Reader Submissions: A Toyota MR2 That Keeps On Ticking

A Toyota MR2 That Keeps On Ticking

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
June 24, 2015
10 comments

Story & Photography by: Ross

Far from the very fashionable rear-engined Porsche 911 and 912, the mid-engined 914, BoxI bought this 1987 AW11 Toyota MR2 not long after I got my license, back when I was 18 (the legal driving age in my state), as I needed a car. It was a trade-in at a car dealer near my college.

It was also 18 years old at the time, and I bought it at a point in the mid-2000s where it was just a cheap old sports car—not new enough to generally be desirable, yet not old enough to be cool.

I drove this car anywhere and everywhere for the first few years of ownership. I have done at least 100,000 km in the car, with it now having more than 400,000 km on the odometer. It has also taught me so much; countless spins and the occasional (unintentional) off-road jaunt gradually taught me how to handle its combination of a short wheelbase and mid-mounted engine. Having the car slowly turn matte-pink not long after purchase forced me to learn how to care for single-stage acrylic paint, and as a constant photo subject, I’ve slowly learned to take pictures that aren’t terrible!

It really would be hard to guess just how many photos I’ve taken of it…it’s safe to say I’ve burned the image of what the car looks like into my head! I’d comfortably be able to recognize it blindfolded—a totally useful skill, no doubt.

It’s never been restored, but definitely “aggressively maintained”! By around 2010 (and at 350,000 km), it needed a fair bit of work, with almost everything rebuilt or replaced over the next couple years. I’ve never had any intention of selling this car, so have been more than willing to sort anything I’d otherwise have to fix down the track anyway.

Nowadays, it appears overall as it did back in 1987, minus the tartan-trimmed Recaro LX-C seats and Fujitsubo exhaust, with a bunch of other fun bits added, including a warmed-over 4AGE, Quaife LSD, quicker steering rack, and so on—mostly, the modifications stay out of sight!

The paint is 15 shades of red, and mostly worn through—and there are plenty of other scratches, chips, marks to the trim bits, wheels, and so on, but it all adds character. I’ve just always done my best to keep it clean…and it’s pretty amazing I haven’t washed it away!

I’ve grown up on the outskirts of Melbourne’s Yarra Valley winery region, so have always had plenty of great roads to drive on. I look forward to many more years of my MR2 by my side.

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10 Comments on "A Toyota MR2 That Keeps On Ticking"

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Rafael Valença
Rafael Valença

i just love the MR-2 it was a little gem that could only happen in the crazy 80´s and early 90´s… not that the 3rd gen was bad, it was only misunderstood… im thinking about buying an sw20 here in Brazil… and thinking really hard because those little cars are extremelly rare around here… the sw20 for example about 25 or so roaming around…

Jonathan Brown
Jonathan Brown

Having driven a first gen MR2 back in the day. I still marvel at how fun that car was to drive. Impressive to say the least and easy to see how enthusiasts hold into their little gems for many years. Thanks for the write up.

Daniel Olivera
Daniel Olivera

This car have always been my inspiration, i got mine 3 years ago, after selling my first car (a 4AGE smallport powered KP62 Starlet) and wouldn’t sell it by any means. Still a long way to go until im done with it.

JB21
JB21
Nice! The first car that was mine and mine alone was 1986 MR2. I was 20 years old. I picked it up from a questionable dealer that were (and still are) abandoned around a questionable part of any town. You know, the first car, you are so excited, and you want to be with it all the time, go everywhere in it. I drove that little black thing 25,000 miles in 4 months, washed and waxed it all the time, slept in it more than once (not recommended!), learned to maintain a car from it. It wasn’t my first love… Read more »
Future Doc
Future Doc

I got sidetracked… returned, and sidetracked again.

I have so say, that is a fantastic AW11. It keeps reminding me that I am just waiting for the right one to come by so I can snatch it up. Fantastic car, she is a beauty.

Dan Glover
Dan Glover

Credit where credit is due: I asked for some pictures of engines in the survey a while ago and am glad to see this little gem’s engine. Reminds me so much of the twin cam 1.6 litre engine Lotus used in the Elans and Super 7s. Very sweet car. Love the plaid.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

All these MR2’s just keep on ticking , keep showing up here on Petrolicious as well as keeping their owners happy for years on end . Considering the lackluster sales of the SubaYota / ToyotAru twins perhaps Toyota would of been better served had they continued to evolve the little gem that is all three evolutions of the MR2 ?

Having said that . You got a keeper . Enjoy !

Future Doc
Future Doc
Well, the Toyobaru twins is outpacing the MkIII MR2 by a country mile. They sold as many FRS variants in 5 months than the best MR2 Spyder year. I think they eclipsed the whole of the Spyder production number in 18 or so months and just the BRZ doubled-up the outgoing Miata. The Spyder was a complete market flop, but it is a fantastic car (I have one, btw). The issue for the Toyobaru is not power or such, it is price. After the dealer add-ons, it can be $27-30K and there is a lot of competition at that range…… Read more »
Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
I’m not sure where you’re getting your statistics on the SubaYota twins from but from all the automotive business news’s information and according to Toyota and Subaru themselves both cars are abject sales disasters . Major disappointments for both brands and both cars rapidly becoming the White Elephants on the showroom floor . As far as the claim either or even the combination of both out sold the Miata well … apologies in advance but that claim is downright laughable . But yes … the final generation of the MR2 was a sales failure …. here ! [ in the… Read more »
Future Doc
Future Doc
The issue is not a “sales” flop”. It was very successful. (You can google the sales numbers). The “issue” in the pop auto world is the fall-off in the sales volume in the ’15 production year. Not a surprise as it is a niche car without any major updates as it happens to nearly every sportscar. It is still drifting circles around the current gen Miata (likely to change). That being said, the issue is not the “car”… Price has crept up (looking at my local inventory, it would be tough to get one for less than 27K since all… Read more »
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