It’s this car, my Toyota Corolla E11, that started this My Wife Hates This Car website. This car caused my wife to regret ever telling me about the car. It’s this car that taught me that anything is possible and that nothing is beyond your skills if you’re ready to learn. My Toyota Corolla is, to me, simply the best car ever sold in the United Kingdom. Nay, the world! This is my website, so I have permission to use poetic justice. But while most people will walk past the Corolla, shun it like my wife has, or run off after bumping in to it, it’s quite often the only thing that will make me smile after a long day of dealing with idiots.
The Toyota Corolla in general is one of the best selling cars in the world. There isn’t a corner of the world where you wouldn’t find a Toyota Corolla. And there is a reason for it. It combines space, reliability, and reliability in a package that gives you the confidence that this car will get you from A to B without any drama. We live in troubled times, and the last thing you want is the one dependable thing in your life giving you more drama. Sure, Corolla’s of this age might be a bit vacant looking. But the older they get the more characterful they are. The original Ford Focus came out at the same time, and looked space age. Now though I’d argue they look a bit frumpy, whereas the Toyota Corolla still looks curvy and aerodynamic.
What’s in a name?
Originally, my Corolla was meant to be a stop gap solution for me until I could get rid of the – you guessed it – the hateful Peugeot 3008. That didn’t happen for a few reasons, but I still bought the Corolla and fell in love with it. I shouldn’t have really. It was a £250 car that was heading to the scrap yard before I stepped in to buy it. The car was a throwaway. Instead it’s teaching me so much about car mechanics – and inspired this website!
Yes, I am one of those arsehole’s that name their cars. I’m a firm believer in if you treat something with respect, it will look after you when you need it to. And to me, giving it a name means I have a responsibility to it. It means that I’m more inclined to look after it like I should, and defend it when people take the piss out of it. Something the wife has found out, several times when she’s passed judgement on it. Even after all of the times it’s brought her to work and back. For free!
My Toyota Corolla is simply called “Paddy”. Why? Well during the first MOT I had on the car, I noticed that it’s date of first registration was 17th March 1998. That’s St.Patrick’s Day. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t call it Patrick. But Patrick’s also my name, so I had to shorten it to Paddy. And it stuck.
Labour of love
The more I drove Paddy, the more opportunities I had to think about what to do with the car. Trust me, driving back from Birmingham during rush hour gives plenty of time for people to think. I’d put money on the fact if politicians spent an hour in Birmingham rush hour traffic they’d be able to come up with proper solutions to the problems the country continually faces. But I digress.
One evening I was about a mile away from home, when all of a sudden the car started sounding more throaty and menacing. Part of me enjoyed the sound upgrade that I had been gifted, but most of me was worried that the exhaust was liable to fall off so I hurried home. The back box had completely separated from the rest of the exhaust. No bad thing really, considering it was the original exhaust and it had lasted 19 years! At this point, the speedometer had stopped working, and I decided that now would be a good time for an overhaul.
The only issue though was why had the speedometer stopped working? I had a soft rule in my head that if any one part costs more than what I paid for the car, then I would scrap it. There was a strong possibility that the ECU was toast, which is expensive. It could also have been the speed sensor in the gearbox, the speedometer cable or the clocks in the dashboard. I bought a spare speed sensor from Mr.Toyota for £80, and second hand speedometer cables and speedometer. If I couldn’t get the car running and registering a speed, Paddy the Corolla would’ve gone straight to the scrapyard.
Under the skin
Thankfully that didn’t happen. It turned out it was just the speedometer cable that had snapped going in to the vehicle speed sensor. Once that was changed, I took it for a quick drive, and the speedometer was working again. Work could continue!
I put Paddy up on axle stands, and it taught me my first lesson. Never trust grinders. I went underneath the car, and started to cut the exhaust off with an angle grinder. It looked away for a moment at something and I felt the grinder snag on something. I looked at it and the disc had shattered. I wasn’t wearing glasses or goggles, and there was a shard of the disc near my head. From that point on, whenever I’ve gone near anything with an angle grinder, I wear goggles at a minimum.
Once it was up in the air, the whole suspension was changed. I had driven to Ireland in Paddy a few months before, and if you know the west of Ireland it’s very rural. It’s full of bumpy, undulating roads that really worked the car. The arse of the car would bounce up and down like, erm, you can use your imagination on that one! I fitted KYB Excel-G shocks all round, polyurethane bushes on the front and new rubber bushes on the rear. Everything was going brilliantly until it came to changing the thermostat.
Winter is coming
The Corolla would take absolutely ages to warm up, and struggled to pass it’s MOT on emissions due to the length of time it took to warm up. The cause of this was the thermostat sticking open. It was a quick enough job to change the thermostat, and I thought I did a good job of it. I filled the radiator up with anti-freeze and started to burp the engine. It’s at this point I noticed a steady stream of water from the thermostat housing. No bother I thought, let me just tighten it.
What happened next was that, well, I f**ked it. The technical latin term is “I properly f**kedus upus”. The housing cracked. What made it worse was that in a few days time I was going off to get married. So it had to wait until I got back. When I did get back I bought a new housing and fitted it. Filled it up with anti freeze and then left the car for a year.
For that whole year I walked past it, hating the sight of it, as I felt I had let it down and myself down. But if you’re in that sort of mindset it becomes a vicious circle. You feel bad about not doing it, and that in turn demotivates you. And the cycle continues until something snaps you out of it. What snapped me out of it was someone posting through one of those “We buy scrap cars” several times. I snapped out of the funk I was in, and smashed the work out of the car. Everything put back in its place, tweaked and it started first time! Off to the MOT it went, passed (eventually, on emissions) and that was it. Paddy became my daily again and I loved it. It felt good to have got the car back on the road.
Because of the world we’re in now, “modern classics” are becoming a dying breed. If your car hasn’t got a lithium ion battery, mined from places you couldn’t spell by children you would look away at, then it’s too dirty to drive in the city. It’s total madness, as a 21 year old car that’s done 100,000 miles will have polluted less in its lifetime than a 5 year old Toyota Prius. But I am one man, and I’m not royalty so I can’t get away with bending or breaking the law. For the moment the Toyota Corolla is on borrowed time being on daily driver taking me to and from work.
That doesn’t mean that Paddy will be leaving me. Oh no no no! It gives me the opportunity to turn it in to something special. A replica WRC car! While all the other boys were arguing between the Subaru Impreza or Mitsubishi Evo Lancer, I could not get enough of the Castrol livery of Carlos Sainz’s Toyota Corolla. I thought, and still do think, it’s a beautiful livery. It even won the Monte Carlo rally! That means it’s sort of on par with an original Mini!
So that’s the plan. Turn Paddy the Corolla in to a replica WRC car. Totally possible, and it’ll make it somewhat different when on the road. It will stay road legal, as there is nothing worse than having a car just for track day use. You don’t get to experience the fun of Horseshoe Pass in Wales with a car that can’t drive legally on the road! And it’s definitely something Paddy will get to experience soon. I may even prep it for a go at the Dakar Rally. We can but dream I suppose!
For the time being, I’ll be documenting the work carried out on Paddy, as well as preparing the video I took of it the week I first got the car. Keep an eye out!