By on August 26, 2019

2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt took a while for the 2000-2005 Toyota MR2 Spyder to start showing up in the big self-service wrecking yards I visit, but depreciation finally caught up with the final generation of Mister Two. I spotted a 2002 MR2 Spyder with sequential-manual transmission in California a few months back, and now I’ve found this five-speed manual-equipped ’01 in Colorado.

The SMT used in the U.S.-market MR2 Spyder had no automatic mode, and it was the first non-exotic SMT-equipped car available in North America. The original buyer of today’s Junkyard Find, however, wasn’t messing around with some weird two-pedal manual and opted for the regular 1985-style five-speed. Actually, I think all the U.S.-market 2000-2001 MR2s were manual trans-only cars, with the SMT making its debut over here in MY2002.

2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome junkyard shopper grabbed the 148-horsepower 1ZZ engine before I got here.

2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car took a pretty good shot on the passenger-side door, probably while parked. When MR2s get in single-car crashes, they tend to bang up all four corners due to the excitement of trailing-throttle oversteer in lightweight mid-engined cars.

2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder in Colorado junkyard, gauge panel - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Miata had the two-seater market pretty well locked down and surrounded by barbed wire in 2001 North America, but Toyota stuck with the MR2 Spyder for a few more years.

In Japan, this car was known as the MR-S, and Toyota likened it to a castle full of Spanish dancers.

If you like this junkyardy stuff, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™, where you’ll find links to about 1,700 posts like this one. For photos of junkyard cars taken with ancient film cameras, there’s the Film Photography Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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21 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder...”

  • avatar

    The dopey headlights and taillights were the worst part of this car’s design. If they had gotten those right, this car would have been way more popular.

    • 0 avatar

      The front end and the sleepy headlights always make me think of Piglet.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Agreed, it was a tragically unattractive design. When it was new, it looked like a car from the 1980s. I’m not sure if it was an attempt to cash in the retro thing that was going around at the time, but it was a serious miss.
      Because of the low power I found no redeeming qualities with this car and have never really turned it around. Unlike the SC430 which is starting to appeal to me more and more.

    • 0 avatar

      t was a good looking car in the tradition of Sprites etc.. The reason it didn’t sell well is because American buyers like boring cars. every time a bell rings another Camry is sold.

      • 0 avatar

        2009 called, they want their snide remark back

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        @Probert, yet the Miata has been on sale since 1989 through 4 generations. The reason it didn’t sell was the same reason most of the Miata’s other competition is no more…It missed the sweet spot between fun and practical that the Miata hits. You can live with a Miata every day and it is actually a fairly practical car for the don’t need a back seat crowd. The layout was easy to work on and the chassis set up made you feel like a better driver than you probably were.

        The MR2 was better as a daily than the Kappa twins from GM, but the mid engine layout meant it made some compromises in the livability department, especially if you wrenched yourself.

        I mean you can buy a mid-engined Vette right now but yeah, something something Americans suck grumble grumble.

        • 0 avatar

          The accessibility for maintenance is surprisingly good, the livability compromise is in the luggage space (virtually non existent). A Miata can be a weekend getaway car for two; it’s a lot harder to do that in the MR2.

  • avatar

    This one is fairly picked over, so I’m surprised that no one has snagged the 3-in-1 radio.

  • avatar

    The Celica, the Corolla, the Matrix and the Vibe were all available with a 2ZZ engine that reved to 8,000 RPM and made at least 170 hp. It wasn’t offered in this car. Were they trying to avoid an insurance surcharge on their sports car instead of on the Celica? Did Lotus ask them not to offer it? Odd move.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the go to swap on these. I don’t know why Toyota avoided it in the states. It was pretty much plug and play.

      If prices are getting cheap enough for these to end up in pick and pulls, that might be a great project.

  • avatar

    I had one of these for about a year, red 2002 5-speed. A really fun car, great gas mileage, and it handled really well. To me, they were more comfortable than a Miata due to sitting lower in the car and what appeared to be more cabin space (or the impression of it anyway). I would like to have another one as now is the time to buy. Their limited availability when new and kill rate over the years have made good examples pretty scarce. Seems like the 2003-2005 versions do not have the oil-related usage/failures the 2000-2002 versions had. Styling is subjective, I thought it looked pretty good. Different, for sure.

  • avatar

    I still see this car – albeit rarely – at some smaller dealers, usually low miles. Prices are usually low but still high enough that a cash purchase if off the table for me. It would be a fun summer car.

  • avatar

    There’s a yellow one that lives street parked on my block, a very bright spot on the street otherwise filled with CUVs-du-jour.

  • avatar

    Another mid-engined car that could have been bought at less than the C8’s price (inflation adjusted). Somehow the special qualities of the 2020 Corvette Eyesore is losing its luster and its uniqueness. Heck, even Honda made a mid-engined eyesore a while ago. And Pontiac did a mid-engined vehicle that included a free outdoor grill as standard equipment. I guess it is even more special when you move a V-8 from front to back if you are Chevrolet.

  • avatar

    I dunno how cheap the headlights cost Toyota, but I don’t ever recall seeing one without glaucoma.

  • avatar

    It used to be Toyota’s thing, bring out something good, then slowly ruin it with each new generation.

    Today Toyota fails to come up with anything good for which to ruin later.

  • avatar

    I thought these were interesting, my late friend Damien had one in “Officer arrest me yellow”, he was a Journeyman Mechanic and hot rodded it, commuted the “Palmdale 500” in it and eventually flew off Mt. Emma Road backwards well in excess of 100 MPH, was ejected and died .

    I miss him still .

    I’ll ask to see of he’d swapped out the engine, it was fearsomely fast .

    I didn’t know he didn’t use seat belts until after he died, what a pity .


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