As some of you may know, have two vintage Toyota's that I drive on a daily basis. Generally these things have been pretty reliable but this past Friday my area reached near-record low temperatures of around 1*F in the morning. The 88 MR2 started up just fine with no problems even with its small Miata racing battery. However once I got about 1/3 of the way to work it was evident something was very wrong. The car would idle just fine but if I gave it any gas it would sputter and buck like it was running on one or two cylinders. After limping it off the road into a parking lot and popping the engine lid I was greeted by a horrid smell of burning plastic and a ton of smoke pouring out from the distributor. I somehow managed to limp it home and hop in the 86 Cressida Wagon and make it to work 20 minutes late.
Fast-forward to Friday night. I'm driving my girlfriend home after a movie with some friends and notice that the rear window is getting wet, but it's not raining. I pull into a gas station and notice that the car is puking coolant from somewhere under the intake manifold. Even though the flashing "Open" sign was on, the station was actually closed, as was the station next door. After running across the 4-lane road to another station (keep in mind it's about 12*F at this point) I was able to buy a few gallons of coolant. Upon removing the radiator cap, it promptly exploded straight up about 10' in the air due to hot air pressure in the mostly-empty system. I ended up being able to limp it home by stopping every 15 minutes or so (my girlfriend and I live an hour apart) to top off the coolant.
I finally got a chance to tear into both of the cars yesterday and here's what I found in the MR2's distributor cap.
To my eyes it looks like the coil contact somehow ended up arcing to the rotor, melting the plastic around it. I looked inside the distributor at the electronics using a mirror and a flashlight, but didn't see any signs of damage, which is good.
As for the wagon, it looks like there are two oddly-shaped coolant lines, and one big hose that run under/through the manifold. One of the smaller lines was definitely leaking, but I'm going to replace all of them in one go, since the intake manifold had to come off to do it.
22210C and 22210D are the crazy looking hoses of which I spoke.
The moral of the story? Old cars don't like arctic temperatures? Just because you have two cars don't assume they won't break down at the same time? I'll let you be the judge.