Regrets: Toyota MR2

Clearly inspired by the regretful tale of the Volkswagen Corrado on PetrolBlog last week, our New Car Editor, Robin Brown has penned a few words on a regret that still keeps him awake at night. Such is the trauma associated with the tale that few people have discovered the full truth of what unfolded all those years ago. Now, for the first time on a public forum, PetrolBlog is able to share Robin’s dramatic and horrifying story. It involves a Rover 213 and a Toyota MR2 – an unlikely couple. But then this is an unlikely tale.

I’ll allow Robin to pick it up from here…

My first car was a Rover 213 – a rebadged Honda with a half-decent engine and bodywork worse than Sylvester Stallone’s mum. It leaked like a sieve, there was a weird alternator fault that occasionally drained the battery and the cassette player didn’t work.

Rover 213 for saleI got it up to 100mph once and I was reminded of Sulu in Star Trek, in command of the USS Excelsior and pushing the ship to its limits. “She’ll fly apart”, warns the helmsman. He wasn’t speaking about the Rover 200, but he could have been. I think every single component was vibrating at a different frequency to the next.

It wasn’t much fun to own and when it went to the scrapyard, a matter of months after I’d bought it for £200, I didn’t shed a tear.

But this story isn’t about the Rover. It’s about the First Car that never was. A car with two-seats, an engine mounted amidships sending its power to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual box. A first-generation Toyota MR2.

I never drove this particular car, but I was taken out in it by its owner – a friend of the family – for a nerve-shredding blat around the country roads surrounding Hartlepool. It had a dazzling turn of pace, sounded amazing and was incredibly low-slung. But those things weren’t on my mind at the time.

The MR2’s looks – this was a first-gen – were utterly stunning to my eyes, and still are. It looks best in Absolutely Red or Paradise Blue Metallic and is a car that tells you a lot about what was going on in the ’80s.

1984 Toyota MR2 on PetrolBlog

I admired the MR2 from afar. The chap it belonged to lived out in the Far East for the majority of the year. He’d already gifted me his expensive racing push bike and bought me the biggest pen-knife I’d ever seen.

The thought that the MR2 was somewhat wasted in a garage, being driven around the block by his ex-wife once a week, occurred to me – but I couldn’t push my luck. I couldn’t afford to take it off his hands and the notion of taxing and insuring this pocket beast was beyond me.

Before long I was off to university and thoughts turned to a very different kind of bodywork. One a trip home one day my Mam casually mentioned that her sister was heading south – where the family friend had moved – to pick up the MR2. I was stunned – and a little hurt that I hadn’t been given first refusal. When I recovered my wits I enquired as to how much he’d asked for it.

“Oh, he’s giving it to her for nothing,” she said, still casually. I was stunned. For nothing? How come he didn’t offer it to me?

“He asked if you wanted it, but I said you wouldn’t be interested.”

To this day I genuinely find this impossible to comprehend. In fact I find it hard to think about. I didn’t begrudge my Auntie the car – and she cherished and cared for it for many years, even to the point where every tank of unleaded fuel had to be accompanied by a bottle of various additives towards the end.

It gradually fell apart three or four years ago and she bought an MX-5. Clearly the MR2 had worked its magic – it had gone to a good home.

But what I would have done with that car. How I would have loved it. The thought of the car has never left me. There was probably something of the MR2 at the back of my mind when I bought my current Ford Puma.

And in the constant walk back to the cliff edge of exotic car ownership. A Porsche 944, a Mazda RX-8. A Honda S2000 is currently in my sights. And now, just to complete the circle, there’s another Toyota coupé on the market. I’ve not driven the GT86 yet, despite virtually camping on the Toyota desk at SMMT North, but have heard good things.

Maybe I will own a Toyota coupe one of these days – I just have to find someone to give me one for free.


Car: MK1 Toyota MR2

Regret: Not buying

Reason for not buying: My Mam

Strength of regret: 9/10

Possibility of buying another one: 5/10

PetrolBlog wants to hear your regrets. Get in touch with us at the usual address and fill PetrolBlog with regret. You know it makes sense.

You can read more of Robin’s posts on PetrolBlog here, or follow him on twitter @robinbrown78.

Toyota image courtesy of Toyota GB.

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. November 13, 2012
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    Always liked these, but never really given myself the opportunity to buy one. It was on “the list” when I was car hunting several years back, eventually buying an MX-5. But the good ones were expensive, and the bad ones were all Flintstones cars.

    I also looked into the second-gen MR2s, which have that junior supercar look about them and are still suspiciously good value these days.

  2. November 13, 2012

    Loved my S2000, just make sure you buy a pre-2006 so you dont get walloped with the £400 VED like mine. I only sold it due to that and the fact that it was at the right point in the depreciation curve to sell. Will probably buy another at some point if I don’t find the right teg DC2.

    Always been a big fan of MR2 but each gen always has an issue. Gen 1 has that 80’s wedge awesomeness like an X1-9 that won’t go pop but will rust like crazy. Gen 2 looks like a baby F355 (let’s not mention those replicas here) but as far as I am aware has a deserved reputation for changing direction, everyone I know who has owned one has crashed it in a spectacular fashion. Gen 3 was a real contender when I bought the MX-5 but total lack of luggage space would render it useless for a long Euro trip.

  3. November 13, 2012
    Simon Hingston

    I’m amazed your mother wasn’t found shortly after in a shallow grave!


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