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Toyota MR2 History

The following historical information on the MR2 has been compiled from:

Various changes in language, spelling and grammar have been made for the American reader. Additional information, pictures, and years have been added to "fill in the gap" and improve the historical record.

There are various opinions on what the name "MR2" means. Some of the most popular interpretations are:
  • Mid-engine runabout, 2 seater
  • Mid-ship runabout, 2 seater
  • Mid-engine rear drive, 2 seater

Toyota originally explained the name "MR2" as meaning "Mid engine, runabout, 2 seater" however, they now claim (and most owners prefer) the explanation of "Mid engine, rear drive, 2 seater." The car is also informally known as the "Mister Two." The MR2 is actually known by a different name in France. Rather than the MR2, it is known as the "Coupe MR," because "MR2" in French sounds a lot like "merdeux," which means "shitty." The Australian MK I MR2 came in two flavors, the "MR2 Bathurst" and "MR2 GT".

There are three different generations of MR2 commonly known as:
  • Mark I (MK I) the first generation was produced from 1984 to 1990.
  • Mark II (Mk II) the second generation was produced from 1990 to 1995 in North America, and until 1999 in Japan and other countries.
  • Production of the third generation Mark III (Mk III) started in 1999 in Japan with sales beginning in 2000 in other countries.

1976 - The project that would eventually become known as the MR2 was conceived in 1976. However, the MR2 project did not get kicked off until 1979.  It was then that the design process got underway.  While recognizable even from the first sketch, the car was to go through many changes before the first actual prototype, the SA-X was built.  The activity at Toyota at the time was very exciting for those working on the project, some even giving up their summer vacations to help test the car! 
1979 - The project was re-evaluated by management and the Prototype designated SA-X was built. The car was designed by Seiichi Yamauchi The inspiration for the design was the Katana, a Japanese ceremonial sword.
1983 - Final design changes are made and the SV-3 is debuted at the Tokyo auto show. The SV-3 caused great excitement at the show as this was the first light weight mid-engine sports car built in Japan.
1984 - The SV-3 receives some body changes and the first production MR2 (internal code AW11) is launched in Japan. The MR2 wins the Japanese "Car of the Year" title.

1985 - The first year of the first generation (MK I) MR2 in North America with the first cars sold in February. Available in hardtop and sun-roof. The front spoiler on the '84 and '85 model is a little more boxy than on all other MK I MR2s in following years.


1985 - In March the MR2 is launched in Britain. In Japan a new sports package is offered with an upgraded suspension. The North American model has 112 HP due to emissions restrictions. 

In the history of the automobile few mid-engine automobiles have been made, especially affordable ones.  The engine and suspension were transferred over almost completely intact from Toyota's Corolla GT-S.  The automotive press loved the car, and the car received high accolades from both owners and the press alike.

1986 - Toyota launches "T" - Bar (T-Top) roof option with detachable glass panels. Modified the front spoiler making it less boxy and more aerodynamic. The Supercharged version introduced in Japan.
1987 - Many changes are made to improve the car's engine, brakes, suspension, and handling. T-Tops become an option; base model introduced with less expensive interior and without T-Top or spoiler. Other changes:
  • Rear tail lights slightly modified (integrated reflector is square rather than round). 
  • Emergency brake moved to right side. 
  • New Door panels.
  • Rear speakers added to top of "B" (?) pillar (above and behind occupant's heads). 
  • Ashtray moved from front of console to left of console. 
  • Radio goes double-din. 
  • Air vent on right side changed from a flush, two sectional, horizontal slotted opening to a protruding, single section, vertical slotted opening.
  • Entire Air intake system changed, with the air intake starting from the side vent wrapping around the back to a trunk mounted filter, then on to a MAF mounted lower in the engine bay.
  • Instrument cluster (markings) changed. 
  • Automatic Climate Control dropped for different heat controls. 
  • The Steering wheel was changed from two spokes to three, and diameter is decreased. The center reads "MR2" rather than "TOYOTA". 
  • Entire suspension was slightly changed. It was "revised" to remove some over-steer characteristics
  • New alloy rims.
  • Mid 87: Changes to 4A-GE to increase it strength  A new C-52 Transmission is introduced which was stronger than the  C-50 and helped correct 5th gear from slipping out..

1988 - The supercharged MR2 becomes available in North America. You can tell an MR2 is supercharged if it has a decal on the back left that says "Supercharged".  A decal is on both doors as well. If the vents on the engine compartment are raised up (rather than being flat) it's supercharged. There is an LED light on the tachometer that indicates when the supercharger is being used. T-Tops are standard on the supercharged model with color coded mirrors (the NAs have black mirrors.) 
1989 - This is the last model year for the MR2 MK I in North America.  Rear stabilizer (sway) bar added to the supercharged models. All models get color coded mirrors. A third brake light is integrated into the spoiler.

1990 - "Super Edition" launched in Japan (270 built).

There were a total of 163,845 MK I MR2s (AW11s) made over its approximate 6 year run..  (Technically, not all of them were AW11's as there was more than just the AW11. i.e. the AW15, etc.  although most all are called just simply the AW11).

1984:    1217                 Price: ~$11,000
1985:    37674               Price: ~$11,000
1986:    31352               Price  $11,298 
1987:    15742               Price: $12,578 
1988:    8144                 Price: $12,808 ($16,418 SC) 
1989:    2537                 Price: $13,798 ($17,628 SC) 1990:    270                   Price:

1990 All new MR2 on display at the Tokyo Show including a brand new Turbo version.

1990 - MR2 MK II goes on sale in Europe in April.

1991 - The second MK II model is introduced in December 1991 to the North American market. Notice that the wheels have changed.

This was the first year for the second generation MR2 in North America. Available in Turbo and NA. Most Turbo models have fog lights (a few early models didn't have them). NA models never came with fog lights. The Turbo models say "turbo" on the right side of the trunk lid. The tachometer goes to 9,000 rpms and the speedometer to 160 mph. The tachometer on the NA model goes to 8,000 rpms and has a 140 mph speedometer. Turbo models also have a center console unit between the seats.


1992 - Wet weather handling improved by changing suspension. The "Low Power" base model and automatic transmission option is dropped in Britain.
1993 - Many changes; stiffer suspension, wider 15" "square spoke" 5-star wheels (as opposed to 14" alloys in '91 and '92. Bigger front spoiler, new manual gear shifter, upgraded brake system, and larger throttle body. Turbo models have limited slip differential transmission, or "LSD". There were only a few turbo models made with a hardtop this year.

1993 - 1994 - The third MK II model received an updated one-piece spoiler, color-matched body trim, chassis modifications and redesigned taillight cluster. Engine power was increased to 174bhp. It was introduced in December 1993.

1994 - Tweaked rear spoiler and different tail lights. The back honeycomb piece was removed, and the reverse lights are in closer to the center. Color-keyed front air-dam, passenger side air-bag, slightly smaller steering wheel that doesn't say "MR2" in the center. Multistage struts for better ride, and blinkers on the front quarter panels added. There were no Turbo models without T-Tops this year.


1995 Redesigned CD-Player. Last year of production for the American market. Available in other parts of the world.


1996 The fourth MK II model is released in June. There are several visual updates in this model. Clear corners have been added and the front side reflector has been replaced by trim and moved near the driver's door above the trim. It is interesting that this particular model has returned to the separate colored trim abandoned in the previous generation. 10th anniversary limited edition launched in Britain.

1997 - 1998 - Final minor changes to styling, most notably the raised tail spoiler. MR-S concept car first seen at 1997 Toyota Auto Show.
1999 - Third Generation MR-S roadster (Spyder) previewed at Tokyo and London auto shows.

2000 - Third Generation MR2 Spyder launched  in May for sale to North America. This is the first convertible MR2.

2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder Engine


2001 - Celeste's 2001 liquid silver Spyder with yellow interior will be delivered in March 2001.


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