Junkyard Find: 1986 Toyota MR2

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1986 toyota mr2

The Toyota MR2 has always been a somewhat rare Junkyard Find, partly because not many were sold in the first place, and partly because the surviving examples tend to be cherished by MR2 enthusiasts. Here’s a solid ’86 that showed up in a Denver self-service wrecking yard a couple of weeks back.

Judging from the line of silt visible at about driver waist level, this car spent some time partially submerged. The most likely culprit is the flooding along Colorado’s Front Range in September, 2013. During the first couple of years after the 2013 floods, Denver-area wrecking yards were well stocked with flood victims, including some real heartbreakers.

Before the deluge, this car traveled well over 200,000 miles. MR2s are surprisingly sensible commuter cars.

This one even has the optional air conditioning, a must for those hot Denver summers in a tiny car.

I have seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of first-generation MR2s racing in the 24 Hours of Lemons during my decade with the series, and I have learned that this car is not so great at low-budget endurance racing.

Like most Toyotas in the Lemons series, the MR2 suffers from severe reliability problems, and most 4AGE-powered ones are no quicker around a road course than their 1980s Ford Escort GT, Honda Civic, and Volkswagen Golf competitors (having been an MR2 admirer since these cars were new, this knowledge disappoints me). With a Camry V6 swap, though, an MR2 can turn some decent lap times.

The flood damage is more obvious in person than it is in photographs, so nobody is likely to buy it and fix all the water-damaged electrical stuff. I saw it a couple of days ago, and few parts had been pulled. Is it possible every Colorado MR2 collector already has all the parts they need?

The most innovatory value!

Watch out for the pop bumpers while driving your MR2.

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2 of 29 comments
  • CrackedLCD CrackedLCD on Jun 13, 2017

    I consider my first car — an 86 NA — my first true automotive love. It came to me with 98k on it and left me with 262k and was pretty trouble-free in between. It was a lot of fun for a castaway that a couple of old parents were trying to sell for their son, who'd taken a job overseas. They didn't want the old bondo'd thing in their yard anymore. The worst issue I remember it having was it began popping out of fifth gear. I actually drove it from Alabama to California and back by way of Canada, holding it in fifth with my right arm the entire way (keeping in fourth would have been noisy madness.) It sounds crazy but actually wasn't that uncomfortable. I've never had a car that more perfectly matched car to human in the interface, everything just fell right into place.

  • Jansob Jansob on Feb 25, 2018

    A friend of mine bought a red one new in 1986 and drove it until he passed away in 2012. When he could no longer ride his motorcycle due to health problems in 2009, he had it buffed and detailed, rebuilt the front end, put sticky tires on it and took it for a fast outing at least once a week. We made some great memories on rural Texas roads. When he passed away his wife gave it to his brother (also a car guy), and it's still going at over 600k. Really awesome car.

  • Bullnuke Well, production cuts may be due to transport-to-market issues. The MV Fremantle Highway is in a Rotterdam shipyard undergoing repairs from the last shipment of VW products (along with BMW and others) and to adequately fireproof it. The word in the shipping community is that insurance necessary for ships moving EVs is under serious review.
  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.
  • Sgeffe There's someone around where I live who has a recent WRX-STi, but the few times I've been behind this guy, he's always driving right at the underposted arbitrary numbers that some politician pulled out of their backside and slapped on a sign! With no gendarmes or schoolkids present! Haven't been behind this driver on the freeway, but my guess is that he does the left lane police thing with the best of 'em!What's the point of buying such a vehicle if you're never going to exceed a speed limit? (And I've pondered that whilst in line in the left lane at 63mph behind a couple of Accord V6s, as well as an AMG E-Klasse!)
  • Mebgardner I'm not the market for a malleable Tuner / Track model, so I dont know: If you are considering a purchase of one of these, do you consider the Insurance Cost Of Ownership aspect? Or just screw it, I'm gonna buy it no matter.The WRX is at the top of the Insurance Cost pole for tuner models, is why I ask.