Toyota has long known as a conservative car maker, particularly where its mainstream car are concerned. But as one of only two manufactures to be in profit every year for nearly four decades, it would be difficult to argue that Toyota’s business sense was flawed in any important way. The mid engined MR 2 project had started as far back as 1976, but Toyota seemed to have been easily distracted by the energy crisis, and put a swift stop to it. The idea for a compact and inexpensive mid engined sports car was revived in 1979. However, but it took some convincing of the management that the US market was waiting such a car, especially as the British Triumph and MG sports cars were close to death. The engineering plan called for a car in the exact mould of the Fiat X1/9, a small two seater based on the running gear of a conventional front wheel drive hatch, in this case, the Corolla. The product planner weren’t wrong. Pontiac had come to the same conclusion, and was about to launch its own inexpensive, mid engined two seater. MR2 stood for ‘Mid-engined Recreational with 2 seats.’
The great advantages of the MR2, though, was its inherent reliability and fine build quality, something Pontiac- and certainly Fiat- could not match at the time. The MR2 was also an easy car to drive quickly, and it was always a pleasurable experience. The styling of the original was also very well executed in a taut and razor sharp manner. It was a great success, because it offered the looks and cachet of a serious sports car with the reliability and build of a family car. It also proved there would be a ready market for inexpensive convertibles.