Rat Rod Rescue




Introduction: Rat Rod Rescue

About: Fixer, Finder, Fabricator. I teach engineering to high school students, at St Marys Secondary College in Nathalia VIC Australia

I've been wanting to build a Rat Rod for some time, and have been keeping an eye out for something suitable for a low budget bulid. Australia doesn't have as many cool old cars like the USA so I would have to settle for something not so cool. So I wanted something with 2 doors chrome bumpers and rear-wheel drive. An old Toyota pickup/ Hilux came up at a junkyard I had to have it.

I finally got my Hilux its only 2 months late, the wrecker I bought it from had a problem getting it out as his forklift kept getting stuck in in the mud. So I had to wait until things dried out.

It has a couple of things missing, two doors the ignition barrel, the carburettor, and the front bumper.

My long term plan is to convert it to a short wheelbase and put another engine in it. It has an 18r and I would like the twin-cam 18rg but they are as rare as rocking horse sh!t, my next choice would be a 4age, but they are also getting hard to come by.

My 3rd choice would be a 7afe, mostly because they are plenty of them around, they are cheap and light, less than 120kgs

I've done a few engine swaps, and I'm looking to remove weight more than adding power, if anyone wants to know why I'm not going down the big engine path.

Step 1: Cleaning

All I've done so far is pressure wash the hell out of it and cut and
polished a few panels, I'm not going to paint it, I want it to look old and well used but looked after, so ill get everything as shiny as I can even the rust.

Here are some photos, the hood and fenders came up well with 1200 sand
paper and a buff, paint that rubbed trough is the look I'm going for.

The lines on the tub are approximately how much it going to be shortened

Step 2: Getting the Engine Running

I did a bit more over the last few days, the engine was missing the carb, and I didn't want to spend any money on an engine of unknown condition. I found a free carb off a Mazda or ford 626, so I made a carb spacer with a 3d printer and some gaskets with a laser cutter. The engine now runs but idles a little rough, I'll go over it and check the valve clearances, point, plugs and leads.

Now just got to fix the clutch cylinders and ill be able to move it around the yard.

The 3d printer carb block is not a long-term fix, I fully expect it to fall to bits it will just be used to get the Hilux moving, No road trips.

I've also come across another engine, a 3sge, out of an MR2 which I can get cheap. Again not my first choice, but probably easier to fit, as the Toyota Y engine gearbox fits on the engine.

It would have to have the distributor and in the back of the engine removed and replaced with a coil on plug arrangement.

Well, that sucks! got the engine running, bleed the clutch and brakes, as both went to the floor, now both pedals feel like they work. Put it into gear and I get nothing.

The clutch is likely burnt out, or maybe the gearbox is broken, anyway, more work and I'll still have to push it around.

Step 3: The Tear Down

Finally got some time to get back to the Hilux, It hasn't rained here for months and as soon as I start so does the rain!
Anyways pulled the tub off and every nut and bolt wanted to pick a fight, so it took a lot longer than I hoped. I've pulled off the exhaust, fuel tank, driveshaft, wiring, brake lines and cables. I also cut off 2 of the brackets that hold the tub down. Also gave it a clean with a pressure washer as there is nearly 40 years crud to remove. So it's already for marking out and cutting. The wheelbase will be 215mm shorter to make it the same as a factory short wheelbase which we don't get in Australia.

No rust holes so far, and I'm still looking for a couple of doors. I keep screw up the photos on this site, hopefully, it makes sense

Step 4: Marking Out and Cutting

Did a bit more on the Hilux today, cut 215mm out of the chassis and fitted it back together again. Spent a fair amount of time marking and checking everything, and then went nuts with the grinder.

I found a small farm inside the chassis rails which had to be excavated, and after much fiddling, and checking its all ready to be welded. I've got a friend who is a welder, so it shouldn't break, fingers crossed.

Step 5: Welding the Frame

The inside of the frame was reinforced with 3mm flat and tech screwed in to place while the final measurements were taken and tack welded together. A friend who is a welder did the final weld, and the tech screws removed and the hole plug welded.

Step 6: Cutting the Front of the Tub

I got to do a little more on the hilux today. I cut the front of the tub down 215mm, and it went reasonably smoothly. I left an extra 20mm to fold over so I can spot weld the front back in. I made a buck with a bit of particleboard and it folded over no problems at all.

I put the tub back on the frame just to check for fit, and so far so good. For the amount I cut out of it the result is not really noticeable unless you look at the before photos.

Once I get the front of the tub welded back in, I'll cut another piece out of the rear of the tub. That will be the challenging cut to get right, I'm still not sure how I'm going to do it.

Step 7: Putting It Back Togther

The front panels had all the spot welds removed and the prepared to be welded back in, it all went very smoothly and came together, without any issues.

Step 8: Cutting the Rear of the Tub

I got to do a bit more work on the Hilux, I cut a 185mm strip out of the bum, here are some photos. it all went well apart from the floor which I messed up somehow, next up welding it back together. I should have never marked out the floor with the blue tape, its a bit gappy in places, I may have to cut another 10mm out of it, to fix the gaps

It makes the truck look much smaller, cant wait to put some fat wheels on and lower it.

Step 9: Wheels and Lowering the Front

A friend turned up with some 16" AU falcon wheels, which are a really good offset for the Hilux and don't stick out to far. The price was right ... free! even better. I lowered the front a couple of inches, the back needs to come down at least 3 inches. I'll clean them up and paint them at some stage. I also go an email from a guy with some doors, so looks like it's all coming together.

Step 10: Doors and Lowering the Back

Did a little more work on "shorty" I managed to drop the rear around 2-3 inches by shorting the shackles and putting 1" lowering blocks under the axle. Its made the truck sit much more level. Also, my doors arrived, though it was a buy the doors get the truck free deal if anyone in north Victoria wants some parts...

Step 11: A Bit of Wiring and Fitting Doors

So did a little more work on shorty, fitted the doors, although they will come off again when I get some yellow paint.
I went to replace the turn signal/ wipers switches and found they were different. The white Hilux is an 83 the yellow an 80. The wiring plug is quite different. so I cut it off and soldered the old plug on. 3 feet of solder and a foot of heat shrink later it looks like it will work. Thankfully they used the same colour wires for everything so it wasn't too hard to change the plug.

Step 12: Seats and Dash

I was able to do a bit more work on shorty today. I replace the seats with some late 90s Hilux seats, unfortunately, they are not a bolt in, and I had to remove the mounts from the old seats and fabricate parts as the mounting points are quite a bit wider on the new seats.

Next, I stripped the dash and cleaned everything and the speedo and removed the dash pad and replaced it. I'm waiting for some carpet to arrive and the inside should be a bit more presentable.

Step 13: The Clutch and Other Stuff

I've done a bit more, welded the tub back together and shorten the drive
shaft, park brake cables and exhaust. Also fixed up a couple of dents in the tub and removed the strips. We have had a heatwave and the temps been about 50C degrees that's 122F and it's even hotter in the shed so I'm not doing much more until it cools down a bit. Bloody stupid Aussie weather, fine one day on fire the next. Just got to fix the clutch which is gearbox out and find somewhere for the gas tank to fit, and it should be good to go.

As you can see the clutch had a small problem. The back of the tub is almost finished, some progress photos above

Step 14: Headlights and First Drive

Here are some more pics, I've welded the bum back on, and replace the clutch. Replace the headlights with LEDs and they have the indicators and park lights inside. Painted the grill and headlight surrounds, seatbelts temporary fuel tank and lots of little jobs and it can now be driven. Goes quite well considering its an 18r engine from the wrecker. I've got to paint the ugly doors and find a bumper.

Step 15: Fuel Injection

Keeping with my low budget, I decided rather than buy a new carby that I would fuel inject the engine. Sounds wrong but a good Weber carb is around $500, I can inject it way cheaper. So far I found a centre point throttle body off a ford falcon which almost bolts straight on the Toyota manifold, a little filing and a custom gasket and it will be done. I got a couple of water temp sensors from a commodore (V6 GM) and to my surprise when a pulled the smog crap off they screwed straight in. One will be used for an air temp sensor. I built a Megasquirt ECU years ago for a friend and he no longer wants it,

So far the parts have been scrounged and the total cost so far is $0

Just got to find a fuel pump, O2 sensor and bung, and convert the dizzy to electronic. A bit of wiring and fuel lines, and it should be good to go.

Step 16: More Wiring

I got anO2 sensor off a ford falcon and the bung for the exhaust for free and got that fitted, so just got to pick up the ECU and start wiring.

So started making the wiring loom for the Megasquirt ECU and I had to spend some money on the plug $10, and some wire, $10. The heat skrink I had in the shed all shrunk, (did I mention it gets bloody hot here) so I had to buy some more $13 for a box full. I might do some more when it cools down, its around 40C or 104 F and even hotter in my shed, Im not liking this long hot summer at all ...

So After much mucking around with a new USB to serial adaptor, drivers,
settings, and swearing the ECU is now talking to the laptop. So a bit more wiring, fuel lines and pump it should be good to fire up.

Step 17: Its Alive!

Shortys Alive! After fitting the throttle body and finishing the wiring she fired up first try. I had to adjust the idle, but man does the engine run sweet. It was idling at 400rpm, so I bumped it up a little. I haven't driven on the road yet as I run out of wire for the fuel pump so the tank is on the ground at the moment, as soon as that's fixed it ill be time for tuning. I can already tell it going to go a heap better than the carb set up.

If you want to replace your carb I can recommend the EA falcon throttle body they pretty much bolt straight on, a couple of custom gaskets a bit of filing on the Toyota base isolator and a couple of washers and your done

Took shorty up the road, even without a proper tune it goes way better.
It now has a fantastic intake noise when you floor it, and easily pulls a burnout in my shed. Just need someone to go for a drive while I turn it on the laptop or find a dyno.

Oh, I also better replace the points with an electronic ignition before I get to far...

I put in the electronic ignition, and I got a mate to drive while I made some adjustments to the fuel map, turns out it was running very lean, so it now goes better than ever. The oil light came on, but it turns out it was only the pressure switch crapped itself. I've got a small coolant leak from the heater tap to fix, and oil leak from the front crank seal. The fuel lines need tidying up and I'm going to remove the old fuel pump off the engine.

I'm sure there's more to do, the engine and suspension need a good clean.

Step 18: The Oil Leak and Other Random Stuff

I replaced the front crank seal, but it turns out it wasn't really leaking that bad, the front timing cover has a crack in it. Looks like the chain has rubbed from the inside or something has been crashing around in there. It's a bit strange as there is no timing chain rattle or other strange noises, so I cleaned it up and put JB weld over the crack. Seems to have fixed the problem.

I don't really want to spend to much time or money on the engine, as I would like to replace it with something a bit more modern. The head-on an 18 r is truly horrible, pre crossflow, intake and exhaust bolted together, cast iron, 2 timing chains, that said it goes really well, the fuel injection has brought it to life.

The inside of the tub was wire wheeled and give a coat of epoxy clear coat and I finally found a front bumper and fitted it to the vehicle

I've replaced the shocks, and I'm trying out these wheels I got for free, I don't really like the look of them, but they are very lightweight and fit great.

Just been driving around doing a bit of turning on the ECU. The engine goes like a rocket, very easy to smoke the tires at the lights, and soo much fun in the wet.

Step 19: Photos and Still to Come

The Hilux has been to a couple of car shows and it gets a bit of attention, as the shortening and lowering makes it look quite different from the standard Hilux we get in Australia. Most car nuts think its an old Datsun but have to look again when they see Toyota on the tailgate.

The project is great fun, and I still have plans to paint to doors, and the chassis put some carpet in, and maybe replace the engine with something a bit more modern.

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    2 years ago

    I so wish I was your neighbour. Great project!


    Reply 2 years ago

    thanks dave


    2 years ago

    Hi there,

    Read your Instructable in depth 'cos many out there like me do not know how to modify or make something work when the original part fails. I am keen to know more from your Instructable as certain areas were not in detail and made me more curious to find the answers from your knowledge. If may I ask...
    Where do you look to check compatibility for a carb? You have used a carb off a Mazda or ford 626, I wouldn't imagine it would fit 'cos Toyota is a Toyota and and it won't fit part taken from another car.

    An engine such as 3sge, out of an MR2, is a mid engine and mounts in transverse with the differential/gearbox arrangement. The Hilux engine is a inline, so how would a transverse engine work inline?

    Also, how did you figure it out that 3sge engine would specifically fit with y engine gearbox? What mods would you do?

    How do you do that "back of the engine removed and replaced with a coil on plug arrangement"?

    After shortening the rear tub how did you weld the tub back together? Just by fillet weld or any other technique? And what about the weld strength?

    Shortening the drive shaft, you mean the tube (Cardan shaft)? Did you just weld together with a fillet weld? Any details would be great beneficial!

    When fabricating parts as the mounting points of the seat, some detailed photos would help.

    About the Fuel Injection, you used a centre point throttle body off a ford falcon which almost bolts straight on the Toyota manifold. In my own world I never imagined fuel injectors mounted on a manifold other than the cylinder head. How did you find out about the compatibility and using a manifold as a means of mounting the Fuel injectors?

    You have used a couple of water temp sensors from a commodore (V6 GM). A water sensor used as air temp sensor? That's magic! How did you find out and chose a specific ones from commodore?

    I have never heard of Megasquirt ECU, on top you built/programmed yourself, how?

    The fuel pump and O2 sensor off a ford falcon, how did you choose and make it to be compatible with the Toyota?

    You have used a bung for the exhaust, any specific compatible ones?

    You made it sound easy to convert a mechanical talking engine to an electronic talking: "new USB to serial adaptor, drivers, settings, and swearing the ECU is now talking to the laptop. So a bit more wiring, fuel lines and pump it should be good to fire up"

    If replacing a carb, you recommended the EA falcon throttle body. How did you find out?

    "drive while I turn it on the laptop or find a dyno", this was news to me, I saw on TV that this was achieved using Dyno only.

    How did you make adjustments to the fuel map or other related variables? I can only see a screen shot of the charts.

    I am a Mechanical Engineer by profession, however I see you deserve the kudos!!

    Keep it up!


    Reply 2 years ago

    So many questions..... thanks for reading Ill try and answer some of them. first of all Ive been around cars and wrecking yards since I was 10 years old, and got a job as an automotive engineer in NZ, so Ive had a lot of experience with Hot rods and making things work. when I started cars were expensive and hard to get parts for so everyone had to repair their old cars with whatever they could find to make it work.
    Mazda carb.
    as long as the carb is off a similar sized engine and you can get to bolt up and seal it will work.
    3sge engine.
    Ive pretty much decided to go with the 4age engine, however there are lots of forums about using FWD engines in RWD applications the most common been the 20V 4age Im still thinking about the distributor problem
    Ive done lots of drive shafts, that would be an instructable by its self. i use a different method to the video but it works for this guy

    Mega squirt still available and work well with the GM sensors thats why I used the them. That fact that they screwed straight in was just dumb luck.
    EA falcons are unique to New Zealand and Australia, and are getting hard to get, but I was lucky enough to find one at a wrecking yard. the fact that it fitted so well was just a bonus.
    Your right you should tun it on the dyno, but I don't have one near by so I got a friend to drive while I sat in the passenger seat with the laptop making adjustments. It worked OK, could always be better.
    I ll see if I can get you some screen shots


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for taking the time to reply!

    Keep up with your work and good luck!


    2 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this. Your thorough listing of all the steps, all the setbacks and all the wins, made it a great story. And you make me miss my 1965 Galaxie 500. I'm so glad you've built this - the world is a better place with you and your truck in it.


    2 years ago

    Amazing job! You make it sound so easy. I guess it is when you have such deep knowledge of the topic. Thanks for the tour!


    Reply 2 years ago

    I concur! Even though it's a lot of work, and he says so, he has such a breezy way of going about it to make it sound so easy. It must be a combination of that Aussie "no problem, mate" way of going about things, accompanied with the skills of a true craftsman.


    2 years ago on Step 19

    HOLY buckets! This isHoly amazing. Grew up two miles from the General Motors Plant (factory) one of many in Michigan, ( one of many plants), and I knew some motor heads, but I never saw anything like this!

    This gives me tremendous hope for the world- all these heaps of non running cars, that have been deemed worthless, or scrapped out, really could be made to run? We need a freaking academy on this. This is planet saving genius. This is the way forward. Are you all self taught? Do you work as a mech?

    I know in the rat rod/ hot rod world, you guys do this stuff, but think about how we could fix the planet if all those heaps of cars could somehow be transformed.

    You did great with the photos, but I wish I had the skills to do half this. Once cars got computers, it was over for me. Btw. I keep my heat shrink tube in the fridge. (Sewing machine mechanic)


    Reply 2 years ago

    When I was a kid a worked after school at a wrecking yard and then got an apprenticeship as an automotive engineer, in New Zealand. At the time cars were very expensive and rust away in no time due to the high humility there. So I got to fix lots of different cars. I moved to Australia and now tech engineering.


    2 years ago

    How dare you call an early eighties Toyota PU a "rat rod"! My faithful '81 with a 23R engine lasted me for 37 years. In all that time only "major" repair was to put a clutch in it! You got a fancy one, tho - push button radio tuning! Loved that truck - it was also faded yellow in color😊


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks its a blast to drive


    2 years ago

    Great job! You are an inspiration! Very well done


    2 years ago

    Well you got my vote! You remind me of my brother, who totally redid a 1962 Chevrolet Corvair that his wife loved! He took the whole thing down to bare metal, repainted inside and out, and reassembled and repaired everything. It was beautiful! As I'm sure your shorty will be when done. Great job!