Affordable Mid-Engine: 75k-mile 1988 Toyota MR2

Remember when mid-engine cars were being offered at prices accessible to most U.S. consumers? If you can't, don't blame yourself. It was a long time ago.

The superiority of mid-engine layout - in handling, balance, and common sense - needs no introduction.

What's more interesting is how this concept trickled down from outlandish Italian supercars of the late '60s and early '70s to frugal, affordable and efficient Japanese cars of the '80s and '90s. It's proof that the market, when free of collusion, truly does work in a top-to-bottom fashion, where fancy ideas are introduced on expensive models before they work their way into every car. I'd rather wait for good technology than never be offered it at all.

The first-generation 1984-1989 Toyota MR2 is an example of good things that come to those who wait. These featured a mid-mounted engine towards the rear powering the rear wheels. Prior to the MR2, I can think of only the Fiat X19, Porsche, Ferrari, Lambo and the like that have that setup.

With the MR2, Toyota offered consumers the advantage of mid-engine without the hassle of maintenance previously associated with it. Everybody won. Toyota had good sales and bragging rights. Consumers actually got an intriguing choice of vehicle. Competitors were influenced to come up with rival cars (like the ill-fated Pontiac Fiero). Prices went down as quality and selection went up (and even the Fiero got better each year).

Non-supercharged cars were powered by a 1,587 cc straight-4-cylinder engine producing around 112 horsepower. That's very modest by today's standards, but with a weight of only 2,350 lbs., it moved the car amply from 0-60 mph in around 8 seconds. How nice it would be if the lowest weight possible was still a priority for auto manufacturers. Instead of emissions controls, light cars are probably the key to unleashing true fuel efficiency.

This example looks awesome in navy blue over blue. It seems to have none of the tacky aftermarket modifications that plague survivors. Styling is somewhat typical of the time with the pop-up headlights and body cladding, but the overall micro-wedge shape has also transcended its era and become a minor classic of lean, folded-paper design that a broad spectrum of people appreciate.

The interior shows some wear, but nothing major.

The seller says the manual transmission shifts smoothly, power equipment works and engine runs properly. They list the odometer as reading just 75,761 miles, and say it is accurate.

Plenty of them were made, but not many are left in good shape, and even fewer with this low mileage. If you have a craving for fun, reliable transportation with a unique engine placement, this MR2 is a good bet. Today, there simply are no affordable mid-engine cars anymore. This increases the importance, if not value, of the MR2 by tenfold in my humble opinion.

Find it here on ebay in Philadelphia, PA with no reserve and bidding at $1,125.


  1. Amazing how "80's" this design looks now. The dashboard is a throwback to that era as well. If you can pick this one up for even double the current bid price, you can't lose.

  2. Ended at $3,272.00 after 49 bids from 20 different bidders.

    1. Thanks for the update Larry! Is that so? A steal if you ask me.

  3. Hi,my name is matt,and I am interesting in buying your 1988 Toyota mr2,i couldnt find it on ebay if u can contact ma at ( or 1-857-251-9352 thank you