Do you ever watch Japanese Anime and see the guy jump into a mech suit? The suit conforms to his body and plugs in mechanically to his biological tendencies? His physical hands and legs control the state of the art machine, but his mind controls the nuances, reactions, and timing. Do you ever wonder what its like to feel like that hero? I say to you, wonder no more.
As digital and analog worlds combined in the 80s, the technology bled into other aspects of life, including the automotive world.
As with most of our 80’s cars, the Oil Embargo was still on the mind of manufacturers. Toyota wanted to create something fun to drive while still being economically feasible. Toyota theorized that a mid engine layout would add a sporty feel, while giving balance for increased gas mileage. The SA-X was developed and then debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show as the SV-3. As the car was in test production, Toyota brought in famed Lotus engineer Roger Becker to help with the handling. The end result was the 1985 Toyota MR2.
And what a result it was. For the fraction of the cost, the common man can experience mid engine handling with sporty performance. The MR2 was extremely well received and made Car & Driver as well as Road & Track top 10 list for years. It also won Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year.
Superior handling even by todays standards make this car an instant and famous classic. Sitting in the cockpit with the front lights popped up show you just how short the hood is, and where the road actual meets the vehicle. The natural low profile of the car only adds to this euphoria. As driver and engine sit right next to one another in perfect harmony, the car becomes the ultimate extension of ones physical and mental capabilities.
Although only 112 HP in the states, the lightweight frame and mid engine could get the car from 0-60 in the 8 second range. Much faster than even some of the American V8’s of the day. One upping the V8’s again, the MR2 attained 40mpg. However, 112 HP is hardly super car territory. So in 1988, Toyota introduced the supercharged version. The lightweight frame now had 145 HP and could do 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.
For the looks of the car, little is known about the design aspect. All we know for now is that it was a team at Toyota in charge of the striking lines and aggressive look of the car. Clearly, it was inspired by Italian and British exotics of the day. Some even say that the first MR2 looks like a Lamborghini….. if they made a $10,000 model.
MR2’s are still plentiful today. For a few grand, you could get one in more than great shape. This author should know, he’s owned 3 MR2’s himself. If you want all the retro looks, with the feel of something totally new, plug into this