Most automotive publications mark the debut of the 1991 Acura NSX as when Japan dropped the bomb on Ferrari, and showed the world a mid-engine sports car can be reliable. I dare to disagree. My spin is that when Toyota released the MR2 into the automotive arena, it put every car manufacturer on notice. Toyota’s first mid-engine sports car was damn good. That is why this week’s “Caveat Emptor,” buyer beware, which celebrates intriguing cars being sold online for less than $5,000, features a 1987 Toyota MR2.
The premise of this weekly column is that it’s fun to search for cars on a limited budget. Since many consumers find themselves looking in this price range, I’m here to help.
The only rule here, is that there are no rules — (just kidding):
- The car must be listed on www.CARS.com or www.AutoTrader.com, www.Craigslist.com, or www.Bringatrailer.com.
- It must be for sale by the time this article comes out.
- It must be under $5,000.
- It can be any type of car. Bonus points for enthusiast cars.
- It must be for sale in the United States (local in DC is best).
- Creativity (I know it when I see it) is welcomed.
- I’m open to submissions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s winner, a 1987 Toyota MR2, is for sale in Olney, Maryland on Autotrader, buy here.
NOTE: Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware. This is not an endorsement of this particular car for sale. I have not driven it nor do I know the seller.
The Mark1 Toyota MR2, known by enthusiasts as “Mister Two,” was a new segment for Toyota, and opened the eyes of other car manufacturers. Up until its release, there had never been a reliable, mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car, that didn’t leak oil, or break down. It was even affordable, at about $12,000 in 1986. People went crazy and Toyota sold about 40,000 MR2s in its first year. Car and Driver awarded it two 10 Best Trophies in 1986 and 1987, describing it as having the soul of a Ferrari, the shifter akin to that of a McLaren, that made you feel like an F1 driver on Main street. Strong words from journalists for a $12,000 Toyota.
You have TOYOTA to thank for being able to daily your Ferrari 458 Speciale. Although, Who is daily driving a Ferrari and how do I become that person?
Behind the driver sits a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, dual overhead-camshaft, 16-valve engine that produces 112 hp. It had race technology that was never seen before in a mass-produced car. The Mister Two’s engine sent all that power to the rear wheels via a five-speed transmission or four-speed automatic. A 112 hp is not much horsepower in todays world where a Ford 1.0-liter ecoboost engine produces more hp and torque, but the car weighed around 2,300 lbs. The engine sings all the way to the 7,500 rpm redline, which is an octave that most engines wish they could achieve.
Even in 2015, the Toyota Mister Two seems ahead of it’s time. There’s nothing on the market similar today. Alfa Romeo has its, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. A $60,000 mid-engine, turbocharged, 2-seater, lightweight carbon fiber chassis (2,500 lbs), but it’s $60,000 and somehow weighs more than the MR2 with a carbon fiber chassis. Where are all the awesome $25,000, mid-engine, two-seaters?
It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on, and the price of those first generation Mister Two rises substantially. Before that happens, snatch a clean, one-owner, well loved version now, like the 1987 MR2 I found on www.AutoTrader.com for $3,250.
It is a true ONE OWNER car. I actually reached out to the seller, because I’d buy this car in a heartbeat. He driven it daily to work for the last 29 years. It’s one of the best maintained MR2s and well-loved 29-year-old cars that I’ve ever seen. It has had most of the major service taken care of, and nothing needs to be replaced or fixed. The one downside is it’s an automatic transmission, but if you’re in the DC area that is a benefit. It currently has 129k miles and he’s asking $3,250. If you are at all in the market for a clean, well-loved Mister Two, I’d hop on this car NOW.