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]
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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