And finally this

It’s been months of futility searching for a Mini after my brief jaunts with a tragic Alfa 159 and VW Polo GTI with most of the cars I viewed having too dear an asking price coupled with much more work than I was comfortable with putting in or paying for. Nonetheless I continued to scan the online ads daily, hoping for “the one” to eventually pop out. Sadly, due to one reason or another, that never happened. What did pop out though was a rather quirky looking Toyota. It was priced fairly (especially in today’s mad used car market), looked fairly decent for the money and it was something I was previously looking out for, a Toyota Mark II.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to snag it there and then but a friend did, buying it immediately upon seeing the ad, sight unseen. Fast forward a day or two after said transaction, a deal was made with him and I landed my first ever Japanese automobile, sight unseen. It also happened to be one of 2 registered in Singapore back in 2006 and perhaps, the only remaining example left today.

Before I go into the details of my Mark II, here’s a little bit of background info for those who have totally no idea what this car is. I wouldn’t blame you, of course, because while these cars might not be all that rare where they come from, they were never officially sold outside of Japan. In a nutshell, while the rest of the world got a beige front-wheel-drive Camry, the Japanese could instead buy a proper rear-wheel-drive Mark II. It’s like a 3-series, but JDM.

That JDM allure doesn’t stop with its exclusivity because Mark IIs of this generation and those that had come before do have quite a reputation. A reputation built not just upon their drivetrain but from the power-plants used to spin them up. Because a good portion of Mark IIs sold in Japan come fresh from Toyota’s factory with their venerable 1JZ/2JZ engines, in both NA and Turbocharged forms, making them extremely popular with the slip and slidey drift crowd. Their big body (for their time) exteriors also made a good base for those more into the dress up scene. So as you can imagine, these Mark IIs have quite a bit of potential hidden underneath their Camry-esque aesthetic and with a wealth of aftermarket parts out there, you’d be right.

Unfortunately, that’s where the interesting bits end because as with all vehicles on sale throughout the beginning of time, trim levels are a thing and sadly, the 2 Mark IIs that did make it to our local shores are of the base-level road-tax friendly 2.0 units, landing in Singapore without 1J-power and in its place, the 1G-FE Straight-6 shared with the Lexus IS200. We can’t have it all right?

That said, I reckon there’s still quite a bit of potential to be unearthed so ladies and gents, here’s my GX110 Mark II. She’s in need of a chassis refresh, a repaint, a good rejuvenation and perhaps, a name.
It’s been slightly under a month since I was handed the keys and as always, after 15 years of driving duties, she has “issues”. Issues which hopefully will not cost a bomb to rectify.

I also took the liberty of giving the interior a good scrubbing, spending a good couple of hours cleaning and conditioning the original seats to get rid of excessive shine and throwing out an entire floor’s worth of 3M floor mats. Those things are hideous and disgusting. Why anyone would pay good money for them is beyond me.

While beige interiors don’t age very well, I think it cleaned up rather decently. Sadly, the air-con directional vents are damaged beyond repair and I might have to sort them out in the future. The driver’s side seat belt also didn’t retract very well but a liberal does of silicon lubricant quickly remedied that. Everything else though, is in decent shape with all electrics/buttons in in good working condition. It is after all, still a Toyota.

Soon after, this arrived. A brand new set of Teins Street Basis Z coilovers. I don’t expect I’d require much handling prowess from this car so am keen to try these affordably priced base-level coilovers out.

Wheels? Those currently on the car are replicas so there’s no way they are going to remain and after spending nights contemplating (and hunting on Croooober) which shoes to go for, I settled on a set of made in Japan 19-inch single-piece Wald Streifens acquired locally. They are used but look mint!

The grille on the car is also currently busted and I managed to order a brand new one from Amayama.com. Shipping took a couple of weeks so not too bad.

Brand new original parts (at the right prices) always make me happy. Look at that packaging! I dare say it’s wrapped better than anything I’ve received from BMW (or Porsche).

So here she is, Project GX110, my new old jalop and doggo carrier/transporter. While it might seem like an offbeat choice to go for amongst my shortlist of cars which currently consist of cars like the Mini Cooper S, Mini Clubman S, MIni Countryman S, SW20 MR2 Turbo, GC8 WRX, RX-8, BMW 125i, BMW E86 Z4 Coupe, Honda Accord Euro R, Honda S660, Subaru Legacy GT Wagon, 986 Boxster 2.5 and Suzuki Jimny. The one factor that binds them all together I guess, is that they are all not boring. I also always wanted a Toyota Crown but they often just seemed a tad out of reach, so all things considered, for its price, this Mark II was the next best thing.

Next stop, into the workshop to see what mechanical bits need working on. Fingers crossed. If all goes well, she should be here for a while. It’s gonna be a budget restricted build so let’s hope I don’t screw it up.

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