Posts filed under “Buying shit I don't need with money I do need”

The title of this category is shamelessly stolen from Sam Hard of Hard Up Garage.

I regret nothing.

Coming soon: Banging choons

Blaupunkt Vancouver SQR 45 head unit

This is a Blaupunkt Vancouver SQR 45 head unit. As I am told, it was originally fitted to some expensive, high-end German cars. I believe, but do not know, it would have been fitted to the Porsche 944, and possibly the Porsche 911. Hopefully, someone coming here via a search engine will be able to correct me some day.

I got this for free, some years ago. Via some chain of events that I'm probably better off not knowing about, it ended up in my mum's 1988 Suzuki SJ410. A few years ago this Blaupunkt was, while still functioning, acting a little erratically, so it got replaced by a much more modern unit with a CD player, USB, and all those other things that people in the 1980s did not know they needed. This head unit was going to go in the bin. I thought it was too nice to go to landfill, and that some day it'd be a nice addition to Mazda Amy (which lacks a stereo), so I saved it.

Then some time passed, and with my car mostly working as it should, I decided I should actually do something with this stereo, so I got in touch with Bal from Retro Car Audio UK who did a refurb to bring it back to life. This cost me £260, which for most people doesn't resemble "cheap". I would not want this work to be done cheaply, because you get what you pay for. And this work was done on a rather rare head unit that I have seen selling for £200+ in working condition (not "refurbished by a pro and works exactly like new", as anything is when Bal is done with anything), I think the price was extremely reasonable. I could probably make a small profit selling it, though I don't plan on doing that.

The failure sheet, quoted directly from Bal, was this:

Power supply stiffening circuit malfunctioning

Radio PLL synthesizer circuit failure

Capacitor failure throughout - I will replace all electrolytic capacitors.

Cassette mechanism needs a full service

Volume pot oxidized

So it goes. Hey, Lewis-logic says it was a free stereo! Just like that time I bought a "cheap" Mazda 323, ha ha...

Anyway. It's here. It's lovely. Bal has done an extraordinary job. There are some practicalities I need to work out, though.

The UK edition 323 GTX had the stereo as an option in the "Lux" version of the car (that edition also including a body-coloured bodykit and alloy wheels). This stereo system only had two tiny speakers in the dashboard. The Rallye edition never had a stereo, but retains the two places where speakers would have been. Now, this car is extremely loud, because of its minimal sound deadening and 3" straight-through exhaust, and might get even louder in the near future via a tubular manifold and probably an obnoxious, totally illegal external wastegate. I'm not convinced that two tiny speakers are going to supply sufficient loudness, even with today's speakers being vastly superior to anything that existed in the 1980s.

But, I will not cut 6x9 holes in the parcel shelf I spent years trying to find (though I did briefly troll my brother, who acquired it for me, into thinking I would do just that, which was fun), or cut speaker holes in my even rarer original door cards. I need something stealthy. I think I can use the space under the front seats for a couple of compact subs, and maybe use the coin/random shit holder below the diff lock switch in the centre console for a small mid speaker.

There's also the small matter of getting the head unit to fit into the hole where a stereo should be. This may require home-brewed brackets!

Something that is not a practicality concern is the lack of an aux jack. Cheap tape adapters that you can buy for so little money that they may as well come free in your Corn Flakes are, by all accounts, remarkably good. Technology Connections from the YouTube explains why:

And because I like physical buttons, because I have a huge MP3 collection, and because I like not farting around with my phone while I am driving (it goes in my glovebox, on silent, and yours should too): this is probably going to be paired with a 5th generation iPod, running Rockbox. Or maybe I'll start a tape collection instead!

I'm also not totally happy with the backlight of the LCD on this one being green, when the illumination for the rest of the dash is consistently yellow/orange, but I'll park that one, for now.

Ah well, I'll poke around things this weekend. One expensive thing at a time.



This week's problem: extremely low engine idle speed. It wants to sit at about 200-300 RPM, which is so low that it stalls or near-stalls the engine. This happened out of nowhere yesterday. This, only takes a few minutes to fix with a screwdriver.

So, instead of solving that problem I got a Bad Obsession Motorsport sticker for my horn push! And doesn't it look good.

Bad Obsession Motorsport horn push sticker

It's actually lovely quality (it's very thick), and I reckon that's given me about another 15 horsepower. Or maybe it hasn't, but it's definitely a good idea to represent the greatest angle-grinder engineers in the world.


A parcel shelf!

Mazda 323 BF parcel shelf

It took me five years to find one of these in usable condition. And even then I could not find one! Instead, my brother did, because he has a weird skill of finding parts that don't exist. Back when he owned it, he somehow managed to source rear seats for it (the owner before him removed them and binned them, because racecar), and what might have been the last three 323 GTX rear arch repair panels in the country. And Alex delivers again! He managed to find a parcel shelf in the United States, priced at $100 (plus the usual horrific shipping costs).

The interior, then, is now complete, other than the boot carpet situation, which the parcel shelf allows me to ignore. The parcel shelf definitely needs a clean (that'll be my lunchtime project for tomorrow, because working from home is pretty great), but otherwise it's in awesome condition.

Today's episode of "shipping from the US is madness" thing (previously): I have still not worked out whether and under what criteria I will be paying import VAT for anything I import from abroad. I had to pay £28 on this $100 parcel shelf, yet paid none on my short shifter & bush kit, or on my as-yet-unfitted digital dashboard (all of which are worth substantially more than $100). If it's not actually random, the criteria are obscure enough that it may as well be!

Unrelated story from today: A chap spots my car outside the shop - as I learned, he is a mechanic by trade and a petrolhead - and told me that he's heard it driving around but can't work out whether it's turbocharged or whether it's supercharged. Yeah, maybe I really should stop ignoring that timing belt whine...

Biting the bullet

Receipt for my K-Sport coilovers. £850.95

So, that was expensive, but what can you do. (Other than not owning old shit that is nigh-on impossible to get parts for. I should have thought about that five years ago!)

My car is running a fairly horrible mongrel suspension setup. Shortly after she came off the road in 2007, she gained some custom-made rear shocks from Gaz, as part of my brother's work to get her road-legal after her last MOT failure. These were, and still are, very nice; as good as you would expect from tailor-made stuff by Gaz. They're still on springs of unknown provenance and unknown age, which I intended to replace at some point.

The front ones, on the other hand, are awful; they look like budget coilovers from a completely different car (quite possibly a Mark 2 VW Golf) that were bodged to fit. In other words, they were shit coilovers, that are now old and shit coilovers that feel terrible. They also sit far too low. Weird, I know, someone with a modified Japanese car saying such a thing; except I actually like driving my car on the road, and me driving anywhere means driving some distance on Norfolk back-roads. As much as I like "the lows", I like not having a smashed sump even more.

As you may have guessed, with the GTX being a very rare car and the suspension being specific to the GTX, I do not have many off-the-shelf suspension options; there are only K-Sport and D2 coilovers available for it.[1] Bear in mind that the UK market for any 323 GTX part is about five people, myself included.[2]

I was kinda ignoring the suspension issue, mostly because I'm cheap and it handles well enough (tiny wheelbase, 4wd, and good rubber goes an awfully long way). But after multiple painful bottoming-out incidents on the back roads, and with everything being vague on those roads at very high speed, and seeing these selling for about £200 less than I had last seem them sold...this had to be done. It's overdue.

I'll update when they are here and fitted. I suspect this is going to be a massive improvement; you'll probably get a review out of this.

Aside: yeah I've done this one before, but what is the deal with shipping from the United States? I did notice that these were available from the US, for significantly less money, and I might have been tempted to save a few quid by waiting roughly six years for these to make their way across the Atlantic. And then I looked at the shipping costs:

OK, so this one was a bit of an outlier, but all of the coilovers that came up in my searches (only one of which was actually for my car) had shipping costs not far off £200. It's so strange.

[1] Fun fact: I'm told that D2 and K-Sport are made in the same factory, branded differently for different national markets.

[2] And I know that one of those people already has K-Sport coilovers fitted...

Another eBay find

Owner's manual for the Mazda 323 BF

So I found an original owner's manual for the BF-generation Mazda 323 on eBay! £5.48 with shipping. I'm quite happy with that.

I bought it because of poor impulse control I wanted to find out what one of my warning lights meant; it's the light that looks like a headlight, but it has the word "STOP" written underneath it. Turns out that the manual doesn't explain that. Oh well, this is a nice addition to the glovebox anyway. I do like its minimalist cover design very much. :)

(Edit: a BF-owning friend informs me that this is the warning light for a brake light not working. That makes sense. After all, with my exciting "no alternator belt" episode, it's likely that the brake lights weren't working...)