Tuesday 5th February 2013


The MR2 reveals some nasty surprises lurking beneath its shiny exterior

I’ve been sitting here pondering how to start this fleet update, but there isn’t really one that conveys the gravity of the situation I find myself in better than this: I’ve bought a pup.

The first indication of this came when I took it to the garage I regularly use (Morley Auto Services, on the site of the former Gatwick TVR) to have the cambelt and clutch done. There was much banter about the way these rust, and I asked – half-jokingly – that if they lifted it up on the ramp and found it to be full of holes underneath, they abort the job. I left in high spirits in one of the courtesy cars. However, my heart sank when, 10 minutes down the road, the phone rang. It was indeed Morleys, and I knew that a phone call this early on in the day meant either they couldn’t find the locking wheelnut key, or there was something very, very wrong.

Nope, that's not how that's supposed to look
Nope, that's not how that's supposed to look
You’ve guessed it already: it was the latter. And that wrong thing was that my MR2 was indeed full of holes. Nick at Morleys had prodded around at the sills before putting it up on the ramp to find that one ... well ... moved. Closer investigation revealed some horrors.

Essentially, it appears that at some point in the car’s past, some kind soul has repaired both rear sills by stuffing them full of newspaper and filling the gaps with fibreglass. How it got through several MoTs in this state makes the mind boggle but unfortunately it’s muggins here who’s been left in the lurch.

‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you,’ will come the cry, and yes, point taken. I knew these things rusted – but I wasn’t expecting to have a hound on my hands quite this soon. Having checked it over pretty thoroughly I was pretty sure it was (mostly) straight. My mistake, if you'll pardon the expression, was not reaching under the skirts to poke the hidden parts of the sill, and being content with a visual inspection. Lesson learned. And how.

That piece is all resin. Niiice.
That piece is all resin. Niiice.
So, what do I do now? Well, to be honest, I’m leaning towards cutting and running – putting it up for sale, spares or repair, and getting it gone. I’m no fan of throwing good money after bad, and if it is a rotter, I can’t help but feel that repairing the sills will be expensive and only prolong the inevitable – more crustiness will doubtless crop up before the next MoT’s due.  What’s more, the discovery on my arrival home in it of steam emanating from the radiator suggests that’s just gone pop too – it isn’t making a convincing case for staying with me, then.

But I do really, really enjoy driving it, even with all its quirks. Its uninhibited retro appeal and the airiness that comes from the glass roof, off or on, are touches I love, and that’s before we mention the fantastic little engine. I’d stand to lose a fair chunk of cash, if I were to sell it now, too.

Time to let the sun go down on the MR2?
Time to let the sun go down on the MR2?
To my current way of thinking, though, that seems to work better than throwing bunches of money at a car which aren’t really going to increase its value, just to end up with something safe and usable. Let’s not forget, it still needs the cambelt and clutch doing, plus the tear in the seat. And the recent rain has seen a sudden drop in the roof’s water-tightness. I just can’t help but feel that these are all signs that it’s time to put my hands up, accept defeat and chalk this one up to experience. I would, however, love to hear what you reckon. Be gentle, though – I’m still feeling rather raw about the whole experience!

1989 Toyota MR2
Run by: Scrof
Bought: Dec 2012
Purchase price: £1,500
Last month at a glance: It's rotten to the core - time to walk away.

Previous report:
Banned from buying an MX-5 Alex finds an MR2 with PH previous


Author: Alex Robbins
Want more PH news like this daily - then signup for the PH newsletter here!