The Corolla AE92 GT-S Project

A website about my ongoing project

Nederlandse vlag Engelse vlag

Tips & Tricks

This project has been running for several years now and in all that time, I learned a thing or two.

There's no point in keeping those lessons for myself, so I thought I'd just share them with whoever finds it useful.

Just to be clear: I have no regrets in how I handled this project. I've already gotten to the point I am now and that's not a bad thing. But looking back on the project, there are certainly a few things I could have done better or different


So on this page, you'll find some tips and tricks I learned along the way.

I'm not going to tell you these are the golden rules on how to tackle a project like this. But it's a few things I would do different, if I was to ever do a project like this again. Read it, think about it and take from it what you want. It might just help you get started or get you thinking about how to do things better.


  1. Make sure you got a proper workshop where you can stay for a long period of time.

    I had to search long and hard for a place to get started at the beginning of the project.

    When I did find a place, I was so glad I found something I took it without any further thought. But in hindsight it wasn't the best place for a project like mine.

    The floor wasn't flat, it was really drafty, not insulated and with the salty north sea only a few hundred meters away, unprotected steel was prone to rust.

    My tip: A one car garage just isn't going to cut it for a sizeable project like this. Look for a workshop that is insulated, has a flat concrete floor, enough lighting and enough wall sockets to power everything you need. But the most important thing is enough space! Enough space to work on and around the car without obstructions and with enough space to store all the parts that are taken off the car.    

  2. Find the right car.

    You can safe yourself a great deal of money, time and headache by getting the right car to restore.

    You just can't inspect everything when going to look at a car. But take all the time you need and look at as much things you can. Inside and out and don't hesitate to ask the owner to place it on a car lift.

    Take a closer look at the small faults you find. A panel that doesn't exactly line up or gaps that aren't consistent might seem like something innocent, but can lead you to major structural problems.

  3. Make sure you have enough financial backing.  

    It might seem pretty obvious. But a lot of projects don't make it because the money just runs out.

    When you get going on a project you tend to think up new things or you run into things that you haven't foreseen yet.

    I myself have opened a separate bank account where I deposit a certain amount of money every month, specially set aside for the project. This way, I know exactly what I can spend on the project and you prevent discussions on what you spend on the project.

    But there is one thing I can guarantee you: It is practically always going to cost you way more than you think beforehand.  

  4. Take it one piece at a time.

    When the car is in bits, take the restoration one piece at a time.

    Don't take apart the engine, the gearbox and start on the suspension all at the same time. You'll lose track of things, won't know where to begin and which parts belong to what.

    Start on one thing and work on that until it is either finished or you really can't continue working on it anymore before you start on the next part. That way, you'll have oversight on the status of the project and keep better track of parts etc.

  5. Work organized and clean.

    When you are taking the car apart, it al seems very logical where everything goes. You'll probably remember how it all fitted together for a while too. But will you still know where everything was after a year or two or maybe even longer?

    It helps if you label everything and store it. Take all the nuts, bolts and other small parts from a certain part and store them together in those zipbags or little plastic containers with a label that says what's inside and where them came from.

    Don't just pile up all the big parts as well, but store them in boxes. Again, write on there what's in the boxes and you'll never have to search for hours for that one part you are looking for.

  6. Work in a logical order.

    It can be very tempting to start with the parts you are keen to work on. I fell into that trap by starting with the engine and gearbox first. But the plans changed and now I've got some expensive parts lying around that I'm not going to use anymore.

    Major components like the engine, gearbox, undercarriage can be changed or dropped during the course of the project. But the car itself isn't. You chose that car for it's look, body style or whatever reason you had, so it's a pretty safe bet to start with the body. That will give you a good basis to build on as parts that you have finished can be installed to the car and the project progresses and grows instead of having a bunch of parts lying around that are going to be on the car someday but can't be installed yet because the chassis or the body isn't finished yet.

    If I where to do another project like this, I would work through it in the following order:

    - Body/Chassis

    - Interior

    - Engine

    - Gearbox

    - Suspension

    - Whatever is left

  7. Think ahead.

    When you're handling a part, think about what needs doing to it and keep in mind what you might want to do in the future.

    For instance: It doesn't make any sense to get the bodywork al nice, straight and painted when you come to the conclusion you had to alter a few things or needed to weld in a bracket later on.

    Refurbishing the brakes when you opt for bigger brakes later on is a waste of money, effort and time. You can't possibly foresee everything that will happen in the future, but try to keep an open mind and know that during a project, your own skills and knowledge will grow as well. So limitations you had at the beginning of the project might not be there anymore later on. Try to think long term. I learned this the hard way.

  8. Hang in there and keep working on it!

    I can guarantee you that there will be moments during the project that you just want to sell the whole thing and be done with it. I know I have. It's not all fun along the way. Some things are just a real pain in the ass or dreadfully boring to do. But sometimes things just have to get done.

    All I can say is to just keep going and keep working!

    After the tedious jobs are done, there is always going to be something more fun to do. The end result is always going to be more than worth it and the sense of satisfaction afterwards makes you forget all the hard times during the project in a second!

    Are you struggling with something and it just isn't working? Don't get frustrated and start throwing stuff around. Lay it aside, take a step back and leave it till the next day. You'll start at it fresh and you'll see that it will all be a lot easier and you'll get there eventually.

  9. Make sure you have enough time.

    How often do you hear about projects like this that are scrapped or sold because they just don't have the time anymore to work on it? They started a project, but somewhere along the way, the project wasn't as important anymore or other priorities went first.

    Nobody can predict the future and things change during a persons life. But if you make a routine out of it, chances are you'll be able to see it through.

    I myself for instance have 1 evening every week I spend in my workshop. Every week, same time, same place. Of course, sometimes I have appointments I just can't cancel or things that are more important to do. But I always go back to the workshop to pick up things where I left them.

  10. Document everything!

    Maybe one of the most important things during a project like this: Document everything!

    Take pictures. A whole lot of pictures! When you want to put it all back together again in a few years and start to wonder where it all needs to go. It's nice to be able to look back at some old pictures to see how it all came apart.

    Now that we all have digital camera's we can make as much pictures as we want to and store them somewhere safe so we can browse through them easily later on.

    And everything that just doesn't want to be captured in a photo can always be made insightful with a schematic or a drawing.

    And make backup's! Multiple and in multiple places as well if at all possible. It would be a damn shame if all your documentation is lost because your computer crashes or contracts a virus and you didn't make a back-up of those files.   

  11. Get some factory manuals.

    At the dealers, they have workshop manuals that describe exactly how to repair parts on the car.

    They also contain all the specifications, dimensions and settings that were used in the factory when the car was put together. That always comes in handy when putting it all back together.

    Those books can be pretty hard to come by, but sometimes they pop up on internet auction sites or on internet forums and club sites.

    But if you can't find them, you can always try to go to your local dealer and ask if they still have and use them. And if you can't have or buy them from them, they might let you make some copies out of it to get going on the parts you are working on.