This node is crying out for an owner's review
. At least, I
think it is. heh.
I am the proud owner of a 1987 Mk.I MR2 (Super Red, with spoiler, cloth seats, manual, no power windows/doors, aftermarket stereo). I'm the second owner; it has at this point 146,500 miles on the clock. This car rules. Well, okay, I hear you asking, Why?
A fair question.
This car was built for people who love driving. It isn't the fastest thing out there (it left that to its supercharged sibling and turbocharged descendent). It generates roughly 112 BHP from its transverse-mounted inline four. The engine (Toyota's model 4-AGE) is placed in a mid-engine configuration; thus, the weight of the car is quite evenly balanced between its front and rear wheels. This contributes to its magnificent handling.
Since the car only has two seats, they didn't need to support the fiction of a backseat. As a result, the two bucket imitation-Recaro seats are quite comfortable and roomy; my father, who is 6'3" tall, drives this car with ease. I'm only 5'11", but I'm also 320 lbs, and I don't have any trouble either. All the controls are easily placed; the best thing of all is the shifter. The gearshift rests at the front end of a substantial console between the seats; the stick itself fits perfectly into a closed fist when the right arm is resting comfortably on the console. As a result, there is almost no arm motion or even arm support required when changing gears; a simple flick of the wrist will do. With the short-throw cable shifter, it doesn't even need to be a severe flick.
The pedals are laid out normally; they support tall folk well. The left foot rests naturally on a 'dead pedal' to the left of the clutch. The clutch is a sport clutch; all of its action is in the last 2-3 inches of travel. As a safety feature relatively new when this car was introduced, the ignition will not function unless the clutch is pressed all the way down - A system I'm not sure I agree with, but I can understand the rationale. No great strength is required to operate the clutch or brakes; the brakes are power-assisted four-wheel discs, and stop the car with alacrity. In fact, the biggest problem with the brakes and this car is learning how not to lock up the wheels. Once you've mastered that, the car will stop itself quite crisply in a minimal distance.
The handling. Oh, the handling. This car has two prime attractions, and neither is speed. First of all, the handling. It is nearly perfectly balanced, and has stabilizer bars and a wide wheelbase. With a car this light, and with tires in good shape, it is normal for a tight turn to throw passenger and driver hard against their doors or center console before the tires break free. Utter bliss can be achieved by taking this car onto a two-lane, curvy road under the trees where you can crank down the windows and listen to the stereo or even the snarling exhaust note (it does rev high, after all) and throw the thing around corners. It leaps around them if you ask it to, and it dives around them if you make it.
The second prime attraction of the car is its acceleration. While the top end is respectable (I've had mine to 122mph, unmodified on a flat run) the car is really too light and is shaped wrong to be stable at those speeds. Up to around 105, it is most well-behaved; above that, airflow starts to creep under the front of the car despite the airdam, and the lack of engine weight in the front means that the front wheels will start to 'dance' up off the pavement - a nastily dangerous situation. In my case, I had placed a sandbag in the front cargo compartment (spare tire compartment); it made a noticeable improvement at high speed, although detracted from the delightfully light feel of the car at low speeds. If you intend to run around at high speeds, I recommend seriously considering a performance aerokit and some weight in the front compartment.
Whoops, I was talking about acceleration. Off the line, this car will keep up with the Porsches of its day, yielding only to the 911s and exotics. It requires practice and skill to eke the limits out of it; the tranny is tight enough and has synchromeshes to allow for racing changes, but even with full declutch you can run up through the gears at lightning speed. If you're going for zip, though, stop in third or fourth; the car will break 100mph in fourth just at redline, and fifth is really only useful for cruising at speed.
One of the best things about this little wonder (known by various affectionate names, as noted above, including the Mister Two, the Pocket Rocket, the 'Two, etc.) is that it's a Toyota. This means it hardly ever needs repair. Mine didn't begin requiring major (scheduled!) maintenance until 80,000 miles, which is when the timing belt must be replaced. WARNING: DO NOT put off replacing the timing belt! If it fails in the engine, it will bend your valve stems and generally thrash your head. (NOTE:sideways tells me that this shouldn't happen; all you'd need is a new belt and adjustments since the 4-AGE has a non-interference head, so the valves will be OK. I believe him. On the other hand, on general principles, DO NOT avoid core engine scheduled maintenance, mmmkay?) Other than normal wear-and-tear items like the clutch at 65K and 120K, shocks at 70 and 140K, and some minor body bits (the rod holding up the engine cover when open, the airdam, plugs at 60K and 120K, etc. etc. the car has been a rock. I'm now into replacing things like exhaust piping, but at 146K it's allowed. Most important: the only times it has stranded me (all after 120K) were due to my leaving it sitting and not checking the battery before driving it and then parking it again. It's done that twice. Both times it had been sitting parked for five weeks or more. My fault. Oh, okay, the headlight motor on one side died, and was ridiculously expensive to replace; however, only once.
Working on the engine is a nightmare, because they had to shoehorn it into the mid compartment; in order to replace plugs, look at valves or in fact do much of anything, you need to loosen and at least 'rock' the engine to access it. Getting it out of the car is a pain in terms of connections, but made easier because as a mid-engine it's essentially sitting on top of its tranny.
Sound systems are a must! The car has soundproofing in the rear of the cockpit, which is the firewall; however, mine is degrading. While I like the sound the car makes, some passengers don't (the shielding is easily replaced, BTW: I'm just lazy). No problem. Toyota shipped the car with a mediocre head unit, but with six decent speakers and a subwoofer under the driver's seat. Given the tiny space inside the car, those are more than enough to blaze if you get a decent head unit. I'm experimenting with mounting a CD changer inside the front cargo compartment, which has access points into the cabin (since it doesn't need a firewall).
Finally, I must say as a devotee of the angular sportscar, this thing just looks damn cool. It reminds me most of a stone arrowhead; stubby and angular, but graceful in a cutting way.
The best part about Mk.I's is that if you can find one with a good body (California, Southwest) they're quite cheap and the engines will last forever with some basic TLC. If you need some weekend fun, grab yourself one of these beauties- if you're lucky, you'll find the supercharged version, which shares body modelling (mostly) with the original Mk. I. The Mk. 2 is a fantastic car, but a totally different one; more complex, larger, heavier, built for speed speed speed in addition to handling. The turbo Mk.2 put out something stupid like 215 BHP, which in a car that didn't weigh much more than the Mk.I meant that ridiculously high speeds could be attained.