About gray

Mr. Brooks, sometimes known as Gray, beginning musician, intermediate mechanic, established machinist, professional talker. I am a machine shop leadman professionally, and I work on MR2's in my spare time. I enjoy restoring these cars, and really enjoy modifying them. I plan to have a fast autocross MKIII soon, one that can still pull nice straight line times and a decently fun Sunday drive in Texas Hill Country. I have a daily driver so the MR-S is finally a toy!

Wrecked Spyder

Well this project is over. I went out earlier today, overcast skies, bought pizza, then it began to rain on the way home. I lost control around a °160 corner and ended up spinning the opposite direction and somehow still being able to take on a fence head on at 20 MPH.

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Edit: Here is the picture, for some reason it wont add into the comments. Red line was my path, blue circle marks where I spun sideways, green circle marks where I regained control, and the red circle marks where I wrecked.

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Twisted Sisters, Kerrville 2012

This is an annual meet amongst not only the MR2 family, but also with bikers, and many other sports cars. The roads traverse around 250 miles of a mix between steep grade hills, sharp blind corners, and long sweeping banked curves. It’s honestly the greatest driving experience I have ever had.

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We met Friday around 4 PM. Just a few of us who had the day off and could travel. I drove four hours to Kerrville, though some were only an hour away, while others came from different states and travelled for much longer. We had a nice dinner at a lakeside restaurant Friday night, baked catfish for me, and lots of nice conversation with everyone.

Saturday morning many others arrived. About ten cars in total but that was plenty for our group. Originally eighteen people were scheduled to attend. With our ten I could barely keep track of everyone. It’s easy to get lost out there on those winding roads.

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Most of the morning was spent following an ’87 MR2. It was the only MKI to show up, alongside two MKIIs and six Spyders, with one 370Z. A nice MKII turbo was on my bumper and I miss seeing those cars really. I rode with him when the MKI broke down and we made a backtracking trip to go find him- just feeling and hearing the boost made me miss my old ’91 Turbo. Oh and the MKI was alright, it was just a broken battery tie down that ended up shorting the battery out and throwing lots of fire and sparks. That little car looked like a welding machine and I was trying to signal him that sparks were flying, but ultimately the battery died and he pulled over. Fortunately he was a true MKI owner and not only had a spare battery in the car, but also had parts to fabricate a new battery tie down. I was impressed.

For lunch we stopped in a small town, all the restaurants were closed save for one Mexican joint. We parked together on a one way street and walked around town.

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Best food in Texas, hidden away in a tiny town in the middle of the hills there. Well I may exhaggerate there, but I liked it a lot. I also liked the food in Kerrville.

By the end of the day everyone was tired. My car beat the crap out of me. I was impressed by the suspension, tires and brakes. I only lost traction once, a sharp understeer in a long corner that gradually became tighter while I was accellerating. Two other times I experienced mild understeer but without the slide. Honestly my MR2 is now the best handling car I’ve ever driven. The brakes never faded once, and the car never felt uncomfortable or hard to handle. Honestly I was scared of some of the curves because I thought I was travelling way too fast. But the car whipped back and forth gracefully like it was designed to traverse mountains.

At the end of the day we stopped for the best ice cream I’ve ever consumed. Apple cinnamon, made at the Apple Store in Medina south of Kerrville. If you ever have the opportunity to stop there, it’s worth the ice cream just trust me. I already am missing it.

I didn’t stay for the Saturday night dinner because I couldn’t find an open hotel. On my way home I stopped at a historical marker and took this picture. It was creep, real creepy considering the nearest town or even a house was half an hour away. I made the return trip in a few minutes past three hours because I knew the roads and there was nearly zero traffic. My motor ate the worst on the mountain roads and developed a smoking habit. I went from my normal oil changes at two thousand miles without any real consumption to using a quart of oil for every 125 miles. Real bad stuff and I definitely need to replace something, probably rings, maybe the entire short block. But it was worth it to drive truly the funnest roads in Texas.

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Please excuse my cell phone photographs, especially this one at dusk. I’ll try to borrow some of the other guy’s photos, they had real cameras.

Suspension and Brakes

It has been a while, I know. I’ve been very busy lately. I knew that I had to finish replacing all of the bad parts on my car before October Sixth- the date of the Twisted Sisters run in Kerrville Texas. I had purchased new brake rotors, brake pads, and coilovers but never had the chance to install them. The car started to make a disgusting metal to metal grinding sound which turned out to be a bad throwout bearing in the transmission. I did the labor myself with the intentions to save some money and ended up finding more problems than I wanted to deal with.

The biggest issue at this point is that the dealership or previous owner’s mechanic overtorqued everything on the car. So I have a lot of rounded off bolt heads and stripped out threads. Only thee bolts hold the transmission to the engine, two motor mount bolts are completely stripped too, and the starter can only use one bolt. It’s a mess.

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There we have it, BC Racing 5K/7K coilovers with adjustable damping and camber, Power Stop pads and slotted/cross drilled rotors. I did a lot of research and shopping on both sets and found mixed reviews all around. Apparently the best bet for coilovers are Silversprint’s custom group buys, but I needed to replace the broken struts before the meet so I opted for the second highest reviewed, BC Racing. At least this way I have a nice warranty to cover the parts too. The brakes are on the medium spectrum. Most people say the OEM rotors are great and don’t need an upgrade. Problem is, my rotors were warped, and I can buy upgrades cheaper than OEM, so I went with it. Most of the kits I found were with mixed reviews and only one brake pad is perfect according to the Spyder communities. But I purchased ceramic pads anyway, because full race is really not necessary since my car doesn’t see a race track.

Since the throwout bearing was bad, I put the car on jack stands and did all three jobs at the same time. The coilovers are a very simple and easy installation, and you can find tutorials all over the internet for that. The brakes were even easier, all you need to know is that a repair manual helps a lot and a special rear caliper piston tool is needed.

While changing the struts out I did notice a few things. The rear driver side stabalizer bar end link was bent pretty bad. Not sure how you bend stuff like that, but I straightened it for the time being. Over the winter I’ll try to purchase some nice stainless/teflon endlinks from TwosRus as they appear to be a major improvement over OEM and at half the price. Plus they never need grease. One of mine is leaking grease already. So is the driver rear control arm that adjusts Toe in/out. Several bushings are completely blown out as well, but I can’t find a bushing kit anywhere.

Bent end link:
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While I had most of the suspension in pieces, I took the time to clean everything and lubricate the bushings that needed it. I think it turned out pretty nice, too bad no one will ever see it.

Finished product:
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It’s a scary thing to drop a transmission out of your car if you’ve never performed that type of work before. But armed with my BGB repair manual, I started tearing stuff apart. That’s when I found all of those bad bolts and torn up threads. Going to need a serious overhaul to make things right, I can probably take the car to my shop and pull the transmission again and tap the holes for bigger bolts then replace everything safely. I spent the entire weekend worried that the transmission would just fall out of the bottom of the car.

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The throwout bearing wasn’t seized up, but it is definitely hard to move. When you change the clutch, it’s important to replace that bearing, everyone knows that. Too bad my dealership is shady and cheap. But at least I could see that the clutch was in fact brand new. I made sure to turn the input shaft of the transmission to make sure it spun freely and I couldn’t hear the bearings so I didn’t have to tear it apart. I’m glad someone mentioned that before I put it back together.

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The guy who sold me the BGB also had a TRD rear top brace for sale at one third of it’s value so I jumped on the deal.

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Finally everything was put back together and I took the car out for a test run. The alignment was bad but I was astonished by the difference. The coilovers didn’t remove all of the body roll, which is a good thing, but made it all so much more liveable and useable. The springs are stiff yes, but not so bad that it breaks my back on bumps. The breaks are what blew me away though. I could let go of the steering wheel, slam onto the brake pedal with both feet as hard as possible, and the car would stop super fast in a straight line, no ABS crunch, no arguements, just stops faster than anything I’ve ever driven. Unfortunately I love to test those breaks and fear replacing $75 sets of brake pads.

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That’s the car after everything was finished. I barely finished the work a day before the meet in Kerrville. I did my own alignment because I need to replace an axle and didn’t see the point in spending $80 on an alignment only to have to do it again in a couple of weeks.

The total cost is significant but not bad. Coilovers were $995 (tax free, thanks to the internet), brakes were $234, and the TRD brace was $100. The bearing only cost me $40 OEM and I spent about $30 on random bolts from Toyota.

Conclusion: Finally it feels like a new car again. Best purchases I’ve made so far.
Time Spent: Don’t want to admit to it, but about fifteen hours total. Special tools should have been purchased.
Money Spent: $1,400
Work Level Performed: Intermediate, exhasutingly so.

Headlight Restoration

I have begun to notice just how yellow my old headlights are and I started to search for a solution. New assemblies are outrageous compared to my daily driver, so I kept searching and stumbled across resurfacing kits. I scoured through several different brand names and read a hundred reviews. I finally decided to go with the 3M brand but couldn’t find it locally so I ended up using Meguiar’s brand.

The kit came with a sanding block, a 1000 grit sanding disk, a 3000 grit sanding disk, a buffing head, a microfibre cloth, plastic removal chemical, and plastic protector chemical. The process is pretty simple, wet the 1000 grit, sand sideways, wet the 3000 grit, sand vertical, apply plastic remover, buff using the buffing head and a power drill, wipe clean, add protective chemical. It takes about twenty minutes, assuming you protect your paint and add painters tape to the areas around the lenses.

I could share about twenty photographs of the process, but I’ll stick with a simple before and after. In the comments I’ll add in a picture of my daily driver’s headlights too. I was impressed.

The headlight on the right side of the picture was just finished, while the headlight on the left is old. Sure it’s a subtle change on camera, in person you can easily see the shine and how the tiny cracks vanished and the yellows faded.

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I couldn’t help but wash the car afterward and polish everything up real shiny. Yes that’s a lime green Jeep in the background, well ‘Gecko Green’ I should say.

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I refinished the tail lights after I was so impressed with the headlights. Now I’d like to do something with the side markers.

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Conclusion: Shockingly impressed with the end results.
Time Spent: One hour.
Money Spent: $24.
Work Level Performed: Intermediate, I wouldn’t recommend sanding things without a little experience.

Wheels, Finally Wheels!

Alright so I ordered these wheels long before I painted anything. I used Tirerack and honestly it wasn’t a bad buying experience at all. The website is so easy to use, customer service over the phone is excellent, and it was tax free.

I purchased some Focal something I forget, they are Chinese so it’s not like the name is all that important. 15×6.5 in the front and 16×7 in the rear with 185/50/15 and 205/45/16 Yokohama S Drive tires. When these go bad, I’ll probably stretch the popular 195/50/15 and 215/45/16. Anyway, these wheels and tires were a pain because the 16s were on backorder and I had to wait a month to receive them. But now they are on the car and I love them.

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Matches the purple great, and the Plasti-Dip black matches the gloss black wheels so my planned painting worked out great in my opinion. I know, black isn’t everyone’s favorite and they make the car look smaller/make the wheel gap look bigger. The gap will change soon when my coilovers are installed.

Terrible pictures at work with my cell phone, but I haven’t found a good place to take pictures with a good camera yet and don’t intend to look too hard until my coilovers are in.

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Conclusion: So happy to have the wheels I like, the look I want, and tread on my tires. So far the grip is substantially better.
Time spent: Thirty minutes.
Money spent: $942
Work level performed: Beginner. Extremely easy stuff.

Painting Things

I should’ve posted this three weeks ago, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep it. I had this mental image of what I wanted my car to look like. Shiny silver, black trim, gloss black wheels, purple brake calipers, and riding low. So I painted the calipers just to see how it’d look. They looked really odd with the stock wheels. All the tape parts cut out, here is the before and after:

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Not too bad from a distance though, still funny looking.
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I was embarassed so I stayed off the road until I painted some more stuff. The trim on the bumper was all removed and painted flat black, well more of a shiny flat black really. It’s the famous Plasti-Dip.
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I also painted the bumper support just so the see through parts wouldn’t have silver shining through.
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Final product:
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Yes I know part of the trim is broken, and the bumper is broken as well. Looks like a low speed collision happened somewhere sometime. This sort of covers it up a little. I’ll fix the bumper later though.

I also painted the front, though you can’t remove it all so this was a little more complicated.
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How odd, I didn’t take an ‘after’ photo. Anyway, sidevents were painted to match:
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I had to purchase new plastic mounting clips because the old ones snapped and broke. While I was at the Toyota dealership, I purchased some of the clips that hold the front plastics too and finally I ordered a tiny piece of weather stripped that was missing when I purchased the car.

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Finally, the car is starting to look complete again. It was a fairly cheap upgrade too. I spent $14 in Plasti-Dip, $3 in purple paint, $31 on the weather strip piece, and $22 on plastic clips.

Conclusion: Unhappy with the look of the car without wheels, but love the finish on the paints.
Time spent: Four hours
Money spent: $70
Work level performed: Intermediate, annoyingly patient work.

Austin Meet

No new pictures, my wheels wont arrive until August 22nd so I’m stuck in limbo there. But here is a little update on what has been going on.

I went to the Austin Texas meet. There were nine cars there, seven on the cruise. My photos were taken before the whole group arrived and I guess no one took any of the cars while everyone was there. It was a fun meet for sure, much more exciting than the old Oklahoma meets I remember going to with my old MR2. Of course the roads in Texas Hill Country are way more fun to drive than the straight runs in Oklahoma. Here are a few pictures.

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I ran into a problem on this trip. I checked my oil and my coolant before I left at 5am. Everything looked good but I knew to keep an eye on it since the car drank some coolant on my Longview trip the previous weekend. Hasn’t burned off any coolant since then either, so it’s left me confused. Anyway, we spend the day doing some spirited driving with the beautiful curvy roads and then eat our BBQ. I was a little embarassed I guess, because I didn’t check my oil and coolant at the restaurant. Not sure why, I mean all of us MR2 owners deal with mechanical issues. We all even had a laugh about no ones engine prop rods being in the engine bay.

My drive home was heavy and hard. I was tired of driving by then and had a three hour trip ahead of me so I punched it. Made it home in record time then I checked fluids. Coolant, good. Oil, what oil? If you’ve ever wondered how low your oil needs to be before you can’t even see a drop on the dipstick, then rest assured for I have an experienced answer. I drained all the oil from the engine, all 1.2 quarts of it. It was dirty too, almost as dirty as the first oil change. Now this brought on a certain paranoia. Where did my oil go?

One of the guys at the meet was following behind me on the cruise. He said I blew out a small puff of smoke twice. I did remember two instances on that drive that I broke six thousand RPMs. The rest of the time I kept it pretty casual. Okay so did I burn off three quarts of oil that quick? Apparently. I can’t find any leaks at all. I even cleaned my entire engine bay in hopes that I can find something, and so far it has stayed clean.

One theory is that it’s blowing out of the exhaust, without burning. I know this sounds crazy, but if it’s not burning off, not leaking, not sneaking into the coolant- then it’s going somewhere. Plus when I did my first oil change, it was actually blowing out chunks of goo covered in wet oil. This poor car.

Without doing a leakdown and compression test, I can’t say much else. The two is now all patched up with some Royal Purple and a new OEM filter. I’ve been watching for smoke but nothing, then again I hardly ever redline the car. I’m checking the oil level daily though, and everything seems fine so far. Some of the other MR2 owners notified me of a meet October sixth that will be fun, so that’ll be the real test. Another day of hard driving will do the trick.

Until then, I’m waiting on my wheels to arrive, then hopefully I’ll be on schedule to purchase my other suspension and brake parts before the meet.

Maintenance

I’m preparing for a road trip five days from now and thought I would go ahead and replace a few liquids before I hit the highway. For one, I don’t trust the car dealer who claims it just had overhaul maintenance performed. So I did the basic stuff.

Mobil 1 Synthetic Oil 5w-30, four quarts: $28
Royal Purple Synthetic Gear Oil, 75w-90, two quarts: $34
Toyota OEM Oil Filter: $3
Toyota OEM Red Coolant, one gallon: $31
24mm socket: $6

So I spent $102 to replace some oil, it seems expensive but let me explain the benefits.

I went with Mobil 1 because the car is high mileage and I abuse engines severely. I needed an oil that could withstand some high temperatures and fast revs. Plus, I love the cleanliness of synthetic oils. After I performed the change, I started the car and taped paper towels down to the concrete behind the exhaust pipe and gave the engine a six thousand RPM romp. The exhaust pipe is shooting out chunks of black goo, just as black as the oil that I drained from the car. See, I was right to doubt my car dealership.

After the engine oil, I went ahead with the gearbox. I had to buy a socket to remove the drain and fill plugs, but had a pump action oil can laying around to refill the transmission with. A few important tips to remember when changing the engine and transmission oils:

1. Warm flows faster than cold, but hot burns you.
2. Lowering the vehicle as the fluids drain allows more fluid to drain out.
3. Don’t forget to replace the caps and plugs before starting the engine.
4. Allow the engine to run for four or five minutes after finishing to watch for leaks.
5. Hold your drain pan close to the drain bolt when you remove it. The oils can spray pretty far.

So the engine runs smoother and cleaner now, with the idle finally starting to follow a smoother pattern instead of roughly jumping (wont be fixed without replacing the intake). But the real beauty was the transmission. Before changing the gear oil, it had a slight grind in reverse (unless totally stationary), and a hard grind when downshifting from fifth to fourth, or fourth to third gear. Rev matching becomes extremely important to drive the car correctly without damaging anything. But after I drained the stinky dark oil from it, and then added my Royal Purple in, wow- words can’t express how satisfied I am with the Royal Purple product.

It completely removed the reverse grind, made all gear upshifts much more smooth, removed the downshift grinds from third and fourth, and made the transmission much more quiet. It was well worth the expense and I’ll never use a cheap gear oil again. In fact, I plan to upgrade to Redline MT90 next time I do a gear oil change.

As for engine oil, I will probably change it again after I travel to Longview then Austin (about 700 miles, plus local mileage). Mainly because the old oil was jet black and the car is blowing sludge out of the exhaust pope now, an early oil change should flush out most of the crap, but ultimately it will take a few changes of fresh clean oil to really clean it up. I checked the belts and it appears that the serpentine is very new and should last a while. I may purchase one to keep in the car just in case.

Conclusion: Regular maintenance performed, good for a few thousand miles.
Time spent: three hours.
Money spent: $102
Work level performed: Beginner.

Wind Deflector

I should first say that I drove a MR-S once before back in 2003 at a Toyota dealership. It was a Six speed SMT but fun nonetheless. I distinctly remember that experience and am basing my modifications on what I feel are missing from my first drive of an OEM Spyder. One of those things is the little tiny back window to block the wind. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the wind blowing my hair. But my hair is a curly mess, also referred to as a ‘mad mop’ by the British who’ve seen it.

Would you want to untangle this hair after it blows around in a convertible? Would you have even purchased a convertible if you had my hair? Ha..
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So a cheap project began today and I went back to the shop with some materials in the passenger seat. One sheet of 1/4 inch acrylic, two feet by one and a half feet square, 1/8 inch thick one inch by one inch angled alluminum three feet long, eight alluminum wood screws, six stainless steel socket cap screws, twelve locknuts, six screw cap covers, a plexi-knife, and everything else I already had to work with.

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First I measured everything, twice, and determined the best fitment would be to mount this window on the top of my speaker box instead of the interior trim of the car. This way, if I didn’t like it, oh well- I ruined some speaker carpet instead of plastic molding. Once I was sure on my measurements I began with cutting the alluminum angle bar.

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Next, I marked out my acrylic and began cutting. It’s important to use a straight edge and to score it deeply. Unfortunately this was my very first time working with plastic glass so I broke it wrong. That’s where the inginuity comes in- oh and having lots of tools to use!

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First I took my messed up glass to the router saw and smoothed the edges off, then I went back to cutting it. This time I used a grinder tool with a three inch cut-off wheel attached. Messy job, painfully messy, but it was a success. Then I clamped the glass in the vice and went to work with a flat file and rounded the edges off and made the whole thing look smooth and professional.

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I took the alluminum angle bar and drilled holes for the wood screws to the box, then drilled holes to attach the glass. I tapped them with a 10-24 tap which may seem odd, but I have a future reason for this. Later on I plan to grind down the screws a tiny bit then fabricate a rapid release system for when I want to remove the glass.

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Finally I mounted everything together, taking special care to polish up the alluminum with some Scotch-Brite before I put the glass in place.

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I’m not happy with the fitment. It’s a half inch too tall, and a couple of inches too wide up top. Later on I’ll take the glass off then grind and file the curves down to match the stock fitment some. And I think I’ll shop for a sticker to place across the glass, just don’t know what to do with it yet. I’m actually pretty happy that the deflector is almost invisible because I’m hating how it turned out.

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Word of caution for anyone attempting this- cutting hard plastics doesn’t actually cut the parts, it melts them. Working with acrylic and power tools means you will smell super glue chemicals, and the shavings/webbings that the plastic throws at you will burn, and it will stick to you. It’s a very painful process so dress accordingly and use proper ventilation and safety glasses. I’d even recommend long sleeved shirt because my arms are showing the tiny burn marks already.

Conclusion: Wind deflector was successfully created, but unhappily.
Time spent: 5 hours
Money spent: $41
Work performed: Intermediate level

Debadge and rebadge

Okay this is one thing that I seriously fought myself over. I have no problem with the OEM look of a car or the Toyota emblems. But I wanted to add in my old MR2 hood emblem to sort of pay respects to the greatest cheap sports car in history. I decided to ditch the cowboy and dig my old badge out of storage.

I should explain, my 1985 Nautical Blue MR2 was twenty years old when I first purchased it from the original owner. He had special ordered the car and received it just three days before my actual birthday so I felt like me and this car were separated at birth. Seriously, don’t laugh yet, I loved this car.. I washed it weekly and waxed it monthly. I performed all maintenance way ahead of schedule, and I babied it. Sure, it hit redline during most gear changes, but I took care of it. Well the hood was sort of stuck, and when you shut the hood, it often wouldn’t close due to the old latch. This would force you to slam the hood down. Eventually the hood emblem fell off. And I’ve kept it ever since then (along with purchasing a replacement which eventually fell off while driving).

I read a few tutorials on this project, of course they were all specific to using the JDM MR-S badges, but the concept was the same. Pull the old emblem off, glue the new one on. Not so simple…

First I soaked it with water on a hot Texas summer day (as per instruction). You can see me using my limited edition Dark Knight Rises collector’s cup here, it was black and the largest glass I owned!

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Then I pulled out dental floss. It took eight feet of floss to finish the job because it kept breaking. This requires patience and a sawing motion.

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When the badge comes off, there is a lot of glue leftover. This is the hard part. I used glass cleaner and a plastic knife. It took 90 minutes to completely remove it all.

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Then I faced this ploblem. The holes don’t line up (the JDM badge does line up and uses the same holes).

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I ground down all three pegs since not a single one lined up, then I used 3M Badge Glue. I should warn you, use a measuring scale and make sure to follow the instructions exactly, and DO NOT remove or slide it for any reason other than the instructions say. It will (and did) remove the paint. Fortunately I need new paint so it’s no big deal. At any rate, I’m happy with the end results.

Oh and the badge must be taped on for a few hours to make sure it dries correctly and doesn’t move.

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Finished product:

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I had to wait four hours for the top repair, and about two hours for the emblem, so I took that time to wash and wax the entire car as well as use trim sealer to make the blacks shine. I was impressed with the end results. What a beautiful car.

Conclusion: Rebadge successful.
Time spent: 2 hours
Money spent: $0
Work performed: beginner level