[Japanese Classics] Toyota MR2, the unexpected one

The Toyota MR2 is one of the most legendary models in the japanese maker's history (along with the old 2000GT). Its mid-engine and real wheel drive made a great contrast with usual family cars sold by Toyota when it was introduced in 1984. In fact, it was the first mid-engined mass produced japanese car. It was also introduced in a few races, such as the 24 Le Mans hours, or the GT300 championship.

1984-1989 : Angular lines

The first MR2 was certainly not a practical and family car, and was completely unexpected from Toyota's customers. Its design was more than a marketing product, it introduced a real design philosophy (it was inspired from the japanese origami, aswell as some italian cars such as the Lancia Stratos and the Fiat X 1/9). Some parts of the car were designed in collaboration with Lotus. Its engine was reching upoto 118 hp, but thanks to its super light-weight, the car was able to offer some great performances. In 1987, a Supercharger version was offered, with a 4 cylinders engine delivering 145 hp. The original MR2 is listed eight on Sports Car International's "Top Sports Cars of the 1980s". A rally MR2 version has also been produced.

First offered in 1986 by Matchbox, the first MR2 is an elusive diecast. Matchbox only produced 4 variations of the casting, white, green and two different blue. I have the first one issued in white, with the "Pace Car" decoration. It's one of those fantastic Matchbox Superfast made in the 80's : the car is 100% accurate with the real model. I'm not sure of the color choice (the MR2 was often known as black). but it does fit the car well. Tampos are missing and would have been appreciated especially at the back of the car though. But the overall quality stands up, and it's certainly a must have for any collector. Did i mention i was a fan of the real car too?

1989-1999 : Ferrari's inspiration

The MR2 has been completely redesigned in 1989 (it only reached North America in 1991 though). The first generation was angular, the second was all smooth and silk lines. It was clearly inspirated by the Ferrari F355. It was often refered as the poor man's Ferrari, and many body kits became available to make it look like a Ferrari! Many engines were offered, starting from a 130 hp to the high-performance GT-S, delivering 218 hp. It was only offered until 1995 in America, but lasted till 1999 in Japan. It was mainly recognized to have a sharp oversteer comportement (some loved it, others hated it!). It has also been declined in a rally car and entered the 1995-96-97 24 Le Mans hours.

Hot Wheels introduced the second gen MR2 in its 1991 regular casting line, as a rally car version. It was strangely similar to the first gen Matchbox one, with the colors and the Toyota name on the car. It has been regularly offered until 2002, and also been offered in 2008 in a special pack. The casting is not bad, but clearly lacks tampos. The wheels are also not appropriate for the sporty character of the car. Otherwise, the front rally lights make a great effect, and the overall shape is well reproduced. I own the 1993 one, and clearly the later versions are better made (tampos are really improved).

1999-2007 : Body change

The third generation of MR2 was supposed to be a big part of Toyota's plan to attract younger customers, as a result of a drastically change of mind in the car : it was now a roadster. Even more, its name changed : MR-S in Japan, MR2 Spyder in USA and MR2 Roadster in Europe. This new generation hasn't been offered in Canada though. Its style was clearly inspirated from the Porsche Boxster of these years. The 138 hp engine was a huge drop from the precedent one, but the weight also dropped, so it was still a powerful car (Lotus inspiration again ?). All customers agreed that the car nearly had a perfect handling. Problem was, the marked was cleary down for this kind of small sports car, and sales dropped to only 901 units sold in the US in 2005. Therefore, the model was discontinued in the US after this year, and completely abandoned after 2007.

Very few third generation models are offered in the 1/64 diecast scale, and the best is certainly done by the obscure maker Malibu International.... Malibu International? It seems that this maker is actually a chinese maker, but only offering models in the US (Wal-Marts).... It has only few diecasts, but very interesting ones, such as this 2004 Toyota MR2 Spyder. It has a lot of details, and one of the most accuratly reproduced diecast i've seen for a long time. Lights and interior are just perfect, such as the wheels and the overall shape... Even the scale is really well done, as it is way smaller than other same scale cars (remember that the MR2 is a really small car). Only problem is overall quality, it's somewhat cheaply made. I must say this is a must-have and quite rare addition to any collection. The white color fits perfect.

Enjoy the pics!


  1. I am a big fan of the MK1 MR2. My younger brother as well as my father are too. My younger and I have 1986 MK1 cars, my dad has a 1989 MK1 car. All are super red in color. Here is a link to photos of my MR2 toys and actual car that I love. http://www.flickr.com/photos/acanofwd40/sets/72157622536475660/

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