Rare Rides: An Original 1988 Toyota MR2 - the Supercharged One

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides an original 1988 toyota mr2 the supercharged one

The mid-engine MR2 started out strong in the Eighties, but ended its life in the new century with a quiet, blob-shaped whimper. Today we take a look at the best of type — it’s a first generation supercharged model, in Ticket Me Red.

Toyota’s new coupe was designed from the outset with sporty handling and a lightweight body in mind. The company turned to a Lotus engineer by the name of Roger Becker during the development phase for assistance with suspension and handling. When it was ready for production, the MR2 maintained its initial goal of sporty handling, but picked up a few additional pounds for the sake of structural rigidity and power equipment. Depending on the version, the 155-inch MR2 weighed between 2,200 and 2,493 pounds.

Toyota introduced its new MR2 in 1984 as an ’85 model and immediately picked up a COTY award in Japan. Two engines were available from the onset, a 1.5-liter inline-four (AW10) which was not offered in North America, and a mid-market 1.6-liter. Said mill made 112 horsepower and found a home in the majority of MR2 examples. For model year ’86, a supercharged version of the 1.6-liter engine was made available in Japan; it found its way to North America in 1988. Equipped with a Roots supercharger and intercooler, 145 horsepower were accompanied by 137 torques. The supercharger made for brisk acceleration times to 60: 6.5 seconds with the manual transmission, or 7 seconds with an automatic.

Supercharged versions suffered from additional weight via the revised engine and new, heftier transmission. It meant stiffer springs were required to maintain handling prowess. Visual cues exclusive to supercharged models were cut-out alloys, dual vents on the hood, and stickers labeled “SUPERCHARGED” in various locations.

Visual changes for 1989 marked the first generation’s final year of production. Door handles and mirrors were always color-keyed, and the CHMSL was replaced with a more modern LED strip integrated into the rear spoiler. Supercharged versions also received an anti-roll bar for the rear suspension. The critically-acclaimed MR2 gave way to a larger and more aerodynamic version for 1990 that was heavier and more expensive, but also more powerful.

Today’s well-preserved Rare Ride is an excellent example of the type, though the ’89 version might be the most desirable. With 142,000 miles, it asks $11,900 presently — a reduction from its previous ask of $12,450.

[Images: seller, Toyota]

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  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.