QotW: What’s the hardest work you’ve put into a JNC?


This long weekend was Labor Day here in America. In theory, you’re supposed to be free from work during its observance, but most car guys spent it wrenching.

What’s the hardest work you’ve put into a JNC?

This is not our hardest work, just the most recently frustrating, especially during a sweltering heatwave of 90-plus degrees in LA county. We moved a ’77 Corvette into storage, helped a friend buy a 5-speed Subaru wagon, and then attempted a routine brake line job on the JNC Cressida.

Sadly, a hard line broke during the process, resulting in (in no particular order) a barrage of expletives shouted into the night, a bath of brake fluid/sweat/undercarriage grime, and a walk to Autozone to rent a double flaring tool which provided juuuust enough false hope to keep us working past the closing time of any store that could help before twisting itself into a pretzel. Even sadder, everyone we knew was out of town, on vacation like a normal person. With no way to return home, our only option was an old AE86 that had been awaiting wiring harness work for over a year. But like a good old Toyota, it fired right up after everything was reassembled. Total time out: 28 hours.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner of the last QotW, “What non-car Japanese nostalgic vehicle would you love to drive?” 

Honda Motra

Apparently there is much overlap between clever writers and commercial vehicle enthusiasts! There were many entertaining answers to this question: Tj‘s big/small dual choice of the Mazda T2000 and Honda Motocompo, Tyler‘s nomination of the Prince Clipper T631, Tom Westmacott‘s selection of the Mitsubishi Zero, pstar‘s dekotora selection, and Dave‘s nod to the Mazda T2000, just to name a few. But there could be only one winner, and that winner is last week’s runner-up, Wagoneer:

…As far as other non car vehicles go, man that is simply too wide a category. I love that crazy Prince Clipper T631 too for that insane overstyled front. But I also really like Hino buses and the cute little Daihatsu Midget three wheeler. Hmm…. time to look at some of the vehicles that have stuck in my mind over the years. And it comes down to 2:

SO… my No. 2 choice is the Toyota Dyna step-van used by the Japanese Yamato Transport Company. With their cheerful turquoise and beige color scheme, smiling cat logo, plethora of stickers and large lettering – these vans just look like rolling kindergartens! I love the simple utilitarian design that is clean and not over fussed. Its just all raw function over any real beauty. Heres a picture of the exact model I am thinking about:


However, cool as those vans are, it just cannot beat my No. 1 choice: The Honda CT50 Motra cargo scooter from 1982. Part jeep, part scooter, part Tonka toy, but all bad-ass! I can just imagine traveling around Japan with only the minimum of possessions strapped to the two small cargo racks and a tent on my back to sleep in. This would be just at home zig-zagging between trams in Hiroshima, exploring the coast roads and villages outside Matsue, or just cruising through Shibyua in Tokyo at night. And colour-wise it has to be the military green version to fit its A-team BA Baracus looks. Obviously the slow speed of the 50cc motor combined with my large Danish frame will only serve as a hilarious source of entertainment to passers-by. The Motra is so awesome that someone even recreated the original font which was used for the logo. Its the inspiration behind todays Honda Zoomer but so much more macho. Just check out this original advertising image:


Omedetou, Your comment has earned you a rare Hot Wheels Super Speeders mystery pack Mazda RX-7!


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23 Responses to QotW: What’s the hardest work you’ve put into a JNC?

  1. Nakazoto says:

    Hands down doing the clutch on a Mazda Carol 360!
    I spent 4 hours a day everyday for a week trying to get it to bleed only to never have it work. With just two before the car had to ship out, I built a mechanical clutch system from scraps.

    Full story here:

  2. DerrickS says:

    Well, I swapped out a bad transmission on my 84 Rx7 GSL-SE all by my lonesome, but that really wasn’t that hard since the 5-speed is so light. I built a wooden jig to sit on top of my hydraulic jack that cradled the transmission while I worked it out and back in.
    No, the hardest work I’ve done to the five letter was to completely rebuild the suspension, which for the front end was a lot of work. Wheel bearings, ball joints, tie rod ends, bushings, strut inserts, springs, pitman arm, idler arm… All of it. Getting the the struts apart was a real pain. The rear end however was a walk in the park.

  3. Darryl says:

    Searching for old school rotary sheet metal. Never ending quest….especially Rx4 stuff.

  4. invinciblejets says:

    Chasing hesitation problems on an rx7……………God I’m tired

  5. A complete bare-to-the-shell restoration (with some deep jdm-influence) on my 240Z (well it’s a one-out-of-two project), have been working 3 years on it and soon it will go to the bodyshop 😉
    Check it out here:

  6. Dave says:

    I don’t have a real nostalgic (…yet), but I’ll tell this story just for fun. It’s petty and awful work, not exciting at all.

    I have an RX-8 (16 years ’till it becomes a JNC). On some of them, a peanut-sized spring in the door lock actuator would snap, rendering the door impossible to unlock. This happened to my driver’s side door. Apparently dealers and shops are unwilling to and/or clueless about how to fix this, so I proceeded to remove the interior door panel myself WITH THE DOOR SHUT. That in itself took a lot of labor, sweat, and yelling. It took me all afternoon to pull off the panel, and miraculously I did it without causing any real visible damage. Then came the bloody part. I had to feel around inside the door to locate the actuator, which of course was completely enclosed in a plastic box. I then sawed it open, sticking my hand through the jagged opening to feel around the actuator mechanism to try to unlock it. Through this process I learned 1) there are a lot of raw sheet metal edges inside the door and 2) they are sharp. Eventually I happened to push on the right tab and unlocked the door. My hands and arms were covered in bloody cuts and grease from the lock actuator. It was only an afternoon of work, but it was an afternoon of intense pain and hardship…

  7. Jun says:

    Replacing the trans and clutch in my Z last weekend is something I’d rather not do again. But the worst part of it was removing the old pilot bushing. Talk about an experience! Hopefully I’ve earned many miles of trouble free shifting before I have to endure that process a 2nd time.

    All said and done, the Z now shifts and drives beautifully, but ugh…I cringe at the thought of having to do the same to my wagon, which also has a trans and clutch waiting by its side.

  8. j3wman says:

    Doing brakes on my old AW11. Nbd right?

    It was going great until the right front caliper was seized then every bolt holding it together broke, then the brake line broke. fixed all that 13 hours later.

    next day…
    back brakes. caliper seized, broke 3 bolts. and the bracket somehow was bent. well that lead me to say screw this car. i sold it and traded it for my EA82 Subaru GL-10… which just blew its headgasket. here we go again…

  9. Dillan says:

    Changing a timing belt on an AW11, you will leave pissed off and with bloody knuckles.

    • Dillan says:

      To reiterate, it’s not necessarily the hardest work that you could put into a JNC, it’s just that something that isn’t so difficult is an absolute nightmare on these cars.

      • j3wman says:

        Also its not as hard as the “had to replace the 12a in my rx7 on a mountain during a blizzard with a 99 piece craftsman socket set” story im gonna hear. but its the worst ive had to deal with thus far.

    • j3wman says:

      Did my water pump and i broke a bolt, i know all about bloody and pissed off

    • cesariojpn says:

      But…but…Edd China made it look so easy on Wheeler Dealers…..

  10. _John says:

    Getting my 510 home from buying it. Flew down to North Carolina and started the trek home. 60 miles from Johnson CIty, TN a piston decided to come out of the side of the block. 4 hours on the side of the road before a tow truck could show up. Towed into Johnson City and got a room for the night while the car was at a shop (I didn’t know the piston tried to escape until the next morning). Not having the time to wait 2 days for a replacement engine I rented a 17 foot U-haul (smallest they had at the time) and a tow dolly. Took all day to drive back to Odenton, MD. I was just glad to get home. Had a new engine in not too long after.

  11. kyle allen says:

    I picked up a 72 240z this summer for the princely sum of $900 and learned the hard way that you should never buy a $900 sportscar. New rear hatch. New seats. New floorboard. New dash. New wheels. Removed half a dozen layers of paint. Pulled the motor. Replaced a chunk of the frame rail. And just today I pulled a rats nest out of the heater. I put in my two weeks at work just so I have more time to work on it before school starts. Soooo worth it tho! Its a 240!!

  12. John says:

    Went to Walmart found a challenger drift car treasure hunt and the 89ish batmobile. Waiting for that rx7 treasure hunt but canada is so far behind

  13. cesariojpn says:

    You ever try and hunt down a second hand solenoid for an AT AE86? Rare as hen’s teeth.

  14. Andrew L says:

    Three years after my best friend moved up north, he called me up to tell me that his old ’88 Accord sedan was still down in Tennessee in the storage facility where he’d left it, and I could have it if I wanted. Well he mailed me the key and I drove out to the place, found the Accord parked in the back of the facility, half covered in mossy dust, tires dead flat and dry, pop-ups frozen, everything covered in bird poop. Breaking the Three Year Seal of the driver door sounded like an episode of Double Dare.
    Anyway I got it back to the house and set to work. The mechanicals of the car itself weren’t that bad, but 3 years in the U-Haul back lot had left the Accord with a crazy wasp infestation. There were nests under the hood, all through the trunk and undercarriage, inside the filler door, and even one under the door handle I discovered by accident (yay).
    A case of wasp spray later, I was digging through the random detritus that my friend had left behind in the car: a nametag from the grocery store he used to work at, a bowling ball, an unfinished essay from English, etc. I mailed it all to him in a box marked ‘Time Capsule’.
    The Accord was his grandmother’s car before his, and I’d spent a lot of my childhood in it, so I was determined to get it back in good shape. I cleaned and repaired a lot of stuff, started it up, and then heard a massive bang from the back. Turns out some creature had built a nest in the tailpipe/muffler and the whole muffler split in half when the engine finally cranked up.
    After replacing most of the exhaust, I got it running again and fixed it up pretty well. Ended up passing it along to another one of our high school friends who needed a car, so it stayed in the “family”, and it’s been serving him loyally ever since.

  15. dickie says:

    If you consider the Star/Formula Mazda a JNC (which you should, given that it consists of an FC-sourced 13B caged inside of a Hayashi designed tube chassis first produced in 1983), my job was to tear these apart and put them back together when I wasn’t busy keeping them them running on- and off-track.

    Normal weekends consisted of everything from cleaning and polishing the car’s fiberglass bodywork to tearing down gearboxes for inspection, rebuilding and gearset changes. Race weekends were a little bit different; the duties were the same but the environment was drastically different from the clean shade of the workshop. Lying on scorching tarmac or submerged in mud and oily water in the paddock was typical. Performing a clutch or gearset replacement on a hot car in the time between qualifying and race sessions is what I’d consider “hard work,” but to the Boss it was just a fact of life.

    The hardest I’ve ever worked on one of these cars was at Hallett. Although our shop is the exclusive manufacturer of new chassis and vehicle-specific parts and the Boss owns the rights, this particular car had been prepared elsewhere and had a lot of peculiar and out-of-date details. One was the wiring harness, which shorted and caught fire during the weekend. We took matters into our own hands and had the car stripped to skin and bones in short order, and the Boss wasted no time cutting out the bad portion and replacing it, including proper routing.

    At this point, I got to listen to him tell me about an incident from his NASCAR days in which the wiring behind his dash panel started to pop and smoke during a race. Not one to give up, he pulled off and literally ripped out the tangled mess and hotwired the bare necessities to get back in the race.

    With that done, the car was ready to roll again… until the next day. After the day was done and we had cleaned up our trailer, we learned that the same car was suffering from a worn clutch. The tools came back out and we worked late into the night. Clutch replacement on these cars requires separating the gearbox from the engine and the chassis, which we made quick work of, then the obvious task of removing and replacing the disc and pressure plate before stabbing the box and reconnecting the mounts and axles. After the job was done and the car was back together, we made the trip to the hotel only to be back out at the track before dawn later that morning.

    Here’s the heartbreaker from the weekend: The car ran flawlessly right up to the last laps where the driver had an off that led to a collision with a tire wall. Thanks to the shear plates that connect the corners to the chassis, this meant that the left rear wheel had been torn off and folded under the car and the rear wing and mounts had crumpled. The chassis itself appeared to be tweaked ever-so-slightly off true, meaning a complete rebuild would be required to get it back into competitive shape. We rode back to the paddock in the wrecker with the car suspended, looking sort of like a giant dead fish. Now that I think about it, I should have had someone take a picture of me next to it “catch of the day” style.

    Dusk saw everyone packing it in and leaving the track. Everyone except us. We were busy trying to get the ruined car onto a dolly so we could load the trailer. The normally tight fit was made even tighter by the bent and fractured suspension and wing parts occupying space they weren’t supposed to, but we eventually made it home alive sometime before 4am, in time for me to get home and ready to show up for my weekday 9-5 office job. And the story still doesn’t end there – we were contracted to rebuild the car for the next race in the series. I won’t go into detail on that, suffice to say it involved replacement of pretty much every suspension component, wing mount and surface as well as some creative fabrication on the rear frame.

    It kind of puts every engine swap in my sweltering, cramped garage and every field-expedient patch up on the side of the road to shame.

  16. Datsun Violet says:

    A better question is what is the Toyota doing at Walden Speed Shop ?

  17. Kuroneko says:

    > cruising through Shibyua in Tokyo at night. And colour-wise it has to be the military green
    > version to fit its A-team BA Baracus looks. Obviously the slow speed of the 50cc motor
    > combined with my large Danish frame will only serve as a hilarious source

    Actually, they’re not that small. Bigger than a Zoomer, but not as big as a PS250. Here’s one on the streets of Shibuya in a rather fetching pastel shade with matching Kurtz:



  18. ewokracing says:

    Changed a motor after a 12 hour day at work. Finished at 2am. Got up early the next day to do house renovation stuff.

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