Thursday, 7 July 2011

My Cefiro #2: Inspection and test drive

Have a look at Post #1 here if you haven't read it yet:
So after getting a bit excited about seeing a promising Cefiro I was going to check out, I jumped in my Civic and made my way up to Vince's compliance workshop in the eastern suburbs. After plenty of stop-start traffic heading up Grand Junction Road mid afternoon, I got to the workshop and parked on the street outside. Walking up the driveway along the main building, I caught a glimpse of the back of the Cefiro through one of the garage doors. Just seeing the wheels and stance, the first thought that came into my head was 'Yeah, I'm going to want this...'

Here's a photo of the first view I got of it. Please excuse the terrible photos in this post, light was bad and I was rather distracted by looking at the car to concentrate on getting good ones. I'll make up for it later on with some half-decent shots, I promise.

Photographer: Rohan Phillips
Camera: Canon Powershot A480
(all photos)

 After chatting to Vince for a bit about the car, I had a bit of a closer look at both the exterior and interior, it looked pretty clean for the most part. There were a few obvious cosmetic problems in the way of the burnt rear bumper above the exhaust, some scratches and a mildly dented front left quarter panel, and the fact the bootlid and bonnet were black. But for a car that's 22 years old, you can't expect it to look like it's just rolled out of the showroom. 

And as I mentioned in post #1, it had a few aftermarket items which were at the level of what I wanted in a car, sans the turbo timer, drainpipe muffler and blow-off valve: 

-Tein coilover suspension all round
-2-way mechanical diff
-Nismo heavy duty clutch
-Strut braces front and rear
-17” Buddy Club P1 wheels
-5 stud conversion
-R33 Skyline brakes
-Sprint sports steering wheel
-Bride bucket seat
-R33 passenger seat
-Apexi boost gauge
-3” turbo back exhaust into 5 inch cannon
-Oil catch can
-Bee-R blow-off valve
- HKS turbo timer

The general condition of the paint and body was quite good. I looked at a Cefiro a few years ago with a friend that had a fair bit of body rust around the windows and such. I couldn't even find a hint of surface rust anywhere on the car, except for a tiny bit on the gouge in the front quarter panel mentioned above. The interior looked really nice and pretty new considering how old the car is. So after a bit more tyre kicking, Vince started the car up and let it idle for a little while to warm up the engine before driving it. Vince was actually keeping the car in his workshop for a friend who owned the car, and if I recall correctly he was in Hawaii when I bought the Ceffy.

 With some impressive maneuvering by Vince to squeeze the Cefiro out of its resting spot and out in the driveway, I had a bit more of a look around the car again in the open shade and sunlight, and took a few quick snapshots as a record.

It's not particularly obvious, but you can see the slightly dented front quarter panel here.

And here's the interior. The Bride seat is really good, holds you in quite snugly. But considering how ridiculously skinny I am, and that it's the right size for me, I'm not sure many people could drive it comfortably. But they're great in the hills, instead of straining to hold your body straight around corners, the Bride seat just holds you in the same spot.

The engine bay. Couple of unnecessary stickers, a glaringly obvious blow-off valve, and missing the coil pack cover, but looked pretty good otherwise.

These steering wheels are really nice to use compared to standard ones, smaller size and made of stitched leather (or maybe imitation leather). You can just see the boost gauge behind the steering wheel.

There aren't heaps of places to put one, but right in front of the speedo and tacho doesn't seem like the best choice, given it blocks the view of the more important gauges.

The 17" Buddy Club P1 racing rims. I tend to prefer dished 5 spoke or BBS mesh wheels better, but I do quite like the look of these. Offset is just right to have them sitting flush with the guards.

As I said before, rear bumper was a bit fried from the exhaust which you can see in these shots. But that's a relatively minor cosmetic blemish easily repaired.

So after having a good look around and taking some photos, it was time for me to get behind the wheel to see what it was like on the road. With a heavy duty aftermarket clutch, the pedal was a lot heavier than the one in the Civic, but I managed to slot it into reverse, and then ease back down the driveway without too much trouble. Vince was in the passenger seat, and while reversing out into the street, I commented how heavy clutches are easier to get used to than light ones. I then proceeded to almost stall the car trying to take off gently in first.

While the clutch wasn't as heavy as some other cars I've driven, it engaged very suddenly and fairly high up, which made things a bit difficult to get used to quickly. Obviously I was erring on the side of caution for stalling, preferring unnecessary revs to bunny-hopping. So I drove about as competently as an L-plater doing their licence test when it came to taking off from a standing start for the first few minutes.

The gearbox felt quite smooth and good for a car this old, as did the engine and suspension. With coilovers all round and a skipping mechanical diff, it wasn't what you would call a comfortable ride, but after years of riding around in and driving kidney-bruising Japanese imports it was nothing different to what I was used to anyway.

I drive my parents' VY Commodore now and then, which has pretty soft standard suspension. After driving something that handles relatively well with good suspension and meaty tyres, like my EG Civic or the Cefiro, you really notice how sloppy normal sedans like a Commodore are. Under acceleration and braking, the VY pitches back and forth quite significantly, rolls from side to side in corners, and when doing both generally wallows around like a ship lost at sea in a storm. I don't usually tend to get carsick as such, but having a car sit flat around bends is a much nicer sensation than feeling like you need to hang onto the windowsills to stop yourself from falling out and/or throwing up.

After giving the Ceffy a bit of a stick on a nearby main road in 1st and 2nd gear to see how it was running, and gauge the sort of power it had, everything seemed to be pretty good so I made the decision that I would buy it. So after weaving through assorted backstreets to return to Vince's workshop, driving a bit more competently than before (not a lot), I parked the car back in the driveway. After awkwardly half-climbing out of the low slung Bride seat, I fished $100 out of my wallet and gave it to Vince as a deposit, planning to return in the next few days with a friend to pick up the car.

Jumping back into the Civic, its clutch was ridiculously light in comparison to the Cefiro, to the extent that I repeatedly kicked my foot to the floor on gear changes at first, as I couldn't feel the take-up point. But after a couple of minutes I returned to driving like a normal person, and as I headed home I started to think about what I could do to the car and the motorsport events I could take part in after forking over the cash.

Coming up in Post #3; the purchase and introducing the car to its new home...

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