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Discussion Starter #1
Hello folks,

I'm a new owner of a 2000 Toyota MR2 from the San Francisco area! Not only is it my first car purchase, it's also my first manual car. My main car is a 1996 Toyota Corolla, with a full JDM front end, coilovers, and a ton of rare JDM goodies inside and out.



I recently got a new job in food delivery and I felt terrified of damaging the Corolla, as many of the parts are either outrageously expensive or irreplaceable. So I went looking for a beater car for delivery, and somehow, I ended up with an MR2. Oh well, I love it!



My dog loves it too (and that shift knob is going in the garbage soon)



It has one bad upstream O2 sensor (which I will be replacing with two Denso 234-4624 sensors, along with the working one), a bit of peeling clear coat on the front bumper, and yellowed headlights. However, it also has a 5 speed manual (no sequential), a new soft top, an alarm with proximity sensor, a new Pioneer stereo, and 17" wheels.

I plan not to modify it significantly, but things will be done here and there!

Earlier today (well, yesterday), I polished the headlights with Turtle Wax headlight cleaner and sealant using a Meguiar's foam applicator. Cheap stuff. I didn't expect much, having polished 2000 Lexus RX headlights to no avail, but I was amazed at the difference!

Before:


After:


I also threw in some PIAA Plasma GT-X bulbs, keeping to my "stock" approach.





It also has a K&N air filter in the stock air box. It made a significant difference in my Corolla, so I thought I'd toss one into the MR2.

I have a few more mods planned for this car. First off, I have a new steering wheel in the mail. It's identical to the current one aside from red stitching and a cruise switch (I don't have cruise anyway), but my wheel is literally melting from the heat of my hands and leaving my hands sticky and blackened. I'll just swap the wheel and keep the original airbag. Then, I really want to install a TRD quick shift kit. The shifter throw is real long, and I'd like to shorten it. This is my first manual car, and I think it would help. Then I was considering a set of 03 headlights, though I'm kinda digging the black bezel on the pre-facelift lights and don't fancy the idea of baking the new lights open just to paint the bezel. And I might throw some OEM Toyota 14" wheels on there, the 17" wheels weigh 24 pounds each and one has a bulge in the sidewall of the tire, and I don't want to shell out for new tires just yet. I have an extra set of wheels, and the diameter is the same as the current 17" wheels, so it should work without a problem in the meantime.

Do you guys have any suggestions for cheap or easy mods? Of course it can't affect reliability, the main necessity of a work car. Also, what do you think of preemptively replacing the stock exhaust manifold with a California legal Magnaflow dual cat header?

Thank you!
 

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Welcome...and nice pics there!
As for a TRD shifter, they are quite rare these days, but you might get lucky in finding one (otherwise you may have to go aftermarket, non TRD, for a shortshifter).

If you're looking to get rid of the precats (always a good idea), decatting the header may be your best bet (since you're in CA and need to pass a smog inspection). There's plenty of instructions here on SC how to do that. Plus, I'd keep the OEM heat shields on for a smog check. Just get the car smogged when it's warmed up- plenty of people from CA have done it this way and pass smog without an issue.

Nice job with the headlights.

As for mods, it all depends on your budget- some here have gone full out on suspension and engine mods, while others (like me) have stuck to the aesthetic, non performance mods.

Good puppy!

EDIT: Here's an eBay link for the short-shifter, but it's not cheap:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/TRD-JAPAN-MRS-MR-S-QUICK-SHIFT-LEVER-JDM-TOYOTA-ZZW30-MR2-SPYDER-ROADSTER-98-08-/151347833810?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item233d08abd2&vxp=mtr

They may also be available via Japanparts.com
 

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I love Corollas. I had one 93 - made in Japan, JT vin - that I restored into absolutely mint condition then sold just recently - one among many many others, more than you would believe, that I bought and sold, renting them out to customers in between. One of my old 96 Corollas is still running strong with 280 on the clock - I still help the new owner with it, it's part of my used car guarantee.

For Spyder mods, these are my two absolute must-do's:

1. Cap's MAF mod - this is quick and cheap and will tide you over until you are ready for other major engine mods or swap. I have done this mod and recommend it.

2. Middle brace. This significantly reduces the rattle-trap character of the car. There are a few to choose from, Corky's has two, and Mattperformance has one TTE style brace that I went with and personally recommend. In fact I referred to this mod as "THE BOMB" because I was so impressed.

You can find my description of these mods in my project thread if you're interested.

The TRD quick-shifter I just purchased from japanparts.com. It runs over $200 delivered, but consider how much you interact with the shifter, that's a fraction of a penny per shift. If you're patient, you can find a used one for sale here from time to time - my advice is jump on it the minute you see it, because if you don't someone else will.

This is a nearly infinitely moddable car with lots of affordable and easy-to-implement mods available - it was a big part of the attraction for me, since I love to tinker. Have fun.

PS. One thing I'll tell you if you're new to this car - this is a piece of advice that should be given to every new Spyder owner: Be extremely careful jacking up the car. Be careful never to lift one end much higher than the other. Even if you use the indicated center jack points (don't even think about using the side points for one-sided lifting), the frame is very flexible, and the front and rear fenders are flimsy - they are just looking for any excuse to buckle. Ask me how I know. Search for "incorrect jacking" or "jacking damage" to see what I am talking about. Not a biggie, the damage is usually very minor, but it will detract from the appearance of the car.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for all the responses! A few questions.

What does Cap's MAF mod do exactly? I found the buying thread but want to know what it does before throwing money at it.

MerryFrankster, do you happen to have a link to it on Japan Parts? Over $200 isn't so bad at all. (EDIT: Found it, no need)

I'll have to look into gutting it. I'd like to pay someone to do it, sadly I don't know anyone who does such things. Time for research!

And thanks SO much on the advice for jacking the car up. I took a look at the side jack points and noticed they were unbent, which was strange to me. I'll take a look at the manual for the center jack points.
 

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Thank you for all the responses! A few questions.

What does Cap's MAF mod do exactly? I found the buying thread but want to know what it does before throwing money at it.

MerryFrankster, do you happen to have a link to it on Japan Parts? Over $200 isn't so bad at all. (EDIT: Found it, no need)

I'll have to look into gutting it. I'd like to pay someone to do it, sadly I don't know anyone who does such things. Time for research!

And thanks SO much on the advice for jacking the car up. I took a look at the side jack points and noticed they were unbent, which was strange to me. I'll take a look at the manual for the center jack points.
I assume you are talking about gutting the pre-cats. You might consider this instead: Do not gut the precats. Save the factory header. Buy a cheap header on ebay - about $100 delivered. Swap it for your factory header. If you are paying someone to gut the precats for you, $100 is about what it would cost you. Might as well get a new header for it.

Simple explanation of Cap's MAF Mod: It fools the computer into advancing the timing and enriching the fuel mix, so you get more torque. There is another thread - besides the sales thread - where it is discussed in far more detail that I could ever give you. If you ever need bedtime reading.
 

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If you really want to know what Cap's MAF mod does read his research thread, once or twice or many times as I did. Very basically it changes the reading of the MAF sensor, providing a lighter load signal sent to (fooling) the ECU which advances the timing. With stock injectors the fuel trims will be off so larger injectors are required. Higher octane fuel is required to handle the timing advance. For the money and time I know of no higher value to add a little more zip to the Spyder. This mod doesn't seem to work on SMT spyders. I am running this as well as a header, CHE exhaust and light flywheeel.

I suggest you keep a close eye on oil usage. Check often until you know what to expect. No oil kills.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Do you think a header will pass visual inspection here in California? I got a smog check done on my Corolla recently and they are HOUNDS for modifications. They asked what the relay was that I mounted in the engine bay for fog lights.

I did some research on the MAF mod. I couldn't find the thread started by Cap showing research, but I get the basics. New yellow injectors, removing vanes on the air box, and a $25 spacer will advance timing and add power at the cost of higher octane fuel. Since this is a work car, and I'll be burning a lot of fuel driving in the city, I can't justify paying more for fuel unfortunately. So the MAF mod is off the table for now.

Checking oil consistently, thanks for the tip. The Corolla 7A-FE is known to burn oil, though I hear the 1ZZ is worse, so I'm used to keeping tabs on oil usage. Going to do an oil change soon and pour in some Valvoline MaxLife 5W-30 semi synthetic, it seems decent with oil burning up there with Castrol GTX.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I polished up the headlights again today, just to finish them off. Five total applications. Not gonna get better than this.



Also, I tried putting on my 14" OEM Toyota wheels because the tires were in far better condition. My current tires are cracked and bulged. But no dice, as I was tightening the nuts on the last one, I noticed that the weights hit the calipers. I had to take all of them off.

And thank you again for telling me to jack up from the cross members! I managed to do it without issue. God knows how upset I'd be if I jacked up from the side and damaged the quarter panels.
 

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Welcome! I hope your delivering tacos or something because I dont think the SPyder has room for a large pizza.

Good job on the lights too and very clean Corolla.
 

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Haloruler64,

Gutting the precats is one of those things that we have been scared into doing. There are many who have intact precats, who have not had engine problems. Still, I chose to gut mine. At worst, getting those stuck bolts can be a pain but it taught me a lot about the underside of my MR2 in the process. It will cost you nothing except some sweat and time. I like the change to the exhaust note as well.
 

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That is a bad suggestion.
Cheap "headers" don't last long.
They often don't fit properly.
They may impede exhaust flow.
Some have attachment points for the OEM heatshields. Others do not.

If the OEM heatshields are not present, you probably won't pass visual inspection during a smog test.

Apparently. many California Spyder owners have two manifolds.
One (the OEM manifold) is used for smog testing, while the other is used for driving.
This strategy will circumvent the emission laws, but it will not make cheap "headers" any better.


Gutting the OEM manifold solves all these difficulties.
I have to disagree. I have had a cheap clone header on for 6+ years (The stock header with perfect pre-cats sits on a shelf). It has no issues at all, it fit fine, had all proper mounting tabs for the stock heat shields, and seems to add a bit to the midrange power. Since they are all nearly exact clones of the TRD header, that makes sense. My only variations was to use the Toyota manifold gasket and the later model cast lower braces that are much stronger and stiffer than the early stamped braces, which flexed.

Having said that, the quality does vary and most of the few broken ones that have been pictured on the forum either didn't have the lower braces at all, or had aftermarket exhausts with questionable mounting. Vibration is a killer on any thin wall tube header. But at around $100 +/- the investment isn't much, and you still have the original with pre-cats if needed. Looking at what is on eBay right now, there appear to more than one supplier as some have the OEM style stamped manifold flange, and some have a flat plate.

Gutting the stock manifiold makes sense if the pre-cats are already damaged, as isn't usable anymore, but I just couldn't force myself to destroy perfectly fine, undamaged pre-cats. I might need them someday for emissions inspection. They are holding up great sitting on the shelf.

Of course, then there is the OBX copy of the PPE. Some have reported issues them, but I have no personal experience.
 

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Do you think a header will pass visual inspection here in California? I got a smog check done on my Corolla recently and they are HOUNDS for modifications. They asked what the relay was that I mounted in the engine bay for fog lights.

I did some research on the MAF mod. I couldn't find the thread started by Cap showing research, but I get the basics. New yellow injectors, removing vanes on the air box, and a $25 spacer will advance timing and add power at the cost of higher octane fuel. Since this is a work car, and I'll be burning a lot of fuel driving in the city, I can't justify paying more for fuel unfortunately. So the MAF mod is off the table for now.

Checking oil consistently, thanks for the tip. The Corolla 7A-FE is known to burn oil, though I hear the 1ZZ is worse, so I'm used to keeping tabs on oil usage. Going to do an oil change soon and pour in some Valvoline MaxLife 5W-30 semi synthetic, it seems decent with oil burning up there with Castrol GTX.
I don't think I would bother with headers if it requires change out for emissions. I am lazy and prefer to do things only once. I commute 70 miles a day, I think Cap does at least twice that. Both of us use the MAF mod. IMHO it is worth it. You do get better gas mileage with the advanced timing. Higher octane does cost more. You pay to have fun:)

Spend your money on maintenance, gas and tires. Adding a lower 5th gear can increase mpg, I prefer the performance. Enjoy the Permagrin!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Headlights came out really nice. Good job. Check out Dev's website for some tasty mods that look factory: www.keytechniques.net Welcome to SpyderChat and the land of permagrin. :biggrin-new:
Thanks! Permagrin, I like that. I have been eying that site for a while now, definitely getting the oil filler tube.

Welcome! I hope your delivering tacos or something because I dont think the SPyder has room for a large pizza.

Good job on the lights too and very clean Corolla.
I deliver all kinds of food. With the passenger seat moved all the way back, my huge thermal bag fits perfectly and it holds large pizzas. But yeah, I'm delivering mostly small things. Space is of little concern. Except that one time I got a $700 order to LucasFilm headquarters and I'd have to do some strategic packing to get that into the MR2.

Haloruler64,

Gutting the precats is one of those things that we have been scared into doing. There are many who have intact precats, who have not had engine problems. Still, I chose to gut mine. At worst, getting those stuck bolts can be a pain but it taught me a lot about the underside of my MR2 in the process. It will cost you nothing except some sweat and time. I like the change to the exhaust note as well.
I searched around a bit but couldn't find much info about the actual process of gutting the cat. Is it difficult? But the TRD knockoff header with heat shield mounts seems like a great option to me. From my experiences with the Corolla, Toyota design knockoff headers seem to be pretty good quality. Anyone have a link to a proper header with heat shield attachment points? I'm terrible at finding proper headers.

Maintenance shall be done. Oil change first, already new air filter on, just need some other basic stuff. Tires for sure, mine are cracked. I don't think I want to spend the money on a lower 5th gear, it sounds AMAZING and exactly what I want but it'll be over $500 easy.
 

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Gutting the OEM manifold solves all these difficulties.
Some Spyder owners in CA have been unable to pass emission testing with gutted pre-cats and an OEM manifold. They have had to borrow or buy a manifold with intact pre-cats in order to pass. Buying one can be very expensive. Check your pre-cats visually when you replace the O2 sensors. If they are intact then you should carefully consider your next move. If I lived in CA I would not ruin an OEM manifold with good pre-cats that I might need later. I would buy a Che header and run it between emission checks.

The Che will not improve performance. In my experience it will perform about as well as a stock manifold but will eliminate the possibility of pre-cat failure and the subsequent engine damage that comes with it. When I bought my car it had a Che header that had been on it for a couple years and I ran it another 9 months before I did a 2ZZ swap. The header performed well and there were no cracks or damage. I sold it along with the motor and the guy that bought it ran it another year before selling the car. That is my experience. Others have not been so lucky and have experienced cracked welds on the header but Che replaces them for free.

I am just telling you what I would do. You need to do your research and make your own decision. If your pre-cats are already gutted then the decision is made for you and hopefully you will pass emissions. Good luck.
 

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You got lucky.
Drive On!
One of the changes Toyota made to help the pre-catrs live in 2003 was to move to the cast lower braces to cut vibration. Since the most common cause of fatigue failures in welds and tubing is fatigue fractures, the cast braces should help the header just as they help the pre-cat matrix. Vibration has caused issues with my heat shields on the mid pipe, but the header is still perfect.

Just like the pre-cats themselves get blamed as a cause and not an effect, so do the headers. I think a true forensic analysis of both types of failures would show they are more often results rather than root causes.
 
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