Previously, on The Zoidberg Chronicles...
After verifying proper spark, and power, and air — again — I surmised that the fuel pump was not priming. This led to me checking more stuff and checking the fuel pressure yet again. During the test, the pressure was so great it blew apart all the tester fitting and blew gasoline straight up like a mini geyser. After that scare and confirmation of a functional pump, I put it all back together and swapped out all fuses and relays related to the EFI and fuel pump, even though they all tested fine (I have an entire spare fuse box with everything in it from a Corolla I picked up years ago). However, one of the fuses was incorrect for the EFI (10A, should have been 15A) and looked a bit chewy even though it had continuity.
What’s happened since? It started immediately and my wife’s driven it everywhere for the past three days with no cranking issues.
I was thinking... When I replaced the fuel pump back in May... April? ... And then the starting problems got worse... True I had driven it but only for very short errands, maybe 20 miles total. Is it possible I had a bunch of trapped air in the line that was making cold starts a nightmare? Did I bump a wire or relay and the car said, “Okay, time to give you a little bit of hope.”
Frustrating as this has been, I’m enjoying the touch of irony that the catalyst for expanding my wrenching horizon hasn’t been any of my 35-year old shitboxes; it’s been a 12-year old Pontiac. I actually haven't spent that much and have most of the skin left on my knuckles. Also working an a parts graveyard exhibit in the garage!