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Curtis’s ’88 MR2 Restoration Project

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DSC09800 scaled - Leadfoot Racing Custom Fabrication & Modifications Workshop

We are sure many of you will be familiar with Curtis’ real-life matchbox racer otherwise known as a First Gen, 1988 Toyota MR2. He’s been a regular customer at LFR for years and you can read about the engine rebuild and custom exhaust we produced here: www.leadfootracing.co.uk/projects/mk1-mr2-engine-rebuild/

However, the last 18 months have seen us undertake a total strip down restoration of the car to eradicate rust and prepare the shell for a new coat of paint. His original MR2 had been the victim of a lot of poor quality bodge repairs leaving most of the rear with a thick coating of filler in addition to the rot and rust that was coming through in all the expected places such as behind the side skirts, the front wings, around the door shuts and all over the rear quarters… As a starting point for this project Curtis picked up a second MR2 which he picked up cheaply as a non-running unfinished track project but that looked to have a far better shell to serve as the new base.

Kicking things off Curtis sold off the donner car’s engine and track paraphernalia such as the roll cage and extinguisher system… then we got the car on the ramp and started to inspect it. It transpired on reflection that the donner car was still going to need a fair amount of rust repair to the rear arches and sills, but was at least an improvement on the first MR2.

To save on fabrication time we picked up some replacement panels that were available and got welding! The purchased panels did need a fair bit of alteration to line everything up but we were happy with the end product. We fabricated the other parts needed such as the inner arches, sills, and floor pan as well as utilising any good metal we could cut out of the other MR2.

With the rust repairs done we gave the car a very light skim to smooth everything off followed by a rough prime and rattle can paint job to keep it protected while it was in the queue for the paint shop. We then left the owner to pick the best bits from the two cars before it went off to paint. We ended up taking the doors, bonnet, boot lid, and engine lid from the original MR2 and swapping them onto the refurbished shell.

A walk around of the refurbished former track ready MR2 before it went off to the paint shop.

We then trailered the car and took it over to Wyatt ABR near Glastonbury to get a total respray, changing from white to a Toyota original colour option of 8B8 sky blue. The story behind this is that Curtis’ dad owned a sky blue one new in 1985, but reluctantly sold in about 10 years later when kids came along. Curtis wanted to surprise him by turning up with ‘his old car’.

With the 80s time capsule back at Leadfoot Racing and shining brightly with it’s new paint of coat, the next stage of the restoration was to get the engine and suspension migrated over from the original MR2 into the new shell. The donner car did have a number of good parts to it as well though so this also became a case of cherry-picking the best bits while installing. The owner picked up a set of poly engine mounts because apparently this 30-year-old Toyota doesn’t rattle and vibrate enough already! (note: there were no replacement rubber options available and both sets were pretty far gone being 30 years old). We were of course keeping the coilover suspension from the original MR2 to get the car to a good height and the exhaust we had fabricated previously. We also had to move over and re-install the wiring loom since the donner cars’ loom had been cut and modified for track additions. We installed a new aluminum radiator as well as cleaning out the metal coolant lines running from the front to the engine in the rear.

Getting to hear that exhaust note after over a year of restoration.

Although it may seem like the end was close there was still plenty to do. The interior hadn’t been painted since it is all covered up but to protect it we had to grind away the dirt and surface rust, prime and paint with a rust preventing white Hammarite. We then installed sound deadening since this had been removed by the previous owner. With this done we could commence the reinstalling of carpets and all the interior from the original MR2. We had to splice over the stereo loom and then installed a new Sony touch screen unit and new speakers to give the car some modern features as this is Curtis’ daily driver and only vehicle.

We were very close now, all that was left was some small finishing touches such as re-installing the side skirts and mud guards, installing the indicator lights, installing the frunk and boot linings along with cleaning the pop-up headlight terminal to get the pop-ups working as they need to. The owner picked up a suede dished Momo wheel to replace the cheap flat wheel that came with the car and then she was off for an MOT!

Driving the nearly finished article for the first time.

The pokey 1.6 mid-engined Toyota naturally passed through the MOT with no advisories and is now finally back with Curtis and being used how it was designed as his everyday runabout! We think it’s a lovely little car and are really happy to see it come together. Below are some pictures of the finished article. If you want us to help you realise your project then please don’t hesitate to get in touch – there is no project to big or too small! Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see more of our work.

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