1996 TOYOTA MR2 Turbo

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1996 TOYOTA MR2 Turbo


If the Mazda MX-5 showed that owning a traditional front engine/rear-wheel-drive sportscar need not entail constant breakdowns and mediocre handling, the Toyota MR2 proved that owning a mid-engined layout doesn’t necessarily involve expending vast sums of money in return for somewhat iffy build quality and middling reliability.

The first MR2 was launched in 1984 to a world that has previously considered the Golf GTI the pinnacle of affordable sporting motoring. Fragile and petite, the truth is that it was just too small to provide the sort of day-to-day fun that fast hatchbacks had demonstrated was readily available with almost no compromise to their practicality.

The series 2 cars from 1989 were a vast improvement on the outgoing model, being just a little bit bigger; always a hard balance to strike, the car’s modest extra girth and length enabled even normal-sized folk to get in and out with a modicum of dignity but was still compact enough to feel super-wieldy during B-road blasts.

Performance was better, too. While the early cars made do with a 1.5-litre or 1.6-litre engine, the new model offered a two-litre engine with 163bhp in normally aspirated form, and 218bhp when turbocharged. This extra power was partly offset by a greater mass but with the coupe only tipping the scales at 1,250kgs and the targa-top adding an extra 60kgs to that, the Toyota MR2 is still a very light car by today’s standards. Both manual and automatic gearboxes were offered and we don’t need to tell you which is the better option for the performance-oriented driver, do we?

Even so, the car’s performance was sparkling rather than intoxicating but then everyone knows that you buy an MR2 for the handling – and while the early cars suffered from sometimes catastrophic lift-off oversteer, the later cars benefit from revised suspension geometry and larger tyres, which cured the problem once and for all.

The Vehicle

Welcome to our latest auction for a very special Toyota MR2; finished in black over black with black alloy wheels, this 1996 MR2 GT-S was imported from Japan in 2002. Turbocharged, it is similar to the UK-spec models but with added performance; with 245bhp on tap from the factory, it had 175bhp per tonne and a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds.

Proving the adage that enough is never enough, this one has undergone further work to give it a mighty 300bhp when dyno-tested, making this a seriously quick car and one whose performance vastly exceeds that of the standard car.

In the care of its second UK owner from 2007 to 2021, it’s being offered with no reserve, so is going to sell from the very first bid, no matter how derisory that is.

Now we’ve whetted your appetite, read on for the full details of what might be the fastest MR2 to pass through our hands…

On the Outside

Black is notoriously unforgiving, yada, yada, yada. You’ve heard it all before, so let’s skip the background warning and get into the meat of it, shall we?

The panels are pretty good. Largely straight and well aligned, the way they hang together gives the car good vibes as you walk up to it.

The black paintwork has light scratching upon inspection around the car.

The rear lamps look like aftermarket ones, but they are in good shape, and the front pop-up headlamps rise and fall as they should. And pop-up headlamps are always cool, aren’t they?

As is the exhaust, which is large enough to put your fist in. Makes a helluva noise, too.

The 17-inch black alloy wheels are in a good condition. They’re fitted with Pirelli Sottozero tyres on the front and a pair of Minerva Ice Plus on the rear. Neither are your traditional performance tyres but they’ll keep you moving in snow and ice and the cold long after ‘normal’ tyres have let go, so maybe treat yourself to another set of rims and make like the Nordic folk and have season-specific tyres, eh?

There is some crustiness to the nearside front wheelarch (#3 and #105), the front badge is missing (#88), and there are quite a lot of stonechips and other minor marks to the paintwork.

It’s presentable enough, and highly usable of course, so the new owner can decide for themselves which direction they want to take it, whether to maintain the patina, conserve it and touch it up where necessary, or even splash out by treating it to a respray.

On the Inside

The odometer shows 67,000 miles, an increase of around 10,000 miles in the past 15 years. There’s a break in the MoT history between 2009 and 2014 too, so this is a car that appears to have led a gentle life.

This is borne out by the condition of the cabin, which is good. Cars from Japan tend to be pampered in a way few other countries manage and this one has benefitted from that careful curation.

The cloth seats are still firm and supportive. The door cards are excellent. The headlining is clean and taut. And the carpets are good.

Auxiliary instruments include an A’pexi digital speedometer/rev counter and a separate boost controller, an SARD turbo timer, three TIM gauges for oil pressure, turbo boost, and water temperature, and a Parrot Bluetooth controller.

There’s a Raid steering wheel too, plus an Alpine sound system with a Kenwood subwoofer mounted behind the passenger seat.

The rearmost boot is tidy enough but it looks like the plywood trim has warped a little, so that will need easing back into place.

Other flaws are few; the mount for the three gauges in the dashboard is a little rusty (#73), there are a couple of old mounting holes in the centre console (#79), and there’s a small hole in the base of the passenger seat (#185).


As you can see, it starts promptly and makes a suitably impressive engine note but it’s the exhaust that impresses the most, being deep and gruff and yet not overly intrusive.

The engine bay is grubby and not up to the same standard as the rest of the car. There are some nice parts under the hood, including extra bracing to stiffen the chassis, but it does need cleaning.

The frunk, which also has a strut brace fitted, is also grubby and houses a space-saver spare wheel.

History Highlights

There are several bills from well-known specialists including Fensport, Racelogic, Burton Power, Larkspeed, and Turbo Technics relating to the Toyota’s maintenance and performance modifications, including one for a new turbo. The work was too involved to detail here, so please do take the time to leaf through the invoices or, better still, make an appointment to pop along and take a look for yourself.

But, the summary involves a rolling road session and around 323bhp at the flywheel and 318 bhp at the wheels. That should be enough, shouldn’t it?

It also has its original Japanese maintenance handbook plus a few documents from its time in Japan.

The MR2 doesn’t have a current MoT certificate, the last one having expired in November 2021. But, if it helps, it did pass the last eight with just the one advisory point in total. The seller has kindly agreed that a fresh MOT will be offered with the car upon sale.

The recent Vehicle History Check is clean.

What We Think

Much of the development work for the second-generation Toyota MR2 was done in the UK, with American racing driver Dan Gurney and a team of British motorsport engineers devoted to ensuring the MR2’s handling would match its mini-Ferrari looks.

In addition to meeting the dynamic brief – the UK was second only to America in terms of units sold - Toyota also created a car whose looks have survived the passage of three decades; an MR2 is still a great looking car and one that’s rapidly growing a devoted following in the JDM and modern classic worlds.

And yet, even with all its many attributes, prices have yet to take off; we think this one will only sell for somewhere between £7,000 and £11,000, but the seller has enough faith in you all to offer it with no reserve.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 68000
  • Chassis Number: SW20 0106285
  • Engine: 1998 cc
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: Black
  • Interior: Black
  • Estimated Price: £7,000 - £11,000

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