My name is Andrei Taraburca and this is my story. In December of 2018 I was let go from my job as a investment broker/underwriter. I always dreamt of doing something automotive related full time, but that path isn’t easy to take when you have a good paying job and great education. When I was let go, I saw an opportunity to follow my dreams.
I got started right away. I purchased a 10x20 car port and started my automotive endeavor in the middle of a New England winter. I had basic tools and bought a $350 in a entry level MIG welder. Armed with ambition and knowledge from the internet I began learning and developing my fabrication skills. I knew my way around a car but my knowledge didn’t scratch the surface of what I was about to attempt.
In 20-30 degree weather, I was out there every day for 4 months, until I successfully swapped a V6 engine from a 2000 Toyota Sienna in my 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder. I built my own mid-engine sport car based on the same recipe as the legendary Acura NSX but for a fraction of the cost.
This swap is so unique that I had to fabricate my own parts to make it work. The first step was modifying the rear subframe to allow the engine and transmission to sit in the correct location. Next was to create engine mounts based on Toyota’s design since that was tested and proven. The first problem was that the shifter linkages were facing the opposite. originally the Toyota Celica transmission sits in the front of the vehicle and faces the driver towards the rear of the car. Since the transmission in the MR2 sits behind the driver, I had to design a linkage system to have the cables face towards the front of the vehicle. As you can imagine, going from a 1.8 4-cylinder to a 3.0 6-cylinder engine, space is a constant problem. The rear support had to be moved 5 inches back. Exhaust manifolds had to be designed to be very compact. To add to the uniqueness and ward off unwanted attention, I fabricated a valved muffler that could suppress the exhaust sound level with the click of a button. The car needs to retain air conditioning so it doesn’t lose any of its drivability factors. In order to make it all work seamlessly, I needed to wire and install an aftermarket engine management unit (AEM FIC6). Now after the mechanics were sorted, I moved onto the exterior. I fitted a Porsche style front bumper, designed my own headlights and upgraded wheels. To complete the look, the factory silver was sanded and repainted in the Audi Nardo Gray from the RS7.
A couple months later I ended up behind rehired by my old job but I felt like I was onto something special. I submitted my project to SEMA battle of the builders 2019, and to my surprise I was picked for their top 10 in the Philadelphia regional competition.
As with many builds for SEMA, I accidentally lit my interior on fire while I was welding inside the cabin. I had to overnight a bucket seat and the morning of the show I fabricated custom bracket to mount it. I drove 6 hours to the show and back with no issues. Unfortunately I didn’t win but I was excited to be nominated in the top 10. Over the course of 2019 I added a single turbo kit, tuned it myself, and I kept pushing for power. After a couple months I ended up blowing the head gasket. So while swapping in another engine, I went back and redid some things, created my own mount kit for sale, and perfected the swap.
The story doesn’t stop there. For 2020, the pandemic changed how the SEMA competitions were held. I thought the show would be cancelled so I didn’t prepare for it. However the competition was held on Zoom, an online video conference with multiple judges. Michael Robleto reached out a week before the judging asking me to be a part of it. I was working full time so two days before the competition I took time off and decided to go big to pull off something that hasn’t been done before. Within 48 hours, I developed and fabricated a twin turbo system and mounted it on the rear of the car. It was a hit. My hard work finally paid off when I was announced the SEMA Young Guns Regional winner. My vehicle will be shipped and I will be flown to Las Vegas for the SEMA 2021 show where it will be on display.
This entire project was completed in a tent outside on grass with basic tools with no outside sponsorship or help. I started a YouTube channel AndysAutowerks to document my progress. I hope that my story inspires young people to follow their dreams because you never know where it will take you. That doesn’t necessarily mean quit your job, but start small. You will either find a new business venture or gain priceless knowledge. As always, hard work combined with ambition is a recipe for success.