The Evolution of the Toyota MR2

The Toyota MR2 enjoys a very special place in Toyota automotive history. This car only ran for a short span of time but left its mark worldwide on both drivers and enthusiasts alike. Having your hands on the Toyota MR2 workshop manual will give you an invaluable reference for this piece of automotive history. Let’s take a look at the rich history of this car and why it is prized by owners and collectors.

This car is exclusively a 2 seat, mid-engine, rear wheel drive sports car. There are 2 theories on what the MR2 actually stands for: “mid-ship, run about, 2-seater” and “mid-engine, rear wheel drive, 2-seater”. Even though the Toyota MR2 was produced in Japan, it was sold worldwide.

The inception of the MR2

The Toyota MR2 was produced for 3 generations only. Although the first generation debuted in 1984, it was actually a work in progress back in 1976. This project was based on the design of a car that was intended to meet certain criteria. That criteria consisted of being a car that was fun to drive, yet still had great fuel economy.

Even though this project was not necessarily for a sports car, the prototype would morph into a sports car. In October of 1983, Toyota unveiled their project called the SV-3 concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show. This project was met with great reviews from both the press and the public. Toyota decided to launch the project in October of 1984 and called it the Toyota MR2.

The first generation

toyota mr2

The first generation of the Toyota MR2 ran from 1984 through 1989. When it was released for sale, the MR2 was awarded the Japanese Car of the Year.

Toyota took great pride in the MR2 and was intent on designing a car that would be fun to drive and have great fuel economy.  With this in mind, the company would go on to develop different trim levels as well as different model year improvements within the first generation.

The MR2 was designed to hold a 2-liter engine, be a lightweight car, and go from 0-60mph in just under 9 seconds.

By 1986, Toyota began to introduce a super charged engine in the MR2. This allowed the driver to go from 0-60 in approximately 6.5 seconds, so it was faster than the original. The super charged design was belt driven and it actually made the car weigh a little bit more.

Besides the super charger, the car was equipped with stiffer springs and teardrop-shaped aluminum wheels. The hood sported 2 raised vents and the rear trunk and door moldings were all labeled “Super Charger”. This edition was only sold in Japan and North America, but some were privately imported to other countries. The MR2 received notable praise in most automotive journals around the world.

The second generation

The next generation of the Toyota MR2 began to roll out in 1989 and would run for 10 years, until 1999. This next generation enjoyed some major redesign both under the hood, in the interior and with the exterior.

One of the first things owners notice is that the second generation is a heavier car than the first generation. This is the result of Toyota adding a larger interior, a larger engine, a sturdier transaxle, and a more durable suspension system.

These changes were not made quickly or lightly. In fact, Toyota consulted with race car drivers and took their input into consideration.

In Japan, this generation of the MR2 was offered to consumers in 4 different trim levels, in Europe in 3 different trim levels, and in the United States, it was offered in 2 different trim levels, including a turbo.

There were several distinct differences with the turbo model that are important to note.

The first difference with the turbo model is that it could go from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds. This was the fastest acceleration yet. The turbo also used an air to air cooler and had a different exhaust configuration.  It was also manufactured with a heavier gearbox and stronger axles.

In addition to the turbo, the second generation of Toyota MR2’s underwent changes and revisions throughout the 10 year model run.

The MR2 endured the usual revisions -changes to the suspension, wheels and wider tires, and aesthetic changes along the years.

A notable addition was the passenger side airbag. The company also made changes to the ABS and upgrades to the electronic steering system that they used.

With the continued development, updates and revision of the Toyota MR2 over the years, it is clear that having access to the Toyota MR2 repair manual is essential for the owner. This manual will ensure that your MR2 is maintained and repaired the way the manufacturer intended.

On of the most exciting developments during the second generation was the availability of the official TRD body conversion kit. This TRD kit from Toyota Racing Development allowed MR2 owners to convert their car into a replica of the official TRD2000GT car.

Before the availability of the TRD conversion kit, consumers had to purchase a specially manufactured TRD2000GT. These specialty vehicles were custom made to the owner’s request. They offered a choice of engine, suspension, wheel upgrades, and interior upgrade. Because of this, no two vehicles were alike. Each one was individual and only 35 were manufactured. These 35 cars were numbered with their own TRD VIN number plate to ensure their authenticity.

The last generation

The third and last generation of the Toyota MR2 ran from 1999 through 2007. Just like the previous generations, this one would also receive good reviews.

Perhaps the biggest change to come with the 3rd generations is the addition of a convertible and using the Spyder name. The engineers truly wanted a fresh feel this time around. They redesigned the MR2 around the driver’s enjoyment. They wanted better stability, better steering, and handling, a lightweight car and a competitive price point for consumers.

It is also interesting to note that starting in the model year 2002, 5-speed sequential manual transmission was offered as an option in the US market.

This generation also enjoyed the addition of several new paint colors to choose from. There were also refinements to the interior of the MR2 which took into account driver and passenger comfort and enjoyment.

The end of an era

Eventually, Toyota announced the end of production for the MR2. Due to an increase in competition from other companies, sales began to decline of the MR2.

Toyota remains a top car manufacturer around the world. Their cars are built well and are well thought out with regards to safety and comfort.

Evidence of the popularity of the Toyota MR2 is seen as it is used in several anime and manga, arcade games and as the car of choice in the Gran Turismo video games.

The Toyota MR2 received great reviews in all of its generations from top rated peer magazines and journals and won several awards. The quality of this MR2 is evident by its longevity.

The MR2 was enjoyed by consumers and collectors during its heyday. The Toyota MR2 workshop manual and the Toyota MR2 repair manual are both excellent references to have available. They will allow you to maintain and enjoy your MR2, no matter what generation, for years to come.

Get a factory repair manual for your MR2 right here.


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