Toyota MR2 mid-engine sports car, greater than sum of its parts

Toyota MR2 mid-engine sports car, greater than sum of its parts

The Pick of the Day remains an affordable away to experience the agile handling of a coupe with its engine in front of its rear axle

Mid-engine cars are to many driving enthusiasts the pinnacle of sports car design. Using concepts directly learned from Formula 1 and sports car racing, designers  take those lessons learned to create the best handling and most-exotic sports cars in the world.

This all comes at a price, however, so that mid-engine sports cars also have the dubious honor of being among the more expensive cars on the market.

Toyota

The 4-cylinder twin-cam engine is nestled behind the seats

This all changed for the better in the 1970s when such companies as Porsche, Fiat  and Lancia took the idea and used it to produce affordable mid-engine sports cars. Those cars — the 914, X1/9 and Scorpion – were good and sold well, but they were not nearly as well developed as their big brothers from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus.

In 1984, there was a new kid on the block, an affordable mid-engine sports car from Japan. The company was Toyota and the car was the MR2.

The Pick of the Day is one of those, a 1986 Toyota MR2 advertised by a Kentwood, Michigan, dealer on ClassicCars.com.

Toyota

The seats look to be in very nice condition

The MR2, or Mister Two if you prefer,  completely delivered on the promise of a high-performance, small-bore, mid-engine car, in spite of utilizing many standard parts from more-mundane Toyota models to keep costs down.   But what turned out was something quite a bit more impressive than the sum of those parts.

The MR2 has pedigree to compete with the Europeans, including suspension design from Lotus and racing great Dan Gurney employed by Toyota as a consultant for the project. The MR2 was a landmark car when launched, and David E. Davis stated in the April 1986 issue of Automobile magazine, “The MR2 is a source of pure, unalloyed driving fun and is infinitely superior to anything remotely like it.”

The MR2 would go on for three generations, and Toyota sold a lot of them. With each successive generation, the car became a bit more civilized and a bit more luxurious, following trends of styling of each era when they were built, culminating with the MR2 Spyder, a veritable clone of the Porsche Boxster.

But it was the original generation of the MR2 that really hit the mark, due to its light weight and purity of design.

Toyota

The high-revving engine produces 112 horsepower

This MR2 is a two-owner example that has covered 94,388 miles from new, according to the seller, and it remains in great shape inside and out, painted in Super Red II over black leather. The paint is in good condition and the body is very clean apart from two small dents on the driver’s side, the seller notes, and the black-leather interior is extremely clean.

This car features the optional sport pack with alloy wheels, rear spoiler, rear window shade and unique badging. The car includes factory floor mats, tool kit and owner’s manual, the ad says.

Finding a first generation MR2 as clean as this one is getting harder these days as many were driven into the ground, or worse, received badly executed JDM modifications by less-that-skilled mechanics.

Toyota

The sporty interior rivals that of more-expensive sports cars

A stock MR2 like this one is a serious modern classic and would make a great collector sports car.  With an asking price of only $9,900 it seems pretty hard to go wrong.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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  • Jim Fritz
    April 17, 2019, 8:34 AM

    I graduated to a Lexus a few years ago. Absolutely love it.

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