I know it sounds a bit rich when I’ve titled this a “Suspension Build” But It sort of is… Well, it actually is. This didn’t just come off first crack either, I took a risk and it didn’t pay off.
It started with the idea of trying to avoid using a spacer at all, finding a taller strut and spring that would be able to be bolted in. I begun by searching the specs on a Gen 1 Rav4 Front end, as I knew the shocker was longer, but did it all fit? I started off by reading part numbers and searching the web for answers – and luckily, on the Koni US website I found the information I needed. The strut insert was the same diameter across a whole lot of Toyotas, it was the dampening that was obviously the difference. I didn’t want to spent $500AUD on a pair of inserts that I was basically installing into my car to be used on a setup I wasn’t even sure I’d like or keep so I needed to go cheaper, but still new.
This is where I found the Ultima branded strut Inserts. At just $100 a pair with a three year warranty, I bought some 1997 Toyota Rav4 units and waited for them to arrive.
Thanks to Seb, I was able to get hold of a pair of AE82 Twincam struts that suited a rebuild. This was the first hurdle, As you can see in the images, the RAV4 insert is far higher than the AE82 item is, this also applied to AE92, AE95, AE101, AE111, AE112, ST162 and ZZT231 front struts – Maybe a RAV4 front strut body would fit with the AE95 Top Hat?
Now it was time to visit the wreckers and make a right old mess! My mate Sam and I pulled a heap of Toyotas apart and test fitted front struts, springs and top hats to an AE92 hatch in the yard to see what was going to work, at what heights and what was required to get it into an AE95.
We first test fitted some Gen1 RAV4 Struts with an AE92 hat. These were actually a touch too tall but the biggest issue was the spring perch size and the spring diameter itself – It fouled on everything in the strut tower including the brake lines and the body itself. It was deemed that you could run these but you’d have to weld on a Corolla or Celica/Camry perch and source a higher spring to make it function – Not worth it!
Gen 1 RAV4 Front Strut – still in donor vehicle.
It was immediately evident that the top hat was different and had larger studs RAV4 Strut versus AE92 Strut
RAV4 Strut versus XV20 Versus ZZT231 Celica ( With Lowered Spring )
RAV4 Strut versus XV20 Versus ZZT231 Celica ( With Lowered Spring ) Versus AE92 Strut
ZZT231 Celica Top Hat Bolted into AE92 Test Car.
ST204 Celica Strut Unit ( Identical to ZZT231 apart from strut top but rebuildable )ST204 Celica Strut – Rebuildable Versus ZZT231 Celica Strut ( Not Rebuildable ) Koni Only.AE92 Strut versus RAV4 Strut ( Notice the difference in the Tops )
And Finally I came home with a pair of slightly taller struts!
These comprise of a ST204 Celica Strut ( because it’s serviceable/rebuildable ) with ZZT231 Celica Springs and strut tops ( They have the correct pattern and stud size to suit AE95 ).
Here is a pictorial break down of the cars I tested and found to have the same size strut sleeve and bolt hole pattern as an AE9X Corolla:
I’m certain other cars will fit from that ERA that we didn’t test such as Starlet, Paseo and others. Strut Top wise the only interchangeable cars were AE9X Corolla / ST204 Celica / ZZT231 Celica.
From here I looked into the specs on Camry strut inserts in comparison to Celica items to see what would be a little more compliant and not so “Sporty”. I deemed the Camry to have the specs I required and went about ordering the same Ultima branded inserts. *More Waiting Time for postage*
Whilst waiting I took some shots of the ST204 Strut next to the AE82 example for comparison. I worked out that the lift point with the Celica parts is the fact that the spring perch is situated higher up at strut housing than the AE82 – This was a good moment as it made me realise how the lift was going to come about ( predicted to be 1.5ish”)
Still waiting on my inserts in the post, I took everything apart and cleaned it all up – I like shiny things!
The next Phase was to remove the factory oil filled strut insert and replace it with the new shocker. To do this you are required to place the strut somewhere stable, such as a bench vice, the missus arms or what ever method of holding the big bloke still. The Gland nut that holds the insert in is a big girl. You can use a range of tools or, As my mate Bway once showed me, cut a slit in the nut with a hacksaw and use a sledge hammer and a flat head screw driver to get the nut off ( You get new Gland Nuts with the inserts ).
Naked with no insert – I cleaned up the strut body at this point. The factory insert with it’s 250ml of oil drained out.
The new insert slid straight into place and is very easy from here on in, simply place the new gland nut over the strut insert shaft and tighten it up ( TIGHT! ).
The second gland nut completely pissed me off! It was damaged out of the box and in the end, required one thing – the bloody bin! I called the place I purchased the inserts from and they were happy to refund me but needed the inserts and the nuts back – Not going to happen! I’ve already installed one. SHIT!
The factory gland nuts are totally different – they hold a seal to hold the oil in the factory strut housing – This all had to go – I spent ages, machining it all down by hand – They still hurt.
Once the gland nut was installed I finished off the second strut and placed them into the car for test fitment. As predicted, the lift was about 1.2 – 1.5″ above factory.
The difference between what I had in there and the new strut was mental!
so, there you have it. Quite the long winded post – I still have some more stuff to post, but for now, this is it.
Check out my Youtube video on the build: