Project Mark II: Overnight(ish) from Japan

It has been quite a while since I last updated on the Mark II, mostly because I haven’t really been doing anything to it. It’s been driving decently and reliably with little to write about. But with the Yen currently at a very favourable rate, I figured it was time to do some internet shopping. Not too long after, a box arrived.

No, I didn’t get a giant box with just a single copy of Option magazine inside, rather, this latest issue of JDM goodness was a favour I asked the seller as he was packing my item in. Very kind of him don’t you think? Underneath this magazine though was a part I’ve been wanting to get for the Mark II for quite some time.

Ta-da! An air-con vent/control panel with all the ancillaries intact! Unfortunately for me, the seller sent the wrong colour! While I was really hoping to get what I paid for, he did offer instead a partial refund which was very fair and something I gladly took up.

Why didn’t I buy a brand new item? Mostly because Toyota doesn’t sell this unit as a single item and it would have been a huge hassle (not to mention a costly endeavour) to put one together piece by piece.

And this is why I needed that panel. My old one had literally disintegrated, no doubt due to years of the car being parked under the sun. I did not break it as the photo might suggest, rather, this was how everything looked after falling apart in my hands as I lifted it (as gingerly as I could) off the dashboard. Just turning a fastening screw caused some bits to fall off.

Here’s how my dashboard now looked with the new (used) panel in place. Not entirely matching the colour of the original dash but I reckon it’s not too bad since it seems to go with the audio console. Also, I finally have working directional air vents!

Soon after fixing up the dashboard, another package arrived from Japan. This time from Osaka!

Inside the big brown box were a couple of smaller boxes and a cabin filter. I figured with the neglect the dash and interior had been through, it was probably safe to assume the same treatment had befallen the cabin filter.

And I was right! Here’s the old one on the left, and my brand new PIAA filter on the right. Again, the old one crumbled after I took it out. Kudos to Toyota for making it so easy to work on their cars. Having had to crawl under the dashboard just to swap out a cabin filter on my BMW, it was a pleasant surprise to see it so easily accessible inside the back of the glove box. How sensible!

At the bottom of the original shipping box was also one of these! I stupidly missed out on the beautiful Hotwheels Momo Prototipo when they first launched it (and kicking myself ever since), and since this was the next best thing, I had to have it. The Black Edition.

So pretty.

Since I still have the brand new Prototipo I lugged all the way over from Japan, it was time for a little comparison. The Black Edition is supposed to be a more premium offering in the Prototipo range as reflected by its slightly more premium price tag, so let’s have a look.

Here’s the standard Prototipo’s leather and stitching.

And here is the Black Edition’s leather and sticking, notice the much smaller grain pattern and cross stitching used instead?

The differences are most apparent when you put them side by side. While I initially bought the silver Prototipo for the 2002, I think I’ll slot in the Black Edition instead. Perhaps we can put this silver one into the Toyota? I already bought the hub!

The last items in my box of Osaka goodies were two pairs of these. TRD Door Stabilizers, I’ll spare you the details since you can easily google them but they are essentially (and theoretically) a product developed by Aisin Seiki and made by TRD that removes the gaps between the doors and the car’s body, tightening them up against each other to make the doors an integrated part of the chassis to reinforce the chassis and reduce unwanted flex. It was also quite an affordable little piece of TRD kit so I figured even if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.

With the right set of tools, installating the door stabis was pretty straightforward and simple.

To be honest, even after reading the positive online reviews (and someone’s test with real flex measurements), I was still highly sceptical. It was just some pieces of metal and plastic and well, I usually don’t put too much hope on cheap modifications having much of an effect.

Which was why I was pleasantly surprised when I could actually feel a difference when I took it out for a drive. It’s not a huge difference but something you definitely notice once you hit the first bits of uneven patchy roads (something that’s not too difficult to encounter in Singapore), the car now reacts differently.

Where there used to be creaking noises from the body, it now thumps with compression from the shocks instead and overall it does feel slightly more “solid” and made me wonder how much more of a difference additional reinforcement bars will make to this tired 15-year old chassis.

For those wondering the doors don’t sound very much different from the outside but from the inside, at least on my car, the previous “thunk” sound when closing the driver’s side door is now a “chunk”. Money well spent? Definitely. Just one word of warning, I hear the plastic bits on the door side might fall off so perhaps some glue before attaching them would be a good idea.

Aside from these I also bought a brand new set of Hella Air Horns in matching purple! That wimpy OEM Toyota “beep beep” horn had to go! Unfortunately, I was so excited to install them I forgot to take any pictures. Until next time I guess!

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