Image Of Toyota MR2

The MR2 had a long evolution. In 1976 it was decided by Toyota that they would produce a car which was fun to drive and which had low fuel consumption; at this stage the ideas were pretty vague and they weren't sure just what sort of car this was going to be. It was not until 1979 that they got down to serious design work and started playing around with different engines and drive methods. Finally the decision was made to fit a transversely mounted engine amidships. But to what?

Serious testing then began both in America and Japan, including racetrack performance tests by American Formula One racing driver Dan Gurney.

It wasn't until 1983; nearly 7 years after the project was first dreamt up; that the MR2 was considered to be ready for production. By then it was a small, rearwheel drive sports car with disc brakes all round and a mid-mounted 1500cc four cylinder engine; the first Japanese car to be mass produced with that specification. It had its debut at the 1983 Tokyo motor show, accompanied by huge publicity, and it was available to buy the following year.

Why was it called MR2? The initial explanation was that the 'M' was for 'midships'', the 'R' for runabout and the '2' for the fact that it was a two seater but later it was claimed that the 'R' was for rearwheel drive. Either way the name caused problems in France; MR2 in French was pronounced "m er deux" which sounds a little bit close to "merde" which is French for sh*t. That is not the best name to call a car so it was rebadged as the Toyota MR in that country.

Merde or not, this was a lively little car that was fun to drive, relatively cheap to buy, and economical with most drivers achieving around 38 miles to a gallon of petrol. Plus, provided that the tyres all had the same tread pattern, It handled well too, thanks to a suspension system breathed upon by legendary Lotus engineering director and fearless test driver Roger Becker.

The MR2 had been planned meticulously and patiently. As usual with Toyota it went through several generations with multiple choices of engines and other specifications, and was finally retired in 2007 after 23 years in production. It remains a popular car on the second hand market; there are still plenty on the road with well over 100,000 miles on the clock, still going strong and providing lively performance.

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