1988 Toyota MR2 AW11 Mk1b

1988 Toyota MR2 AW11 Mk1b

This one is just for me. 1988 Toyota MR2 AW11 Mk1b I needed to find the perfect one. I have wanted this car since may– or a car LIKE it maybe since the first grade. I remember being in the first grade at Blue Mountain Elementary West (Well at that time, it was called Wayne Township Elementary, but anyway) and I remember standing by the window on the last day of school of first grade and I remember feeling that the summer was going to stretch out forever. It was full of all the possibilities and hopes and freedoms and wonder that a summer can only mean to a boy that age. And maybe in those memories, there was a snapshot of a car like this rolling by the window of the elementary school in 1989. It was a car that didn’t look like a drabby machine that just took you to Value City to buy pants for three hours. I mean, when you’re a little kid, what is a car but the box that takes you to school when you miss the bus. It’s a horrible chamber that takes you to church. It’s something that you don’t control. It’s something moaning and slow and out of your grasp completely. But when you’re little and you see a machine that doesn’t look like your parents’ car, that looks like a real-life version of a Matchbox car that you push around on the carpet and you realize that these fantastic fun machines are real? They exist? Oh, they burrow themselves deep within your brain. And here is one just like that. There are two Mk’s (“marks”) of the first MR2. There’s the Mk1a and the Mk1b. The Mk1b has a slight– has a few changes to the manual transmission that resists fifth gear pop-out. It also has the spoiler in the rear back– in the rear. It has I think the third, uhh, third brake light in the rear, as well. I am the second owner of this car. This car was bought brand new in Pennsylvania in 1988 and put in a garage! Heh, found one! In Pennsylvania! Is there rust? Yes. Yes. There is rust I’m not buying a bridge here. But it has 75 thousand miles on it so the car WAS driven. It’s it hasn’t sat, it hasn’t atrophied, but it WAS garaged. This is a mid-tier, optioned-out MR2. What it does have, it has the lower tier stereo, But it has the upper and trim– the upper trim appearance package. These wheels that are on it are NK82’s, I believe, and they were a factor– there were, uhhh a factory authorized dealer option. In other words, the car would get off the ship with the traditional triangle wheels, which would then be removed and replaced by Toyota-approved NK82’s. Nowadays, NK82’s I think are five lug, these are original which are four lug. I’m only missing one thing: one of the wheels is missing a center cap and it’s drive me nuts and you can’t find these center caps anymore. Anyways, I mean, I’d settle for just a blank one to just put in there because the original one– now NK uses the Infiniti symbol but anyway these ones just say NK on them. The interior is considered the ‘sport’ interior, which just means, I think, heavier carpets, although the driver’s seat– I’m not sure if it’s different from base to mid trim, the driver’s seat has adjustable bolstering. Like, the little side wings move in and out. I have ’em cranked all the way out… because ‘Merican. There are some we– there is some wear on the floor mats and also the gear shifter, this this weird pistol grip gear shift. It’s not the best gear shifter, but Toyota went for appearance over functionality. It is leather wrapped and the leather is pulling apart, but the steering wheel, which is also leather, is just fine. It has air conditioning and it also has cruise control. The previous owner had in period-correct cupholders, which I will NEVER put a drink in this car, but the cupholders sit where sort of little tray sits in the middle of the car. I’m probably not going to take them out because, well, I started putting things in them like my phone and sunglasses and stuff, because as far as interior storage, there isn’t much. You get a little trunk in the back and then you get some storage space also in the “frunk” in the front of the car. It looks terribly fast and a Mazda NA will kick the crap out of an MR2. The only way a first-generation MR2 could be faster than a MX-5 NA is that if the driver of the MR2 knew how to use a mid-engine car correctly. It’s only with the skill of the driver that an AW11 could beat an NA Miata. The NA, even though it’s a convertible, is much, much lighter than an AW11. AW11 is heavier than it looks. So if it’s not performance, why did I buy it? Well, it’s memory. It’s the memory of having something like this. I am not going to race this car. I am not going to hoon it. I am definitely not going to try to drift it. All I’m going to do is enjoy this untouched piece of 80’s nostalgia. I am going to make my own mixtapes like I used to and put them in the tape cassette player that works. I am gonna listen to vaporwave in here. I am going to cruise at night in the summertime with the windows down. I am going to keep it impeccably clean and I’m going to have something else to bring to a car show besides the Falcon all the time. This is not going to be a working car like the Falcon is going to be. It’s just something that can be appreciated as a survivor. How long will I have it? I don’t know. I definitely know that this is “Bring A Trailer”-type quality, so, if I ever part with it, that’s where it’s going. It’s definitely going on “Bring A Trailer”. But again, as I’m learning, and I’ve had this car for a bit, it’s not so nice on the highway. At 65 mph, this thing is turning about 4000 RPM. Which is fine, because your redline is 7500 RPM but that engine’s right behind you. And as fun as this car is… It’s drone-y in here. Yeah, there’s a firewall between you and that engine, but it’s right behind your ear and it’s just going: *VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR* But the steering is way more skittish than an MR2
[I think Mr. R means an NA.] It’s the way it dives in the corners. I don’t know. MAYBE if I could bring it to a track… Maybe, maybe, I don’t know, maybe, maybe… It’s just so clean I don’t want to do anything to it. I hardly drive it. Anyway. Thank you so much for indulging me and allowing me to enjoy this little piece of my childhood, if only for a short while. So if I bring this car out, well… Look for it at car shows. I’m sure you can dig it.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. As an MR2 owner that drove his car 700 miles back home from purchasing it, i can comfirm it drones ridiculously on the highway.

  2. Come ON… hoon it… seriously, it NEEDS a deep dish three spoke foam steering wheel and a "GolfBall" shiftknob from a mk2 VW golf GTI. And then maintained, permanently, at 6K..

  3. haha I love these cars too! when I was in the 5th grade my dad purchased a used 87 and when I turned 12 he taught me how to drive it in the Kmart parking lot and then eventually let me drive it on desert roads before I was old enough to drive 😀 super fun car! in 95 the mk1 had seen the end of it's life with like 28000 miles on it so he bought a 93 mr2 and I got to drive that one when I got my license… I used to take him to work in the morning then use it all day then go get him after work. Both were super fun cars … the mk2 wins in the looks department for sure but the mk1 had that "you are connected with the car" kind of feeling and the 7500 rpm redline just screamed! the mk2 was more of a mid range power band car. I'm into classic Toyotas when I was a kid I also wanted a 4runner so I bought one last year completely rebuilt the engine, ignition system, fuel system, suspension and all that and now it's my daily driver but I kind of want a sports car too … always loved the Celica as well so I'm torn between and Mr2 and a Celica Alltrac …. alltracs are hard to find though and the Mr2 is probably more attainable. Toyotas from the 80's and 90's are some of the best cars every designed! congrats on the Mr2 man that thing is clean!

  4. I was looking for an AW11 MR2 back in the mid 1990's when my neighbor decided to replace his '85 300ZX 2+2. I bought it from him. As nice as that ZX was, I still wonder what could have been.

    And anyway, when it came time to replace my Z31, I bought a '91 Miata. Had that for a mighty long time and replaced that car with…. a '90 Miata.

  5. Your opening monologue dug up my first memory of falling in love with a car. It was my cousin's unmodified Nissan 240SX that he traded his dad's old BMW sedan for. To this day I am an utter Silvia fanboy because of the memory of rolling up to his house after a three hour drive on the highway and seeing him wash it in the driveway. I will not rest until I can at least drive a Silvia.

  6. Cheers on the AW11, Regular. I've had a chance to drive one a few times, and despite the fact its cramped and slow. I'd love to own a 1987 AW11, because my uncle drove when when I was young, and he was that stereotypical 'cool' uncle who'd bring you to R-rated movies your parents didn't want you to see, and gave the best Christmas gifts, but he died back in '02. Keep that funky, boxy spaceship on wheels going.

  7. My 1st car was the 87 with that package and wheels. I was going to post a pic, can't figure that out through. Anyways mine was black and the rims were not colored but same design. I would love to have one today cause I did things in that car that I don't think I pull off in other cars. The lack of power steering, rear wheel drive mid engine makes it great for drifting or just hitting corners hard and I believe it could beat any car in its class on the track and maybe even some more powerful cars with the right driver. They are blast to drive, congratulations

  8. I bought an 1988 MR 2 in 1989 with 25k on it. I was 19 and didn't check our the price of insurance before hand. Oops…almost $ 340 a month with a clean driving history. Didn't keep it long. It was the best and funniest car I have ever owned. I'd like another.

  9. Man I miss my 86 mr2. Mine was similar but black with 220k miles and rusted out. Bought it for $600. Spent $200-300 to get it inspection ready. Drove it for a few months till one of the front suspension bar mount broke and the front passenger wheel and hub popped around while driving. The wiper linkage broke before that so I just used rainx 😂. Loved that shifter. I don’t remember the terrible drone noise. I do remember people’s headlights being right in my “backseat” at night. Loved that car, thanks for sharing!

  10. I enjoyed my 88 MR2 very much and regret every day that I sold it. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Have fun driving it, I certainly did with mine. As for the engine sound, that's part of the " fun" – right? Besides, you'll go deaf at that frequency anyway. I found handling between 60 and 80 a little soft, but above 100 to be rock stable on my car.

  11. I'm the second owner of a 1987 Pontiac Fiero GT, the RIVAL of the MR2. It was owned by one person for the past 30 years. I wish the Fiero's production lasted as long as the MR2.

  12. our teacher at primary school got one of these and he was almost sickeningly self satisfied about it even to the perception of a 10year old.

    It was out last day at school and he'd only owned it about a month.
    We egged and floured that car most thoroughly. We brought a potato to put in the exhaust but decided it might be dangerous so didn't.

  13. I owned six of these, and an SW20 made seven total MR2's… I still find myself looking for another one despite now driving a Porsche 911. Such great fun cars, easy to work on, and always a treat to see on the road because you know that even though that owner is probably getting rained on through the t-tops, the engine is buzzing and droning behind him, and the heat probably doesn't work, he's having a great time! (btw that cupholder is fine; I put mine in the same place)

  14. First time playing Gran Turismo 2, I remember going to the Used Cars section of Toyota and saw the two-tone White/Grey MR2. My immediate reaction to the car was that it somehow reminded me of the Delorean and that was all I needed to make that purchase ^.^

  15. "The 2jz swapped subaru's rear wanted to lead even when it wasn't boosting"
    -But the mr2 also has this issue, to a WAY lesser degree

  16. Base model does not have adjustable "side wings". This is the car that I learned how to drive at 15yrs old (5-spd manual too!). Nothing, absolutely nothing comes close to the way this car drives. After 20 years it was able to handle triple digit speeds without issue on original engine with 140k miles.

  17. One of these popped up at a local used car lot today. Test drove it, by far the most fun driving experience I've ever had.

  18. This exact car is sitting in someones driveway along my route to work and it's just exposed to the elements and covered in moss and dirt. fucking shame

  19. If I ever get around to writing that one book I’ll write RCR in as the driver of the legendary AW11

  20. Damn man! Back in the mid '90s I had the choice between a red AW11 or a Peugeot 205 Gti. Bought the Peugeot, but still want an MR2!

  21. Car is ok. Had a red/black 88 in high school. Doesn’t deserve this much hype. Notchy shifter, not fast, etc. I get it you did this for nostalgia reasons but come on. It’s just ok.

  22. In 1987 my parents bought a 1986 AW11 B, with 10,000 miles for 10 Grand. Same exterior but it was Super Red, with the traditional wheels, and black leather.
    It was to be my mom's fun car. It was so much fun to ride in as a kid. All my friends thought it was a Ferrari. In addition to that my Dad was a Toyota master technician (still is), and he was on the dealership's race team. So a couple weekends a month we'd go to Watkins Glen, or Summit point, and I'd get to hang out in the pits. (Because it was the 80's and you could do that). Occasionally, the 3 of us would go out in it, and I'd have to squeeze in behind the passenger seat. That was an interesting experience, but again 1987… I was 5. I'll always remember that car.

  23. That's my first car! Best car I ever owned. White 1989 Supercharged MR2. The '89 had a sleeker embedded third brake light in the spoiler.

    The 4A-GZE was a beast of a motor and the car was so balanced it handled like it was on rails. I loved how the dash had a green indicator light that illuminated when the supercharger was engaged. No ABS! No power steering! Fully independent suspension. Extremely responsive handling and acceleration.

    Best car ever. Imma buy me another.

  24. My dream car will always be a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro in yellow with black racing stripes. Idc what engine it is. LS or a SS. I want a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, automatic or manual transmission, so, so so badly…..

  25. thank you thank you thank you for preserving a cool 80s box car. i recently lost my 1 car love, my 1987 Jetta Wolfsburg Pirelli Edition Sport Coupe, with period correct mods on it, to a red-light runner, which landed me in the hospital with a broken hip, and a hopeful feeling that my lawyer is a greedy bastard and wants a huge settlement. I built the car from a shell that we found in a barn near Sioux City (rust country) with NO RUST ANYWHERE except a tiny patch of surface rust under one of the fender flares. I rebuilt the engine, refreshed the trans, put on a quiet but high flow exhaust, imported some special vw sebring wheels from england (came across with an air force buddy), put in a hidden 3000W sound system (yes, three thousand), and a badgeless grill surrounded by some round "crosshair" style german headlights (that were never available in the us). this car was scheduled to be painted this fall, the glorious vw "montana green," which is like the late 90s ford ranger and escort seafoam green covered with a nice pearl effect. amazing color. well, that 421 dollar bucket of paint and can of reducer is sitting in my basement now, all lonely, as the poor jetta, dubbed by my vw loving neighbor lady, "the lady in red" (it was painted tornado red, aka guard's red from porschE), is now bent in a horrible U shape. check out my youtube channel for a short playlist of when i fixed some side impact damage in 2018 to see the car. well, im a pretty damn good mechanic, but theres no way im rescuing the poor girl this time. a ford edge SUV hit me dead center driver door at 40mph without hitting the brakes. ill be salvaging the engine, stereo, muffler, and the wheels, and thats about it. everything else is bent. oh, the dealership option heavy rubber floormats from 1990 haha. so yeah, i get it when you go balls deep in a sweet late 80s box like this. they were the greatest little cars. they had character. they stood out, and said "here i am, just look at how different i am than your cookie cutter bubble!" my car was starting to have an instagram following, just from people spotting me driving around Omaha (the vw scene here isn't too bad, we have some folks with great taste, and the air cooled crew is top shelf). im replacing it with the cousin of one of your most hated cars, a 1995 5-door golf (the hatch counts as a door in europe apparently), but it's a car i built for a dealership 2 years prior, swapping in that amazing little 2.8 VR6 engine. its an incredibly solid car, no rust and only a couple tiny dings on it (one from me when i was building it and the jack handle dinged the fender), and a wonderful "gramma" forest green paint job. it's a sleeper, capable of well into the 140s due to how light that model of golf was with this stupid engine, and i am the one who built the whole thing, so i know every single nut and bolt in that car intimately. for now, that is my solace. but one day, one day i will find another jetta coupe shell, and i will paint it the glorious montana green, and i will build that 13th vw (yes, the golf is number 12 for me, i have a problem….). so i tip my hat to you sir, enjoy that beautiful 80s box, because they can be taken from you in an instant!

    ps, my hip is healing nicely, and yes, my lawyer is a greedy bastard, some folks are betting that i get at least a quarter million from the insurance company because im a disabled vet, my wife has been lifelong disabled, and all three of our kids are special needs. and he already said the two magic words to the insurance company: jury trial. they're gonna want this over with quick!

  26. fun fact about the aw11:
    the center console is "the wrong way" because toyota didnt change the center console from theiry standard rhd japan layout. thats why the hadnbranke is on the right.

  27. In relation to your “auto awakening”, when I was in the 4th grade I won an art contest. Since it was a district wide thing, I got to hang my drawing up at the Middle School for the second wave of votes and our elementary secretary, Ms Truly, drove me over in her MGB. That’s the day it happened for me. 38 years later I drive a Miata. Imprinting I guess. Bless you Ms Truly.

  28. I seriously thought about buying one of these off a REME captain who'd done a navy blue one up just as nice as this – but I chickened out and bought a 320d instead…

  29. The tragic part is that the MR2 was planned to be the basis for Toyota's entry to WRC Group S. It could have been a much better known iconic vehicle.

  30. If I ever become a multi-millionaire one of my goals will to get as close as possible to a factory new 1.6L 4a-gze supercharged through purchase of a good example or having one custom built new (likely for hundreds of thousands of dollars).

  31. I would of chosen the Monte Carlo SS of the late 80's or the Regal Turbo as the car that caught my child hood attention. But this is a nice looking car.

  32. This is my second favorite video of yours. You speak of this car the way I speak of the early 90s Nissan VG30DETT’s I remember seeing one the first time parked under a cover in my buddy’s father’s garage, and fell in love with it. I joined the air force and it was the first of several irresponsible automotive related purchases I’ve made in my life. It was later stolen to never be replaced. I still remember it as fondly as you speak of the MR2 mk1

  33. Speaking of the stereo system, as I had one/86. Check under the driver's seat and u likely find a built in Sub Woofer as I did.

  34. The skittish steering for any car cure is to drop the front tire pressure 1-2 lbs lower tah the rears. Soo as I bought mine I checked out tires well and put sticky Bridgestone Potenza tires on and did they ever stick

  35. Iv had mine 24 years and im rebuilding her from ground up as i type this .. i love her i still look at her with the same eyes as i did when i was in my early twenties. Ive driven loads of nice cars but shes still my dream car . Upgraded suspension n bushes and wide rubber . On twisty bits it keeps up with much faster cars 😍👌

  36. Ha – I had a 86 MR2 – no supercharger and it would kick ass with modern V8's – no, not HO jobs, V 12 Jags, and Miata's went bye bye in my mirrors very easily. I have no idea what u are talking about. Some say it was slightly over steered – Nope, just decrease front tire pressure up to and no more that 2 psi. Oh, by the way – I am no sissy driver. This thing could do 205 Km/hr on a straight away.
    This is a sissy review.

  37. My aunt had a red MR2 when I was in college. She would leave it with me when she traveled. Damn, I LOVED driving that car. It was a total chic magnet.

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