Poor Scooty, it’s been sitting back and hiding under a tarp for a while now. I finally got a chance to carry out some of the work I needed to do.
It was time to make Scooty a bit safer, and a bit closer to legal again.
I couldn’t help myself, I had to know why Scooty wasn’t running.
I can’t help it, I’m addicted to petrol engines. Somehow, out of the blue I seem to have added a Scooter to the fleet.
Like usual, I was bored yesterday at work, so, like all normal people, I decided to work out the average MSRP of some of the cars I have owned, and some other cars from the same era that were popular.
So after the Golf I decided I still wanted something fun to drive, but cheap. Scouring Trademe I came across Alton, high KM but has a mechanical warranty, and was for sale by its only NZ owner since import. I went and took a look and what I saw, I enjoyed.
It’s a 2006 Suzuki Swift Sport, in Champion Yellow. Its manual, has the M16A 1.6L engine, Recaro interior, and HID headlights. Pretty high spec for a Jap import, and compared to the NZ new ones its fully sik racekar (NZ new ones didn’t get HID, and most didn’t get Recaro seats or proximity key).
It also had some mods, aftermarket 17″ wheels, it was lowered and had an intake and exhaust. What I later found was the suspension, intake and exhaust were all Suzuki Sport Racing gear (Big money new), and the wheels are Direzza RSC. Pretty top end stuff for a Swift.
It makes some really addictive noises from the intake and exhaust, and loves to rev. The little M16A engine is a heck of an upgrade over the standard ones, with high compression, high lift cams and variable valve timing. Cheap on gas, and fun to rev. The gearbox is a mixed bag, great feel, solid but easy shifts and from 2nd onwards its close ratio…. the weird thing is that first is too long, and the gap from 1st to 2nd is too big so the engine falls out of its power band and bogs down even when changed at redline. It also doesn’t have any sort of LSD, so can be a bit messy in the wet. Loves double clutch rev matching though.
Since getting the car i’ve replaced all the tyres as they were shitty at best, cheap, old worn out Nankangs that wouldn’t grip in the wet, or dry. Fitted some Falkens and it grips very well in the dry and manageable in the wet.
The first issue I had to change straight away was the fuel being used. Previous owner had been using 91 Octane, which under heavy load was causing the engine to detonate. I noticed this on the test drive, but took the risk anyway. Filled it with 98 Octane, reset the ECU by disconnecting the battery and away I went. No more detonation and it drove like a new car. Far more power and refinement.
Another thing that bothered me straight away was that the intake was sitting at the back of the engine, out of airflow and sucking hot air. A quick tweak of the hose clamps and it spun around to where it was designed to sit.
The park lights also didn’t go. It was weird that neither worked, but i had some spare T10 LEDs, so popped them in and sure enough, both were just blown. The LEDs work well with the color of the HID bulbs too.
I noted when I purchased the car that there was a significant amount of oil around the engine, coming from the valve cover gasket. This was a bargaining point for me, but not a serious job to do. New genuine gasket was ordered, along with a new PCV valve gasket as it was leaking from there too.
Pulled the cover off
Fit the new gasket, and refit. No more leaks. Yay!
I’ve also completely machine polished the exterior, as it was terrible. It had a lot of metal fallout stuck in the paint on all the top surfaces, which took a couple of rounds of Carpro TRIX (fallout remover) and a claybar, before I could even machine it. Since that though, the paint is crazy bright and glossy, with great beading in the wet.
TRIX is a real pain to work (not to mention stinks of a cross between death, and rotten eggs) with when the paint has been neglected. It will happily stain oxidized paint, so take care with it. I didn’t know this and ended up with some ugly staining. The “bleeding” running down the paint is the metal and tar dissolving.
When I saw the staining I was very disheartened. I pretty much gave up on the paint for a bit and ignored the car.
About 3 weeks later though, i gave it another shot. I used more TRIX and claybarred the shit out of it. I used a small amount of instant detailer, and a water to lube the clay. Not really recommended, but it worked really well. I wasn’t worried about marring the paint as I was about to machine polish it anyway. Lots more “bleeding” but i could finally see the paint start to clean up. Once I was done the paint was smooth to the touch.
Just the TRIX and claybar wasn’t enough though, it needed to be machine polished to get rid of the layer of dull oxidation on the paint. It was similar to what happened to the Integra, but far, far less work to correct.
It came up really well, much more shine and so bright.
This is what I was dealing with. Staining from the TRIX and dullness from oxidation
A couple of days worth of work and it was a much nicer car to look at though
Got some new floor mats from the local dealer. Huge upgrade over the ugly worn and half missing mats in the car.
As fun as the car was and as much as I enjoyed driving it, it has just been sold. I decided that my next car MUST be of a certain type, so I saved my pennies and now i’m currently working on acquiring the next one. Just a waiting game, and I miss Alton 🙁
It made good noises.
Related Project Links
Well with a heavy heart i have to report that Alton the Swift Sport has been sold and was collected by its new owners this evening. Its gone to a good home, and should bring them the same enjoyment i had.
Good bye friend. Now to sort your replacement.
This is a guest post, written by the owner of the car.
Some people will try telling you that a Morris Marina is the best choice for a first car. It’s fun, it’s hair-raising, it’ll teach you how to own, drive, and repair a car that comes with a lot of quirks.
But let’s be honest. For a teenager, particularly one who lives in the ‘wop wops’, the best first car is the first one that’s available, that you can afford.
And that, was how I ended up the proud owner of a 1986 Suzuki Alto. With an F8B engine in an SB308 chassis, it was a whole three cylinders and 800cc of automatic fury – that yellow spot on the horizon zooming around the countryside; That was me.
I should warn though, small, yellow cars can attract unwanted attention. Police won’t give you a second glance – but everyone else will. You’ll get pranked, like the guys at school who picked up and turned my car around in the car park to see if I noticed (I didn’t…), and it was also prone to mindless vandalism. I did add an alarm, which made the car super inconspicuous (flashing blue LEDs without the discretion of a footwell/tinted windows, turns your car into a disco-partying target) – it didn’t stop the vandalism, but I did catch the culprit red-handed so received $10/week compensation (good ol’ NZ justice system). Speaking of unwanted attention, bees also follow yellow cars then swarm and hover at intersections (or so was the experience with the Swift – I never counted the bodies).
I knew the car was going to be special when I was driving through the country and pulled up at a traffic light designed to guide trucks over a one-lane bridge. I waited. I inched forward and waited some more. A cyclist came along and pressed the bike crossing button and the light instantly changed. Yup, the Alto was too small to trigger a country traffic light sensor.
The car had just enough pep to get me around and keep me connected with friends but, let’s face it, not enough power to push the car beyond my own capability as a young driver. I remember once carrying a car full of people up a modest hill “lean forward!” was the cry I heard from the back seat as foot flat we inched our way to the top of the hill at 25kph.
The Alto and I had our moments. Like going for my Restricted drivers licence test – squeezing in some last-minute parallel parking practice – not realizing that the engine fan was manual. Yes, the car overheated and had a mini geyser of water coming out from the engine bay 20 minutes before my test. Then there was the time the inhibitor switch got sticky and I couldn’t work out why the car wouldn’t start. And then there was the long saga with the carburetor. But I loved it – my yellow car, my symbol of independence.
I cannot say whether this is a common experience, but I have never been a fan of taking my car to the mechanics. Many “professionals” scoffed at my car, and at me.
- Car needs rear suspension “the car’s a write off, here’s a number for the scrap metal yard, they may give you $50 for it”
- Car needs an oil change “your car is obsolete and next time you won’t be able to get an oil filter, better get a new car” (yes, actually)
- Incompetent brake work was done and the car didn’t feel right when I got in so asked the mechanic to jump in – “Nah, she feels all good”. I pull out into the street and suddenly my brakes DO NOT WORK so I cruise around the block and take it right back “brakes are meant to feel like that” was what the mechanic said, giving me the you’re-a-stupid-woman-now-let-me-get-back-to-my-coffee glare. Kelvinator thought I was exaggerating, until he got in the car and nearly died.
- Car needs some carb work so I go into the Suzuki workshop for some expert advice – they try to sell a clearly broke student a new car so they don’t have to get their hands dirty.
In my experience very few people respected this little car. Other than Kelvinator, I’ve only found two mechanics to have a genuine respect (and possible soft spot) for my car – Thanks Wally (Pit Stop Christchurch – circa 2008) and Tony (Moorhouse WOF – pre-earthquakes).
The Alto noticed too (it had quite the personality). If someone who respected the car serviced it, there were never any issues with the work. If someone who had no respect for the car serviced it, my wallet was always empty and the car was never running right afterwards. The amount of rework was appalling.
But that’s okay, it just made me more determined to learn my own car and do my work myself. Altos are perfect for learning about (carburetor) engines and doing a bit of DIY work. The engine is incredibly accessible, there’s space to get in and do what you need to – modern cars with all their cramped glory that require a full engine removal just for minor maintenance don’t make sense to me. With everything accessible, and the mechanics so… mechanical – no black magic – I could get in there and find my way around. I self-serviced the distributor, rotor, ignition leads, spark plugs, coolant system, air filter, battery, and with help have done engine and transmission oil changes, changed brake pads, fuel filter, worked on the carburetor, alternator, and replaced a wheel bearing. I basically had a brand new car.
I got the Alto when it had about 165,000k’s on the clock (though the odometer only has five digits!) We reluctantly parted ways at 223,500k’s as I was relocating to a city with many, many hills. I couldn’t bare to forever lose the car, so gave it to family as a runabout where it happily trucked along to 236,635ks when it “blew up” because “it was accidentally overfilled with oil” and “was a complete write off” – no, I may not agree with that assessment. If I had the garage space, I would’ve shipped the car to me and fixed it myself – just to prove a point. Alas, that wasn’t an option. The registration was put on hold and has been sold to someone who, I believe, hopes to get it back on the road. I hope the Amazing Alto’s personality lives to terrorize the streets another day.
The cars I have owned, past and present, in chronological order.
Sub-Four Wheels of Fury.
They aren’t cars (or if they are, they are the Reliant Robin), and they have less than four wheels, but I owned them.
Cars I didnt own, but had a big part to play in my life.