Bargain-bucket MR2

Started by The Arch Bishop, July 15, 2017, 18:13

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The Arch Bishop

Having recently decided to reduce the number of running-restos (rust buckets) and project cars (money pits) imagine my abject surprise when that all went to pot and the call of the MR2 came through the celestial wire (Gumtree).

I'd had an alert set up on Friday Ad and Gumtree for the best part of a year just on the off-chance that a super-cheap Roadster would crop up in a 10 mile radius (I'm quite lazy). One morning about 5 weeks ago, one of these alerts popped up on my phone and I wearily tapped on it expecting another lovely, but financially out of reach, low mileage FL car for £3,000. But this one, well, it was cheap (£500 no offers), it was local (less than 3 miles away) and it was silver with red leather (like a bit of red leather but not in a sexy way). Oh and it was an MOT failure but only for a rusty cross member and a knackered windscreen wiper. I had the money stuffed away that I was intending to spend on a Playstation 4 Pro, but cars are more fun and I'm not far off being 40 years old, so I thought what the hell and gave the number a ring.

The seller sounded tired (I found out why later) but genial but informed me that I was third in the queue for viewing. The first caller was booked to see the car that evening at 5pm. Bum. So I asked if I could take a look at the car afterwards fully understanding that there would be someone before me for second dibs. Yep - no problem if the first person didn't buy - I could perhaps use my charm and witty repartee to jump the queue into second if the first person didn't take it.

At 6.30pm I had a call - first buyer hadn't turned up and I was welcome to drop around to take a look. So I grabbed my waterproof coat, torch and waders and set out in what can only be described as biblical rain. Least I'd be able to tell if the roof leaked.

Arriving at the next town along, I was genuinely shocked to find that the little PFL looked remarkably straight. No dents, dings or noticeable scrapes. The seller was happy for me to take a good look around, but it was obvious that it was in good shape (MOT issues aside). New brakes last year, engine sounded fine at 120,000 miles (other than an exhaust shield rattling) and a bulging Toyota history file dating back to when the car was bought. The wheels had been refurbed last year, the tyres were a decent brand with plenty of tread, the roof was perfect and leak free and everything worked as it should.

I asked about the other buyers. Buyer one had phoned him at 1am asking to see it (the reason the guy was so tired on the phone) but had been an utter no-show and the second person in the queue was mucking around and asking for money off before he'd even seen it. If I wanted it, it was mine for the asking price. And want it I did. Very much in fact. So a deposit was paid and the following day, the guy kindly drove it over and took the remaining money. And once again, the driveway was full of cars. My wife, as you'd expect, was thrilled.

As arrived;

Absolutely loving the old tape/CD head unit;

So that's where it began!

So, first job was to take a look at the subframe and see if I could find the rot. You never know, might be weldable.....

.....or not.

Yes... probably scrap that then.

Up on the axle stands and then the battle to remove the nappy (lots of snapped bolts), it also became apparent that the sump had been weeping oil for some time. The under tray was coated in it along with various vegetation and a few old fag butts. Then there was the reluctant catalytic converter to remove as well as the "no we're quite happy where we are thanks" toe-arm ball joints (required a joint splitter to get them off the taper and the noise they made when they finally released was like a gunshot), and the multitude of other stubborn bobbins that had to come off before I could eventually wrestle the subframe off. But off it came;

Oh dear....

Yes, that's certainly scrap;

Fortunately, with a birthday approaching and a dad who's as keen as I am to get this on the road, a cash injection went a long way towards this eventually arriving;

Some new exhaust gaskets and cam-bolts seemed a worthwhile investment while I was in the spending mood.

Also arriving in the post was a new (£35 eBay special) sump, 5 litres of oil and a filter from Opie oils and a second hand rear arm from a well-known MR2 breaker.

I'd managed to get three arms off the old sub frame, but the last one saw the bush ripping the metal sleeve out. The arms were painted up ready for reuse as the bushes all seemed in really good shape. I also cleaned up and painted the old airbox shield as it was off.

That'll do for now - I'll be back soon to bring this up-to-date.


Awesome progress so far! Will be watching this thread, what are your plans for it? Have the pre cats been removed etc?


That rust. As long as it's only on replacable bits!  :-) :-) :-)
Toyota MR2 Spyder, November 2002, Engineer approved 2001 Celica 2ZZ motor and C60 trans, MWR Carbon lined synchro set, SMT to Manual conversion, PPE headers,Fabricated Cat/Exhaust, Power FC ECU

The Arch Bishop

No real plans other than to get an MOT on it then clean and repair where needed. Oh and enjoy driving it of course!

Pre-cats are still in there from what I can tell, but I'm going to see how happy the engine is before going to the trouble of sorting out the manifold. If it's fit and well, one of those rather nice stainless ones could be on the cards. Oh, and the aux belt - the one on it looks pretty old!

The Arch Bishop

Quote from: "alancsalt"That rust. As long as it's only on replacable bits!  :-) :-) :-)

I'll get to that!! Early signs are good!

The Arch Bishop

While I was under the car, I noticed that the rear of the sills looked pretty scabby. Picture flatters it a little;

This could have been the death of the project in all honesty, but there's no point beating around the bush so I attacked it with a screwdriver and wire brush. Luckily, underneath the flaky rust, it was all solid so I set about it with some products;

First step (after chipping away at any loose flaky bits and cleaning up) - 2 coats of Bilt Hamber Hydrate 80 rust converter;

When this drys, it leaves everything solid and ready for paint - it's really good stuff and you can just leave it like that if you're in a hurry as it protects it from any more rot forming.

Next was 2 coats of Zinc primer;

And then 2 coats of Gravitex - expensive but very good stone chip. It's meant to be sprayed on but I've found it works really well brushed on and can be over-painted.

Finally, because I had some kicking about - a coat of good old Hammerite.

Irritatingly, the rough section of sill goes under where I had the axle stands fitted, so I've still got some to do, but hey-ho. Will get around to it!

Next job was to replace the rotten sump and replace the oil. Replace is not exactly the right word though. Draining the old oil out took about 2 mins as there wasn't much more that 1 1/2 litres in there... It's a good job this car hasn't been driven anywhere in a while other than the 2 miles to my house. What state the engine is in is uncertain, although with the low price of decent replacement engines, I'm not too worried.

A new oil filter was spun on and the old sump removed - not in the best of health there was no surprise as to why it was leaking;

Mating surfaces were cleaned up with an old Stanley blade;

RTV was beaded around the surface on the new sump (badly - me, sealant and a steady hand are not often uttered in the same sentence) and somehow I managed to smoothly put them back together without making a hash of it.

Then added considerably more oil in than came out.

No leaks so far - will be 'interesting' to see if that's the case when it finally gets started up again...

Final job before starting reassembly was to prepare the new subframe. I've gone for something a bit different on this as an experiment. First I filled the insides with Bilt Hamber Dynax cavity wax as they seem to rust out from the inside.

Then I got some reflective exhaust wrapping tape and put it on where the old one had rusted out - where the exhaust wraps underneath it.

Now the reason I'm trying this is two-fold. One is to stop the cavity wax heating up too much and dribbling out and the other is to try and keep the temperature inside the subframe down. Moisture clearly gets in there and then the exhaust heats it right up and lifts the paint inside the subframe and then attacks the steel leading to it rotting out. The rest of the old subframe was very sound even after 17 years, so there's not a great deal of value in painting the outside with exotic paints in my opinion. It's the exhaust and temperature that does the damage. I'll have to keep an eye on the tape I've used to make sure it doesn't collect road spray and make matters work, but I thought it was worth having an experiment.

And that's it up to date! I'll be keeping this updated with any progress made as I go along. Thanks for reading and I hope I haven't bored you too much!


Making really good progress in rescuing the new project.
For the £500 you could do a lot worse. I looked at a few facelift models before getting mine and the subframe seems to be going on all of them now.
I like the idea of protection for the new one.


Love it. Love the comedy in the writing. Great progress. I'll be following this with interest
Click for my Readers Ride


Awesome photos, good idea with the subframe protection, my FL car's subframe seems to be ok but I have another subframe coming soon to put in the garage once the current one starts to rust/needs replacing.


I have had 2 different roadsters and changed the subframes on both of them.
Neither of them cost me anywhere near as little as yours.
I think it's not a bad car for the money.
Well done.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Free Ukraine 🇺🇦


Excellent work so far

The Arch Bishop

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I love doing project threads (my Ford Puma one spanned 45 pages of elation, deflation and, for some reason, pies). They are a great means of gathering motivation from others and also ensure that I spend far more than is economically sensible on cars long past their best.

This one seemed like a good punt due to the body work. It's rust and dents that tend to cost the most to put right on old cars, so ideally I was just looking for something solid rather than mechanically A1. I've little doubt that this will throw up a myriad of daft problems and issues, but half the fun is working out the best way of dealing with them.

Very much looking forward to driving this one though - I was looking for something that had the dynamic abilities of my old Puma (if you've never tried one, do so - they are outstanding to drive) and the roof down fun of my freebie MGF. I have a fair bit of history with Mk1 MR2s (and plenty of other Toyotas) so a mk3 was a no-brainer.

Self-imposed deadline for this getting an MOT is the end of the month, fingers crossed!


Well done. A good read so far & also good to see someone with a +ve attitude & their eyes wide open doing this.
I hope it's all plain sailing from here for you.

Sent from my Moto G (4) using Tapatalk
Former owner 2003, 2zz conversion.

The Arch Bishop

Plain sailing would be great! Probably unlikely knowing me but hope springs eternal!

A few more hours today saw me finally starting reassembly. I'm made of string and fat, but I somehow managed to bench-press the subframe back to the chassis while getting the bolts in there at the same time. Who needs the gym eh?

Look at the state of that ARB! flaky like pastry!

Then I went around and bolted the abs wire brackets back on, fitted the gearbox mount and torqued the bolts up and began sorting out the exhaust. The catalyst heat shield was rattling like a box of angry wasps, but I found that one of the strange fixings had broken off leaving just the holes on both halves. This meant that it was an easy fix and a short screw and nut along with some oddly-shaped oval washers did the job admirably.

Then I removed the old exhaust gaskets. Removal of the manifold to cat' crush rings meant giving them a hard stare while they crumbled off. One was in a terrible state! The conical cat' to backbox gasket was less inclined to be removed so that involved lots of gouging and poking.

I've offered up the manifold end but if anyone can tell me if you need to centralise the gasket rings before tightening the 'three amigos', I'd be grateful for advice.

The conical gasket does not slip over the flange on the cat' like a bespoke shoe over a silk sock, so I'm guessing you push it on as far as you can by hand and then let the sprung bolts force it on the rest of the way while tightening? Again, any advice is welcomed!


You're powering.   s:D :D s:D
Toyota MR2 Spyder, November 2002, Engineer approved 2001 Celica 2ZZ motor and C60 trans, MWR Carbon lined synchro set, SMT to Manual conversion, PPE headers,Fabricated Cat/Exhaust, Power FC ECU


Everybody's ARBs look like yours they just need a run down and some hammerite.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Free Ukraine 🇺🇦

The Arch Bishop

Little more progress this evening. Exhaust is on although I'm not convinced I've got the gaskets right. If it sounds like an old spitfire when I start it up, at least I'll know why and it'll be easy enough to take it apart again! Lambda sensor was re-routed under the rear light and fitted. Lower rear arms are on and torqued up correctly.

Some bit of shiny in amongst the flaky brown bits;

Ran out of time and daylight so just the toe arms to do, which I think may be a little stinker mainly due to the start of the threads on the ball-joints being a bit chewed. I don't seem to possess the right die to clean them up either so.... ah it'll be alright.



Loving the enthusiasm. Well played.
Once the dirty bits are done get a "proper" geo done. Makes a world of difference. Actually scratch that.
Given that you only paid £500. You have some wiggle room for a suspension freshen up and and some fresh tyres.
Then get the geo done.
Where are you based?

The Arch Bishop

Quote from: "Ardent"TAB

Loving the enthusiasm. Well played.
Once the dirty bits are done get a "proper" geo done. Makes a world of difference. Actually scratch that.
Given that you only paid £500. You have some wiggle room for a suspension freshen up and and some fresh tyres.
Then get the geo done.
Where are you based?

I'm in West Sussex just north of Brighton.

I'm planning to get the alignment done at the same time as the MOT and then when I've had the second half of the summer driving around and finding the faults, I'll create a list of stuff that is needed, stuff that would be nice and stuff that I can dream about but clearly can't afford. I don't do credit cards so I save up for what I need and have learned to be fairly patient.

So far, I can see a fair few new parts that have gone on the car in the last few years so it's been well maintained and the MOT history was pretty clean, so it shouldn't need too much work. The rub is that the previous owner didn't do any mileage so didn't bother getting it serviced in three years. He did throw quite a bit of cash at the brakes though - looks like a new caliper on the back along with discs and pads. He loved the car but admitted that he knew nothing about them.

What I'm expecting from an old MR2;

- Lambda sensors
- Front springs
- An overly optimistic re-gas of the aircon that doesn't pass the leak test
- Aux belt
- Handbrake issues
- Headlights the colour of French headlights
- Lambda sensors
- Ominous knocking from the engine
- For any work that I've carried out to be almost but not quite right
- Lambda sensors
- and more lambda sensors

Feel free to offer up any that I've missed!   s:D :D s:D


Good work rescuing it thus far [emoji4]

Don't forget Lambda sensors [emoji23]

On a serious note, drains are probably going to need a clean.
current: Astral Black FL

Ex: Forest Green 2003.

The Arch Bishop

Ah yes! Forgot the drains! Shall put it on the list!


Quote from: "The Arch Bishop"Ah yes! Forgot the drains! Shall put it on the list!

Steering UJ, while you're adding stuff!

Oh, and give the power steering pipes a look, maybe refresh the power steering fluid....
current: Astral Black FL

Ex: Forest Green 2003.


Correct fluid only though.


Perhaps also look to 'upgrade' the engine mount bushes using sealant to increase the rigidity.

The Arch Bishop

Well, back to reality, I thought I could finish it all off tonight and get it back on its wheels. The ominous thunder and lightning was a bit of a portent really as, while the first toe-arm went on a treat (adjusted by eye to give a tiny amount of toe-in), it soon became apparent that the other one was stuffed. Essentially the thread on the ball joint end was bent, probably as a result of the exceptional amount of force required to pop them out of the hub. Will get a replacement asap.

Anyway, that was that and so I decided instead to hook up the battery and start the engine. Started fine, no warning lights, no leaks from the new sump not sure about the exhaust. Still a bit of a rattle from a heat-shield somewhere but I don't know how noisy these cars are normally so I'll leave it to the MOT man to find any leaks!

Ah well, completion, it seems, is for another day!