DIY hero buys, rebuilds, breaks, and rebuilds a Toyota MR2, against incredible odds

Too often, that dream that we all have had at some point—you know, the one about the exhaustive, time- and money-no-object restoration for a beloved classic—is sidelined by any number of the curveballs life can throw at you without warning. That’s why I can’t help but cheer whenever I stumble upon somebody who actually pulls the rags to riches car restoration, even if there are a few stumbles along the way.

Naturally, this video from YouTube creator driving 4 answers is right up my alley. In the film, he documents five years’ worth of buying, blasting, building, breaking, and re-building a MK1 1987 Toyota MR2. The builder prefers his name kept private, so we’ll call him D4A as a shorthand.

In the film, D4A disassembles the MR2’s 1.6-liter 4A-GE DOHC four-cylinder engine piece-by-piece, Redline Rebuild style. In rapid, time-lapse fashion, the engine goes from a tired propulsion unit to an assemblage of parts ready for intensive cleaning and restoration.

After a few quick cuts showing individual parts being cleaned, ground free of corrosion, and, in some cases, repainted, the engine begins to take shape once again, accompanied by some ultra-retro techno tunes.

Then things take a turn for the worse, courtesy of good intentions with bad results. As D4A explains in the video description, his decision to sand-blast to engine block prior to coating it with new engine enamel proves fatal. Unbeknownst to him, as he embarked on freeing the block from its oily, gunky prison, the blast media became embedded in the block, only letting go once the engine had reached operating temperature following re-assembly. Just a short while after finally getting the car and its painstakingly-restored engine back on the road, he’d developed a rod knock.

We had a chance to catch up with D4A and discuss the fallout from that first engine failure. “Honest answer, I was really trying not to let it get to me. [I worked] to try and ignore my feelings basically until I could deal with it,” he said.

Toyota MR2 Engine
Youtube / driving 4 answers

Whereas most folks would wave the white flag and cut their losses, D4A decides to take things one step further.

He embarks on another rebuild, this time taking time to refresh the suspension, install new bushings, and help the engine sprout a custom intake manifold and individual throttle bodies from a motorcycle. Talk about lemons from lemonade!

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that D4A is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Restoring an old Japanese car is financial suicide here,” he said. “Parts don’t exist. I ordered almost everything from abroad. I could have bought another car for the shipping and customs fees alone.”

Selfishly, I love seeing this slavish devotion to one project, against all odds. As clean examples of classics of all sorts become harder and harder to find, we’ll need folks like D4A that are filled to the brim with resolve and a positive, curious attitude. They’re the types of people who become a wealth of information and tips for newcomers who are just beginning the classic car ownership journey.

Toyota MR2 Dyno
Youtube / driving 4 answers
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