One of my favorite high-school teachers owned a MR2—she caused somewhat of a stir when she showed up in it the first time.
“Fun is taking the all-new MR2 out to play.”
The MR2 was undoubtedly one of the most interesting cars Toyota brought to market in the 1980s (development had begun in 1976). Visually evolved from the SV-3 concept car shown at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show, MR2 stood for “midship runabout 2-seater”.
A small sports car (about fourteen inches shorter than a 2019 Toyota 86 hatchback coupe) with an angular wedge body, the MR2 became available for the 1985 model year, entering a market that already included the Bertone (formally Fiat) X1/9 and the Pontiac Fiero. MR2s got really good reviews from the likes of Motor Trend (winning “Import Car of the Year”), Road & Track, and, later, Automobile—who famously compared it to a Ferrari 308 and found the MR2 to be the winner.
The MR2’s engine was the 16-valve 1.6 liter/97 ci 4A-GE fuel injected double overhead cam inline four, with 112 bhp. Paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic transmission was optional) in the 2,350-pound “Mister Two,” this engine was good for 0-60 in under 9 seconds and a top speed of about 120 mph. Mileage was impressive: 27 city/32 highway by the standards of the day (23/29 by modern standards). With a 10.8-gallon fuel tank, an MR2 owner could expect a range of 250 to 285 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard equipment in the $10,999 car (about $26,300 in 2019 dollars or about what a 2019 Toyota 86 costs) included rack-and-pinion steering, power disc brakes with ventilated front rotors, and 185/60R14 steel-belted radial blackwall tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch alloy wheels. Inside, automatic climate control, power side mirrors, tinted glass, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were included in an interior that many considered roomy for the MR2’s size.
Options available for the 1985 MR2 included air conditioning ($840), a moonroof ($300), cruise control ($185), power windows and locks ($305), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($365).
MR2s do have club support, including a reasonably active forum. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 MR2 in #1/Concours condition is $18,000, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $8,200.
Though MR2 sighting are relatively rare in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds, first-generation MR2s (sold up until the 1989 model year) show up fairly often on eBay Motors. As I update this blog entry in February 2019, there’s a Super Red II 1986 with black leather seats, a five-speed manual, and 94,000 miles with an $11,900 “Buy It Now” price.
Make mine the same Super Red II as that high school teacher owned, please.
Updated February 2019.