The Starlet is Sorted and Ready to Go


UPDATE 6/10/14 – The auction ended last night with a high bid of $1,925! Steve from Ohio was the winner and he plans to keep it as original as possible. He has quite a collection of Japanese cars, so we are happy that it is going to a good home!

FROM 6/9/14 – After receiving a much deserved wrist slap from one of our readers, I decided to address a few of the Starlet’s small issues before the auction ends. If you didn’t already know, we are selling off our little parts runner here on eBay and the auction ends tonight. I hadn’t done much to the car besides drive it, so I was feeling a bit guilty because I like to leave my cars better than I found them. So, I have spent the last couple days sorting out a few of the small problems and am happy to say that it has a made a big difference. I even learned a thing or two so keep reading for a few tips that might come in handy with your own project.


The faulty dome light was really bothering me, so after a few minutes of probing with a 9 volt battery and a test light, I was able to locate the disconnect. The problem turned out to be one of the small rivets that connect the metal tabs on the top to the ones on the bottom. For whatever reason it was loose and not making a good connection. After a good crimp with some pliers it was as good as new. The light still needs a lens, but at least you can find your way in the dark now.

While I was inside the car, I decided to address the sticky window mechanisms. It was an easy job and the only expense was the grease. Heck, I even learned a trick to remove the crank arms. If you don’t have the proper tool, just grab a rag and with a little sawing motion you can have the clip off in a jiff! Check out the short video above to see how it’s done. A little grease was applied to the tracks and while I was in there, I even repaired the driver’s side door lock. There was a spring in there that had sheared off and lodged itself into the tumbler making it impossible to lock the door from the outside. After pulling the broken piece out with some needle nose pliers and reshaping the spring, we were back in business.


Next up was the leaky window washer reservoir. It was clearly marked, so diagnosing that problem wasn’t too hard. After pulling it out, it was apparent that someone else had already attempted a repair, but the silicon used did not last. So, I went in search of a better glue to fix the cracked tank. After looking through a bunch of epoxies that said they could not be submersed in liquid, I found some JB Water Weld. This stuff comes in a tube and is used to repair things like tubs and fuel tanks, so I figured it would work just fine for this job. After sanding the area, I kneaded the putty for a few minutes and shoved it into the crack. After letting it cure for an an hour, the problem was fixed. No more leaks!


Our Toyota still has plenty of projects to keep the next owner busy for a while, but I do feel better knowing that the car is in a little better condition than when I purchased it. We just hope the next owner will keep us updated on what they end up doing with it. Will it serve as a cheap commuter? Will it undergo an engine swap? Or could it even see some autocross action? The decision will be up to the next owner, but what would you like to see done with it?


Starlet Project Updates:


  1. scott allison

    $1,546.00 bid! What did this little gem cost when new?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I believe these sold for $5,500 new, so we aren’t seeing any appreciation yet. I’m not complaining about the current bidding action though. Obviously more people are into these than I thought when I purchased it!

  2. Martin


    Way to go! You’re a man of your word, and are true to the ethos of the collector car hobby.

    Good Carma will surely come back to you.


    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for the kind words Martin. Hopefully the next owner of this car will agree with you!

  3. Chris A.

    Would I buy a used car from Jesse? You bet. Good advice and tutorials, thanks Jesse. Hope you get a good price.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks Chris. Looks like we are getting a very fair price for the car. I’m pleased at where it stands right now, so as long as it goes into good hand, I’m happy!

  4. jim s

    a little bump in the bidding in the last 8 hours would be nice. the car is now better then ” as listed ” which is great for the buyer and your rep as an ebayer. i hope you will do and post a cost breakdown when it all done and the car is down the road. this has be fun to read about. thanks

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Bidding is up to $1,700 with 5 hours to go! I didn’t keep track of all our expenses like I did on the GTI, but I will go back get a detailed list together and do an update. If you read back in previous posts, you will see that I picked the car up for $750. I paid sales tax, registration, bought taillights, and probably spent a couple hundred more on supplies. Obviously, we are going to make a little on this one and it almost makes me feel guilty. Usually, I am happy to break even on my cars, but the money will go to good use by funding future projects for the site. It has been a fun experience with an unexpected purchase and I hope everyone enjoyed reading about it. I have a feeling it won’t be the last time we hear from this little Starlet though!

  5. RickyM

    Well done Jesse – a great little car now even better for the eventual auction winner. Great work. Shame I am on the wrong side of the Atlantic or I would have had a bid for this as a little town run-around!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      One guy is considering flying in and driving it all the way back to the east coast. That would be a heroic journey and fittingly would coincide with another historic endurance event happening this week…

  6. Tim H

    Jesse, I am asked a question that you are uniquely qualified to give an opinion on. I have been searching for the “most fun”, affordable, car for driving under 60 MPH, which is where I do 99% of my driving. nimble-ness seems to be the key. I know that the weight is important and suspension geometry is important. So far I have tried Datsun Roadsters and Miatas but I wonder about Datsun 1200 and the Starlet. Please compare and contrast the “nimble-ness” of the stock Miata (2200lb great suspention) and the stock Starlet (1600lb not so great suspension).

    • Jim-Bob

      I’m not Jesse, but I do love my 3 cylinder Geo Metro. Ridiculous fuel economy, and with a few mods using mostly stock parts it’s actually not bad to drive. All I really did was use the brakes, wheels and sway bars from a newer Metro (95+) on my 91, along with swapping from 145 82 R 12 tires to 175 70 13’s to make a huge difference. As to fuel economy, I put in taller tires and gears (from 4.09 to 3.79) and can easily see 50mpg highway and 40 city. The taller gearing and tires did hurt city fuel economy though as I used to see 42-45 mpg there. However, it does make it live longer at today’s 70mph interstate speeds (which it sees infrequently). I did it as an experiment, and because I plan to go from Florida to New York and back again on vacation and needed to keep the revs down for the health of the exhaust valves (they are known to burn if you keep it above 3k RPM for a long time).

      • jim s

        you were on the money as car went for $1925.00.

      • stanley stalvey

        When the Geo Metro was new they were getting 53mpg highway.. That was around 1989 the last time I looked.. I had an 87 Ford Escort EXP that was getting 46mpg highway and was doing Florida to New York runs several times per year for awhile. When using high-test fuel it gave me one more mile per gallon..

      • Jim-Bob

        One of the problems now is that the increased amount of ethanol in the gasoline is really hurting fuel economy. When these cars were new they didn’t have to contend with MTBE or ethanol reducing the amount of BTU’s in the fuel as an oxygenating element to reduce emissions. I have even thought of trying boat gas (sold where I live because it’s near the Gulf of Mexico) to see just what the difference is for one full tank. I try to keep data for my fuel consumption with this car, but it’s hard to do an apples to apples comparison this time of year since the hot outside temperatures (90+ with 100+ heat index) mean I run the A/C a lot which tends to reduce fuel economy by 25%.

        As another means of comparison, I bought my Nissan Frontier new back in 1998. Back then, I could see 23-24 mpg city out of it before they started adding ethanol to the gas. After they added ethanol, my fuel economy dropped off to 20-21 mpg (with 178psi of compression, which was still higher than spec in the factory manual), with it finally settling to 18-19 after engine wear reduced compression to 146psi (just under spec). The major difference then was not compression, but fuel quality. (And yes, I really do regular compression tests on my pizza delivery cars because I am geek enough to want to collect data on these things.)

        I sort of wonder if the oil companies didn’t really want the oxygenating agents in fuel to begin with. They have helped to increase consumer need for their product right at the time when prices went through the roof.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good question Tim! The answer is a tough one though. The Miata and the Starlet are so very different that they are hard to compare. I would say that the Starlet is more nimble because of its weight advantage. The unassisted rack and pinion steering feels good. It handles well and is a lot of fun at city driving speeds. You sit more upright in it and have a lot more interior space. The shifter has a long throw, but it is nice and smooth. The pure simplicity of the car makes it appealing to me, but limited parts supply is a negative.

      The Miata provides a different experience altogether which may be more imagined than real. The low seating position, revy engine, and short shift gearbox create more of a sporting feel. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are going any faster in it though. There’s lots of noise and just more going on. They are both slow, but fun cars. At the limit, I would probably rather be in the Miata, but then again, people did race the Starlet back in the day. In fact, they had their own race series. Just do a search for “Toyota Starlet Cup” and be amazed!

      If you are worried about the image these cars project… Well, you had better keep looking.

      • Tim H

        Thanks that helps.

  7. stanley stalvey

    A can of silver spray paint would do wonders on those stock rims. Quit being lazy.. hehe…

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Those rims sure are bothering everyone! Actually, I did find some paint that matches, but haven’t been able to bring myself to spray them.

      • stanley stalvey

        Just put thick grease or wet silicone on the tires, jack it up a little and spin the tire while spray painting. The paint dries to touch in about 20 minutes. Then just wipe off the grease. You can do all 4 in less than an hour.. It really makes a big difference..

  8. stanley stalvey

    It’s a good looking little car you have there. I worked as a Toyota Technician in 1983 and was pleased to see how tough those little cars can be and easy to repair.. The bolts are long-winded so we all used air tools religiously.. I took a Celica GT for a test drive one day and got chased by the cops all the way back to the shop.. hahaha…

  9. fred

    Some Ebay buyers can be very flaky – was glad to see that yours had some good positive feedback. Hope the new owner enjoys tinkering with the car as much as you have.

  10. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Wow, Josh and I were both surprised by the final numbers! The buyer already emailed me so it looks like they are legit. We will do another update before the car ships out.

  11. chad

    To Tim H, we have a 750HP Starlet here (turbo, intercooler) that does 9 sec 1/4 mi for sale…
    And to Jes, if U put nother zero on the end it’s bout the same price.

    Thanks for bringin us along on your Starlet trip!

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