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GT_FE3

1997 Capella S/W with Mazdaspeed goodness

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While this is not going to be a project car in the sense of massive engineering transformation, I figured I'd make a build thread showcasing how to make a reasonably nice tidy condition car really stand out and show that, yes you can do stuff to your family car not just the project car and also to prevent this car mingling with my TX5's thread. I needed a car with 7 seats for family duties - a mini van or 4x4 is not happening - I love corners and they don't, top heavy with boat like handling characteristics, no thanks.

Having thought I found one which ended up being a dud - overheated and then it got hit while broke down on the side of the road, I started the search again and found this one. I was very pleasantly surprised when I won the auction at $1,250 as these tend to fetch a fair bit my by almost double the price. This is a 1997 GW Mazda Capella wagon, apparently with Mazda Speed springs and body kit, Jasma rear muffler with a massive tip - surprisingly its very quiet this is what I dreamed about doing but may not have done. I have 140 hp of FS-DE power which could be useful if it was a 5 speed - since my wife drives it it had to be auto.

So here it is, reasonably tidy for an almost 20 year old car with 144,000 kms. One family owned it since it came from Japan in 2005. The interior is very tidy and honestly it still smells like a new car. Exterior needed a wash and a quick hand polish would have helped but its me and I did far more than that. First thing I did was change the oil and filter - easy same location as the TX5. The oil was very dark and overdue by 8 months with 10w40 Penrite semi-synthetic - because FS engines don't like full synthetic so I've heard.

The first pics are from the seller before I got the car. Generally no big dents or catastrophic paint damage - paint is quite dull as you can see its not hard to bring it back. Sure the bumpers have some scrapes - I will touch up and re-clear them too I also need foglamps from a SP20 - or Protege and some monsoon shields for the rear doors. First up is a full cut and polish.

 

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I gave it a wash with dish washing liquid over regular car wash. Car washes usually have wax and because I'm cutting back the paint it will make the job harder, plus dish washing liquid strips any previous wax applied so you have a nice blank canvas and can use any polish system - Turtle wax, Mothers, Mequiars etc without having any reactions - not all brands get on with each other - that said I've mixed and matched before with no real problems - paint is the one you don't want to experiment with since its so expensive. I used wash and wax on the TX5. It also needs a proper color sand and a buff, not nearly as baldy as the Mazda though as you can see the reflections. I've buffed it quickly once since I painted it 10 years ago. I do apply wax to it as needed.

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All in all besides the fade the paint was good. I thought I'd have to color sand the entire car with 2000 grit paper. I used it on the scratches. There are 10 big ones on the whole car in total. 4 are down to primer, 2 are very noticeable the rest are there and present themselves in certain lights. Can't find the picture I have of clay bar and wet sanding. I will edit this once I find them.

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This is after color sanding some areas and about 4 hours of buffing, with the exception of the bumpers and end caps - I will repaint them. I still need to add scratch and swirl remover and wax - this will happen tomorrow. Before and after:

 

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This is after Turtlewax scratch and swirl and a Carnauba wax.  I used Meguiars ultimate compound with a dual action polisher for the initial polish, I didn't have any scratch and swirl remover and Meguiars wasn't in stock. For almost 20 year old factory paint it came up amazing. Some stuff coming for it soon.

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Repainted the front bumper. Should have taken it off but way too many bolts and some clips were mangled it looked like a hassle so I left it. Since its a solid color I just blended the color and sprayed 2k clear coat over the whole thing 4 times. Way better no big scratch marks now. Stupid pics again - had them right way around. Lost my prep and primer pics. Will make sure I have them when I do the rear bumper. Also put on my Mazda Speed badge on the grille.

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Looks rather tidy. I love the body kit, makes the GF we got in Australia look rather boring in comparison. The Japanese get all the good stuff.

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7 hours ago, madaz said:

Looks rather tidy. I love the body kit, makes the GF we got in Australia look rather boring in comparison. The Japanese get all the good stuff.

Yeah they seem to, some are all wheel drive and few have KLDE's in them. NZ new ones are pretty bland too unless its a limited but even then all you get is alloys and foglights.

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Got another Mazdaspeed badge for the boot today - because 10 bucks! There's 2 of these at pick a part - I'm going to hopefully get a power window master switch and 2 rear weather shields and a Mazda symbol to cover the unsightly holes on the boot next week. Today I dipped the spokes semi gloss back. The alloy is average, maybe a 205/50/15 tyre once these wear 195 is a bit thin for my liking. I managed to polish the drivers wheel a bit, now its starting to rain. Smoked lights - still bright enough for the reflector and light to shine.

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Nice score on the Mazdaspeed badge, also like the rims, they suit the car.

I always thought that the GFs that we got seem meh at best compared to the GE. In Australia the GE was marketed (and priced) towards the same sort of people who bought Calais and Fairmonts. The GF on the other hand, was targeted at people who bought Camrys and Magnas. The lower end GF's in Australia didn't even have cruise control. And I don't think we got the third row seat either.

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10 hours ago, madaz said:

Nice score on the Mazdaspeed badge, also like the rims, they suit the car.

I always thought that the GFs that we got seem meh at best compared to the GE. In Australia the GE was marketed (and priced) towards the same sort of people who bought Calais and Fairmonts. The GF on the other hand, was targeted at people who bought Camrys and Magnas. The lower end GF's in Australia didn't even have cruise control. And I don't think we got the third row seat either.

Same here pretty much cruise is an option in a GF/W unless its a limited which is hard to come by I guess back then no one wanted to pay over $40 grand for an intermediate mid size car in its day I guess. Mazda seems to add $7-8,000 for top of the range models - or well they did when I worked at a dealer when the Mazda 2,3 and 6 launched. This one doesn't have cruise, it does have dual electronic climate control, ABS, traction control - pointless with an auto as it needs heaps of effort to break traction, but manual I have seen an FS get an impressive amount of tire smoke. Third row seats are optioned and never were a local assembled optioned so I knew I had to go J- spec. GE's seemed to have far more stuff going for it.

 

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The seller did say there was a little smoke at start up. And true, there is. Its getting heavier though. Luck of the draw - it might not smoke at all. Sometimes there are massive clouds billowing out. Does this for maybe 30 seconds on start up. I figured maybe valve stem seals. I'm noticing it likes the 10-40 oil a bit though. 400ml used since I changed it the second day I had it. It hasn't even got 150,000 - let alone 145,000 km's yet either - wtf. TX5 smokes but nothing as bad as this one does and it uses that same amount of oil over the entire service interval which is around 5,000 km's - to be expected since it has more than double the mileage and is older.

I've serviced it - PCV valve cleaned and  checked, TB not gummed up. Still I will do a compression test before I condemn it.

Curse the cardboard oil-ringed and paper-mache'd valve stem seals on the FS! Not angry - astonished how this low km engine seems so worn.

 I am about to finish my automotive engineering course which I've been studying and enjoying. I've done a rebuild on a Mazda B5 Dohc. Sure the torque settings and clearances on this FS will be different. I know what to look for and I feel quite competent doing it.

I'd like to do a quick freshen up - new valve stem seals, rings and bearings. I really think most of it is worn valve seals and oil rings. Hopefully the cylinder bores are not to bad and if need be I can get away with a quick drill hone and that everything is within spec, so it costs me just a gasket set, rings and bearings and oil pump and no massive machining. This is going to be done to factory spec, the TX5 gets some added custom bits thrown in for its build.

Sure I could just bang in another FS. But It will more than likely be in a similar state and there's less fun just putting an engine in.

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This evening on start up for 20 seconds . This is a medium smoke out. Sometimes it doesn't even smoke at all but yeah its concerning. Will be at least a month before I can start getting tools to begin the fix.

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So I did a quick backyard test to see which cylinders were leaking and if it was a ring or valve problem. After the car was parked overnight I took out all the spark plugs. Oil will mean leaky valve stem seals. Put the plugs back start the car, let it run for a minute turn it off take plugs out. Wet again and its possibly rings.

 Cylinders 1 and 4 are dry. 2 is the worst one - completely full of oil. And it was still wet on the second check. 3 was wet initially but it seems the rings are in better shape. So it needs valve seals - which I expected. Worries there would be more rings but it seems like #2 is the most worn.

I didn't really bother with individual pictures of 1 and 4 since they aren't problematic and look how they should look oil free:

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This is what you don't want to see - this is my most worn cylinder #2. Left is before I started the car - right is after, can still see it smoking

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 Cylinder #3 before start was like 2 but with less oil. It was not full of oil just a little damp:

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#2 spark plug                                                                                                    #3 plug

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 Yeah they need changing. Plugs 1 and 4 were much the same - very worn and without oil.

 

 

 

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A couple of days ago, the radiator started leaking. I got a used replacement which had been checked over for $90. A new one is over $200 and I need money to fund the engine refresh. Put in the replacement, which also leaked I noticed a day later. I had some trapped air which caused the fans to run continuously and the engine to get warm way quicker than normal and threaten to overheat if I didn't use the heater.

 Took the dud replacement radiator back, got the one I was mean to have - its is slightly used but the plastic looks brand new and the core is super clean with no bent fins at all! Almost brand new radiator for $90! They are $220 new for a genuine one or $150 for a cheap aftermarket one which I wasn't too keen on, so I reckon I did well with that. Spent more time bleeding air when refilling coolant. It runs perfect, halfway on the gauge and zero leaks. Pity I need to top the oil up again. I've done barely 3,000 km's since I serviced it. Smokes on start up, on throttle and deceleration now. Always a blue cloud behind me so I need to do something.

 I am buying a long block FS which had rod knock for $100. This is a basic built to factory spec build for as cheap as I can. If I can re use parts I will - pistons namely. I got the head today which has been planed and pressure tested and had valve seals replaced a couple of years ago - in go my lifters and cams so no need for valve seals!

I'm using parts from mine and parts from the long block to make one good engine. Obviously due to knock I'm using my crank, I get the block included but he has to get it out of the car first. Pistons seem tight in the bores and no lip or damage. Slight surface rusting on the bores though. Pics when I get it.

Need to get - engine gasket and seal kit. Found one for $220 - everything including head gasket by Permaseal , had their head gasket in the TX5 so I know they are trustworthy. Head bolts $50 - cheap aftermarket - want quality ones may will up budget to $100. Also piston rings and bearings. Seen bearings for $50 not sure if I trust them and so far no luck with piston rings. I would get a new oil pump too, new accessory belts. Using water pump and cam belt again - because they were replaced at 116,186 km and the car has 146,271 kms so they *should* have another 50,000 kms of service left in them. Plan to spend $800 so by the time I get new parts including the long block I'm right on the limit.

Oh and valve cover. I'm going to paint it. Similar to my TX5 one.

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Well I've been lazy - nothing on the engine except today I gave it new spark plugs. It does smoke occasionally, not as bad on start up as the pictures now. A bit on deceleration. Using 15 w 40 oil. Using less between changes now but its still using a bit - 500 odd ml in 6,000 kms.

Should get a new PCV - sprayed it with carb cleaner helped clean it a bit but it should be replaced. Took out the scungy air filter. Alternator and PS belts are worn and need replacing. Have to send it in Monday to get it road legal. Registered but not gone over the pits. ABS and traction lights come on randomly sometimes which is an un-needed pain it the bum. ECU related cos if you restart it, they will turn off.

 Spent money on a new bike - it was a damn good deal but it has impacted on car stuff, mainly the Capella. I am having a very hard time getting another 5 speed gearbox for the TX5.

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Can not stand the 4 speed slusher on this. Useless  to me - it works and changes good but I hate not being able to choose when/where I want to change gears myself. I find myself thinking I'd have changed gear now or I wish it would change later. Driving this engine until it dies. The only FE-dohc engine some guy has build and wants $3000 for it along with a rwd gearbox and will only sell it whole. ABS lights were because of the ABS pump. Heap of money wasting crap. Sort of fixed for now. This just drives and feels like an unresponsive appliance - sure its good for its age and mileage. I'd feel a bit more warmth towards it if it was 5 speed, maybe. The unfortunate truth is that motorcycles have my soul. I get on my CBR and I just cringe when I have to use this. I look at the TX5 and I want to fix it. Funds are not there though. No one can tell me if GE spider gears will work in a GD gearbox which is a pain - I've hit the wall at the research stage. If I knew, I would get a junkyard box, swap spider gears over. Sure its not elaborate but at least it would be drive able once again.

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I have done a huge u-turn on refreshing this engine. I decided to just drive it til it dies. If it can be done I'll swap in a - L3-VE 2.3 from a Mazda 3 or 6 sports . Failing that the 2.0 liter version. With mtx box, hopefully a 6 speed. It will stay next to factory and naturally aspirated- I forsee engine mount work and I don't think the L3 headers will fit under the car by the firewall on the newer Mazda's as the intake is in the front rather than the back. Likely I'll have to get something fabbed. I want *some* fuel economy, so I'm not going to put in a K series V6, even though its an option on these cars and probably way easier to do. Why? FS sucks - this one anyway and if I'm going to have to replace it it may as well be with something I really want. FE dohc is proving elusive so far.

Funds will start coming in soon, I have some awesome news - I'm starting as a mechanic in a small workshop which has just opened. YAY!! First car I'll fix is the TX5, when I can. Since I can now invest into a GE gearbox I will do so. And if it doesn't work its not a huge problem, I'll wait for a GD box to come, which honestly is difficult. A wrecker had a 1991 626 GT sedan wanted $900 for an FE dohc with 320,000 kms and $500 for a gearbox which is just insane, add in wiring and ecu it was just shy of $2000. I could buy a whole car for that, which I would do if it was rough - I just don't want to sacrifice a rare tidy running car.

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Capella has a budget of $1500. L3VE will not happen as 3/4 of the budget is the engine alone, cool as it would be to do I don't want to invest $4,000 by the time it is legal for a $2500 car. I will however be swapping in a motor and 5 speed from a Protege MP5 or 323/Familia SP20 depending where in the world you are. FS DE or ZE depending what I can get will bolt straight in, plug and play (mostly) Wiring wise. Mods? Not really. Hi flow air filter that's about it. Hoping to get a front cut or a de-rego/wreck and pillage it. This wagon is a good one and I do like it and once manual and not low on compression/drinking oil it will be a great driver. My wife doesn't like driving it because its a wagon. Me? I like it can carry stuff but for me it really has to be manual.

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 2 weeks ago one night I started to hear a faint random high pitch whine. The next day the trans slipped far more than usual into second when cold. It also flared - revved and randomly shifted between third and fourth on the highway. Torque converter makes noise at anything more than half throttle. So this trans is no good. I know it because it means solenoids. Fluid is full and acceptable and does not smell burned so there is some internal issue.

I want to get this going again. FS-ZE would be cool, having a hard time finding a SP20 Protege/Familia for cheap. I found an auto one one with 165,000 km which had leaking struts, rust and some panel damage. I was thinking $500 but someone decided to pay almost double. So I'm still looking for them and if I find one I will but not for $950. I'll probably get a 5 speed 626/Capella, found a $450 1998 626 which was very smokey with 280,000 kms, waiting to hear back on - hoping its a go. Cheaper this way than the junk yard and I have every single bit to make it a 100% factory manual conversion which means no red tape rubbish and money wasted. $500 also gets a guaranteed used auto trans, I would rather a 5 speed any day and I will at least get my money back selling off what I don't want so for me its the way to go.

I kind of have to fix this car, 7 seat ones are hard to get and if i was to try and transfer seats over I'd get caught in red tape because its a structural and restraint modification which means $600. My wife doesn't like driving it that much since its so low. I've driven lower cars, but this one is probably the lowest.

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