PROJECTS - 1991 TOYOTA MR2

The Purchase

June 2012

This was purchased as a car to beat up on a local dirt track. It was never intended to be a restoration, but it also wasnít planned to be a money pit. The previous owner was a mid 20ís guy who owned the car for a while, but had not driven it for unknown reasons. Looking back, this was a warning sign I didnít catch. Since I wasnít looking for a car to restore, but rather one to abuse on a track I wasnít as cautious as I would be buying a normal car.

Price: $1700

Exterior

Poor. Dented panels, poorly done spray paint in sections, missing trim, missing corner lens. Some spots of corrosion. My thought was it would be a fun experiment in creating a temporary home paint booth so I didnítí mind the poor paint. Despite the dents, all panels were straight overall and none were beyond repair.

Interior

Not complete, but in decent shape. The shift boot was missing as was the correct stereo trim and ash tray. The climate control unit was stuck on hot and needed replacement.

Drivetrain

Motor ran well, transmission performed well once in gear, but the shift linkage was sloppy.

Chassis

The car came with Suspension Techniques sway bars, drilled and slotted rotors and a missing spare tire.

Electrical

No issues at time of purchase.

Pictures

Get It Running

Rear Wheel Bearing

The wheel bearing was in very poor shape. It made a loud grinding noise when the car moved. The previous owner included a replacement bearing. The wheel bearing requires a press to properly remove and install. Since my bearing had been driven on in such poor condition the bearing had damaged the hub. After a few hours of research and some store shopping I discovered a 90ís Camry hub is the same part and is much more likely to be carried by a parts store than a hub for an MR2.

Now It Runs! What's Still Wrong?

Climate Control Unit

The Climate Control had been somehow abused in the past and got stuck in the hot position. I found a used one from another MR2 owner and replaced the broken unit.

Parking Brake Cable

MR2 have an Achilles heel in the parking brake cables. They often freeze up with rust. This happens when the protective cover over the steel cables and guides/collars becomes damaged and lets moisture into the cable. The moisture sits in the cable sleeve and eventually you get parking brake cables that freeze and brake entirely. Replacing the cables is your only option here.

Front Brake Pads

Brake pads wear over time and these were shot. Since I was planning on some track driving I opted for some aggressive pads. I went with Porterfield R4S HP Street pads.

Tires

Two of the tires on the car were shot and needed replacement. I went with cheap tires since I was going to run them hard on dirt anyways.

Lug Nuts

The previous owner used some random lug nuts on half the wheels. Mismatched lugs can be dangerous so I got some correct style lug nuts from a local tire shop. They threw them in for free with my tire purchase above.

Spare Tire

At some point somebody took out the spare tire. I wanted one. I found an MR2 being parted out and snagged the spare tire. The MR2 has pretty small tires so finding a correct spare might be tougher than usual.

Front Suspension

The front suspension ended up with a full replacement because of ONE failure: The sway bar link bracket. The sway bar link bracket had torn off the shock housing. This means a new shock body is required. I took the opportunity to throw on new Toyota shocks, KYB shock mounts, sway bar links, a lower ball joint, sway bar bushings and then got an alignment. The ride felt FANTASTIC after the new front suspension parts. Remember the car came with the ST Sway bars from the previous owner so it handled very well.

Shift Boot | Ash Tray | Stereo Install Kit

The interior wasnít bad, but a few parts were missing. Ash trays break all the time in the mk2 MR2s. I found a good used one and bought a new shift boot and stereo install kit.

Shift Linkage Bushings

I replaced the shift linkage bushings and made a huge difference on the sloppiness in shifting I felt when the car was new to me. There are a couple different bushings to worry about. There are the bushings on the end of the shift cables and then the square or ďcubeĒ bushing that rests on the transmission itself underneath the starter. Both bushing types can cause similar sloppiness feelings and will need to be replaced on many used MR2s if they havenít already.

Motor Mounts

This was the first surefire reason for me to believe the previous owner was either a scumbag or an idiot. The car was flat out missing the front and rear motor mounts. The car felt a little rough on shut down and I noticed the engine had a little too much motion. When I got under the car to check for possible causes there were gaping holes where the mounts used to be. I got used mounts and instantly fixed the problem.

Alternator Bracket

Reason #2 why the previous owner was a scumbag or an idiot was the completely missing alternator adjustment bracket. Amazingly the car ran well with no adjustment bracket at all. It was simply pinched by the pivot mount and held in place well enough to keep the alternator belt tight for a few hundred miles. This was a pain to install since the alternator bracket on the MR2 is well hidden by the alternator and the engine bay wall.

Brake Rotors

The rotors that came with the car were drilled. Iím personally not a fan of drilled rotors because they can introduce unneeded failure points and donít benefit most any street carís performance unless theyíre manufactured using certain heat treat methods not utilized by many manufacturers. This was proved when I found a large crack on one of the drilled rotors. The crack went from a drilled hole and extended out to the edge of the rotor. This could be heard and felt through the pedal when you were coasting at low speeds. This type of failure could be very dangerous at high speeds and is another reason why I wonít buy drilled rotors for a street car.

Wire Harness

The wire harness for the engine was improperly installed by a previous owner. This led to a melted wire loom and eventually a short in the engine wiring in a handful of wires. This was difficult to troubleshoot as it was intermittent and affected a couple different circuits at different times. The fix was cheap, but painful and required removal of the entire harness.

Upgrades?

Engine Lid Strut

The factory engine lid uses a prop rod that is annoying and can break off entirely like mine did. Most my other vehicles have had gas struts and wanted that same convenience on the MR2. Struts are cheap from McMaster Carr and so are the other small hardware pieces needed. I made a couple brackets out of aluminum strip and mounted the strut to the car. This required a little adjustment of the engine lid cushions and ended up looking perfectly flush with the body.

Final Product

I didnít intend to fix nearly as many issues on this car as I needed to. The car had been abused in many ways beyond the obvious body work needed and bad bearing.