The MR2 is one of those cars that makes you wonder why so many other Japanese cars of the time were so turgid. When you bear in mind the MR2's classic design - mid engine, good power, sweet styling, not too much weight - it does seem that these elegant little Toyotas are poorly served by history.
Things are improving with the passage of time, with all three MR2 iterations now bathing in a growing corona of praise from happy owners. Looking objectively at that recipe, you can see why. It all makes perfect sense. If such a vehicle came forth from Japan now, we'd be crawling all over it. As it is, we must get our 'poor man's Ferrari' kicks from the PH Classifieds.
The in-between SW20 model (1989-99) that you see here was arguably the most successfully styled of the three. There was a price to pay for that swoopy look: this was the heaviest MR2, at well over 1,200kg, but taking the glass half full approach you could argue that that's more a reflection of the pleasing lightness of the earlier and later models. That 154hp 2.0-litre twin-cam motor endowed the SW20 with very acceptable (and reliable) performance, the seats are brilliantly comfortable, and the T-bar roof is a very nice feature. Plus you get what is surely the world's tallest centre console.
The list of potential MR2 problems is short, and mainly age-related rather than endemic. Rust, obviously (sorry Scrof): undertrays and wheel liners do retain road gunge, so make sure to thoroughly check the rear sections of the sills, where slight bubbling on the outside can mean tea-dunked digestive biscuits on the inside. Try to pull the last two drain plugs out and insert your screwdriver. If you can't feel anything, step away smartly. This one also has some frilliness around the rear arches, but as long as that's just superficial, it shouldn't be too costly to repair, should you deign to.
Other stuff? Rad and cooling components generally, especially any pipes that are bolted to the body of the car and that will crack over time. Corroded brake lines, freezing handbrake cables and seizing calipers. Water-damaged alternators. Naturally perished rubber seals on the T-Tops, and inefficient windscreen wiper function - DIY solutions abound for both.
This car is in Buckinghamshire, which is handily close for Londonites, and reasonably accessible from much of the rest of the country. And what's more, you can look forward to going through an impressive sheaf of paperwork once you get there - one that's kept in a folder rather than pasted to a structural member.
Here's the ad:
1991 / J Reg, ***UK SUPPLIED***, Black, 5 Speed Manual, 1 PREVIOUS OWNER FROM NEW, 2.0 GTi Twincam Engine, 16 Service Stamps, Black Leather Interior, 15" Wolfrace Alloys, Full Toolkit, 157k Motorway Miles, Carefully Maintained and Always Serviced On Time, Mainly Serviceb by Toyota Main Dealer Only, All Usual Toyota Refinements
157k Miles - Full Service History
MOT 28-July - 2013
HPI Clear Report
Price £795 - PX to Clear - Excellent Engine and Gearbox
Usual Rust on Arches But Excellent Runner
Vehicle Location - Buckinghamshire / HP13 5AE