PH Fleet: Toyota MR2


It was a month ago, almost to the day, that I drove up to the Midlands and returned with a Mk1 MR2 T-bar, and although my blog on the trials and tribulations of car buying shortly afterwards did introduce it briefly, I didn’t really say an awful lot about the car itself. A PH Fleet entry has been overdue for some time and now with the festive season done and dusted it’s time to give the little Toyota a proper introduction.

Once SOTW, now a Fleet member
Once SOTW, now a Fleet member
That said, this particular MR2 is no stranger to PistonHeads. Those of you with a particularly long memory might remember a Shed Of The Week back in 2010, featuring a Mk1 MR2 that looks surprisingly familiar. I had no knowledge of its prior appearance on the site until after I’d picked it up, so as coincidences go, it’s a good’un!

I gave a tad more than shed money for it - £1,500, to be precise – but then again it has had some TLC lavished upon it in the interim. The paintwork’s been attended to, and it’s had the absent roof spoiler replaced with a brand new one. What’s more, it came endowed with nine months’ MOT, a couple of months’ tax, new brake discs and pads and a rather pricey custom-made stainless steel exhaust system. Oh, and half a tank of fuel.

Original bill of sale is a nice touch
Original bill of sale is a nice touch
But what about the rest of the car? Well, it’s a 1989 model, so a Mk1b – in other words, built after the 1987 facelift. It isn’t a concours example and it needs a few jobs doing but let’s start with the good stuff. 83,000 on the clock, with a few bits of history that seem to back that up, as well as the original bill of sale. The original tool kit’s still there, too, as are the oft-lost bags and screens that go with the glass T-top roofs. The interior’s in good condition, with no broken trim, although the leather’s started to split on the driver’s seat. And outside, the paintwork’s a glossy red, rather than a faded pink.

Rust? Yep, it has some – it's an MR2, after all. The rear arches have been taken care of, but it’s starting to go along the sills, so they'll need to be dealt with before it takes hold. The clutch needs doing, too, and as that’s an engine-out job, I might as well get the timing belt replaced at the same time. An oil and filter change is also on the list. I think I’ll also need to spend some time playing with roof seals – contrary to the original Shed advert, the roof has now started to leak when it rains hard.

Angles, pods and levers: welcome to the '80s
Angles, pods and levers: welcome to the '80s
A few jobs to do, then, but all factored into the haggling process and I reckon once they’re done I’ll be left with a clean, reliable and low-mileage example that I can keep aside for sunny days and weekend hoons. It seems to be a perfect budget second car thus far; it’s remarkably cheap to insure (thanks in part to an exceptionally good deal from Adrian Flux), sips fuel and, of course, it’s enormous fun to drive. With the sun out, the roof off and the windows down, it’s at its best, and now that I’m used to the lighter steering inherent with a mid-engined car, I’m revelling in the balance and the way it flows neatly from corner to corner. The little 4A-GE powerplant sounds fantastic, too, and while it isn’t the quickest thing in the world, the variable intake system makes it truly rev-happy. Rarely do I return from a drive in it without a silly grin plastered across my chops. All of this before we’ve even got to the wedgy looks, the achingly retro interior, or the childish joy of having pop-up headlights to play with. Ahem.

It’s thumbs up so far, then, for this former Shed. And once those bits of work have been done, I’m hoping it’ll be transformed from a good car into a great one. If the weather plays ball – we can but hope – then summer 2013 should be a lot of fun.


FACT SHEET
Car:
 1989 Toyota MR2
Run by: Scrof
Bought: Dec 2012
Purchase price: £1,500
Last month at a glance: Bought it, drove it, loved it.


 

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Comments (64) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Krussel 31 Mar 2013

    Hello a good thread.

    I ve owned a MK1b for over 10 years and its been great, summer use only, classic insurance at £120 and nothing has gone wrong. Mines done just 41k from new, totally orig and I am lucky and have no rust. Have spent a small fortune on renovation more than restoration as its more of a hobby.

    I made some Youtube video's which are a "Mk1 buyers inspection guide" in 3 parts last year giving a walkthrough to show some area's that you need to look out for in an inspection.
    Here's the link, hope it helps if your looking to pick one of these little gems up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6MrX6ZZdv0

  • Gilles27mr2 10 Jan 2013

    If, like me you keep the standard cassette player rather than upgrading to one of those fancy cd player things you get the extra benefit of never needing an ice scraper as nothing works better than a cassette box!

  • danjama 05 Jan 2013

    Good read.

  • chrisp84 03 Jan 2013

    Adam205 said:
    If you want to solve it and are willing to put up with slightly reduced ride comfort, Whiteline ARBs (£300 from Camskill) and KYB dampers (£200 from Camskill) with standard springs (or Apex if you want to go a little lower) make the car exactly what it should have been.

    The other problem is that there are no good road tyres made in 185/60 R14 anymore. The best option is to move to a 15" wheel with a 195/50 R15 and go for something like a Michelin Pilot Exalto 2 or Continental PremiumContact 2.

    With the above changes the MR2 goes from being an 'entertaining' car to drive to being a really good handling, fun piece of kit.

    Unfortunately it will always rust and always leak though wink
    Pretty much exacltly what I've done. 195/50 R15's, apex springs and kyb dampers, polybushes all round too as the old ones were....old. It does completely change the car from something that is great fun and flexible - read tail happy but in a nice way - on the limit to something that just has grip and grip and grip.

    Is only allowed out in the summer (you can actually hear it rusting in the rain). Got to the point where it NEEDS to be done.


  • stew-S160 03 Jan 2013

    Adam205 said:
    It actually quelled the mk1as tendancy to push out in some very wild understeer mid corner if you get on the throttle early.

    However it also had the strange effect of reducing the lift off oversteer tendancy by reducing the camber change that occurred due to the mr2s pretty poor dynamic suspension geometry. The mk1b still suffers with this, but to a lesser extent.

    [b]If you want to solve it and are willing to put up with slightly reduced ride comfort, Whiteline ARBs (£300 from Camskill) and KYB dampers (£200 from Camskill) with standard springs (or Apex if you want to go a little lower) make the car exactly what it should have been.

    The other problem is that there are no good road tyres made in 185/60 R14 anymore. The best option is to move to a 15" wheel with a 195/50 R15 and go for something like a Michelin Pilot Exalto 2 or Continental PremiumContact 2.[/b]

    With the above changes the MR2 goes from being an 'entertaining' car to drive to being a really good handling, fun piece of kit.

    Unfortunately it will always rust and always leak though wink
    Exactly what I'm planning with mine. Only had it a week but already know what needs doing.

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