By now I was reading up on the forums and talking to other club members on what other people were doing with their cars. Everyone had stories and advice, and I took some leads from these as to where to direct my focus. I started with the easy stuff. The gear shifter has it's own oil, seals and maintenance schedule. Mine was in a catastrpophic state. It's a quick job to fix it, but it required more part imports (the shifter boots and nylon cup).
The shifter update made a good difference to the feel of the car. The more strenuous rubber of the boot made it feel more accurate. This was the first fix to the car that made me feel like it's turned into a project car. It was also the first fix where I got told off for my dirty clothes by my wife. Since then, that particular t-shirt has turned into my "mechanic shirt".
Then one day at the office, a collegue reversed into me. I was in the car at the time, fortunately, but it didn't help. Her husband (who was uninsured, as he was a car trader and held nothing for more than two weeks) didn't pay me a cent towards the repairs.
Since the plastic of the bumper was already 20 years old by this time, I insisted on a new one. The clamps on the old one showed the tell-tale white strain where it had bent. But he would have none of it. In the end, I got a new wing and a new nose, but I paid for it myself. So naturally, I fitted it myself to save costs.
Prior to this, there was a vibration that had developed along the drive-train, and by now, this was getting more severe every day. It got better for a while after some hard driving, but would become gradually worse again. This cycle repeated, and shortened as time went on. The workshop manual talked about the two different crank nose designs, and it became clear that I had the early sort, and was suffering from the well documented short-nose crank problem. I concluded that under hard driving, since the engine's rotation is against the thread of the crank's centre bolt, it tightned itself sufficiently to alleviate the problem. But at idle and normal driving the strain of the belts was enough to gradually loosen it again. This gave the car somewhat of a mood, and it started to develop a sort of a personality. There were a few solutions to this problem.
I opted to try the "lock-tight" fix. This was the first time I had to strip the engine all the way to the crank pulley. It was a tremendous experience, until I came upon that tensioner's stripped bolt. Anyway, the workshop manual really helped a lot here, and soon I was putting my broken baby back together again. So, a bit of background: this problem with the crank erodes the key that fits the pully to the crank nose itself. So, to perform this fix, you have to fit a new key that holds the pully onto the crank. Naturally I ordered a new one.
This is when I learnt that one of the previous owners had already suffered from this problem and had his bush-mechanic attempt a fix of a completely different nature. I presume they could only find a key that came from a tractor or a pickup truck, because the key I took out, compared to the one I had ordered, was very different in size. So, to make their one fit, they had manually extended the slot in the crank that the key fit in, and manually filed at the crank pully so that it would go over the bigger key. Nothing I could do with the proper sized key would work. So I had a new key custom made to fit the crank slot, and set about with the lock-tight. This fix lasted for about 12 000 Km. And when it started acting up again, it was three times as bad as before. The custom key had completely broken, ruined the pully and almost took out the one wall of the crank slot completely. This crank was done with life.
I had the option to replace the crank, which would involve a lot of labour and refitment. It's a complete engine-out job though. Or I could just get a new engine. In Japan they chop cars up after 80 000 Km, and some companies get hold of these cars' engines and gear boxes for export. I got a second-hand engine (and gearbox, since all the vibrations had ruined mine) from one of these chops and had it fitted. I also supplied a new clutch. This new engine, since it was a later model, sported the updated long-nose crank, so this problem will never reoccur again. I had my baby back, and it was better than ever with that new clutch. It dawned on my then that what I had actually done by buying this car was take in a rescue dog, and I was busy nursing it back to health.