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1991 Si ALB Restoration and 4WS Conversion

3561 Views 92 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  FirstCarNostalgic
I picked this up last week and am in the beginning of the restoration. I am still in the preliminary phases of the tune up and assessing what I have.

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Overall the body is in bad condition. I have a lot of work to do there. I think I will keep it the factory red, but possibly add some pearl flake. TBD.

The engine bay had some mouse activity. I found their nest, and a bunch of tree debris in the engine bay and got that out of there. They had chewed part of the harness, but didn’t do too much damage there. They did get through the ground wire a bit, but I will eventually be upgrading the grounds to a thicker guage.

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Here is an image of all the pine cones and other debris I removed from the engine bay.

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The power steering pump didn’t have a belt on it — and I found the original in the trunk with two rebuild kits. So it seemed like there had been some trouble. I took the pulley off the pump, and it looks like a carbone replacement pump had been installed, and tried to JB Weld the oil seal lmao.

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Who else is surprised that didn’t work.

I have a new oil seal on the way, the honda one. Because the rebuild kit ones are not nearly as robust as the honda one I inspected from the original pump. I pulled the newer pump apart and the seals are all good. Hope the new seal will take care of that. Other than that I started cleaning up all the power steering fluid that is literally all over the place.

I changed the oil today and the oil smelled of gas. Not so great. So I started down that list. Guessing the oil hasn’t been changed in a while given the color and amount of gas in the oil. I haven’t pulled the injectors yet, but I pulled the spark plugs and they were crunchy.

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The distributes wires were also pretty toasted so I replaced that setup with some NGK wires and plugs. While they were out I also did a compression test. Unfortunately I forgot to open the throttle when I tested, but the numbers were much better than I expected. According to the manual 179 at wide open throttle is still within serviceable limits. Not sure how much the open throttle would increase it, maybe a few percent, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll post the images in a second post as I’ve reached max image uploads!
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Passenger side was more of struggle. The lower control arm bolt to the fork was seized. It started out with snapping an extension into the back end of a socket.

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I thought I got the bolt turning, but it was actually the rubber bushing turning. I was able to turn the bolt enough to walk to rubber part of the bushing out of the control arm about a quarter of an inch. This allowed me to cut away enough of the rubber to get to the inner race and saturate it with penetrant for two days. You can also see in the below photograph the CV boot is shot. The car came with a replacement, and I am hoping it is for the passenger side.

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I finally got it out today, and also removed the rest of the bolts holding the radius rod, sway bar, and the bolt connecting the control arm to the sub frame. I removed the the damper and had to call it a night.

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I plan to replace all the bushings at this time, and am thinking I might as well pull the hubs and replace the wheel bearings as well. I have the bushings, went with polyurethane (hoping I got all the right ones), but do not have the wheel bearings.

I think I’m going to try Eastwoods 2 stage chassis paint for these parts. I assume it will be a lot more resistant than a single stage paint.

I also got a 3d printed clock cover that arrived today. I haven’t removed the clock yet so it is still dirty and the plastic around the bezel is worn — which I’ll clean up with lithiums ceramic trim restorer. I plan to sand the cover a bit to try and remove the printing marks.

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Nice progress! Where did you buy the 3D printed clock cover at? My 91 prelude still has the og one but it is held on by duck tape.
Nice progress! Where did you buy the 3D printed clock cover at? My 91 prelude still has the og one but it is held on by duck tape.
Thanks Sam. Things seem to be moving along.

DesignDreamUSA on Etsy. Shipping was fast as well. There is another guy overseas. Can't remember his name. It isn't functional, doesn't flip down. But stays in place and does the job.
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Front radius rods are crusty. Got a new toy today, an impact driver -- not sure how I would have gotten it off without it. Awkward spot for a breaker bar. Will probably drop the bumper to gain better access to the driver's side. Bolt was smoking when I spun it off. Already feels like the impact driver was worth the purchase. With the stubbornness of the few bolts I've taken out I knew I'd need some help with the 4ws conversion. Decided to do the suspension and conversion at the same time since there is a decent amount of overlap.

You can see all the overspray. Not so pleased but it is what it is. One thing at a time.

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Work took me away from the project this weekend, but was able to get a little bit of work done.

Finished pulling the passenger side lower control arm. I pressed out the rubber bushings with a ball joint press and the impact driver. That was easy enough, but getting out the metal part is another story. I know I could do the whole cut them out thing. Still making my mind up with that, but I know a mechanic a block away has a press, so I am going to ask them if they will let me use it, or just have them press them out for me.

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You can see the metal sleeve still inside the control arm here :

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I have a mix of Prothane, Energy Suspension and Superpro bushings. I have tried to read everything I can on this site and Prelude regarding polyurethane bushing options. I took the time this weekend to print out the master list and take stock of what I have and the few things I’m still needing.

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I finally got around to opening the axel that was in the trunk of the car, and unfortunately it doesn’t have the ABS ring. No big deal as I didn’t buy it -- a mini let down.

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One interesting thing is the package has the owner’s information prior to the person I purchased it from. I may write them a letter to try and see if I can get some more history on this car.
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Today was an exciting day for the project. I found a set of SF1 wheels at a yard in PA. Drove 2 hours one way to pick them up. They are in great shape all things considering. No heavy curb rash. They aren’t bent or cracked.

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I threw them in the back of the van and drove back to my shop. Three of them came with the center caps as well. Those are a little beat up but I think mostly salvageable. Looking at the caps when I got them back, they are a plastic injection molded base and the cover is actually a thin piece of aluminum. It makes me wonder how much success I could have finding the same gauge aluminum and rewrapping any I couldn’t salvage. I’ll be on the lookout for another cap at this point, but also looking to see if the member who posted in November is willing to make me a set of the caps he recently printed as they look great.

I took a little time to start cleaning one up to see what I was working with. There are some spots where the finish has come off, as to be expected. But all together there will be very little sanding needed to get them back to their original condition. I sent out a request to a powder coater to see how much they want to refinish them. That pricing will determine how I want to proceed. But I think this is an area where powder coating would be worth the money. Here is a photo after some degreaser and wire brush scrubbing.

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The other thing I was considering would be just sanding and polishing them, and keeping them waxed. Not sure if that would turn out but seems like these could be a good candidate for that treatment since it doesn’t seem like I’ll need to fill any deep scratches.

I also scored a crankshaft pulley from a 1988 — the single piece design. From what I‘ve read on this, you can swap them with the two piece design like the one on my 91. Some have said it throws things off — but it seems like the members who say it isn’t a problem are the ones to listen to. I haven’t checked if mine is shot at this point, and I know I could send it off for repair. But I did have the battery flicker issue — but I also had a dying alternator (power steering line was slowly dripping into the alternator and it finally gave up the ghost). I’ll be able to confirm if mine is in working condition soon enough. But finding the part at the yard seemed like a nice score regardless. The owner of the yard was a good guy and he took a pneumatic wire brush to the key and splines to confirm they were still in good order.

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Today I worked on the wheels a bit more. Slow going. I was able to order a set of printed caps from Blakeo44, which I’m going to try and cover with some sheet aluminum. I took some measurements today. The stock caps have a 1/32” allowance to the rim, and the sheet metal itself is 1/64“. I know he made his from the white variant, and I’m not sure what his allowance is. Will figure that out when it happens. As you can see the caps I have are a bit on the beat up side. Not terrible, but since I need another cap, I’m going to give it a shot. He is sending me logos too, so if all goes well I’ll clear coat them on. If it doesn’t go so well, I’ll probably end up painting them and the rims with one of the aluminum matching wheel paints.

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You can see a little slop on the caliper here because multi-tasking (holding the caliper and taking a photograph) was a bit too much for me. But the sheet is 1/64” (0.5mm).

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I took the upper control arm off the passenger side and spent much too long trying to remove all the corrosion from the front suspension parts I have off the car. I ended up clamping an angle grinder to a bench which was the best way I’ve found to do it so far with the tools I have. They are getting close to being ready for paint.

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I was pretty beat from all the corrosion cleanup, so I spent an hour or so cleaning up the engine bay. Felt like a decent way to finish the day. Still pretty dirty–but it is getting there.

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Nice! That is awesome you could find those wheels!
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Bit of a learning curve as I’ve never tried wheel restoration. Seem to be figuring it out. I think I’m going to try and polish and wax them. If I can get them clean enough — the coating Honda used is really impressive. Stripper takes off the top coat but there is a residue that remains that is difficult to remove.

Detail photograph of the stripper doing some work.

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Progress comparison

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I’m going to read up now on how to remove the valve stems. Not as obvious as I thought it would be.
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Some salvaged parts arrived from Poland today. First of 2 shipments. This shipment contained mostly interior plastic pieces to replace damaged or missing parts. Parts I received today were defrost vents in the dash, the interior mirror cover for the driver side door, some engine bay hardware, a cap for the rear deck, the flasher button, driver side door handle, and the center console.

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Some images of the broken pieces.

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I didn‘t have much time today, but I did manage to get the new center console in. The one that came with the car had the tabs broken, and a couple melted spots from cigarettes I’d assume. I was able to glue the tabs back on previously, but they were fragile, and there was no fixing the melted sections. One broke again, but I have found a better adhesive I’m using for plastic repairs — but hope to be able to source salvaged parts eventually to replace all the broken or damaged plastics.

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The shift boot was also worse for wear, splitting at the seam and had a tear on the one side. I ordered a replacement from Redline Goods. Nice product. Nice leather, same shape as OEM, and it came with the wire sewn into the base.

I cleaned up the new console which was pretty caked in dirt and installed the new boot. Treated the new leather and the salvaged console with appropriate sauces.

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I thought all the melted pieces were on the center console, but the radio trim bezel actually has two spots that are melted as well. The e-brake section of the console has a discolored spot you can sort of see in the above photo. I’m trying to see if there is a way to remedy that but so far haven’t found much success. I did end up choosing red thread for the new boot. Wondering if that was the right choice. Guess I could dye it black if it ends up bothering me.

I also scored a 4ws steering wheel cap, which I am not letting myself install until I have finished the conversion.

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I’ve been going back and forth on the carpet. Overall it is in pretty good shape, besides being very dirty and sun bleached. I‘m going to take it out regardless because I want to clean under it and patch up any possible rust I may find. I might try to clean it and use a fabric dye instead of replacing. I saw Mustard Cat replaced his and he says the fitment isn’t dead on, mostly in the rear. Might as well give the dye a shot, as it’s about 20 bucks and would be nice to salvage the carpet versus replacing if possible.
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Got the sway bar out today, along with the bracket that attaches to the subframe, and the power steering dust cover on the front steering box.

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I got ahead of myself and didn’t get the drive shaft out of the knuckle before I had removed the control arms. So I drained the transmission and pulled the driveshaft with the knuckle in one piece. The transmission fluid was rather clean. I was able to loosen the fill bolt as well so good on that front.

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The housing was pretty gummed up. I can’t really tell if it was leaking from the drive shaft seal or not. I would think since it was so dirty it probably was, so I should probably change the oil seal while I’m here. The next photo is after I clean it up a bit.

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The inner tie rod was totally shot. Totally limp. Was planning on putting new in with the new 4ws rack regardless.
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Today I leaned into being an amateur and rounded a nut on the flange between the catalytic converter and the flex pipe. The first bolt spun off fine, and the second I rounded. Instead of being realistic I wasted roughly 30 minutes trying to find a solution to get the nut off. Eventually I accepted reality and got the angle grinder out. I had to cut the hanger and into the flex pipe at the flange weld to be able to get access to the remaining two bolts.

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A preventable situation but so it goes. The flex pipe seems to be chattering around where it enters the down pipe, It isn’t visibly loose but if I push and pull on the flex section I can hear it dinging the interior wall. I’m not certain if this is normal but it doesn’t seem it. Probably getting a new flex pipe, which is fine since I’ll have to cut the flange off the converter side and weld on a new set of flanges. I may just have a muffler shop do this for me — tbd.

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I have been treating the power steering lines going into the rack for a couple days because mine were very rusted and wanted to make sure the nut would spin on the pipe. I have read these can be problematic and wanted to give myself a good shot. I took a few minutes to clean them up with a wire brush before removing them.

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I don’t think this would have been possible without flare nut wrenches. Three were fine but the high pressure line wanted to round even with the flare nut wrench. I was able to get it off, and I have a replacement high pressure line so all is good with that.

I was able to get one of the locking nuts to turn at the tie rod ends, but i could not get the ends to turn off the inners. So instead of messing with that I cut them off.

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I struggled a bit getting to the 10mm bolt on the yolk at the rack side, but I managed to use my brain a bit and got it off.

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Removing the rack revealed a number of spots that have surface rust. So I need to get some converter and take care of that. This will be a good time to do that and freshen up the undercoating.

The Prelude blessed me for my efforts, and I found the wire retainer for the fuel injector I dropped and couldn’t find months ago.

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Everything felt difficult today. Without a shop press, I have been unable to press the compliance bushings out of the control arms. I have tried many things. They all end in breaking the tool and I had to accept that today. My final attempts:

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I asked a shop down the street if they would press them out and they said no. So I got the sawzall out to cut some channels. Broke a flat head screw driver and a couple tips off of punches. Not a fast or fun way to go about this but I felt like I had tried everything else I could with the tools I have. I ended up finding if I pressed out the center part of the bushing, cut two channels close to each other in the outer metal sleeve, used a flathead and a couple punches to get it to give way, and then a bearing driver to push it out gave me the “best” results. It took me about an hour for each bushing, so four hours to do the lower and upper control arm of one side. A lot to look forward to.

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I then took some time to wire wheel some rust off and have a table of suspension parts more or less ready to paint.

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I then got to work pressing out the wheel bearing. This next photo is a good example of the amount of corrosion I’m dealing with. I pressed the hub out of the knuckle with a bearing driver.

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I got the race off the hub, which was the only thing that went smoothly today.

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And then I tried to get the ring off the back, but not sure how to do this without damaging it. The manual says, remove the ring from the knuckle. Lol not too much help there. I soaked it with penetrant and scrubbed it with a wire brush, razor blade and pick to try and loosen up the corrosion.

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I did the same with the circlip on the front of the knuckle. That was a real pain to get off. Almost left it for the night but decided I wanted to end with a win so I stuck it out and finally got it out.

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My shop (actual work) was closed today, and I had the intention of working, but found myself at the other shop working on the car.

I started by cutting the screws off the dust shield to get it ready to push the wheel bearing out of the knuckle. I found that I didn’t have the proper sockets for the bearing press so wasn’t able to press it out today.

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I decided to remove the front beam and get to work on that. It was pretty straight forward, other than the ALB model has an additional plate that the accumulator pump assembly bolts to. I fussed with that a bit. The best way to get at the 3 10mm bolts is from the top, by removing the first two sections of the intake tubing and the battery tray.

When I went to drop the beam, I had a what is this moment, as the two bolts on the drivers side, once loose, seemed to be drain plugs. As I said earlier, the power steering pump seal was bad, and the engine bay was soaked in power steering fluid. I thought I had taken care of this, but a good amount of fluid had pooled in the subframe. Had to laugh after I realized what was happening.

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The beam itself wasn’t in too bad of shape. A lot of surface rust, even more power steering fluid gunk, and two spots where it was dented from hitting the road. Sort of surprised at stock ride height that the beam would be able to hit the ground. I didn’t note any serious structural damage.

Given the state of everything rubber on this car, I assumed the mounts were probably shot, and one reason for the engine vibration noticeable in the cabin. If the front mount is any indication of the others they are way past due for a change.

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I don’t have a blast cabinet (not that this would have fit in it) but it is days like today that I wish I did. I spent a couple hours with an angle grinder and a wire wheel to remove the old paint and surface rust.

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I tried using POR-15 for the first time as I want to make sure to keep this from rusting since we can’t buy the part new anymore. So I used their degreaser and metal prep. The etching acid did a good job at removing the pitted rust I wasn’t able to reach with the wire wheel.

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I should have painted this in my spray booth, but that is at my other shop and didn’t feel like hauling the beam over there—so I just painted it where I was. Not ideal, there will definitely be some dust in it, but this is more for rust protection than making it pretty. Depending on how it cures I might give it a scuff and a primer and paint coat. TBD.

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Felt a little strange painting a car part with a brush, but the POR-15 self levels pretty well and turned out fine. It says two coats. Not sure if I’ll do that or not. Going to let this cure overnight and assess. Rear beam is next. There is surface rust where this beam mates to the chassis, so I need to clean that up and coat before putting it back together. Need to order new mounts as well.
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Got the lower ball joint out of the front knuckle today. Spent a few hours grinding rust. Coated the alb pump plate with Por-15. Stripped the screws holder the rotor on the other side — need to extract them at this point.

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Not so into the look of pitted metal and the shiny black of Por-15. This isn’t visible so I guess I’m trying to tell myself it is fine. Not trying to go crazy but hard to put so much work into something and have a lack luster result. I did scuff up the front beam today as I plan on painting it with a 2k epoxy paint.

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Every day I spend too much time grinding rust to not the best results (getting in all the spaces takes multiple tools at a lot of effort) is a day closer to me breaking down and getting a sandblaster. Going to get a tub and some evapo-rust to finish off the stubborn spots and make sure I get it out of the deep pitting before painting.
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First time going to Harbor Freight. Got their blast cabinet, and some blasting media. For the price it is worth it. A couple tweaks and the machine will be good enough for what I’m needing.

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Tested it with an old wrench. Spent zero time on it, blasting and spraying. The media leaves an ideal prepped surface for paint. This was just a rattle can primer and topcoat to see if I needed to adjust psi or media.

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Now I’m considering using a ceramic coating since I can prep the parts appropriately—instead of using a 2k paint which has been the plan. Can also forgo the Por-15 layer which is a positive.

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First time going to Harbor Freight. Got their blast cabinet, and some blasting media. For the price it is worth it. A couple tweaks and the machine will be good enough for what I’m needing.

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Tested it with an old wrench. Spent zero time on it, blasting and spraying. The media leaves an ideal prepped surface for paint. This was just a rattle can primer and topcoat to see if I needed to adjust psi or media.

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Now I’m considering using a ceramic coating since prep the parts appropriately—instead of using a 2k paint which has been the plan. Can also forgo the Por-15 layer which is a positive.

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Awesome! How much was the cabinet?
It's $190. Easy to find coupons as well. Comes with the gun. Need to supply dust collection, whip for the gun and a light, but the cabinet has ports for these things. There are a lot of YouTube videos of people modding this cabinet. Pretty straight forward and a good option if you aren't using it in a professional capacity.

Game changer for restoring smaller parts. Still a lot of work but the end result is worth it.
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Got the blast cabinet sorted today and finished prepping the passenger side front suspension parts for paint. Pretty satisfying after it was working properly. Found earplugs and 3m black duct tape work well to keep from etching areas you want to stay machined. Also got the front wheel bearing out. Straight forward enough but difficult without a shop press.

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I also removed the two bolts that i stripped (used the wrong tool, my fault) on the drivers side rotor. The first one came out easily enough.

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The second one sheared flush with the hub and my metal bits wore out so getting the shank of the screw out of the hub required about 30 minutes of drilling and using a punch and hammer to get it spinning until I could grab it with pliers. Thankfully I managed to get both out without damaging the hub.

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More of the same. Car has looked like this for a month or so at this point.

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Pressed on with the degreasing and blasting of suspension parts. Also cleaned up the single piece 88 crank pulley I scored at a junkyard a month or so ago. You can see the pulley pre blasting in the photograph above.

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Had pulled the intake tubes a couple weeks ago to get access to the ALB pump bracket. That allowed me more access to engine bay that is covered in years of grime and past oil leaks. The CYL sensor was leaking at some point, as well as the valve cover gasket. So I spent some time cleaning what I could reach. Today was the first day I’ve seen the B21A1 stamp as it was completely covered with grime.

Before cleaning :

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After :

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Feel like its worth the time before taking things apart to clean what I can because it makes the disassembly a bit more civilized.


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