Featured: A Restored Toyota MR2 That Lives For the Twisties

A Restored Toyota MR2 That Lives For the Twisties

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
August 3, 2015
15 comments

Story by Mike Reed & Photography by: Cullen Cheung

I have to be completely honest, I’m born of the Fast and Furious generation. I saw the movie as a freshly-licensed 16 year old, and it changed my world for the better—or at least that’s what I’d like to think. After that movie, I started scouring the internet researching cars, motorcycles, planes, you name it. I think that’s when I found my real love: playing with machines.

About 3 years ago, I had finally saved up some spending money and started throwing around the idea of a project car. I only knew that I wanted something AWD or RWD…and didn’t really have any preferences from there. When I found this beat up, left for dead Toyota MR2, I saw the potential instantly.

It helped that they were so cheap: I picked mine up for $1,700.

Once I had the car, I soon found myself seeing how much potential these autos have. They are truly designed after supercars. The mid-engine layout, the gas tank location for best center of gravity, balanced weight distribution, and even great features like the T-Tops got me hooked. This car was also in perfect rebuild condition, everything was shot on it…but with no rust! It was begging for a restoration.

I’m most proud of the fact that I have literally restored this car completely by myself. The first motor swap, suspension, braking, interior, paint and body work, and now second motor swap were all performed by myself on nights and weekends, in a dinky little garage. I take a lot of pride in that, especially since it’s my first and only MR2.

I’ve learned a lot about this car by just getting into the garage and going at it. I’ve also documented my build from the very beginning with a rather long thread on one of the main MR2 forums. The link can be found here: www.mr2.com

I’d like to think of my car as an aggressive street car, without being too over the top. It still has most creature comforts, like a full interior, stereo, etc., but has the acceleration, braking, and suspension tuning to outperform cars many levels above in price and power.

I have a few “secret” roads up in the Cascades I frequent on nights and weekends. Most have beautiful scenery, great pavement, and a lot of turns. You can go out on a nice day and enjoy its characteristically great handling, hear the turbo spooling behind you, and think about nothing but, “What gear I should be in for the next turn?”

It’s a great release. I’ve also been bit by the track day bug recently, and really enjoy Pacific Raceways, and The Ridge Motorsports Park.

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Kai TakahashRandy TorresAndres GarciaSuzanne Clark O'BrienShannon Hong Recent comment authors
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Kai Takahash
Kai Takahash

Been researching MR2’s as my next track weapon for the past few months and, your extremely clean and beautiful car has always popped up in my searches. Oddly, I could no longer find a Google photo of this gorgeousness the other day but, stumbled upon this page and your blog. We Sir, have a lot in common! I’d like to pick your brain if your willing. Keep up the good work on the new MR and please keep the updates rolling!

Andres Garcia

What type of body kit do you have or brand of front lip and rear lip?

Suzanne Clark O'Brien

Hey, great article and greater save of a rare car. I have a 1995 Turbo 2 that I bought new, my 3rd MR2, so I do love this car. In 2006 I sold my 2, bought a Porsche, which was and is an awesome car, but I missed my MR2, so much that I ended up buying my car back and selling the Porsche. I would have been totally in love and completely happy with the Porsche had I never set foot inside an MR2. Sadly, the once great hifi no longer works well, the radio is all that will… Read more »

Shannon Hong

IMO The only good looking sports car that Toyota has ever made. I have wanted a SW20/R since it came out in 1990. Still looks good today. It is a pity that it’s short wheel base makes it do 180s if you are not careful.

Randy Torres
Randy Torres

That 180 happened to me once driving my MR2 about 35 years ago. It was around 3 am and I was driving home after a night partying in Georgetown. I got off the I395 exit ramp onto the 3rd Street Tunnel in DC, going just a wee bit too fast off the curve into the tunnel. I tried to correct course and spun out. Lucky for me it was late and there were no other cars on the road or it could have been a nasty crash. I loved driving my MR2 fast, but after that night learned to respect… Read more »

Mathieu Turcotte
Mathieu Turcotte

Your car is awesome!! I’m happy to see someone else pick up this car for the same reason as i did! I like the way it was describe in this article… Nice 3SGTE gen 3 by the way i was able to get my hand on one of those and i love it. If you want to see my built there is the link of our facebook page me and my friend: https://www.facebook.com/neverwinterautoclub/ . because all cars guy like to see how others guy did there built. Congrats again for your awesome car!

Edmond Dantes
Edmond Dantes

What a wonderful car! I really appreciate your modifications and that you did almost everything for a reason. Well done, sir!

Patrick Guenette
Patrick Guenette

Where can I find your build thread??

Mike Reed
Mike Reed

It’s linked inthe article, but here you go: http://www.mr2.com/forums/threads/84610-She-s-Ugly-91-MR2-Build/page34

It’s a long read, be warned! But the progress really picks up a few pages in. Enjoy!

Bryan
Bryan

I have been reading this site for a while, but I HAD to create an account just to comment on this article.

I’m from the same very car “generation” as you. I developed an interest in cars in high school, but F&F was my shot of nitrous, too. I LOVE your restoration mod of this MR2. It’s exactly how I would approach just about any kind of car project. Congratulations on a project well done and finished. I would like to do something similar one day but I think I’m going to have to wait until my golden years ??

JB21
JB21

I just went through your build thread. You, man, Sir, did a FANTASTIQUE job!!

Ray Jay
Ray Jay

Love the MR2s. If we’re really honest with ourselves, its all the car you ever will need.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Ahhh the Mister Two’s . Severely underrated by most with all the potential of becoming absolute little monsters or wonderful little grand tourers when in the right hands . So here’s another little Happy Note to stick in your quiver if ever anyone gives you any grief over your wonderful little MR2 An insiders [ as in TTE insider ] piece of trivia . The MR2’s platform is in fact completely based on Toyota’s mid engined Group S mega monster rally car they had developing in the wings . So yeah … thats right … you’ve got the basis for… Read more »

Wayne Mattson
Wayne Mattson

Mike,

I also meant to add that I think the restoration was very tastefully done.

Wayne Mattson
Wayne Mattson

Mike,

Great story and congratulations on a great restoration. Although I am at least one generation older than you, I can really appreciate the time and effort you put into this endeavor. It’s also nice to know that there are still some kids out there who have the patience and dedication to follow through on a project that at times was probably daunting.

Thanks for sharing.