Want a rear wheel drive two-seater Japanese mid-engine sports car? Of course you do. The good part is that criteria singles out the plucky little Toyota MR2. There’s just a few details to go over before you go scouting the high school parking lot for “For Sale” signs.
The fine folks over at CarThrottle put together a great video outlining ten things you should know before diving into the affordable mid-engine magic of the second-generation MR2.
Stop! Step away from the Miata, my friend. There’s still hope. MR2 is Japanese for hope (it isn’t). It gets a little complicated, though, because the second-gen MR2 went through five revisions.
The first issue to consider is the MR2's bad reputation for snap oversteer on early cars. The first revision of the car updated the suspension, anti-roll bar, larger brakes and bigger wheels with wider tires, which means you should aim to buy a car from the 1993 model year and after if you’re not trying to die while having fun.
The good news is that Toyota collected a group of great engines for its little sports car, ranging from 120 horsepower, all the way up to 242 horsepower. I’ve heard engine swaps are common, as they should be if there’s an “easy” option to double your power.
The MR2 also has the benefit of sharing a common bolt pattern for its wheels, meaning there are, like, a lot of aftermarket options to consider. You’ll need to run a staggered setup, or install spacers to keep the wheels flush with the bodywork.
The turbocharged MR2 models had the benefit of coming with a beefier gearbox, able to handle up to 350 lb-ft of torque if you plan on putting in some work, which is about 100 lb-ft more over the naturally aspirated cars. You’ll get longer gear throws because of it, though.
The rest of the checklist includes regular maintenance and practices, like checking for rust—specifically lower on the body just in front of the rear wheels, which had a foam layer just behind the body work that was more likely to collect moisture and cause rust on some models. You should also be aware of what engine your MR2 has and keep track of the mileage on the engine belt, and let someone else handle your coolant flush.
The best news is that the cars are reasonably priced for what you get—which is bragging to your friends about driving a mid-engine sports car. I’ll be on Craigslist.