and from the excitement. I let them out from under me and called the tow truck.

Pictured above is the moment it arrived on the dukes property. What I failed to mention is my lust for rust and moss. It’s a severe problem, I desperately love the stuff. It’s what hooked me. Standing at the edge of the swamp, this mucky field of soft deceptive mud lie this rust heap of a clunker. I had done bad projects before. Ontario Mint is a phrase coined for vehicles that would be considered still use-able in Ontario. Having grown up there, vehicles such as the Zeeboo had prepared me for this challenge which sank before me. The tow truck got stuck. The area surrounding the car was so mucky that the dual wheels on the rear sunk into the mush. After sourcing some steel mesh from a scrap pile on the yard, the tow truck was free to move and we were off to build our car.

$2.50 is the best deal ever for public transport. This may seem like a lot, but busing out of Victoria into Sooke on my days off was a great value! This is a cross city trek. I was waking up at 7am, grabbing a backpack full of snacks and hitting the bus stop every morning, twice a week for nearly 2 months.

I had originally planned a 4 day build. I counted all the bolts in my head from the previous wagon build, consulted the other 23 Corollas I’ve owned, and figured with the running and driving parts donation Rx7 it could be done in 4 days. I did a call to arms to see who might be giving away free muscle. Zaku showed up. Him and I, day 1 pulled the engine. It took us much longer than I had envisioned. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that life math from earlier.

Everything was Rotten, so so rotten. So ultra rusty. I had overcome these problems in the past, but the difference was this time I didn’t have a covered, fully stocked shop at my disposal. I just had a cloth grocery bag full of tools to hack at the car with. Food was my weapon of choice as I suckered a few more volunteers  out to help me wrench.

Corey and I slaved. It was January, the tail end of the winter here in Victoria. A good half of the project was spent in 0 degree celcious or colder weather. Sooke dirt is now ingrained into my epidermis through the process of friction osmosis.

It sucked, everything the previous owner did ruined the car further. The first thing I noticed was the completely disconnected steering assembly. This resulted in removing the steering box entirely and ultimately the entire car. There isn’t a bolt left unturned in the entire drivetrain of the car. From building custom clutch pedal box, to swapping both hydraulic masters from the Rx7, to rebuilding the entire rear axle, swapping the broken leaves, building homemade bushings, rebuilding the calipers, swapping the struts, swapping to a manual steering box, pulling the gas tank, etc etc etc. Every part was removed, and fiddled with during the build.

The car was done on February 13th. Two days before a drift event. With some fake plates, and a pile of stupid courage, managed to get it down to the track.  It was time to test. Total of money invested into the car? $300. Total build cost. I had beaten my old Record of $5oo 12a Rotary wagon. 3/5ths the price, but half the quality. I was nervous. Very nervous. How well will it do? Will my hours of rolling around in cat shit, breaking rusty bolts with a Canadian tire ratchet set be worth it?

I didn’t want to go, I just wanted to scrap the car when it was complete. I had set out with the initial intentions to just enjoy the assembly process. To replicate that feeling of building a shitty car in the forest. Like the last wagon, the results were repeated: If you spend time working on it, it actually gets done. I was at a loss for finally being finished. What am I to do with my time now?! Where am I going to park the car? How will I even afford to insure it?! I had banked on failure, and quitting, but here it was, a running driving car.

I ended up taking it to the track for two reasons: I hadn’t planned this far ahead, hadn’t banked on success. My only plan I could resort to was driving it. I also seemed to hope that it wouldn’t last the day. This was a decision of it’s fate by default. If it were to crash, my mind would’be been made for me.

Oops, there it was. full of piss and vinegar, ready for max attack. It was raining in the morning, I hopped in early looking to understeer into the wall. The run went awesome, but it incurred it’s first issue. The hand brake cable snapped instantly on a 3rd gear down to second gear manji from the bank into the pair pin. Nothing terrible. I can drift without it.

Corey and I took turns beating it all morning, until it ran out of the $20 I had put in it the night prior. No other issues other than bogging under cornering with the carb, and the rear left spring being much weaker than the right.

It just took the abuse. It upset me, I wanted the universe to make the decision to take it away from me as it did to bring me to it. But I guess lighting only strikes 3 times. I began letting every one who asked drive it. Like all my cheap beater drift cars, I give my friends a chance to see what it’s like to drive junk. This car was junk, but it slid.

The end of the day came, and the car still ran, wasn’t bent, and was able to drive itself home. What the fuck, this piece of rotten tin Corolla with a severely beating, rally jump engine, managed to survive. Now what? I should’ve expected this. The last wagon lasted nearly 4 years before it needed to be removed from the track for severe work. Repeatable results. If you’re curious to what is real, and what isn’t, try it yourself. Test the theroy, I did. I now know you can build Rotary Corolla’s for $500 or less, so you should be able to too.

 

A big thank you to:

Corey Burgerud. For your extensive help, courteous intake of my snacks, and life discussions.

Colby Adrian for all the swap parts and other Corolla goodies!

Justin Robert, for all your help wrenching and filming!

Warren Foster for your BC Works products.

Derek Siverot for the wagon parts provided.

Jimmy Morton for the wrenching help and aggressive car chat.

Serge Drouin for letting me test the car, and finding me that oil cooler.

Andrew Peterson, for supplying me an oil cooler, and pre-race parking!

Grant Rosling for driving me to get my car, and lending me a helmet all day.

Will Howling, for the drive to drop tools and parts, as well as sacrificing your rocker panel on the rock.

Breanna Rice for that random early morning drive to Sooke.

Keith Simister, and Trevor Ball for the great snaps!

And anyone else I may have forgot.

Thank you!!!


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