erm87 New Reader
June 6, 2013 7:05 p.m.

I've been lurking GRMS for awhile now.

I found this '87 MR2 with a rebuilt engine for $1800

She ain't pretty, but hopefully mechanically sound.

This would be my first project, I'll I've ever done mechanically is change oil and tires.

I've done one HPDE and three auto crosses in my 13 Mustang V6 and I'm hooked, but I want a dedicated vehicle.

So I'd like a track and autocross car that I can drive to and from events and walk away from if something happens.

Am I crazy to buy this or should I spend more for a Miata or just take a cold shower before I get in over my head?

David S. Wallens Editorial Director
June 6, 2013 7:19 p.m.

Early MR2s don't have the same support enjoyed by the Miata, but they're way cool cars. JG will probably chime in soon.

Jerry HalfDork
June 6, 2013 9:08 p.m.

Miata is not always the answer. Sometimes the answer is a mid-engined light weight stylish sports car that not every other driver has. Join the MR2 forums, and this place, you'll do well.

JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
June 6, 2013 9:31 p.m.

Early MR2s are a little heavy for their power (or a little underpowered for their weight), but they're a joy to drive.

They don't have the aftermarket support the Miata does, but all the important stuff is readily available. Put some good brake pads on it for track days, and aside from that just prep it how you want and drive it until you don't want to anymore. About the only thing that may be a a little tricky is adding a rear sway bar since the post-'85s didn't come with one standard. Honestly I'm not sure how the kits work, if they give you a tab to weld to the strut housing, or some deal that clamps on. I've always had '85s so it's never been an issue. I'm sure someone can enlighten us (honestly, now I'm curious).

But, yeah, there's a good knowledge base out there, and the limited parts availability sort of means that it's kind of hard to screw up. Just look at what everyone else is doing and copy that. 4 x 100 wheels means you have plenty of choices in that department, too.


erm87 New Reader
June 6, 2013 9:59 p.m.

Well, I guess I'll be taking a trip to Charlotte this weekend to check it out. About a 2 hour drive, but you crazy folks fly a few states away for cars haha.

Guy owns a shop that did the rebuild and said he can put it on a lift for me to check out underneath.

There's also a group of folks who run an MR2 junkyard/eBay store not too far from where the seller is.

David S. Wallens Editorial Director
June 6, 2013 10:44 p.m.

By the way, early MR2 cockpits are way '80s. And I mean that in a good way.

erm87 New Reader
June 6, 2013 10:48 p.m.

I know. That's one reason i want one! Plus the car is as old as I am and there's something cool about that. (And my autox number is already 87!)

David S. Wallens Editorial Director
June 6, 2013 11:05 p.m.

I learned how to drive in 1987, and there's no way anyone born that year can now be old enough to drive. Right, JG?

kanaric Reader
June 7, 2013 3:14 a.m.

if you think you would have fun in such a car you will, buy it. It's one of those cars that if you have the money, you want one, you just need to get it.

ZOO SuperDork
June 7, 2013 5:06 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: I learned how to drive in 1987, and there's no way anyone born that year can now be old enough to drive. Right, JG?

Sorry David. My son was born in 1997. He drives now. Ouch.

petegossett UberDork
June 7, 2013 5:58 a.m.

In reply to ZOO:

And to completely threadjack: My step-daughter was also born in '97 and is driving now. The Miata is a year older than she is. My first car was a '72 Mustang. It was a year younger than me, and it seemed old! I asked her if the Miata felt really old to her, and she said "no". Maybe there really is something timeless about them?

dean1484 UberDork
June 7, 2013 6:03 a.m.

First off you are not crazy in fact you are being very smart. We have raced mk1 mr2, s for years. We recently pulled ours out of storage and plan on hitting the track agan this year. These are great cars. You will have a blast driving it.I will post up later some of the things you should considder modifying upgtading. Mostly It is proper maitenance but there a couple upgrades to the suspension that add durability . Welcome to the mr2 club.

Klayfish SuperDork
June 7, 2013 6:56 a.m.

Go for it!! I've owned 3 MK1s. They're a joy to drive, pretty much as fun as my NA Miata. I autox'd two full season in an MR2. Basically stock except wheels/tires. Great reflexes, very predictable handling, easy to control. The back end can come around on you, but not as easy as you may think.

Look for rust. Look behind the triangle moldings in front of the rear wheels.

Flynlow Reader
June 7, 2013 6:56 a.m.

I've got an '85. I love it. I love the lightweight, engine behind you, manual steering go-kart aspect of it.

To me, they're much better cars than Miatas. Similar weight, size, & power, but much better thought out for a dual purpose track/dd vehicle. A Miata is slightly lighter, and has the benefit of dual A-arms, but outside of a race track, you'd be hard-pressed to tell an advantage. An MR2 has two trunks, both of which are bigger than a Miata's, has a tin top for NVH, has almost impossibly quick point-and-go steering, has center jack points front and rear for lifting the car, and I think the 4AG is a much better sports car engine, it makes good noises (for a 4 cyl) and is extremely rev-happy.

Parts availability is a little tough, but really not that bad....I haven't gotten stuck yet. My old S12 Nissans, now those were tough to get parts for!

Jerry HalfDork
June 7, 2013 6:59 a.m.

There's a couple shops out there with parts ( comes to mind) & I've found quite a bit of replacement original parts between eBay and craigslist. And as you can see, plenty of knowledge floating around here if you need it.

dean1484 UberDork
June 7, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Ok back at a computer. The biggest thing is the suspension. Upgrade the trailing arms in the rear. We welded some steel U Chanel around them as they bend easily (hitting a curb or another car).

Add bleeders to the cooling system at the back and the front at the height points to facilitate getting the air out of the system.

Use good pads on the stock break system and you will be good.

The stock seats are very nice. Keep them unless you are upgrading to 5 point harnesses.

Upgrade to better shocks (koni, bilsteen etc)

Lower the car by either getting different springs or go to a coil over setup.

Tires. 205's give you better feel but a really good driver will be a tick slower.

225's are faster in the corners but give you ALOT less warning when it is going to swap ends.

We have had a long standing debate about tire width. Some say that wider scrubs off more speed but will give more grip. Others say that the 205's have a bit less speed but scrub off less speed. Don't ask me I think it is more about what you but in the seat tells you. If you like one more than the other you will be faster with it.

cutter67 HalfDork
June 7, 2013 7:19 a.m.

rot is the killer of these cars.....if he does have a lift take advantage of it and really inspect the car for any rust.......also i think his number is high. it needs painted and body work the dash is cracked. i think its more of a $1100.00 to $1400.00 car at most (i wouldnt pay over 1k for it myself)...just remember you can buy very nice examples of these cars from $3,500.00 to $5,000.00 if that is out of your budget you can still use this information as a bargaining tool.

erm87 New Reader
June 7, 2013 7:34 a.m.

The one snag I haven't mentioned is storage. I don't really have a place to store this thing properly out of the elements.

My dad said he'd be OK with keeping the car at his place, and working on it in his garage, but he doesn't want it living in there.

Without paint, will this thing be OK under a car cover until I can put up a carport of some type?

and that brings another question...paint...

I'm not all that interested in sinking money into cosmetics, but I want to protect the outside of the car from further rust. Suggestions on that end?

pinchvalve UltimaDork
June 7, 2013 7:46 a.m.

$1800 seems a bit high if the car is rusty. If it is rust free, grab it.

You can check in front of and behind the rear wheel arches and around the front arches for the most visible signs of rust. Front fenders (if you can find them) bolt on, backs have to be cut and welded. There are repair kits (patch panels) available for the most common failure points.

Open the trunk (the one in the back. The one in the front is called a frunk) and pull up the wooden plates on the very edges and look down into the wells below. No rust there means that the car is probably rust-free. The supports inside the bumpers also rust out, along with floor pans. Look underneath for the floors or lift the carpets.

You can get an idea of what a rusty car will cost you by looking at my project. (Senior Dos) I was OK with doing the work because I wanted to learn, but I am still messing with repairs to the body. I love driving her though, so I deal with it.

GameboyRMH UltimaDork
June 7, 2013 8:13 a.m.

The only reason you might not want to get an AW11 is if you want to get really serious about winning at autocross later. They can be quick but the aftermarket support is many leagues below what you'd enjoy with a Miata and the suspension geometry on them is weird and can make mods tricky. Finding AW11-specific parts can be hard too since most of them have returned to the earth.

But if you're not aiming to be super-competitive with it, go for it! They're one of the coolest cars ever.

93EXCivic MegaDork
June 7, 2013 8:20 a.m.

If it is rusty I would pass especially since you are going to have to store it outside.

If it was me, I would look for a 2nd gen MR2 because they seem to hold up much better as far as rust.

erm87 New Reader
June 7, 2013 8:20 a.m.

Ahh, now someone listed this one:


For sale a 1987 Toyota MR2. Great exterior, interior is in rough shape. Car is mechanically sound and does not leak. AC blows cold. Ebrake and trunk release does not work. Bought the car with no muffler. Car now has a down pipe. Car is a 5 speed.

Ugg, I'm getting cold feet about all of this now.

4cylndrfury MegaDork
June 7, 2013 8:23 a.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: I learned how to drive in 1987, and there's no way anyone born that year can now be old enough to drive. Right, JG?

Think of it this way....remember back when the "Y2K bug" was in the news? Kids born AFTER that scare had past, are now almost old enough to drive.

We went on vacation a few weeks ago, and stayed in a timeshare that was basically someones vacation house that they rent out when theyre not staying there. The place comes with a good selection of movies to watch, mostly DVDs, some VHS. My 12 year old nephew and my FIL came with us. One rainy day, we decided to just stay in, eat popcorn, and watch movies. My 12 year old nephew came up to us with a early 90s action flick on VHS, and told us he wanted to watch it. I said "OK, so go ahead". He told me he didnt know how to use the "that old machine". He didnt even know what to call it.

Klayfish SuperDork
June 7, 2013 8:37 a.m.

Sticky e-brakes and trunk (rear) cable issues are common on these cars. Not a big deal.

Keep in mind, the MK1 is now 24-28 years old. It's going to have it's challenges.

Protecting the car from further rust is about preparing the metal, not the paint itself (at least not the paint from the factory). If the car is currently fairly rust free, there are plenty of things you can do to it cheaply to keep the rust at bay.

erm87 New Reader
June 7, 2013 8:42 a.m.

I appreciate all the insight folks and while I was excited about the idea of an $1800 beater. I think I may pass until I can get a place to store and work on a project car properly.

Somewhere out there is the beater for me and one day it will be mine...

(then again, in a few days I may be posting that I bought it anyways...)

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