My Mk2.5 1.8 Sport

I thought I’d share the progress of my sunlight silver MK2.5 Sport since buying it back in June 2013. A tale of a project derailed and almost lost!

I bought the car back in 2013 as a low mileage, standard VVT Sport. 36k on the clocks and well cared for by previous owners with signs of Waxoyl dripping from drain holes! I knew nothing of chassis rails back then and luckily, those were cavity sprayed as were the sills.

What looked like rust at a glance was in fact Waxoyl!

All clean and untouched

… and the interior I picked the Mk2.5 for. Heated leather abound.

It wasn’t long before I gave in to the massive tuning market and bought a Racing Beat rear exhaust to add a little noise to the car. This back box is VERY nicely fabricated and adds just a bit of depth to the exhaust note. No droning, no antisocial volumes, just “right” for my tastes. I also fitted a set of style bars (unwittingly… before seeing “mousetrap” images on Google!!!)

Next… time to powder coat some engine bay bits. My local powder coater had a new chrome finish, so I tried it out on the strut brace and mounting brackets. I also coated the washer bottle mount.

Add K&N Typhoon and some Magnecor leads… a bit of spit and polish and this is how it ended up:

Now… at this point, I realised that the underneath of the car, while solid, was pretty “brown” especially on the rear end suspension arms and subframe. Can’t be that difficult to properly remedy can it?.. I was loving the car but wanted to sharpen up the handling further. I decided to pull the rear end apart and restore it - upgrading as I go with uprated bushes and good quality coil overs. A new set of wheels would have to come too… so… this happened!

Just one day off work and a borrowed corner of my local friendly garage… I stripped the rear down. Its not pretty is it? A garage queen 41k mileage car at this point… brown with failed paint.

As all “projects” seem to go with me, it snowballed. Microsoft Excel got involved… parts lists… birthday and Christmas present lists involved nuts and bolts… the parts started to accumulate:

The most expensive small package I’ve ever had delivered! Every rear end fixing, new.

IL Motorsport uprated bushing kit for the rear:

Aren’t these adjustable drop links just gorgeous… the build quality is superb:

Oh… and lets stiffen the car up properly and ditch that “mousetrap” style bar. GCFabrications to the rescue!

Last but not least, MeisterR Zeta CRD coil overs. These are beautifully made.

I almost forgot… wheel choice. My aim with this car is to build a fast B road car so I decided to try and go with the lightweight/track proven side of the choices. 6UL’s were high on my radar but I just couldn’t get on with them. Many digital attempts later, via Photoshop, I ordered a custom set of 16" Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 in “glossy anthracite”. I had them made with the proper 54.1mm bore (ie no plastic spigot rings) and an offset of ET25 to give just a subtle poke towards the arches.

I’ll save the thread at this point and add the rest in a new post…


Crud removal time…

I’ll start with my “lessons learned”. There is just one… pay for someone to blast and coat these things! I was quoted around £300 to blast and powder coat the rear end subframe and arms. Hell no I thought… I’ve restored a few old Triumphs in my day… I’ll buy POR15, some Bilt Hamber de-ox and DIY this one myself!!! What an idiot… It didn’t go as planned…

After wire brushing, this is what I was dealing with. No pitting, just surface crud and failing paint:

Into a Bilt Hamber solution (cant recall the name, but it was a kilo bag of salty looking stuff!!)

The result? A subframe with partly rust cured surfaces, part original paint. I couldn’t paint over that… it wouldn’t last.

There’s only one solution… Nitro Mors! Oh how I wish modern paint stripper was toxic like it used to be!! This stuff is close to useless these days. It took DAYS… but I persevered,

and again…

until I was done…

I could now start the 3 stage POR15 treatment. 1. Marine Clean 2. Prep/etch 3. Paint. I have loads of “in progress” pics but i’ll cut to the chase…

Arms needed the bushes removed so I tried the DIY approach… and failed. It worked on the smaller arms but on the larger arms, the bushes just wouldn’t move and I risked bending the arms.

I gave up after this one arm and sent the lot to a local engineer to use a proper press. I could have drilled/burned them out but decided to just pay someone else to do it right and press in the new bushes at the same time.

So… many months later… I’m done painting:

Time to fit the roll cage. I did this one myself and it took half a day. Its easy to take stuff apart… its the finer detail and finishing that takes the time.

Interior out. Rear deck out. Lots of bags and labels!!

Here’s how things look stripped back. That wiring loom is one to watch. The roll cage drops in right in the way of that loom so you have to be careful.The red ring in that picture was done to highlight the rear window heater earth clip that I broke when trial fitting the cage.

After a trial fit, I marked up the mount points with a Sharpie and got to drilling:

A few hours later I’m done. Spreader plates fit from inside the arches. Liberal amounts of paint followed by a seal of Built Hamber underseal to make sure there’s no exposed bolts or raw holes.

I was pleased with the finished look from outside - the fat diagonal just showing:

I took Grant’s pics off Facebook and created a PDF downloadable manual in case anyone wants to see the full process:


great thread johnny , i love stuff like this :+1: :sunglasses: :sunglasses:
keep it coming :red_car: :red_car: :red_car: :red_car:
plenty of pics too( we ALL love pics )
as you say it looked a fantastic car up top , but its underneath thats the devil

It was all going so good…

…and then things went a bit AWOL on me. My wife took ill and spare time went out the window. Finding an hour free just wasn’t happening any more and so I had what became known as “the Japanese wheelbarrow” stored a mile away in a grubby working garage. My painted parts remained in the garage at home.

4 years passed and things weren’t improving at home. My local garage was great and I paid them storage to let my wheelbarrow sit in the corner. That arrangement worked well until the garage went bust!! First I knew of it, a local friend called to the house to tell me to get down there fast as my MX5 was currently on a forklift being removed from the garage!

This is the sad sight I was met with… 4 years of dust and dirt. Multiple dings and dents where they’d been working around the car and been careless. Heart in boots moment.

At this point, I have over £2k of parts at the house and a car in bits that’s in a right mess. No mechanic at the garage and no wheels on the car to get it home! Nightmare. I was about to just give up and try to sell it as a failed project when I spotted MX5 Parts NI advertising on Gumtree. A local MX5 specialist with experience in race prep, servicing and a massive stock of parts from breaking 5’s. One phone call and all was clear - the guys proposed a very reasonable hourly rate and agreed to accept the car “as is” with a delivery of all my spares as a kit.

I delivered a car load of parts to MX5PartsNI and was immediately put at ease, I could never have rebulit this myself and really, didn’t trust anyone locally to do the job right anyway. Throughout the process I got updates via WhatsApp and was really delighted with the speed and professionalism of these guys.

Oh… they supply and fit Jass Performance chassis rails… it would have been rude not to!!

Some progress pics from the work:

Fitting the chassis rails into place:

MeisterR’s in place and looking good! Note how the guys painted and treated EVERYTHING. Even reused bolts got cleaned and painted.

Finally… a grainy picture arrived… the money shot!!


i remember seeing this before somewhere ( the pic of your car in the “wheelbarrow” position jogged my memory ) :thinking:

it’s a beaut! mine is off for treatment on Friday. Think you have made my mind up on wheel choice too!

A few days later, its back home!!!

First impressions blew me away. The handling was transformed. Chassis stiffness superb - ZERO scuttle shake. I started with Meister’s recommendation of -20F -15R (ie. go to the hardest setting, then click BACK from there). I installed remote adjusters in the rear which made adjustments easy: I tend to drive pretty hard on our twisty NI back roads. The suggested settings were too soft so I went to -15F -10R and have stuck at that point. The ride is OE compliant - in fact slightly better than the OE Bilsteins. When you press on in the corners, the ride is seriously improved. I’d be at the stage with the handling that to experiment further, I’d need to be on a track.

I had one problem with the car from I first bought it. A mouldy smell in the seats. I literally spent well over £50 on every treatment going but the smell must be deep in the foam. So…

Now, these dents!! The passenger door had a bad dent - someone must have pressed that panel pretty hard. The side impact bar within caused a high spot. I booked the car in with Bluehill Detailing over in Portadown. James is a perfectionist and honestly - a magician at his trade.

I’ll show you how it all ended up… the car had over 10 dents removed. James then spent three days paint correcting, detailing and finally 2 stage ceramic coating the car AND the wheels! I was truly blown away when I collected it and took these pictures… ENJOY!!!


A few finishing touches…

A new centre console. The original got scored courtesy of the garage throwing parts inside the car:

A carbon knob. These are hard to find with a 6sp shift pattern on them!

And finally, inside the boot… a cheeky sticker that I show all the non-believers before I take them for a drive and change their perceptions on these wonderful cars!!


I had build threads up on Nutz and Mighty5’s so suspect that’s where you saw it!

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The rails are WELL worth it - I went for the heavier version. Wasn’t sure which to go for so went for stronger v’s lighter. Got my wheels from Demon Tweeks - waited about 3 months for the order but they go SO well with the silver paint in my opinion. Toyo’s fitted are doing well - good grip levels.

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Wow! that’s an amazing transformation

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Great work!

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A real credit to you, Sir. :+1:

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A very entertaining and informative thread. Thank you.

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Brilliant work fella. Mind boggles how much you have spent but I’m guessing you love the outcome too much to worry about such trivial matters!

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Well… I have the receipts for everything but don’t really care to add it all up! The whole rear end work onwards (incl coil overs, roll cage, wheels/tyres) would be close to £3k spent over 4 years. Nobody has to worry about what I need for birthdays and Christmas in this house!!

So yeah… I’ve spent more ON the car that I spent buying it back in 2013!

I’ll drive it a couple of years as it sits… then do the same on the front end. This time however, I’ll be handing it over to MX5PartsNI and exchanging my front subframe and arms for off the shelf powder coated replacements.

I also have a long time urge to add power… but I’m resisting that so far. Much as 200+bhp would be right up my street, the car drives so well on my local roads, I don’t really think it needs it.


this is stunning!! great job mate

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I also have a long time urge to add power… but I’m resisting that so far. Much as 200+bhp would be right up my street, the car drives so well on my local roads, I don’t really think it needs it.

There goes the dilemma with these cars. On the one hand, so much of the performance lies in the chassis, on the other that chassis would laugh another off another 60 bhp.
Sub 6 seconds probably…
Oh…go on… :smiling_imp:

Indeed… and I know full well that +60bhp would be just brilliant. I’d been favouring a supercharger installation to keep the same power delivery curve. My inner hooligan would also be very pleased with the noises of a turbo, but I’d really need to go 3" on the exhaust and I dont want to ditch my lovely Racing Beat back box and IL Motorsports mid section.

Then there’s the cost. My car is super clean so I don’t want some eBay Chinese turbo. It would need to be new parts from G19, Blackcat or BOFI Racing. That… will dent my wallet for £3k in parts alone (ME221 ECU as the choice).

So I swing back… with a “no” to boosting the car. I’ll uprate the front end soon with perhaps a Racing Beat sway bar, IL motorsport bushes etc. I’ll probably STILL want more power then, but I have to allow my head to rule the decision (for once!).

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I do miss NI.
Worked there via the lovely Larne Ferry for a good number of years.
Usually stayed at the Chimney Corner.
Lovely run down Carrickfergus is it not?
Lovely friendly people everywhere.

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