Upgrading to AE86 struts in a KE2# Corolla

Here's a way to upgrade to a strut with 9" disks in your ke20, ke25 or ke26.  The same conversion ideas could be used for struts out of a T powered corolla ie TE27, TE37, TE71 etc and many early Celicas, Carinas and Coronas that share the 85mm steering arm bolt pattern.   For this upgrade i am using AE85 struts.   The strut itself being identical to an ae86, except has differences in spring rates, the vented disk, different caliper and backing plate which i plan to change to at a later stage.  I am doing this particular upgrade on the cheap and used whatever was available at the time

To remove struts
First step:  crack the wheel nuts, then jack the car up and put the front end on axle stands.  this is for your own safety!
Next.. undo wheels and unbolt the complete ke2 struts by undoing the three 12mm nuts at the top and the two 17mm bolts at the bottom.
If you have slotted the brake hose mount then unbolt the caliper + hose and put it off to the side.  If not, then you'll need to undo the brake hose (messy).
The strut can then be removed.  You may like to keep a nut on at the top to take the weight whilst the bottom is pulled out.  I find it easiest to step on the end of the steering arm to split it away from the strut... then twist the strut over the other locating pin and out away from the car.  To remove steering arms,  pull out split pins, undo the nuts and use an appropriate puller tool to make removal easier.   If you have to bash things, try use a soft face hammer and put a nut on any bolt threads for protection.

Steering arms
The problem here is the ball joint in the ke2# has a smaller pin than the T powered corolla or any of the later corolla's.  So one of their steering arms are not going to seat on it.  The options here is to use a steering arm that bolts in (te27), find a ball joint that will match the steering arm to be used, change to a different lower arm that suits or buy some RCA's that adapt from 80mm to 85mm (may have to be custom made) and keep the ke2 steering arm.  Or get some custom steering arms made to the correct size. The cheap and nasty way is using a 1mm shim wrapped around the ke2# ball joint pin to increase it's size.  This has to be exactly 1mm or an ae86 steering arm wont seat against the b/j boot.
NZ model ke2# have a steering arm 110mm long center-to-center with an 80mm bolt spacing to the strut.  To keep the same turning circle and turning response, a similar length steering arm should be used.  TE2# have the same length 110mm arm and 85mm bolt spacing and the smaller ke2 ball joint pin hole so is a perfect part to use (if you can source some!).  next shortest is the AE85/86 at 115mm or 135mm long depending on power-steer or not but need to adapt the ball joint size to suit.  These are the shortest ones to my knowledge.  Late ke70 wagon 130mm long and ta22 130mm. TE7# arms are much too long at 138mm. measure anything you look at buying as theres so many variations found in each market!
rolla-arms.jpg (50780 bytes) ke26-strut-upgrade-006.jpg (34641 bytes)

Here i am using lowering King Springs #ktfl-28 and a Tokico AE92 GT gas shock.  Due to the sporty nature of the spring i needed to have at least 1.3/4" shorter stroke than factory to keep them captive.  The well known AE92 GT shock conversion can give between 2" and 3.1/2" shorter stroke (from my measurements) depending on where the shock body is positioned.  The body itself is 45mm shorter than an ae86 shock so spacers will need to be used inside the strut to keep it contained.  This setup may not be the best but so long as the shock is sufficiently supported and theres enough suspension travel for safe driving then there shouldn't be a problem.  Or ultimately the strut body can be shortened which will give extra travel at a low ride height.   Overall the ae92 GT shock length is about 90mm shorter than the ae86 one.
Otherwise the ae8# shocks could be shortened or aftermarket short stroke items ordered etc.
This is an area where theres plenty more options... so a simple sport spring upgrade may suffice or up to the ultimate coilover setup...  a standard shock up to fully adjustable dampening short stroke shock etc.
ae-shocks.jpg (11508 bytes)

Before assembly the parts were degreased, and where applicable, wiped with grease n wax remover then painted satin black.
The shock retaining nuts from the ae92 unfortunately had a different thread to screw into the ae85 strut.  The ae92 shock has a smaller body near the top so a locating collar needs to be made when using the ae85 retaining nut to hold it central.  I didnt have any material available for this so decided to turn the new ae92 nuts into collars.   see pic.
nut-spacer.jpg (43460 bytes)

With the shock nicely secured at the top, a 45mm spacer was turned to locate it at the bottom as i wanted the shock to sit at the top of the strut for maximum stroke.
ae85-strut-upgrade-bits.jpg (46701 bytes)

The ke2# sponge type bump stop tends to crumble after 30 years.  So the rubber ae85 bump stop was used, but I cut the dust cover off as the ke2 top spring cap has a dust cover attached already which i wanted to use to keep the spring fit snugly.
bumps.jpg (47326 bytes) strutwbump.jpg (26843 bytes)

Last thing before assembly...  just under the top hat, there should be a dust cover to protect the bearing.. these usually have crumbled and dropped out by now so is a good idea to replace it.  I used some high density sponge cut to shape.  It'll be interesting to see how long that lasts.  Spring compressors are required to fit the spring cap and top hat on if your springs are infact captive!  which make it soo much easier to locate the cap on the top of the shock.
nearly-assembled.jpg (43231 bytes) assembled.jpg (31846 bytes) strut-ready.jpg (28051 bytes)

materials/costs: (NZ dollars)
             AE85 struts $50.00 (trademe)
AE85 p/s steering arms $24.00 (pick-a-part)
king springs 2nd hand $100.00                   
                    Tokico AE92GT gas shocks $218.00 (S.A.S)                                    
            aerosol degreaser $2.50 (supercheap)
      Satin Black aerosol nz$4.20         "            
wheel bearing grease

words/pics by Mark