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Mustard New Reader
7/12/22 7:41 p.m.

So a little introduction.. I've had more cars than I can count and always told myself I would document the process with a build thread and never committed. Being in my 30's now though I've deemed this my " Forever car" and figured why not document it now. Be warned this will be a slower thread as I save for each step/item and so on as I find deals.

When looking for my next SW20 I had one stipulation. It had to be bone stock as I like many other have been burnt from previous owner mistakes. Luckily I found that in this car.


1991 Toyota MR2 / 5 speed / NA / 253,xxx Miles

Here it is moments after picking it up and the following few days as I awaited my garage being built (gotta love Covid supply chains)


After sitting for a week or so I decided to replace whatever interior pieces weren't discontinued. New Oem ashtray, shifter surround, shift boot, 93+ shift lever and the shifter bushing (all OEM) and also added a Greddy knob like I had when I was 16.


I also mounted a MOMO collapsible hub and Sparco wheel as the oem bits had seen far better days. I also found some blue reproduction floor mats luckily enough (only the black interior cars get any love)

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/12/22 7:49 p.m.

That blue interior is stunning!  Thank you for sharing this.  

Mustard New Reader
7/12/22 8:10 p.m.

So I purchased the car in December of 2021 and did the few items out of excitement but knew I wouldn't be doing much until my garage was up.. As fate would have it a month later they were here to erect the steel building 


So now that the car was under cover my wallet seemed to open up like a floodgate. I had already purchased a new staggered set of RPF1's that you can just make out as well as a coilover setup aimed at street and mild autocross/track with Swift springs from a renowned MR2 owner Bob Pham. He helps create parts tailored to this chassis versus run of the mill big name coilovers that while they fit may not be designed for the car itself.

and a shot with the new wheels

Mustard New Reader
7/12/22 8:11 p.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks! I debated very hard about swapping to black but the blue on white works and you dont see it enough!

Mustard New Reader
7/12/22 8:34 p.m.

Now while tackling the coilovers I noticed something wasn't quite right in the rear end..

I had a bent Trailing Arm and a bent Rear Tie Rod ( Both of which are NLA / Discontinued except from aftermarket companies with hiem joints) Luckily the DMV area has a group chat and the members got me used but in good condition items to use.

On the left you'll see the used but good condition Tie Rod I was given while on the right its nice and twisted as well as the bent Trailing Arm which has also been replaced. OP likely smacked a curb and had no idea is my assumption?


Thankfully this is all I found while digging in. The plan still is an entire Prothane Bushing Kit as well as OEM Balljoints front and rear as well as OEM wheel bearings front and rear.

Vorpal HalfDork
7/12/22 9:15 p.m.

Nice, this'll be a fun build to follow. Nice, clean stock+ SW20 yes

Mustard New Reader
7/12/22 9:20 p.m.
Vorpal said:

Nice, this'll be a fun build to follow. Nice, clean stock+ SW20 yes

That's the end goal. An oem+ styled SW20 that can hang with far more modern cars. I have a lot left to upload to get this to the present day so stay stuned!

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/12/22 10:17 p.m.

In reply to Mustard :

It's amazing how much people love or are curious about MR2s.  I really look forward to more updates!  I hear you on the wallet too.  My wallet is about to bleed Subaru but you like what you like!  

Piguin New Reader
7/13/22 3:26 a.m.

Been looking forward to this build thread ever since you posted in 'Let's hear about'

You did manage to find a unicorn with it being unmolested with VERY questionable mods!

Mustard New Reader
7/13/22 9:02 a.m.

So initially the goal was to enjoy the car this summer. I was told it had sat for at least 5-7 years so the paint was a chalkboard at this point. Luckily it's single stage paint and I did a 3 step correction on the car. While not perfect it felt great to see an actual reflection in the paint lol


I also cut and buffed the tail lights and brought a little bit of life back into them while I stay on the hunt for some Kouki ( Late model ) tailights

In this final photo you can see how nicely the paint came to a shine. However you'll also see the passegner side is littered with door dings and the lower rocker is a little suspect as well... Which I will get to later in this thread.

Mustard New Reader
7/13/22 9:35 a.m.

If you've noticed I kept alluding to the fact that while the original goal was to drive this all summer while I collected parts the car decided it had other plans. It began randomly dying under any load. Sometimes it would start right back up and act fine other times it needed a few minutes. This got so frequent that on its final drive it died 13 times in 5 miles... Now I knew my plan was to swap in a gen 4 3SGTE turbo swap and figured this was my sign to start. 

Right before the 253,xxx mile NA lump came out. Funny enough while pulling the NA engine I found the distributor connector had 2 exposed wires from the jackets rubbing and these were likely grounding out and causing my random dying issue.. I never decided to look into this but knowing the engine was still good it was far easier to sell on Marketplace.

Then removed the rear subframe

then just drop the motor down and roll it out!


As you can see the engine bay has all 30 years of road grime present and that was next on the list to tackle.


Mustard New Reader
7/13/22 10:20 a.m.

For engine bay clean up it was mainly lots of washing / wire wheeling / painting just to make everything look nice enough for when the new motor goes in. I also at this time started cleaning up the Gen 4 3SGTE I had picked up. I certainly could have done everything much faster but would be kicking myself later knowing I took the lazy way out.

To start here are some clean up shots of the engine bay and rear cross member.

Now you'll see the lower corners and lower firewall still need some cleaning up but im awaiting replacement items before I tear the old bits out to clean. 

And then the rear cross member and rear sway. The rear sway bar isn't usually upgraded and is sometimes removed completely but the front will be getting a whiteline bar so I didn't bother tackling that.

Next up will be the 3sgte makeover.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/13/22 2:51 p.m.

That car is waaaaay cleaner underneath than mine, so that will definitely make things easier. Who are you getting the harness from? And what's your plan for the transmission? Mine was a turbo car to start with, so it already had an E153, and my recommendation would be if you're not in a hurry to find one for your swap as well. They're practically indestructible, and you;re going to want one sooner or later, so you may as well go in with the right bits to start with and not have to worry bout taking it apart again. 

Holler if you need any specific detail pics while you're working.

Mustard New Reader
7/14/22 8:48 a.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thanks!  So the harness is coming from Wiregap. Initially I was going to go with the turbo E153 trans but Wilhelm Raceworks recently came out with a conversion of the E351 which is a Camry/Solara trans with a better final drive and known to be capable of 400 whp/tq and the first weak point being the diff which they do sell and LSD for it. So that's my plan for now and have the trans all cleaned and ready to go as well which I'll document as I catch this up some more.

And I certainly will reach out with any questions!

WondrousBread New Reader
7/14/22 8:53 a.m.

That paint correction produced some really impressive results. Good work all around, I'm really enjoying seeing all the progress you've made.

docwyte PowerDork
7/14/22 10:09 a.m.

These are such cool cars and with the newer turbo motor are awesome.  They're definitely on my radar, I'd love to get one that's done already.  Hint, hint JG, lol!

Mustard New Reader
7/14/22 6:01 p.m.

In reply to WondrousBread :

Thank you I appreciate that. I'm trying to go by the Mantra of "Buy once, Cry once" & "Do it once, Do it right"

Mustard New Reader
7/14/22 6:24 p.m.

Moving onto the Gen 4 3SGTE! 

I picked this up from a fairly local importer and was pleasantly surprised by how clean it was visually and checking the import sticker from Japan it's labeled as having 50,000 Miles. Of course every importer says this but how clean the motor was overall certainly led me to believe it could be true. They also did a compression test for me once I arrived and all cylinders were dead one at 180 psi each.

Just some initial pick-up and tear down photos of the engine..

So overall not too bad of a pick-up but certainly grimey as most are. Of course one of the exhaust manifold studs took the threads out with it so that will need a Time-Sert when I get the chance.


And here it is torn down / Cylinder head cleaned / block ready for paint 


Next post I'll start diving into part clean up, new parts and assembly

Mustard New Reader
7/14/22 7:27 p.m.

I'm not going to break into every part replaced but I've done OEM everywhere I can and luckily the gen 4 being newer everything so far has been OEM.

Block Freshly painted

Then started with bolt on items ( Intake Manifold, heat shield, coolant pipes, etc.. With a photo showing how some of these parts looked before cleanup)

Mostly assembled. I'm still waiting on my timing components before I can call the motor complete

and of course I had to get the valve cover powercoated.

Mustard New Reader
7/18/22 2:22 p.m.

Now to get away from the Endless cleaning photos for a bit I'd like to add some of the 94+ body conversion.

I knew before I even purchased the car that I was going to take this route so I cast a pretty wide net as these can be very hard to find or just plain expensive.

First up was the 93+ front lip. Of course its discontinued and used items are almost always beat and not worth the asking price so I found what looked like a replica on eBay and took the 100 some odd dollar gamble..

Don't mind the clamps just the easiest way to line it up without a secont set of hands.

Overall though this eBay replica lip fit great and all the mounting points were at the correct factory locations which is not what I had heard from the forums. ( if you look to the first post you'll see its far more aggresive than the 91-92 lip)

This brings us to the 94+ spoiler which is in my opinion the best looking oem option. I got very lucky with this item as well being about an hour drive away so no need for shipping.

So out with the heavy 3 piece spoiler..

and in with the new

In that first photo of the 94 spoiler you'll see that massive hole where someone must have at one point tried ripping the antenna out and just destroying that bit of sheet metal. I wasn't super thrilled about this but it would need body work either way to close the original spoilers holes.


I'm stilling playing catch up but I have managed to procure a set of the later model Kouki tails as well from Scotland of all places. Hopefully to ship this week. They'll need refurbished but I got them far cheaper than sets in the US go for. ( Usually around $1,200 USD) Below is shot of the lights I purchased before they were removed.


yupididit PowerDork
7/18/22 2:56 p.m.

I always loved these. And the bodystyle that came after this one too.

hybridmomentspass Dork
7/18/22 4:33 p.m.

Mind sharing the seller, in case they have more available?


Loving this thread

Saw something the other day on OC where a guy is using some bolts to fill the holes on his race car so he can go back to 3part spoiler if he chooses, neat idea.

Mustard New Reader
7/18/22 4:43 p.m.

In reply to hybridmomentspass :

Yeah so if you're on the MR2OC Facebook group his name is David Whyte. He only parts out cars as they come in so this was the only set currently. Keep an eye out for his posts though as he seems to part cars out fairly frequently and said the last car someone in New Mexico bought those Koukis. 

If mine had been say an original turbo car I would have second thoughts on the spoiler change but being an NA car I'm just building to my own tastes.

AMiataCalledSteve New Reader
7/18/22 4:51 p.m.

I am really loving this build, you do great work! These cars will never cease to be cool.

Mustard New Reader
7/18/22 5:05 p.m.

In reply to AMiataCalledSteve :


I had to get back into one before prices went through the roof and I'm glad I got back in when I did. Sadly parts are being discontinued daily it seems and used oem stuff is just climbing and climbing. JDM tax I suppose lol

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