Less is More: Toyota MR2

I wasn't around in the 1987, but there are a few important things that happened. Canada introduced a one dollar coin into circulation nicknamed the "loonie", Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered on television and countless video games were released (Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Mega Man, Metal Gear, etc). All of these have something in common: progression. 1987 was the start of something new, something better. The “loonie” rid our wallets of one dollar bills, Star Trek: The Next Generation garners a whole 1.3 points higher on IMDB and video games were groundbreaking in their respective genres. Something else happened in 1987: Lucas Townsend’s Toyota MR2 rolled off the production line.

The first generation Toyota MR2 was an unexpected creation in 1984. Toyota had mostly made economic family cars in the 80’s but the MR2 was a breath of fresh air. The MR2 is mid-engine two seater built to look as sporty as it handled. Though it looks to be designed with a ruler, I think the MR2 perfectly embodies the optimism of the 80’s. Toyota was looking towards the future, creating an affordable mid-engine sports car with cutting-edge styling. Though in 1984 the MR2 came with an 8-valve, SOHC motor, Lucas’ car has the newer 16-valve, DOHC fitted. The little Toyota proudly displays this fact with the words “TWIN CAM 16” emblazoned on the back. 

The 1.6 litre, four-cylinder makes about 115hp which is plenty considering the cars athletic weight of just 2350 lbs. The motor also utilizes a variable intake set-up called Toyota Variable Induction System, or T-VIS. This system improves low-end torque and high-end horsepower by keeping half of the eight intake runners shut until 4,400rpm. It also makes the MR2 scream until redline with a satisfying howl. Lucas has increased performance and induction sound with a K&N air filter which he has fitted direction to the air-flow-meter and throttle body. This simpler and much shorter set-up should free up a few ponies and increase throttle response, though the focus of this modification is induction sound.

With 115hp the car may not accelerate quickly, but once up to speed the handling takes over. A mid-engine platform is known to be the ultimate engine layout for a sports-car as it allows the majority of the weight to be in-between the axels. Lucas has done the majority of his modifications to the chassis to improve on the MR2’s already nimble handling. Suspension Techniques 1.4” drop progressive springs have been installed which keep the car snug to the ground and help the MR2 achieve a more aggressive stance. A steering stabilizer made by High & Tight Motorsports has also been fitted as well as an unknown front strut bar to stiffen up the chassis. The car sits on Enkei RP01’s measuring 15x7 +35 adorned with sticky 205/50 Falken Azenis.

All of these additions turn the MR2 into an even more capable cornering machine. On a bumpy local road the car stayed composed and flat through corners, soaking up the bumps. For a car that is nearly 30 years old, I was very impressed of the chassis’ refinement. Lucas’ MR2 is one of the cleanest I’ve seen in our city. Though it exhibits some rust on the rear quarter-panels he plans on having the rust repaired. Those who own these old Toyotas understand the never-ending battle with rust that can sometimes plague these cars, but Lucas’ MR2 is exceptionally clean for the age.

The interior is also in great shape and the small changes make it a great place to sit. Lucas’ MR2 is the perfect example of less-is-more. Momo mats improve the style of the interior while the Momo wheel and TRD shift-knob help create a focused cockpit. Lucas currently daily-drives the MR2 and often takes the car out for a spin on one of the many beautiful roads just outside Vancouver. Suffice to say, he spends lots of time in the car and I can see why. Lucas' MR2 is a beautiful example of a car that brought mid-engine excitement to the masses.