So, after looking a bit on this forum, I'm a little bit hesitant to put this up since it's bone stock, but I would welcome some pointers.
Please do post! True that you would get a lot more response if you were building a muscle car or street rod, but there are small loyal followings for all things model cars on the board. I build mostly old beaters and light commercial and I sometimes get little comment, but those who do become my friends since we have similar interests!
Your posting is well done and builds a cool story. I like the project you're working on, if I was going to buy a new car, that would be one I'd be seriously looking at to replace my '95 Celica GT convertible!
Now for the comments you request, you are working on a Tamiya kit, which usually very well done, so you shouldn't have any assembly problems. For the most parts, people don't paint things still on the sprue tree for a number of reasons. First, at minimum, you will have a bare plastic mark where it was attached. Often this will need to be sanded flat, and on some kits these are in prominent places. Also, we usually have to clean up molding process imperfections like ejector pin marks and mold seams. That's all best done off the tree. I do spray everything, so I mount the parts on toothpicks stuck into small Styrofoam blocks (taken from old electronics packaging) and spray accordingly. Also, for most kits, you will want to try out the fit of parts prior to painting them in case you need to sand / modify them to fit.
You are doing very well for your first kit in a long time! So play through! I'm happy to watch, I'm sure you'll have a fine replica of your 1:1 in the end!