Project MR2 Turbo: Quick and Easy Frunk (aka Front Trunk) Restoration

Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the Toyota MR2 Turbo project car
Aug 6, 2020

This all started when we went to put some new wipers on our 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo. We realized that our frunk–that being the front trunk–looked like butt. And not the good kind that Sir Mix-a-Lot raps about, but the scary kind that you accidentally see in the Walmart snack aisle at 3 a.m.

So we set about a quick frunk rejuvenation that ended up costing us next to nothing. This was done on an MR2, but the techniques that we used here can be applied to pretty much any car, and ultimately it’s time and effort that matters more than specific products.

Our frunk’s funk was even visible with it closed. The plastic trim panel fitted over the cowl looked faded and flaky, and lots of debris had worked its way into cracks and crevices. The wiper arms that we had set out to fit with new blades showed chipped paint and surface rust. A few trim screws and 10mm nuts later, and all of those pieces were free from the car and in our shop sink for a scrubbing.

First order of cleaning was with simple dish soap and water. We wanted to stay away from anything that could be harsh on this aging plastic trim.

Then, with the aid of a good light and some fine needle-nose pliers and compressed air, we set about picking the tiny bits of organic debris from the cowl cover’s mesh screen. The screens were glued in place, and we could have possibly removed them, but that could have also broken a tab or two. Ultimately, cleaning them in place probably took no longer that the delicate operation that removal would have involved.

After we cleaned all of our removable underhood and cowl plastics, it was time for actual renewal. We prepped the surfaces with CRC QD Electronic Cleaner, which is an extremely mild, fast evaporating solvent degreaser designed for delicate electronics. It flashes off quickly and completely, and is great for older plastic bits that might succumb to a more aggressive solvent.

For renewing the finish, we love Krylon Fusion spray paints. The Fusion lineup sticks to practically anything, so it’s great for painting hard-to-coat plastics. It also has excellent flexibility, so it’s one of our go-to choices for renewing flexible plastic trim pieces. We also used it to coat the metal wiper arms after a quick wire brushing to remove any loose scale. It’s magic on any surface.

Our frunk also contained a lot of solid, organic debris–just a general layer of crud. We first attacked it with a Shop-Vac, getting up the bulk of the solid waste, and improvising a few extensions from various PVC pipes and fittings to suck around corners and into tight spots.

Next came a thorough soaking with CRC Engine Degreaser, and a rinse with a hose. It was also at this point that we realized that the MR2’s front battery tray offer terrible drainage. Several towels later, we got everything dried out.

Our wiper arms had some surface rust, and here we faced a choice: We could succumb to project creep, remove the entire wiper motor and arm assembly, and refurbish them off the car (a choice that very easily could have led to the car spending the next three years on jackstands, perpetually being “just one more little project” from completion), or get 90% of the benefit for 10% of the work. We chose the latter, because sometimes it’s totally okay to punt. A little emery cloth to clean up the arms, a spray of rust-converting primer, and a coating of enamel epoxy paint applied with a sponge got everything looking really nice and protected the metal with a fraction of the time and effort.

That rinse of degreaser removed a lot of the crud, but there’s still going to be a lot of stuff to wipe down. When you go back for that final cleaning, wipe down everything with a good, one-step polish wax like Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax. It’s basically a car restoration in a can for underhood painted and even plastic surfaces. Go through and do a final cleaning of surfaces with the wax; then go back and buff everything off and you’ll be petty pleased with the results.

Our final frunk looks worlds better using only a little bit of time and effort and stuff we already had on our shelves.

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View comments on the GRM forums
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter)
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/6/20 10:57 a.m.

Nice. Detailing a slightly dirty car can be really rewarding, and a great way to spend an hour or two.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
8/6/20 11:03 a.m.
ShawneeCreek (Forum Supporter) said:

Nice. Detailing a slightly dirty car can be really rewarding, and a great way to spend an hour or two.

Yeah, there's a certain level of grime that delivers a massive payoff for minimal effort. I call it the "sweet spot of neglect"

snowrx New Reader
8/6/20 12:27 p.m.

That busy little frunk makes my Esprit's one look huge.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
8/6/20 12:45 p.m.
snowrx said:

That busy little frunk makes my Esprit's one look huge.

First-gen MR2s had a huge frunk. the SW20 is nice and deep, but it's kind of narrow compared to the older car. Still plenty of room for activities, though. Between that and the big rear trunk and the space behind the seats, it's amazing how much room there is.

racerdave600 UltraDork
8/6/20 1:40 p.m.

New they came with plastic pieces that cover a lot of what JG's is showing, so it didn't look that big when new.  When I bought mine back in the early '90's, it had so much plastic in there you couldn't see the battery or anything else for that matter, only the spare.  

You need to write more about the MR2 JG, I love your car!  

mr2s2000elise SuperDork
8/6/20 2:24 p.m.
racerdave600 said:

New they came with plastic pieces that cover a lot of what JG's is showing, so it didn't look that big when new. 

Yup, here is what mine looks like. 


JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
8/6/20 2:32 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:
racerdave600 said:

New they came with plastic pieces that cover a lot of what JG's is showing, so it didn't look that big when new. 

Yup, here is what mine looks like. 


My cover is somewhere in my garage. If I ever figure out what that location is it's getting cleaned up and going back in.


300zxfreak Reader
8/7/20 9:00 a.m.

On black/grey plastic trim, I've had good results with Mother's Back to Black trim restorer. It has plasticizers in the formula to help bring the plastic back to life. Works pretty well. Much better than just throwing some Armor All on there.

hybridmomentspass New Reader
8/8/20 9:41 a.m.

I have a 91 turbo, didnt come with the plastic liner - if anyone knows of one PLEASE let me know, want one to get it back to 'factory' condition (you know, minus the Gen3 swap and little things here and there)


We need more SW20 content JG!

spandak HalfDork
8/8/20 11:16 a.m.

It's hard to tell but it doesn't actually look like there's room for anything...

What is up there? I see a battery, brake booster, etc... it seems weird that they couldn't find more space. That's one thing Porsche nailed with the Boxster. 

hybridmomentspass New Reader
8/8/20 11:45 a.m.

Spare tire goes up there, as well as the jack/tool kit for wheel changes.

Then, after that - maybe a small toolbag, not a ton of space really. But it's still enough. Right now I have a full size spare in using a stock wheel, nice having that over the 50mph skinny

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