Saturday 30 September 2017

Astina, the pop-up-headlight family hatch.

While we're still in 1993...
 ..let's get some appreciation sent toward yet another quirky-but-otherwise-forgotten 'modern classic'.
From a wreckers run in recent months; Mazda's sixth-generation (BG, 1989-) Familia in what'd be its most stylish form - the "yeah, the pop-up headlight one.. the Carlo-Astina" Familia/323 Astina.

Uh? No, seriously, I've always referred to this variant of thrice-two-thrice (like this very late production - August 1993 - gunmetal-grey number..) to my car buddies with the name of the only person I'd ever known to own one. Hell, even with people who have absolutely no idea who I'm talking about. Weird, sure, but running jokes and so on. Can't stop now..

Despite the Astina's lack of a performance variant (a little cruel seeing the turbo+AWD drivetrains fitted to the shorter hatch!), it's hard not to appreciate the more unique/adventurous design here. The low bonnet-line, pop-up headlights, thick C-pillar, and that short rounded tail with wraparound three-piece spoiler and tail lamps - something different for the automotive landscape in '89..!

Urgh, I have a thing a full-width tail-lamp garnishes. I may have taken this one home with me..

323F in Europe. Familia Astina in Japan. Australia? The 323 Astina - a name that continued onto 1993's next-generation replacement Mazda Lantis...

Open the hatch, and there's those missing hubcaps...

...along with some sweet sunnies. Ah, the crap you see in cars at the wreckers..

In saying that though, open the door on this particular car and I'm presented with a remarkably tidy interior! Not specifically wear-and-tear wise (which it has held up fantastically well - just look at those bolsters..) but the fact it looks as though it was damn-well vacuumed on its way into the yard!
Someone cared for this car, and that hurts..

That fabric'll certainly take my mind of it though! That is nice.. 

I really like that. Purple, teal, light blue and grey horizontal stripe - a good looking pattern..

Vertical on those doorcards for a bit of contrast?

...or because it's still then technically running perpendicular to the car, extending across the seats and up the doors..?

The cloth pattern's line between the front seats broken only by small console - an ashtray for the kids..

Back up front, the '93 323 owner's manual, and the (clean!) dash-mat that now pointlessly protects the dash-pad from the sun...

Large buttons and a basic layout for the original Philips cassette deck..

 6,000rpm redline for the 16-valve SOHC BP-ME/B8-ME 1840cc four..

A decent looking wheel which Mazda unfortunately left bare/untrimmed (oddly common at the time)...

...aaaand out the other side, with a look back across the little Mazda commuter's fairly-tidy-yet-wreckers-mint charcoal grey interior.

With that, we're done.
At 25years for the youngest examples next year; if nothing else, I'm always glad to get a proper look over an original whatever it happens to be, before they're all gone!

Monday 25 September 2017



Yep, I reckon it's time to jump into a little more detail on this one. Something I'd mentioned in another post recently. Something that'd occasionally made an appearance on the Instagram page. A future, down-the-line, eventually-I'll-get-to-it project I've had packed away for over 12months now.
I'd actually known about this car for a solid 12months before that too, having watched it come into the country through my usual parts importer, then deteriorate as it was slowly parted out for all its painfully (and unfortunately) valuable components. 
I had absolutely no need for it obviously (who the hell would?!), but it killed me to see it fade away. A ridiculous widebody JZA80 was just about at rock-bottom in terms of desirability at the time; but if I could just put it away for a while... well cool's cool, its time will come again. Even if I did absolutely nothing with it, those extra few years could very well make the difference between having the kit drilled off with the rest sent for scrap, and the possibility of a return to its former glory. Seriously.

Why bother though?

Well even as the otherwise-valueless stripped remains of a Supra, it had some appeal. 
The car itself was as good as Supras got in '93 (a genuine RZ twin-turbo, six-speed, big diff, big brake, 3L2 red hardtop - from the launch year) and had an interesting history; but was also essentially a straight rust-free body that had traveled less than 100,000km/60,000mi - the chassis had many more years to give yet!

So a high-end bodykit on what was a sound original RZ? That's a great base for a properly wild project...

From the 1993 Japanese-market Supra brochure - the 3L2 JZA80 Toyota Supra RZ that's beneath the decades (and inches!) of fibreglass above..

..not to say that there was nothing in-between! By the early-2000s this Supra was already sporting some BOMEX aero, Volk F-Zero Winnings, and Toyota's 1996- 8L5 Royal Sapphire Pearl paint..

The interior largely still as it is today. Sadly that 360km/h Do-Luck cluster was sold along with the driveline..

 ..and that painfully-valuable driveline that was almost a damn death-sentence for this particular car: twin HKS GT2835s on the 2JZ-GTE, with that power getting to the ground via the V160 Getrag 6speed and large B03B diff..

It's a relief to see the condition of the car prior to the widebody going on, as a kit this elaborate could've been hiding so much. Not as though you'd be wanting to fit a kit this costly/complex/involved to anything other than a good base (unlike reproduction widebody rear guards covering drift damage on the back-end of an S13!)

The evolution to a near-seven-foot-wide monster..
The kit itself is made by the high-end Japanese tuner Abflug. It is the less common (and not typically copied) of two similar widebody kits they still sell for the JZA80/MKIV Toyota Supra - the Zefi:r (the other being the S900).
It consists of a FRP front bumper, front fenders, door panels (mounting over the original door), side skirts, rear over fenders, rear spoiler, rear bumper, and a carbon-fibre diffuser. The classic Abflug cooling bonnet/hood is an extra, as are the refinished headlamps with the Abflug inserts and clear lenses.

Abflug did offer (as an extra again) a set of 3+3-spoke wheels in the absolutely ridiculous dimensions required, but no doubt a set of Meisters would've been much more affordable. These wheels and tyres had been ordered to Abflug's exact recommended specs - unfortunately (and oddly!) right down to the 25mm spacer on the rear! Although wider wheels have become much more the norm in the years since, tyre availability is still an issue...


..and the last photos I could find from this owner; still looking great, parked with some cherry-blossoms in 2008.

The next appearance I could find was ~5years later, for sale at a prominent Supra dealer in Chiba in late 2013.
There looked to have been a handful of minor changes in the years between (indicators, roof spoiler, smaller interior details..), but still looked to be in fantastic shape..


18months later however...
...listed on Yahoo Auctions Japan in early 2015: all has not gone too well.
There's damage to the lip, some awful skinny tyres, and an ugly badge on the nose. For some reason it has also gained an Aragosta (suspension) banner on the windscreen - a little odd when the car had those coilovers fitted years earlier..

Early 2015.. the suspension wound sky-high, and about to head to Australia...

...aaaand now in Australia. It spends the next six months bumbling around importer's warehouse pretty much as-is.

September 2015, and what would be the first photo I personally took of the car. Those rears are already down to the belts at this point, and were flat most of the times I ever remember seeing it..!

February 2016 - the end is nigh..

 ..and by July 2016... well things weren't looking so good. The entire driveline was gone at this point; the front panels removed.. the interior like a bomb had hit it..
I had expressed my intentions to save the thing by now, so got it up on the lift and had a really good look over what was left. I was certainly surprised to see how nice it was underneath! Great floors, straight rails, sills, seams, and a chance to appreciate how well (and the work involved!) those rear guards had been fitted.
Let's do it. Get it back together, clean it up, and put it away. I can do something with this..

September 2016, and with temporary brakes in hand I return. Just getting the last bits sorted to be able to get this thing out of here..

As with absolutely everything else of value on this car, the 4/2 piston Supra turbo 'big' brakes were sold off; I needed a handbrake and brakes if only to help with transport and storage, so picked up a miserable set of standard Supra calipers and rotors locally, and threw them on..

A set of standard Supra Bilsteins replace the flash Aragosta coilovers, which combined with a set of spacesavers will at least get the car high enough for transport - a nightmare in itself.

Why the epic ride height? Why the space-savers?
As I said.. transport for this thing is an absolute nightmare. 
Let's look at these two pictures again: you can see, the kit is designed with a *very* specific ride-height in mind: LOW. 
With the wheel-arches wrapping around the wheels so damn thoroughly, not only does it look tragic when these aren't centered, but the wheels will quickly contact the lower guard sections when raised. Urgh. 
Now look at those epic front and rear overhangs. Picture the comical approach and departure angles. Not ideal.
No matter how hard I looked, at almost 2100mm wide (and so low on the body) car trailers were out of the question. So a flatbed it was.. and obviously needed to be somewhat simple. 
The pizza-cutting space-savers mount in a much larger part of the wheel well, working with the stock suspension to give enough height to work with. It'll frighten people in traffic, but it'll do!

Hover-Supra, ready to go..

The 265/345-shod Meisters and a set of Tein Flex ride home in the 4Runner's world of blue..

Certainly nothing fancy here, but will do for keeping the car looking as respectable as possible while it sits in storage..

Introducing the final four (still unused) wheel nuts to a set of Rays Duralumin Dura-Nuts I ran on the AW11 years ago..

Cleaned, polished, tidied and parts fitted; the suspension wound as high as those wheels will let it go.

Seriously, that feeling when I raised those 345s into those epic rear arches; seeing the room to spare. Unghf.
It's the amazement and wonder I had with my humongous 350/700-19 ex-Super-Silhouette SSR mesh years ago, turned a damn reality. Dreams. I can finally be bitter that 400-wide tyres aren't a thing, as this would happily take a square-shouldered tyre on that 19x15"!

October 2016, ready for a trip to its new home for the next year/s; a quick photo-set while waiting for the tow-truck.
Ignoring the ride height (please, do your best), the brakes, and the whole complete-lack-of-drivetrain thing; it was honestly heartwarming to see this thing clean once again - on the road to recovery..

The plate added for a bit of visual legitimacy. How could I not when the combination was available?! Knowing the amount of custom plates I've ordered over the years (you one-off-purchase these combinations in my state), yikes, I may have an issue.. 

The oldschool (..err, midschool?) Ganador mirrors. Interesting on a JZA80 Supra as the factory units are door-mounted. The move here to a faux pillar-mount of sorts means you can see that triangle 'mount' area from the inside.
Still, I'm a fan.. and am amazed someone managed to pilot this mammoth thing with mirrors the size of postage stamps!

The vented Abflug bonnet/hood.

..and the Abflug-refinished headlamps. All four lamps will need to be redone in the future..

Looking so much better without that naff badge on the nose..!

The difference between a dodgy repro widebody kit and a more thorough attempt. This is adorable..

Gauges gone, bits missing, and that flogged old Momo Race wheel and confetti Recaro.
Not a whole lot of miles has meant the rest of the interior is actually in somewhat decent shape otherwise (good carpet, doorcards, console, etc..); but an interior..? Pfff! These bits are ultimately unimportant according to my imagination..!

...loaded, with not a huge amount of real-estate to spare.
To repeat what I mentioned when posting the above pic on Instagram, for a bit of perspective:
"it's 100mm wider than a new LandCruiser, and 60mm wider than Lamborghini's Aventador - the widest production car currently on the market." 
Yeah.. it's wide.

A new home; finally safe, dry, and out of the way..

...aaaand, well, that's how it still sits today.

While it's out of sight, it's certainly not out of mind. It's fun just to dream about the potential and possibilities for it.. having a base to create something really wild.
A hot 3S-GTE? A 1GZ-FE? Or a return to the iconic 2JZ? Painted up in Rubystone Red with a stripped and caged teal interior? Period-correct wheels widened to mind-melting specs? Yep, it's fun to dream...

I just have to save some pennies. Urgh. Look-out 2041..!