MR2 Coversion

Ok, this idea worked through a lot of incarnations before I came up with this one. And I think this one will work, and I think I am going to try to build it in the next couple of years.

I have always loved the second generation (91-95) Toyota MR2. Great little car, lots of aftermarket performance goodies, and Toyota reliability. I like the styling of it as well. It was called the mini-Ferrari when it came out. I always wondered if one of these could be used as a donor car for a kit. Well, it turns out the MR2 is the almost the same wheelbase as the bug. Its only off by a couple inches. So I started looking in to building a Sterling with an MR2 donor.

The first thing I noticed is that the back of the MR2 is nicely shaped, and the Sterling is not (in my opinion). So, why not cut the Sterling body at the rear wheel wells, and mate the whole back end MR2 to the front 2/3rds of the Sterling!! Imagine all the wiring, cuting, and adapting you cut out by doing this.

Well, this presented me with a problem. The dash was too high. I would have to cut down the firewall, and lower the dash in order to make it fit without having the Sterling nose way up in the air. This was going to require MAJOR surgery, which I was trying to avoid. I liked the idea of just using the MR2 as un-cut-up as possible. THe front end can only be lowered 2 inches without major frame modifications. That still didn't get me where I needed to be.

Then I thought of something. The main thing I'm trying to get is the lines of the middle 1/3 and the coolness of the canopy. I could cut the roof off an MR2, cut down the doors a bit, and drop the new canopy over the MR2 body. This is what I came up with.

There is a lot more involved with doing this than might first appear. Here is some text from emails with a friend of mine when I was discussing this.

Email 1

What would you think about just buying a 1995 MR2 and stripping it, and mounting the Sterling body on it. Just about everything could be kept intact. The steering, the brakes, the engine, the computer, and even the guages. It would be a heck of a lot of work, but a heck of a lot of fun. :)

My only reservations would be with the integrity of the car. The MR2 uses the body of the car to keep it rigid. By chopping all that off, you're losing a lot of integrity. I'd have to learn a thing or 2 about welding to make some reinforcemnts. Also, the MR2 is a mid-engine design, which puts the motor where the gas tank is now located on the Sterling. I dont know how much room there would be in the cockpit. That seat needs to recline a lot to fit a 6-foot person in there. Also, dropping the floorpan might be a little more tricky on an MR2.

Email 2

I have been thinking more about the MR2 mods, and actually talked with a guy from an MR2 list about it. He seems to think there would be a tremendous amount of work involved, but that it would be possible. He said that the most you could drop the front of the car would be 1.5 inches. If you get new coilovers, you can drop 2.25 inches ($1500), or you could drop about 2.75 inches with major cutting of the wheelwells. Seeing as I'm taking away a lot of the structural integrety of the car as it is, I dont think I'll want to go that low, if it means cutting more of the car. I think I would work within the confines of the 1.5 - 2.25 inches. I've been rethinking the rear of the car. My new thought is this. Just leave the entire rear on, including the trunk lid (engine cover) and rear quarter panels, and everything else and just mate up the front 2/3rds of the Sterling body with the rear of the MR2. The rear MR2 window would be removed, and the Sterling rear window would be used, but everything from that point on backwards would be MR2. I'm still grappling with the idea of how to get the dash and the firewall under that of the Sterlings. If you look at a side on pic of an MR2 and a side on pic of a Sterling, you'll see what I mean. The height of the car between the front of the windsheild and the rear of the front tire are VERY diffrerent (I think). It might help to find an MR2 and take some measurments.

Email 3

I The dash is rather high on that car. Even if I did overcome the obstacle of getting the Sterling over the chassis, there may still be some difficulty seeing over the top of the dash once the cockpit is closed. I was thinking about removing the top of the dash (the padded part) and replacing it with a custom thin fiberglass piece, covered in vinyl. This will save about 2 inches. I could move the gauges down a couple inches provided the tilt was always in the "down position". Becuase I will want to move it up and down to get in and out of the car, that wont be possible. Then I had the craziest idea. Bolt/mount the bottom of the gauge pod to the top of the steering column. The gauges will raise with the wheel, and lower with the wheel.

Email 4

I've been checking out MR2s on the road, and the more I think about it, the more I like this option. Heres how I see it playing out.

  • 1. Buy a 1995 MR2 non-turbo. Turbos are very torque-y, I'm going to be chopping up the body a fair bit, and I dont need the risk of extra power twisting things up.
  • 2. Have steel re-inforcement beams welded running the entire lenght of the underside of the car. I had plans to chop a roof off another car once, and was told that this is possible, and necessary. Someone has obviously done it as evidenced by this MR2 convertable conversion.
  • 3. Buy a Sterling body - top piece and canopy only. This means I do not need the side skirts, the rear end, or the nose piece. Chances are I will have to buy them all, but thats ok. Here is a diagram showing what the kit consists of.
  • 4. Strip the MR2. Remove seats, carpet, dash (but leave in wiring for guages). Take off the doors, fenders, hood, trunk, bumpers, glass. Cut away door-jambs, window pillars, rear quarter panels.
  • 5. Hollow out sterling body. This means a) cutting out the dash which is moulded in to the car. b) Cutting out the inside cockpit. This is an interesting move, as the inside cockpit is what the entire body rests on when the car is mounted to a VW. after it is mounted, then the side skirts are bolted on. By cutting this out, you need to find a new way to mount it, which is ok. As we cut it out, we can widen the cockpit area as well, and provide for a new mounting position in the same step. basically, we cut out the interior, and cut up to the top ledge. See photo The yellow X on the far side indicates the interior panel that will be removed (which normally supports the body) and the yellow line on the close side indicates where the new cut will be made. As you can see, it gives an extra 3 inches on each side. also, realise that these interior pods are normally the only thing that separates the outside elements from the interior of the car. we'll want to make new interior panels, but probably AFTER the body is mounted, allowing us easier access to work. c) also, the interior of the front hooded area will be hollowed out. normally, it is a large trunk area. in this case, there will be a lot of components up front. rather than trying to get any extra space, i would just remove the entire tub which is the trunk, allowing access to all components. d) i would hollow out all areas which surround the engine area. the standard engine access hole is very small. there is room to make it about 6 inches larger on every side. might as well. note: after all this "hollowing", it would be wise to flip the car over, and reinforce almost all areas of the body with another layer of fiberglass. given the extra power of the MR2 over the VW, this shouldnt be a problem weight-wise. besides, this new body will still be loads lighter than the original MR2 body.
  • 6. Next, further re-inforcements will need to be made to keep the MR2 structurally sound, as the body normally provides a lot of integrity to the car. A small frame will be welded to the side of the car where the doors used to be. They will run the length of the cockpit and will be about 1 foot high. if you were sitting in a seat in the car, they would appear as small gates on either side of you, about at the right height to rest your arms on. these will provide some support where the body of the car used to. they will also provide a mounting place for the newly cut body to be rested on top of.
  • 7. mount the body over the MR2 frame and attach. sounds so easy, doesnt it? the major obstacles i see are the rear of the "cockpit pod" hitting the engine area. some more cutting and re-working may be needed. its also possible that areas of the front may interfere with the body. again, trial and error will work best here.
  • 8. re-attach the rear bumper and the rear taillights (how cool is that idea!!??). if my calculations are correct, they'll be in about the exact right place, and will fit about perfectly. extensive fiberglass work will be needed to make them "seam" up together, but this will provide excellent accident protection, and super ease of wiring taillights. and its a good looking shape.
  • 9. create a custom front end similar to the 360 modena, or the mclaren F1. its possible that some of the parts from the MR2 nose could be used.
  • 10. build custom sides which more closely resemble the 360 modena. These could be eaily built using the panels from the MR2 body, and using the side scoops that came on the MR2. they would be chopped off right below the trim line, and fiberglass would be used to make them seam to the sterling body.
  • 11. the steering column on the MR2 comes with a tilt option as standard. its very possible the wheel could be tilted to the position needed. otherwise, it would have to be lowered by cutting the car up.
  • 12. the top dash cover will be removed and replaced with a thinner fiberglass one. this will accommodate the lifts on the side of the dash which raise the canopy. also, becuase it is not padded, it will be about 1 inch lower, giving more visibility. also, the gauge pod can be trimmed back to give an extra 1/2 inch visibility or so. depending on how far in the lifts are, we may need to eliminate the functionality of the side vents, although they will still stay there.

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