HiAce Build Blog

Follow the fun from day one (down the bottom)

to the latest job done...


If this was reality TV the HiAce would've been stripped and blasted by the first ad break, welded and paneled between arguments and sackings, and presented with a show-quality finish 45 minutes later. Real life is different.


Space, equipment and time limitations dictated the job be done outside on a panel-by-panel basis. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but if you pick your days you can spread the load and avoid 'project fatigue'...and that's useful when you're dealing with the surface area of a van!


With rust repaired it's a pretty simple formula: sand, remove dents, fill, sand, prime, sand, skim, sand, prime and apply guide coat, sand guide coat, skim, sand, prime and apply guide coat again, sand guide coat, get rid of the imperfections you missed the first time around, sand, prime, sand again and then, finally, lay down your colour coats.


Prepping for paint is the perfect pastime for people with OCD, but you've got to draw the line somewhere. Without a spray booth a show-car finish was never on the cards but, after some serious time spent flat sanding, it all ended up acceptably straight and shiny.


For the record the base colour is Toyota 4E7 Ivory with Kia D5U Sand Track metallic on the bumpers and trim. Finishing touches were added with new indicator lenses, chrome mirrors from a late-model HiLux units (trimmed to suit) and a mesh insert made to fill the  empty grille opening.


Subtle, but a custom look with cappuccino charm that suits the '70s HiAce.

Time for a shave

No badge on the front, broken aerial, no JDM lhs reason not to bust out the welder and add that kool kustom touch with a quick shave!


Okay, so the HiAce is ostensibly a workhorse vehicle, but after dealing with the drudgery of rust removal a bit of time spent channeling George Barris can be therapeutic.


Patches for larger openings were stitch-welded in place, and badging holes weld-filled using a heat sink/backing plate knocked up from a magnet and a bit of scrap alloy (see final photo), so only a light skim of putty was needed prior to paint.


A fun job and well worth the effort. The close-ups show just how rough the bodywork and paint were, but with the 'growths' removed and panels smoothed the second-gen HiAce's curvaceous front clip looks a treat.

In rust we trust

Sooner or later oxidisation reduces everything to its most basic elements
...and it was doing a fine job on the HiAce.


There was surface rust on the roof, bubbling along the gutters and rear quarter panels, and the old filler on the side door and nose was starting to lift, but  the big issue was gaping holes along the bottom of the front doors.


Fresh metal is always the best solution. Patches replaced door, step, front panel, and rear three-quarter sections that were too far gone. Surface rust was scoured back to reveal shiny metal, and spot rust was ground out, dimpled and filled.


RustBlast and fish oil should keep tin worms at bay for a while, but something is bound to turn up eventually – such is life.

New boots

Back in '78 Toyota fitted 4.5J rims with 6.00x14 8-plies. Suitable rubber isn't that easy to come the mix of Durun and Siamtyre  tyres (no doubt reputable brands) attested to. Didn't help that two were worn with cracked sidewalls, so it was time for new wheels and tyres.


HiAce, HiLux and Ford Falcon share the same 5x114.3 stud pattern. Turns out late-model disc-brake Toyota wheels don't fit on drum-brake fronts (centre-hole diameter). Common consensus is that pre-AU Falcon wheels are the go, but the offset makes them look like Dumbo's ears,


Long story short: 6.00J steel AU Falcon wheels shod with Bridgestone Turanza 225/60R15s. Right offest (just clears the steering joints), right OD and right load ratings...and along the way the original under-body unit was ditched for twin spares mounted internally on fabbed up brackets behind the rear wheel arches.


A quick spray of heat paint on the hubs, a not-so-quick brake adjustment (manual adjustment, no automatic trickery on this little guy) and away we go. More grip, better ride, and a nice unobtrusive 'factory' look – sorted!

The initial shakedown

Parked up long enough for lichen to grow, a good scrub showed a flakey respray, ageing filler repairs on the nose and side door,  surface roof rust, miscellaneous moth-eaten patches, and the true extent of the but-look-at-the-price rust.


Things were good underneath – floor and chassis tidy, no leaks, bushes and rubbers intact, and traces of grease where you'd hope to find them. Draining  the engine, gearbox and diff oil didn't reveal any nasty surprises, so the HiAce had been maintained but not garaged.


Not necessarily well maintained though. A persistent misfire was traced to a blown header pipe gasket, then to a blown inlet/exhaust gasket, then to a timing error – timing had been set to the TDC mark, not the BTDC mark! Retiming, new gaskets, plugs, points and airfilter put the pep back in and raised top speed back to 'freeway friendly'.


Running better, but looking rough...time to address a few cosmetic issues and tidy things up to mollify the constabulary.