25 years ago in August of 1984, the Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan released one of their most significant vehicles ever – and to everyone’s surprise it wasn’t some bland, boring A to B familymobile (that we’ve all come to associate ‘em with in the years since), but instead a compact, mid-engined RWD, two-seater sports car dubbed the Midship Runabout 2-Seater, aka MR2.
Not only did the AW11 MR2 revolutionize the way people viewed Japanese cars (up until then, it was widely thought that Japanese manufacturers were too conservative and staid to consider mass-producing a sporty vehicle with only two seats and limited practicality), it also brought a “European supercar-like” driving experience within reach of the masses, all with Japanese safety, reliability and comfort to boot. Little wonder that it soon gained a cult following on a global scale which is still going strong 25 years later.
while it wasn’t until 1986 that a more powerful supercharged version of the AW11 was released, the original N/A model still commands a healthy respect amongst fans for its lightweight no-frills chassis, great handling, and (some would say legendary) 4A-GE DOHC 16-valve engine.
Feel free to read my take on the significance of the first-generation MR2 in this blog post from last month.
Though sadly many AW11s here in NZ have simply rotted away due to time/attrition, the odd case of neglect, and the dreaded tin worm, tidy examples do still exist – and some are even finding their way back into the hands of collectors and restorers. While I don’t see my AW11 SC daily driver giving up the ghost anytime soon, I look forward to the day where I can finally import myself a mint low-km hardtop model from Japan…