Live Auctions

State of the State: Jeff’s Project Updates

A few of us here at Barn Finds realized that it seems like eons can pass before we provide an update on our project vehicles. So, here’s mine! First up, the 1981 Toyota Hiace: so far, the motor has been given a once-over and minor tune-up, along with rebuilt injectors and new glow plugs. The guys at Oxford Motorcars are hoping to fire it up this week and see if the new injectors solve the high-idle issue that sidelined it originally. New tires were also added. Then, we’ll move onto suspension and brakes. 

Cosmetic issues are the Hiace’s biggest problems (for now), so I’ve been picking away at some fixes. As a vehicle that was not officially imported here, finding parts has been a challenge. I did track down some OEM turn signal lenses for the front and the rear with the help of some friends made over the internet via a small but active message board for Hiace owners. The good news is the 2.2 L-series diesel engine was sold in the U.S., so mechanical parts have been easier to find.

The biggest trick of all was finding a proper rear bumper. I did track down an original chrome front bumper to replace the log on the front of the van, but this NOS aluminum rear bumper was discovered in a New Zealand repair shop! These same contacts on the Hiace message board agreed to receive the bumper from the merchant, as he wouldn’t ship to the U.S. I sent over a FedEx label to my “pals” and they got the bumper – still in its original Toyota box – to its final destination.

My farm-find BMW 320/6 is nearing its first year in my care. The car is now at the body shop to sort out the bump on the nose, but unfortunately, the engine is still not done. As of February, it will have been with the machine shop for 12 months. It’s frustrating, but they have made some progress and were set to begin boring out the block to accept the slightly oversized forged pistons I had made for it the last time I checked in.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing to build a parts stash for this car. I snagged these vintage Konig bucket seats out of a junked 2002 in one of my favorite salvage yards, which is chock-full of nice finds like these. The seats will need recovering, but they are still incredibly comfortable and will look perfect in a car like the 320. Even the adjustments still work, though one of them doesn’t slide freely at the moment.

Amazingly, my luck with finding replacement parts for the 320 continues. This picture shows an OEM headgasket kit, still factory sealed, that I found in the trunk of the car! I knew the previous owner had plans to rebuild the engine himself, but I didn’t realize how far along he got before the project hit the skids. I’ve also found original timing belts, tensioners, valve seals and other bits still enclosed in their factory wrappings.

And finally, the wierdo Subaru XT6! This car is endearing itself to me, though I’ll be more of a fan when it stops leaking oil and coolant all over my garage floor. This project is actually set to head to The Subaru Shop in Tiverton, Rhode Island, for a full engine re-seal, headgasket job, new clutch and a few other fixes. I just put a replacement headliner (from a junkyard!) in it and have begun sourcing parts for the suspension build.

Believe it or not, this car has been the one that has been hardest to find parts for. Subaru’s parts catalog is an exercise in frustration and most dealers have no idea what you’re taking about when you call up for parts for an XT6. Thankfully, dealers like North Coast Subaru in New York (which sourced these OEM headgaskets and timing belts directly from Japan) and Center Subaru in Connecticut have been willing to go the extra mile and track down obsolete components.

I’m perhaps most excited about the suspension phase, including having these junkyard-sourced 16×7 Subaru alloys refinished and painted gold before mounting. The small group of XT owners have figured out a way to crib together Ground Control coilovers with KYB shocks and struts for a fairly competent-handling package, but some fabrication is involved. That will be the next job when the XT6 is back from its engine reseal. Whew – any questions?


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Jeff, thanks for the update! I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next one! Do you have an upholstery shop lined up for the BMW seats?

    • Jeff Staff

      Jamie, thanks. I do – it’s a shop local to me that I have heard good things about. Since I’m not being picky about the pattern and just need a good color match with the rear seat and door panels, I’m going to keep it local so as to avoid shipping these things out.

  2. Josh Staff

    Good work Jeff! I guess I better get back out to the garage and get to work on some projects!
    As soon as the snow melts here, I’m planning a trip to the pick and pull here, so if you want me to look for any parts you might need, let me know. The one yard usually has a few oddball Subarus on hand, so if you need any XT6 parts, they may have what you need.

    • Jeff Staff

      Josh, you know I will. I’ll send an email with a parts list…

  3. Dave Wright

    So……….What is going on in the Boise shop?

  4. Jim B

    Really dig that HiAce, Jeff. Can’t wait to see what it’s like when it’s all back together!

    • Jeff Staff

      You and me both, Jim – that’s the one my wife is most excited about so it absolutely has to come together!

  5. Jubjub

    Damn. I feel like a real lacky! I finally put a set of hood struts on the Tasmin today!

  6. the one

    it is obvious Jeff isn’t a photographer! More is better

    • Jeff Staff

      LOL. What gave it away? ;-)

  7. Marty Member

    Great write-up Jeff. Keep ’em coming.

  8. Marlon Reno Balkstra

    Hi, new guy here, really impressed with the variety on Barnfinds! Now super impressed with the personal projects! You guys are what I like to call “hardcore enthusiasts”! Aight then, carry on!
    Attached pic is a memory from my Navy days. As most of my life I have been a motorcycle guy, I still long for some kind of classic car or truck to feed the 4wheel side of me. Someday soon I will realize that dream. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jeff Staff

      Gorgeous Dart! Hope you get to own a project car again soon!

  9. milotus

    We need more of these stories,& maybe a section
    for reader’s rides/projects.

  10. Brennan


    I am from South Africa and am busy restoring a 67 GTA 390 Mustang Fastback. Having to import parts from USA as I gin along.

    Now whats interesting is that the Toyota Hi Ace is readily avail here in South Africa as its been used as a low cost taxi since its inception so parts are easily available and there are millions of them on the street from old to new. Maybe I can help you source what you need and you can help me with my mustang stuff?


    • Jeff Staff

      Brennan, I would be *extremely* interested to speak with you about this! Please contact me thru the Barn Finds email – – and put in BIG letters something to the effect of, “ATTN: Jeff / Hiace project” so the guys here flag it and forward to me.

      There’s a number of parts I need so I think we can definitely help each other out!

  11. doug6423

    Why is it taking the machine shop 12 months to build an engine??? What excuses are they giving you or is this one of those ‘do me a favor’ side project engine build?

    • Jeff Staff

      Doug, the excuse I’ve been getting is backlog, and I didn’t help matters when I told them *last* February that I wasn’t in a huge rush but would like the motor in the car by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, I think I sealed my fate by indicating I wasn’t in a rush.

      While I’m not on a firm timeline, I was hoping to drive the car all spring, summer and fall this year. Going to be calling them weekly from here on out.

      • doug6423

        I’ve worked in both body & mechanical shops…
        Squeaky wheel gets the grease. :)

  12. Woodie Man

    You guys are wearing me out!

  13. the one

    So Jeff, are you having fun trying to stuff those worms back in the can?

    • Jeff Staff

      That’s a very appropriate expression. I feel like it is a second job trying to find parts, manage vendors, and make arrangements for transport to and from different shops. Feels like there’s a “calling” in there, somewhere, but I’d need other people to want to pay me for dealing with their aggravations!

  14. Jeff Staff

    Good news, folks – we got it fired up this afternoon! Runs incredibly smooth for an old diesel and doesn’t leak. Feeling excited!

  15. chad

    I’ve been @ my bronco (1970) since ’87. There R no time lines, only wishes (unless U have B I G bucks).

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.


WANTED 1965 Oldsmobile 442 Project car auto hard top Contact

WANTED 1960-1965 Ford Ranchero Looking for period-correct cap or topper. Protect-O-Plate was the main brand, but open to any brand Contact

WANTED 1968 Chevrolet biscayne looking for a 4 door biscayne, not modified, straight 6 preferred Contact

Submit Your Want Ad