Tuesday, May 13, 2014

1993 Toyota MR2 (SW20) Turbo

In all honestly I don't even know if I should be writing a review on this car since I only owned it for a few months and drove it less than 60 miles. It was supposed to be my project wrenchin' car, but it ended up being a short learning experience instead. So for the sake of consistency, I'll pump out a review using what I did find out about the car.

This was one of the last sportier-looking cars that Toyota produced. They still had the 3rd gen MR2 Spyder and the redesigned Celica that continued on through the mid 2000s, but then mid-decade they canceled all of that and concentrated on boring SUVs and Hybrids. In my opinion this car was damn sexy. Lines were great, dimensions were great, and it had a very sleek look to it.

Although the tires on my MR2 were hella stiff and the rest of the suspension parts were quite old, it handled much like a Mini Cooper; very low to the ground and could take a corner at a very high rate of speed. I would assume that with better tires and revamped struts and bushings, it would feel like a dreamy go-kart.

One reason why the car looked so good from the front was because the headlights were of the pop-up variety that was popular during the late 80s and early 90s. All modern cars have since discontinued this, but there's a reason why cars from this era looked so damn sleek. I read that this was a maintenance issue though, as it uses a motor to flip up the headlights and this motor breaks over time. One other negative about this design is that the car becomes very un-aerodynamic when the headlights are turned on.

I didn't know this before I bought the car, but AC systems of this era used a refrigerant called R12 which was good in that it supposedly worked very well, but it was bad because it was harmful to the environment and was thus discontinued. Finding this refrigerant on the secondary market is harder and more expensive, so most AC service departments will convert cars over to the more modern R134a system which supposedly is not a "cold" as the old refrigerant. Long story short, if you ever need to service the AC unit in this car it will either be more expensive to stick with the R12 or to convert it over to a different system.

It was mentioned that this car has no storage space and this is true to an extent. There are ZERO cupholders and I guess, again, this was common with cars back in this era. Do you remember back in the 80s when you had to buy a plastic thingie that attached to the roll-down window to hold your drink? This car did have a useless little cubby between the two seats and I guess you could put small stuff in it, but the car actually had a trunk that was fairly usable. Small duffle bags could fit along with multiple bags from shopping trips and the like.

So back in the day the car was supposedly designed with the assistance of some Lotus engineer. And if you don't know Lotuses are, they're tiny performance cars that have a mid-engine configuration. What this means is that the engine is located directly behind the seats and then then there is a trunk area or open space behind that. It's supposed to make the car better balanced, but supposedly if you lose control of the car, it'll spin like an uncontrollable top. I didn't experiment with that rumor. But one bad thing about this type of design is the coolant system. The radiator still had to be located in the front of the car, as it's air-cooled, while the engine was in the middle-back. So the whole coolant system was way more complex with lines running the length of the car. Bleeding the coolant was also an added bitch because of how "long" the system was and getting all of the bubbles out of the coolant lines = not a fun time if you want it done correctly.

I was annoyed at the fact that even though you had some parts like the battery, radiator, power steering, and master brake cylinder located in the front, and only the engine and transmission in the back, there was still no room to work in the engine compartment. That is what I absolutely hated about the car: no room to work and the fact that I totally stressed out my back by working in odd angles because the mid-area of the car was higher than your average front hood area. Being forced to lean and bend over for extended periods of time sucked.

The last thing that was annoying about the design was that the engine hood itself was perforated. This was good in that it gave the engine more ventilation and cooling, but was bad in that water could totally just flow in. Yes, if everything in your engine bay is A-OK and locked down, water shouldn't have a detrimental effect, but it does have a wear/tear effect.

The last aspect of the car that sucked was that it seemed like everything about it was more expensive to maintain. The fuel pump is located in the fuel tank which means that if it ever needed to be replaced (which it did), it would cost around $700 just for the labor. And then in order to drop the gas tank you need to drain all the coolant out of the system since you need to remove the coolant lines to get to the gas tank. All this = more money gone. The turbocharger was also located in a precarious position so if you ever needed that to be serviced, the whole damn exhaust system would need to be removed. Same goes with the oil cooler and anything on the back of the engine. And trust me, there were many tubes, hoses, pipes, and gaskets that could possibly have problems. Even doing a simple spark plug change required the removal of a bunch of intercooler pipes and part of the throttle body...it was a friggin time-consuming nuisance. Yeah when comparing this car vs a normal car on Alldata's website, the MR2 took the cake as being the most time-consuming with regards to flat-rate labor charges. A timing belt job on this car was an infamous bitch that would've cost over $1,000 to do (Should cost around $600-800). On top of all of this, the car was so old that it didn't have an ODB2 connector, so any attempt at figuring out any future problem would require using a paperclip, jumping a connector, looking at how many times a light would blink, then scouring the Internet to see what those lights meant. Fuck a whole bunch of that.

In the end, this model of car had too many design flaws/issues that I found out I could not tolerate or agree with. When you add the manual transmission into the mix, there wasn't much else that I could extract a positive feeling from. So when I factored all of that information in with the fact that it still needed probably $2-3k in parts and maintenance before it could be deemed long, road-trip worthy, I said screw it and sold it. The car would've been great for an owner who knew exactly what they wanted and didn't mind paying for the extra costs associated with a mid-engine sports car, but that owner surely wasn't me.