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A 13-year-old's painstaking restoration of his Toyota MR2

Not many 13-year-old kids own a car. Even fewer own a sports car they’re painstakingly restoring back to original condition in order to go racing. But that’s exactly what Andy Ericson, aged 13, is doing with his 1990 Toyota MR2.

Andy bought the down-at-heel second-generation (W20) MR2 as a project car at the height of last year's coronavirus pandemic. With plenty of time on his hands, Andy – along with his dad Jamie – began the process of turning his tired MR2 into something he could use in entry-level motorsport events such as motorkhanas.

Andy was attracted to the MR2 for a number of reasons, not least its mid-engined, rear-wheel drive lay-out. Throw in some pop-up headlights and a targa roof for some open-topped fun and you have the recipe to appeal to any 13-year-old kid with a love of cars.

The Toyota MR2 was a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car remaining in production through three generations from 1984-2007. It was, and remains so far, the only mid-engined car produced by Toyota. Incidentally, the MR2 nameplate stood for 'Mid-engine, Rear-wheel-drive, 2-seater'. The first- and second-generation cars have gone on to become modern classics, revered for their light weight agility and dynamic handling characteristics.

Still, a modern classic it may be, but Andy's second-gen MR2 was showing signs of its 31 years on Earth.

“When we bought it,” says Andy, “the paint was terrible, and [it had] a slipping clutch and was just generally showing its age.”

Andy, under the watchful eye of his dad Jamie, set to work.

“My dad and I have upgraded the clutch, replaced the thermostat and given it a general service,” says Andy. “We have put coilovers in it, we fitted braided brake lines, upgraded pads and brake rotors. We have replaced every suspension bush and all the steering system. We have also upgraded the sway bars and at the moment we are about to start stripping it and getting it ready for paint.”

It’s been a learning process for Andy, who cut his engineering and mechanical teeth helping his dad work on the family HSV Maloo.

“I have done a bit of work on his HSV Maloo,” says Andy, “but other than that I haven't done that much before the MR2.”

Jamie is guiding Andy every step of the way, teaching his son the various processes required to bring the MR2 back to original condition. One gets the feeling that more than just a car restoration project, there’s a father-son bonding at play, forged over a shared love of cars.

“My dad normally would show me how to do it and then I just repeat,” he says. “For example, when replacing the suspension bushes, he would do one side while I watched and then I would do the other side. That is helping me learn how to work on cars.”

The MR2 remains a work in progress, but that hasn’t stopped Andy from driving it in various motorsport events open to someone his age.

“Until I’m 14, I can only do motorkhana and khanacross,” he says. “I’ve done lots of local events and a few state rounds.

“I do the local motorkhanas run by the MG Car Club in the MR2 and I drive a V8 Commodore in the local khanacross series run by the Light Car Club Canberra. I would love to drive the MR2 in these but it’s too nice to take on dirt.”

He won’t have to wait long, however, to test the MR2’s mettle in some more rigorous events, although, as he reveals, he won’t be trying to set any land speed records in his little Toyota sports car.

“I turn 14 this year so I want to do a couple of track events but I don't want to crash it so I will probably take it fairly easy,” he says. “Starting from April I’m also going to do the local hillclimb series run by the SDMA (Southern District Motorsports Association).”

One duty Andy’s Toyota MR2 won’t be called into service for is as a daily driver, his dad wary of the 31-year-old car’s safety credentials. Instead, the little mid-engined coupe will continue to serve as a weekend racer.

“My dad doesn’t want me to daily it because it doesn’t have airbags or stability control,” admits Andy. “I will probably use the MR2 as a show car and weekend race car.”

Which begs the question, what does Andy see as being his everyday car once he is allowed to drive on the road?

“A Toyota GT86 with a big wing and a lip kit on coilovers with some fat semi-slicks and a Harrop supercharger and a nice loud exhaust.”

Photos by Oli Coulthard.

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