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RE: Toyota MR2: Market Watch

RE: Toyota MR2: Market Watch

Sunday 16th July

Toyota MR2: Market Watch

The Japanese two-seater that isn't an MX-5 but most certainly is worthy of your attention



It may have seemed an impossible dream, but Toyota succeeded in making an affordable two-seater, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car for the masses. And its landmark MR2 changed the perception of what was possible. As a result, the Japanese motoring giant reaped substantial rewards - with three generations of MR2 selling close to a third of a million examples over 23 years.

Mister Two Mk2
Mister Two Mk2
The first two generations of Japan's first mid-engined production car are now appealing classics, while the final third generation Roadster has to be one of the cheapest ways to have fun on a budget. Yet all three claimed an exotic layout, and enabled the ordinary man to drive something truly exceptional.

Always conceived as a small, inexpensive sports car, Toyota's Mid-ship, Runabout, 2-seater design harnessed straightforward and appealing elements: independent front and rear MacPherson suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, a transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder engine, a tight manual transmission, a low-slung driving position and, of course, rear-wheel drive.

And a Mk3. Very different despite a shared name!
And a Mk3. Very different despite a shared name!
Manufactured from 1984 to 2007 each of the three generations differed from one another, despite possessing these key characteristics. So while the first generation W10 was lightweight and sharp-edged, the second-generation SW20 was curvaceous and motorsport focused. Not only bigger, it was also better-appointed and more powerful. And in Japan and the US it also came in seriously quick turbocharged form. Changing once again, the third generation W30 MR2 returned to the original car's lightweight pared-back mantra, but this time became a Roadster - with less emphasis on power and more emphasis on sheer fun.

It's yet to be seen whether Toyota will produce a fourth-generation model (go on Toyota - you know we want one!) but supply is dwindling and values are starting to rise. It therefore seemed the ideal time at PH to revisit all three incarnations, and discover which MR2 currently looks the best buy, which versions are likely to become future classics, which evolution makes the best track day ride and which MR2 is the best starting point for further tuning.


Introduction
Toyota MR2 Mk1 (1984-1989)
Toyota MR2 Mk2 (1989-1999)
Toyota MR2 Mk3 (1999-2007)


Many thanks to Drift Limits Performance, Rogue Motorsport Ltd, the MR2 Owners Club and Glass's Guide for their help with this feature

   
Author
Discussion

R400TVR

Original Poster:

125 posts

81 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
It was never called the MR2 in France for some reason!

AC43

5,363 posts

127 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
In 1989 I stepped out of a Sud and into one of them when the owner chucked me the keys.

Got in sceptical, got out amazed.

98elise

10,276 posts

80 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Always wanted a MK1. My first car was a Fiat X1/9 and the MK1 MR2 was a very similar car in many ways, and pretty much picked up where it left off.

Philbar

70 posts

145 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
I am biased...




Jayho

1,634 posts

89 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
R400TVR said:
It was never called the MR2 in France for some reason!
MR2 in French sounds like their rude word for Poop! They got called MRS instead.
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Ved

3,635 posts

94 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Had a few MK2s in my 20s. Awesome machines and those Yamaha engines were just brilliant. Still looks great today too.

405dogvan

5,133 posts

184 months

Sunday 16th July
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Lovely cars in-period but they don't last, sadly - most should be upto their second complete restoration by now, just to keep the rust at bay?

The thing which irks me about that period of Japanese cars is that some parts are obviously impossible to find (seats, trim, bumpers, wheels for example) which leads cars into looking "less than original" - which I always think is a shame but what can you do?

Chap locally has an 88/89 Supra - had it from new - recently 'restored' it which involved removing a lot of badges/trim and changing the wheels for nasty aftermarket things - looks a bit forlorn now (tho it's obviously still working!)

TwigtheWonderkid

22,077 posts

69 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
98elise said:
Always wanted a MK1. My first car was a Fiat X1/9 and the MK1 MR2 was a very similar car in many ways, and pretty much picked up where it left off.
I had an X1/9. The Mk1 MR2 was what the X1/9 could have been if it had been designed and built by people that actually cared. .

NDA

12,635 posts

144 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
I had two MR2's from new, one after the other. Brilliant little cars. Sold the last one when my daughter was born, so that's few years ago.

bompey

283 posts

154 months

Sunday 16th July
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I had a mk1 T-bar in the mid 90s and went all over Europe in it. Managed an indicated 130mph on the autobahn. It was a great car and I'd love another.

NDA

12,635 posts

144 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
bompey said:
IManaged an indicated 130mph on the autobahn. .
Good work!

I managed 136 indicated on mine once in France. Never again. It generated a lot of lift and felt very unsafe!

Evolved

1,481 posts

106 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Three Mk2's, the last one was a Rev 3 Turbo running a genuine 360bhp and it was rapid, truly rapid even by today's standards. The LSD allowed gradual power delivery in corners and straight line punch was immense.

Bullet proof reliability and the build quality was superb. I fell in love with them as cars and only sold when my son came along, then got into Evo's.

AstroMonkey

23 posts

56 months

Sunday 16th July
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That's me in the white AW11!

danllama

4,272 posts

61 months

Sunday 16th July
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I've had 4 mk2's including three turbos. My current rev 3 turbo I've had for coming up two years. They've all been reliable and everything you'd want and expect. Its a very strange market for the mk2's, where NA's are priced higher than turbos and its not quite clear what's selling and for how much. I don't plan on selling this any time soon, but I do toy with the idea of transplanting the goods into a mk1 shell.

MR2 Turbo spring drive by Dan J, on Flickr

exgtt

1,850 posts

131 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Is it true the 1600 in the MK1 was loosely based on Fords BDA or is that pub talk? Something about the MK1 makes them special in my eyes, they are pretty raw compaired to today's stuff. Would love to try a JDM supercharged one.

CDP

5,282 posts

173 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
I had a MK2 Rev 1 in 1998 and absolutely adored it. Out of all the cars I've owned my favourite.

An immaculate car with 27,000 miles on it and I ran it to about 120K and still looked amazing when I sold it.

Geabox linkage failed twice leaving the car stuck in second gear. £400 per time.

Front calipers were woefully underspec they would routinely seize up needing a full rebuild, rotors and pads. Again about £400 per time. This car had 14" wheels and I don't think the discs were big enough.

Clutches would go.

Alternator cracked all the way around the casing and split in half. This happened twice.

Engine failed, secondhand low mileage unit from Fensport fitted by the local independent Toyota specialist. Total about £1600. Apparently a lot of early cars had the wrong coolant supplied by dealers, I don't know if that's true but it might explain the failure rate. I knew four people where I worked with MR2 engine failures.

Lots of suspension parts but that's probably fair wear and tear - two sets of front shocks for example.

I went through about £4000 in a year of servicing and repairs thought "well it's pretty much perfect now". Then went through another £4K the next year.

With the exception of the alternator the electrics were perfect.

Admittedly I did a few track days and was commuting 130 miles a day on pretty much empty twisty B roads, getting new tyres and a service every 8 to 10 weeks...

Wonderful cars, but bills can be big, especially if you're paying labour and brand new Toyota parts. Having said that the 750MC MR2 racers seem to be able to race them effectively on a budget so it looks like DIY and keeping away from the dealer chain is the trick.

Bought a diesel Vectra and took up motor racing on the basis it was easier to control costs. Hated the Vectra, loved the racing.


Currently I've got an MG TF which while it hasn't been perfect is a lot cheaper to run. It had the head gasket but that was only one Toyota Currency Unit (£400). The driving position isn't a patch on the MR2, nor is the engine or gear change but the brakes (quad caliper AP) and handling are in a different league. Both cars are extremely tyre sensitive and can eat suspension parts.

RWDan

10 posts

34 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Jayho said:
MR2 in French sounds like their rude word for Poop! They got called MRS instead.
That's wrong. They were called an 'MR' in France. The MRS was the mk3 jdm name, possibly used for the mk3 in France too but the mk2 was called MR.

Craikeybaby

7,607 posts

144 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
I bought a mk3 after 8 years in MX-5s and wished I’d done it sooner. I feel that Toyota really hit the sweetspot between the MX-5 and the Elise. Not really sure what I would replace it with...

CABC

1,306 posts

20 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
Craikeybaby said:
I bought a mk3 after 8 years in MX-5s and wished I’d done it sooner. I feel that Toyota really hit the sweetspot between the MX-5 and the Elise. Not really sure what I would replace it with...
all 3 in the garage would be ideal! They're all different lightweights and complement each well for very little £. Add in V8 GT and a utility/family car, 5 car garage.

Loyly

15,361 posts

78 months

Sunday 16th July
quotequote all
I had a rev 3 MR2 Turbo a while back. That was a fabulous car. Beautifully made, loaded with character and feeling far more exotic than you might have expected. It was a thrill to drive, fast and punchy and with beautiful feedback and control weighting.

It was best set slugging it out on sweeping B roads where it could punch hard out of corners. Above 100mph, the front end started to go quite light with lift.