It all started with a trip to pick up some lengths of carpet. Shropshire-based Lawrence ‘Loz’ Selly was sent on the errand by his dad to “a mate’s barn thing,” but carpet rolls weren’t the only thing stored in the building.
To his surprise, Loz stumbled on an AW11 Toyota MR2, although it wasn’t some barn-find gem. It was filthy and rusty, had a smashed windscreen and seemed to have been used for airsoft target practice. The little mid-engined sports car was destined for the scrap heap, but Loz simply couldn’t allow that.
Having come to an arrangement with the owner, Loz sorted the seized brakes and flat tyres, allowing the MR2 to roll out of the barn on its way to a new life. This wouldn’t be a simple restoration, however. There were grand plans involving swapping the original 4A inline-four for a 1MZ Toyota V6, a swap that’s more common than you might think. A Volvo turbo five-pot was the dream but the difficulty of fitting one made it an unlucky prospect.
The first order of business involved stripping the MR2 pretty much down to the shell, removing and selling the stock engine, and yes, dealing with that rust. The arches were probably in the worst state, but a strip-down of the grimy interior revealed that the unpainted metalwork underneath had been hit with the tin-worm too.
Given the extent of the bodywork repairs necessary, Loz snapped up a surprisingly cheap blasting cabinet off eBay, plus welding gear. The project was getting very serious, all while Loz was dealing with the stress of being laid off from his main job. Sunny days working on project MR2 must have provided one hell of a tonic.
With the bodywork starting to get into the kind of shape it needed to be, Loz set about refreshing the braking, suspension and steering components. But not without some upgrades - KYB dampers with 35mm lower springs, polybushes and Wilwood four-piston front brakes (with the stock ones refurbished and retained at the rear) were all on the chassis agenda. Oh, and a set of oh-so-lovely 3SDM 0.05 wheels.
Still toying with the idea of dropping in the 2.3-litre engine from a Volvo 850 or perhaps a V6 of some description, Loz bought a Honda K20A2 engine from an EP3 Civic Type R. As exciting as the other options would have been, this was arguably more in keeping with the A10’s original character, just with a little extra go.
Just like the MR2 he’d rescued, the K20 needed a little love too. The plan was for Honda specialist Clockwise Motion to give the 2.0-litre unit a comprehensive rebuild, but the news wasn’t good - a valve and a piston had gotten intimately acquainted at some point, and the repair bill was going to run to the tune of £2000.
Fortuitously, another customer wanted to sleeve his K20 block for some turbocharged shenanigans, so Clockwise hatched a plan. It would sleeve Loz’s block instead, and in return, he’d have the customer’s stock block plus an upgraded used cylinder. All of this came in for a fraction of that original £2k bill, putting the project back in business.
In terms of fit, the K20 slotted into the engine bay nicely onto a new set of mounts ordered from Hux Racing in the US - no cutting or other modifications required. Much harder was getting its ECU wiring loom to communicate with the MR2’s loom, requiring significant debugging to rid the system of all the fault codes. Allowing the K20 to breathe out effectively, the cat-back assembly from a Mk7 VW Golf R of all things was sourced and fitted.
EP3 Type R seats were purchased to liven up the interior and quickly sold again - it turns out they don’t fit. MK2 MR2 seats go in nicely, though, if like Loz you’re happy to carry over the Mk1 mounting frame.
A coat of Ford Grabber blue, found on the Mustang configurator, livened up the outside, which had been treated to neatly blended fibreglass wheel arch extensions. And just like that project was done, or at least as done as a project car can be, some three years after it emerged from that barn barely clinging to life.
I suspect a lot of us would have looked at that poor MR2 languishing in its airsoft dungeon resting place, toyed with the idea of saving it, before dismissing it as too arduous.
Thankfully, not all car enthusiasts are wired the same. For some, it’s all about the challenge. It should come as no surprise that a little over a year on from completing the K20’d MR2, Loz plans to get the car out of a few tracks, before selling up to fund the next ambitious project.