My middle son and I went to a car show in nearby Calgary that had all the usual suspect cars as well as a few more exotic finds but one of the most interesting, to us, was this rather modest in origin Toyota. We are both rather fond of this era of Tercels after the ownership of our “Hamborghini” model so we spotted this one from a decent distance away. As it drove by we noticed it had some interesting box flares at the rear hinting that it was not your average Tercel. It turned out to have a secret in the back.
The rear view showed showed some non-stock suspension as well as five rather than four bolt wheels. It had to be a mid engine swap but what one? We hoped the owner would park somewhere along the road at this rather casual come and go show so we would get a closer look.
As luck would have it the car did park nearby with the friendly and enthusiastic owner ready to answer our questions.
The question of what engine might have been swapped in was quickly answered as a supercharged 3.8L V6 out of some sort of front wheel drive Buick sourced entirely from the pick and pull junkyard. The build had used the whole front (now rear) subframe and welded into the car. He mentioned this engine was a fairly early example and could have its power boosted by utilizing some later parts. Not that I imagine this car needs more power.
The interior is pretty standard Tercel at this point minus the Buick shifter and a lack of a rear seat.
The fender flares came about as he measured the distance between the wheels of the donor Buick on the inside of the rim and an assistant measured the Tercel on the outside of the rim. He mentioned he was a body-man by trade so whipped up these box flares by moving the stock bodywork out a few inches on either side to solve the track width mismatch.
The car was definitely still a work in progress but all the work done so far appeared to be completed to a high standard. He mentioned a firewall, exhaust work as the next steps.
As illustrated in the video above the starting procedure is kicked off from outside the car at the rear for now.
The owner did show us under the hood which he had placed some extra weigh in to help balance the car with the absence of the stock engine.
The MR2 is Toyota’s most well known mid engine performance machine which reputably got its name from either “mid-ship run-about 2-seater” or “mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seater”. This Tercel/Buick hybrid is likely faster in a straight line than quite a few of the productions MR2s. Arguably, this Tercel could be similarly named or perhaps “mid-ship (ex)economy 2-seater” or Toyota ME2. Or maybe not as it is definitely one unique creation. Regardless, this was a low buck, high fun project that we were fortunate to be able to see up close and met its passionate owner/builder.