Another one from back – way back – when Toyota made interesting, desirable cars (we know, hard to imagine). We have always liked these, along with the second generation model that replaced it. Hat tip to Automobile Magazine for finding good cars on a reasonably consistent basis to feature in its Collectible Classics series.

The MR2’s legacy

The press received the [MR2] with open arms and praised its innovation, great feeling, and responsive engine. American car magazines Road & Track and Car and Driver both chose the MR2 on their lists of ten best cars which included some tough competition, such as the Ferrari Testarossa. The Australian Wheels magazine chose the 1988 MR2 as its favourite sports car. The MR2 was Motor Trend‘s Import Car of the Year for 1985. (It is worth noting that the MR2 was not eligible for the Car of the Year award, since only vehicles produced in the US were eligible until 1999. The 1985 winner, the Volkswagen GTI, was produced in Pennsylvania at the time.) The MR2 was also on Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 1986 and 1987. In 2004, Sports Car International named the MR2 number eight on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1980s (source).


ENGINES: 1.6L DOHC I-4, 112-115 hp, 97-100 lb-ft;1.6L DOHC supercharged I-4, 145 hp, 140 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
DRIVE: Rear-wheel
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Strut-type, coil springs
BRAKES F/R: Vented discs/discs
WEIGHT: 2400-2600 lb


92,000 (U.S. market, est.)

$10,999 (1985)


The MR2’s handling put Japan on the mid-engine map. Its cool, 1980s, origami-inspired styling still looks great, and these cars have lived up to their reputation for reliability and indestructibility. Plus, Dan Gurney helped with the chassis tuning, and there are two trunks. Numerous clubs and websites are dedicated to modifying these cars, so finding a stock example-like Lee’s-can be difficult. In your favor, though, is the fact that the first-generation MR2 outsold each of the next two generations by approximately three to one.


~ by velofinds on March 24, 2011.

7 Responses to “Ooh”

  1. Great post!

    Not on all markets, the first generation outsold the next 2 generations. In Europe the 2nd generations sold way more.

    Nevertheless, it’s a great car to drive ūüėÄ And reading about it, sure makes me remember why my AW11 needs to be fixed soon!

  2. I rate EVO Magazine’s rating as number 100 on the 100 greatest driver’s cars of all time as carrying more gravitas that Sports Car International’s accolades – even though it’s a lower rank, EVO is the ultimate world authority on sports cars, and remember, it’s keeping Elises, Zondas and F40s on that list.

    I’ve owned several. They are the best bang for the buck on the planet IMO. Reliable as a quartz watch for sure, but difficult to wrench on due to tight clearances in engine bay – so worth it though.

    Accurate, precise and informative manual steering is simply stunningly good, nothing this side of aforementioned Elise comes close. Beautifully weighted and places, mechanically precise pedals, shifter and ancillary controls – pedals in particular are the best heel n toe’able set I’ve ever had the privlege of using. Revvy, happy lil’ Cosworth BDA clone twin cam that will willingly rev to 8K everyday even with hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock. Neutral-to-oversteery, throttle-adjustable, fluid and friendly chassis – I can’t say enough good!

  3. the original mr2 came from a time when toyota made affordable, fun cars. what a line up they had in the mid-80s; mr2, corolla gt, celica. oh what a feeling !

  4. Thanks for highlighting this feature. As you said, hat tip to Automobile for putting together a collection of some of excellent, desirable cars.

    We see a bunch of tricked out MR2s in San Francisco — it definitely has been discovered as a cheap buy, cheap mod, bang for buck project car.

  5. In the modern age, I only subscribe to two paper periodicals– the Sunday NYT and Automobile. The first thing I read in the NYT is the Ethicist. The first thing I read in Automobile is Collectible Classics. Their recent pieces on late 80s/early 90s Camaros and Mustangs are must reads as well.

    This Youngtimer phenomenon is for real.

    • it’s funny, i had always thought of that word as being europe-specific (especially germany and holland), but i guess there’s no reason why it couldn’t be applied to over here as well.

  6. and like many other of the japanese cars of that era it people forgot about that car far to quick…

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