Auto Manifesto

February 16, 2008

Bought An MR2 Off CraigsList

Usually I write about future vehicle technology. But now and then things happen in today’s world that are worth mentioning. I’ve been casually looking for a second generation Toyota MR2 for a while and happened upon one last weekend on CraigsList. I’ve always wanted one just for the fun of it because it’s a fascinating car.

The normally aspirated hardtop 1991 to 1995 MR2 is a rare car. It’s especially hard to find one equipped with a manual transmission that has not been wrecked or modified. The 1991 I found (with later model wheels) was in good condition and only requires minor touch ups and repairs. The only modification it has is a TRD short throw shift kit.

Some observations, both pros and cons, I made from a few hours behind the wheel and tinkering with it in the garage are as follows. The pros include quick steering, sharp handling, low cg, good all around visibility, and lots of bins and storage space. The trunk is surprisingly large for such a small, mid-engine car.

The cons include a lot of noise since the engine is directly behind the passenger compartment, a notchy gearbox that makes it hard to shift with a light touch (Hondas have the smoothest gearboxes I’ve ever driven), and finally it is geared way too low. At about 100 km/h (62.5 mph) it is turning 3000 RPM, and at 70 mph it is turning just a tick under 3500 RPM. The gear ratios are also very closely spaced and as a result the engine almost never lugs or bogs, which is good, but the car could certainly use another gear or two.

Many of the parts in the car are familiar. To borrow a line from many an article about cars, Toyota made liberal use of the corporate parts bin in developing the MR2, and that’s NOT a bad thing. It was a good bin. Keeping in mind that this is a car with 150k miles on it, it’s not exactly like it was the day it drove off the showroom floor. But overall it is a fantastic package. Toyota should be awarded honors (I believe they were) for producing this. It’s amazing that 17 years after its launch this car is still this good. I wish they’d make a new model.

When it came out it was proclaimed as the poor man’s Ferrari. Looking at it today one might think of a Lotus Elise, also powered by a 4 cylinder Toyota engine, albeit with more power, less weight, and uncompromising in its mission of providing thrills. And of course there is the well publicized electric car that is based on an Elise. Perhaps in today’s context the MR2 could be converted into a poor man’s Tesla?

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  • I know it's been over a year since you posted this, but Ihave to agree with you about parts. I've been able to find parts still from older model camry's. Over all, for a fun inexpensive play toy, the MR2 is hard to beat.

    By Blogger Unknown, At January 15, 2009 at 2:51 PM  

  • Thanks for your insights on new ownership of a MKII MR2. I'm thinking of getting one for much the same reasons (and I can't afford the maintainance on a 1986.5 Porsche 928). How has your car held up since you bought it? Do you still own it (or want to sell it?)

    By Blogger George722, At February 11, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

  • Still have it and plan on hanging on to it. The car's been great but I hardly ever get to drive it. Still working on a few minor issues. Stay tuned and check out (my new blog).

    By Blogger David Nguyen, At February 11, 2010 at 9:45 PM  

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