The Truth About Cars » MR2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 11:23:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » MR2 Question Of The Day: What Was Your Best Automotive Deal…. Ever? Mon, 19 Nov 2012 15:29:08 +0000

The bidding kept going down and down at the inop auction. A sale where all cars are usually either dead or dying.

“$200! would-a-give-me $200! $100! $100! How about-a-hundred!”

Pretty soon the bidding went all the way down to $50. For a whole car! No takers. No sale. Until…

I was a member of the auction staff at this public sale. Unlike other junk public auctions which usually offer cleaned up basket cases from the impound lots, this one specifically sold dealer trade-in’s.

The vehicle in question was a 1993 Subaru Impreza.  Four speed automatic. 165k. Primer. The vehicle didn’t even have a lick of paint on the outside.

But it looked clean. Too clean to be used as crusher fodder at an auto recycler.

“Rick? Do you think the Chevy dealer would take $25 for that thing?”

It just so happened the owner of that dealership had a twin brother who also happened to hear me ask about the car.

“You want that junker Steve? It’s yours! Enjoy your new tinker toy!”

So for $25, plus a $50 fee, I had my own Subaru paperweight. That was until I replaced the battery and the shiftlock overdrive mechanism. It ran like a top. Two weeks later I bought a 1988 Toyota Mr2 at the same sale with about 110k for $225 that only needed a fuel pump.

Two cars for less than $500 altogether.

Eventually I sold both vehicles on Ebay for $1576 and $2712 respectively. A rally coordinator for Subaru flew in from California and kept the Impreza for another 50k miles before turning it into a race car. The MR2 went to a super nice guy in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where thin framed older cars have limited lives.

I’ve made more money with plenty of other cars over the years. But these two have always been close to my heart. What about you? What was your best deal? Feel free to throw in a parts story or two if you like.

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Toyota MR2: Fear the Robot Eagle! Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:30:39 +0000 Members of the MR2 Jihad generally refer to the creature on the hood emblems of their cars as the “Screaming Eagle,” but I say it’s a stoic, tight-beaked Robot Eagle. I hadn’t paid much attention to this emblem, since it’s quite small and mounted on a car snout that sits quite close to the pavement, but then a 24 Hours of LeMons team composed of Toyota engineers created a gigantic Pontiac Trans Am-style decal version for the hood of their MR2. Robot Eagle!
The dragon (or boat, or dragon boat, or whatever it is) emblem on the early Celica was cool, but you won’t see this creature on the domes of the Sakichi Toyoda Memorial Mars Base in the year 2077. The MR2 Robot Eagle, on the other hand, will be plastered all over future galactic installations.
Note the mechanical, right-angle-based grasping talons, which enable the Robot Eagle to dock with its charging station when it isn’t squeezing the giblets out of the wimpy horse on the Porsche emblem.
Imagine the meetings in Tokyo, during the design phase of the original MR2, as variations of the Robot Eagle were shown to the Toyota suits. Did the original have laser eyes and bolt heads on the wings, only to be watered down by conservative salarymen? We may never know.
LeMons racers have always loved the Pontiac Screamin’ Chicken, seen here as the extremely frightening Bob Ross Screamin’ Chicken on the hood of a fourth-gen Firebird. Other teams simply buy knockoff Screamin’ Chicken decals and slap them on their Saturn SC2s and Nissan 240SXs.
I think it’s time for the Robot Eagle to challenge the Screamin’ Chicken for icon status. Who will fight for the glory of the Robot Eagle?

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Twin-Engined Toyota Racer Works Fine, Confounds Self-Proclaimed Experts Wed, 18 May 2011 14:00:45 +0000
“How will you sync the engines?” whined the naysayers when they heard about the plan to weld an ’89 Corolla front half to an ’87 MR2 rear half. “How will you cool it? The handling will be terrible! It’ll never work!” If there’s one thing that 24 Hours of LeMons racing has taught the automotive world, it’s that the experts’ preconceptions can be thrown right out the window when it comes time to drop a cheap race car into the crucible of an all-weekend-long road race. For example, who would have imagined that Chevy small-block and Honda B engines would turn out to be among the most fragile in the crapcan endurance racing world? And who would have imagined that the DoubleSuck MR2olla would do so well at the notoriously car-killing Reno-Fernley Raceway?

To avoid the nightmare of trying to get a single shifter and clutch pedal to control two drivetrains, the DoubleSuck team decided to use an automatic transmission on the rear 4AGE and a manual transmission on the front 4AGE. When driving, the rear tranny goes into Drive and the driver shifts the front transmission normally.

Rather than trying to merge two electrical systems, the DoubleSuck designers opted to keep the front and rear systems separate. Two alternators, two batteries, two kill switches.

The cockpit features two shifters and two instrument clusters. To get the complete build story from the geniuses responsible for this innovative racin’ machine, check out the Verbose Beater website.

So we’ve got two 112-horsepower engines, one transmission shifting for itself and the other controlled by the driver, and weight distribution unlike anything Toyota ever considered building. How does it drive? We conned LeMons Supreme Court Circuit Judge and Index of Effluency-winning Renault 4CV racer Rich into putting on his gear and strapping himself into the MR2olla for a few test laps on Saturday; here are his impressions:

I was prepared for the worst, strange torsional stiffness, pirate-ship-under-stress creaking, disturbing bump steer, maybe a car that pulls viciously and doglegs down the road or the worst, has transition from predictable traction to some kind of wall seeking mission abort mode. Maybe it would behave like an AWD car where the center differential had just gone schizophrenic. I had no idea.

Looking at the dash was both amusing and intimidating. One set of 3 pedals, check. Two gauge clusters… mmmm ok. Two ignition switches, ha ha, and wait… what’s this? Ah, two shift levers. One has a 5 speed pattern on top, and the other has a button on the side. Oh this should be entertaining.

I was given proper flight instruction by a very generous, but slightly nervous team captain. He didn’t know what kind of yahoo was getting into the car that he had no doubt spent many sleep deprived nights putting together. “The rear engine is the loud one, we just improvised a cherry bomb exhaust. The front engine (with manual trans) is quiet, so you really have to watch the tach.” Ok, I think I’ll try to err on the side of much too high of a gear. You can usually lug a motor without hurting it.

Oh boy, the last thing I want to do is blow up these dude’s car.

So I was off.

I had the advantage at least of knowing the track, having raced there 2 years before. As I accelerated to merge with traffic I made my first mistake. I was thinking about the MR2 I had years ago and expected similar acceleration. This was wrong and I very rapidly ran out of first gear. Ok, lets go straight to 3rd.

For the first few laps I ambled around the track, generally staying to the outside and allowing the chuckleheads I had been punishing moments before to blow on by in their rat race. My comfort level with the car quickly improved and I actually started to push it a bit.

Remember 1993? Remember being broke, and having an 80′s hatch that you could only afford a couple improvements on? Remember having that hatch packed full of your friends and taking off for some party and deciding to impress them on that twisty on-ramp? Maybe you don’t, but a Corolla with an engine in the back or a Mr. 2 with an engine in the front would kinda handle like that with one notable exception. If you’re paying attention to the tach (remember that?) and you’ve been putting the quiet engine in the powerband, this baby would pull.

This car was as predictable as your beloved old hatch full of your moron friends, but it had a 3.2 liter 8 cylinder motor made into a dipole. The scary creaky machine I feared turned out to be a predictable little car that could really pull up the hill and exit corners with some gusto.

After about 5 or 8 laps I started getting a bit more brave with it and I had to remind myself: “wait, this isn’t my car, these aren’t my tires, and I’ll never hear the end of it if the guest judge gets a black flag for 2 wheels off, it’s time to come in”

With some debugging and a little more shade-tree engineering, this amazing little machine will be quite a contender. I look forward to the day when LeMons is all cars that exhibit creativity like this. Tip your hats to Volatile RAM Racing!

The MR2olla’s best lap time of 2:47 wasn’t exactly scorching (the quickest lap of the race was a 2:30), but the car is going to get considerably quicker once refinements inspired by a weekend of real racing get incorporated into the design. The MR2olla developed a rod knock in the rear engine late Saturday night, and so the team opted to avoid a track oil-down and parked it until a few laps before the checkered flag. 56th place out of 72, but all signs point to a strong performance at the next West Coast LeMons race.

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And The Winner Is… Mon, 18 Apr 2011 04:06:26 +0000
On paper, the Toyota MR2 should be an excellent choice for a low-buck endurance racer… but 24 Hours of LeMons racing has a way of shattering such preconceptions like a connecting rod hurtling through the side of a 4AGE block. In fact, the MR2 has been one of the least reliable LeMons cars, even worse than such good-on-paper-but-terrible-in-practice endurance machines as the Nissan Z and Porsche 944; we’ve seen dozens of them race in LeMons over the years, and nearly all have failed miserably… until today. Today, the Dai Mondai II car was the first MR2 to take the win on laps in the 24 Hours of LeMons.

We’ve been seeing the Dai Mondai team in LeMons races going back to 2008, and their MR2 had established a pattern of going pretty well for a time, then nuking the engine. Since the team is made up of a bunch of Toyota engineers, the frustration level got pretty high. Did they give up, as so many MR2 teams have done in the past? No! Today, their efforts have been rewarded with a rusty trophy and $1,500 in nickels. Congratulations, Dai Mondai II!

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Two Engines Equals Twice As Good: Toyota MR2olla! Fri, 11 Mar 2011 00:00:47 +0000
The crazy thing about 24 Hours of LeMons racers is that they actually follow through with their terrible ideas. Maybe it’s the urgency of the deadline, or maybe it’s the peer pressure to keep one-upping the last ridiculous project. Last month we admired the radial aircraft-engine-powered MR2, and now we’ve got another MR2-based team taking on one of the long-discussed LeMons Holy Grails: the twin-engined sub-$500 race car!

The Volatile RAM MR2 has been racing in West Coast LeMons events since the 2007-08 Altamont era, and the team must have decided that all that wrenching in the pits (the MR2 has proven itself to be one of the less reliable LeMons cars) would be more fun if they vaulted to the ranks of the Legends of LeMons and took on the twin-engine challenge.

Conventional wisdom says that a twin-engined race car with four-wheel-drive and two separate transmissions will be a spinning nightmare on the track, will blow up for sure, will overheat, and is morally wrong besides. However, conventional wisdom also suggests that Toyotas should be reliable in low-budget endurance racing, and reality has shown that Saturn SL2s and Alfa Romeo Milanos are much more reliable LeMons cars… so go ahead and throw all your misgivings about the MR2olla right out the window! Yes, MR2olla; the team will be welding the front half of a 1989 Corolla to the rear half of a 1987 MR2. What could possibly go wrong?

“Aha!” you say, “The Corolla and the MR2 both use Toyota A engines and identical transmissions, so all you need to do is rig up some kind of Rube Goldberg transmission-cable linkage and the driver will be able to drive it like a regular car.” Not so! What the Verbose Beater team is doing involves an automatic transmission in the rear and a manual up front. Feel free to enumerate all the ways this will go terribly wrong; I’m reserving judgment until I see it on the race track. Actually, I’m not reserving judgment at all; if this thing makes one lap it will be a stunning, LeMons Legend-worthy succcess! We’ll see how it all sorts out at the Goin’ For Broken race in mid-May at Reno-Fernley.

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for the biggest 24 Hours of LeMons race of all time, at Sears Point in a couple of weeks. In fact, with 180 cars it’s possible that the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race will be the biggest road race in history. See you there!

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Ill-Advised Engine Swap of the Week: Aircraft Radial In Toyota MR2 Wed, 16 Feb 2011 17:00:04 +0000
The thing that got me hooked on LeMons racing was the mentality that makes a statement such as “Hey, I’d like to install a 540-cubic-inch, five-cylinder radial aircraft engine in the back of a Toyota MR2, then try to make it run all weekend in a grueling endurance race” seem totally sensible. The craziest most devoted racers find themselves locked into an arms race for the Unununium, and this is the result.

The engine, which once powered a 1942 PT-22 Recruit trainer aircraft, was rated at 160 horsepower. This one hasn’t run for 65 years, but Radial Madman-In-Chief Marc assures us that it’s in good shape and should fire right up. As for the $500 limit, I exercised my authority as Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court to issue a decree stating that radial engines shall be exempt from budgetary limits. You want a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 making 2,500+ horses in your Hillman Imp, and you can convince us that your hoopty-ass installation will be safe? Fine!

It’s going to sit in the back of the car, directly above a Subaru transaxle with a custom adapter flange. A V-drive, reduction gear set, and a much more reliability-enhancing gear is involved; you can follow the whole saga on this 24 Hours of LeMons Forums thread. Will it work? The real question should be: Will it have license plates?

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Toyota Launching “G” Sporty Sub-Brand Mon, 01 Feb 2010 16:21:54 +0000
Oh how quickly things change! Just weeks ago, if you’d asked the average well-informed consumer what Toyota needed to change with its strategy, you’d have been treated to a treatise on how Toyota’s quest for quality and mass-market appeal had reduced its brand to signifying snooze-inducing appliances. Indeed, Toyota’s new CEO has emphasized enthusiasm as an area for improvement, waxing eloquent about the “splendid flavor” of the sporty vehicles Toyota doesn’t offer. Accordingly, Toyota is launching a sporting sub-brand àlá BMW’s “M” or Volkswagen’s new “R” line of high-performance vehicles according to Inside Line. Thanks to Toyota’s descent into recall hell however, boosting the brand’s sporty credentials is suddenly of highly debatable utility.

The brand, which will be called “G’s,” is based on collaboration between Toyota’s Gazoo racing team, Toyota Racing Development and Modelista, Toyota’s entry-level street tuner. The “G’s”-branded vehicles will be the top level of street-tuned Toyotas, providing more power than Modelista vehicles at a higher price point. The first indications of this effort were “G-Sport” tuned Prius, Mark X and FT-86 (aka Toyobaru) concepts shown at the Tokyo Auto Salon. In addition, several Gazoo-developed concepts appeared at the same time, showing off such wacky, nevergonnahappen concepts as a mid-engined, Highlander Hybrid-powered MR2 V6 and hotted-up Aygo and iQ models.

In the post-recall environment, regaining a tarnished quality crown will be Toyota’s top priority, but how and where it introduces more “splendid flavor” to its lineup bears watching as well. Introducing a greater performance emphasis to its lifeless Scion brand makes far more sense in the US market than trying to accustom Americans to a new sub-brand from an OEM that hasn’t sold a legitimately sporty car in years. At the same time, it looks like Scion will not be getting the FT-86 “Toyobaru” RWD coupe that is the poster boy for Toyota’s newfound sporty pretensions, so Toyota will probably introduce a sub-brand for high-po and tuner variants of the budget sports coupe.That would give Toyota two major aspirations (repairing its quality image and building a sporty image) while leaving Scion without a purpose, proving just how quickly GM-style branding conundrums can come into play.

Meanwhile, rumors that the 392 hp hybrid V6-powered MR2 could head for production highlight just how far Toyota might be willing to go to bust its appliance reputation… and show Honda how the hybrid sportscar should be done. And how good the result might be. A 300 hp+ mid-engined sportscar based on an existing platform and hybrid drivetrain (offered alongside the FT-86) would do a lot more to revive Toyota’s sporting profile than an in-house tuner brand. That is, if any of this enthusiasm enhancement actually happens once the corporate aftershocks of Toyota’s quality crash shake out.

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