Clean, High-Mile Mister Two: 1986 Toyota MR2

So your friends have told you repeatedly to buy a Miata already, but you can’t get over the old cute-car stigma. Or perhaps you don’t want a shuddery convertible, and don’t look forward to paying an extra $1k for a Miata hardtop to make it more of a real car. Great news! For about the same price as a tatty NA Miata, you could have a sweet-looking, survivor-grade AW11 MR2. Find this 1986 Toyota MR2 for sale in San Diego, CA for $2,500 via craigslist.

I don’t care what it is – any decent Japanese car from 1986 in this kind of condition is worth at least $2,500 – all day long. The fact that this one happens to be the mid-engined sporty MR2 is a huge bonus. These cars haven’t appreciated like the faster Japanese cars from the ’70s – ’90s; they have stayed at bargain basement prices similar to the Miata.

You’ll get about the same interior volume as a Miata, with two bolstered seats, a high tunnel, a 5-speed manual, and direct steering. In an MR2 you have a real roof over your head, albeit sometimes with T-tops, and sometimes with sunroof like this example. Regardless, the presence of real C-pillars means that torsional rigidity is an integer number and rollover safety is something you can think about. The driving experience won’t be as delicately perfect and controllable as a Miata; suspension design is a bit archaic and the AW11 is heavy for its size.

But you’ll have a sweet revving 4AG-E 16-valve four sitting behind your head, and those great chunky origami wheels…and a car that will spark up conversations at gas stations and be livable as a commuter (it has two trunks!).

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CFlo is Daily Turismo’s Technical Editor and co-founder. When he’s not pushing around his dead chain driven AW11 with the blown-up Kawasaki sportbike engine, he’s piloting a V8 E36 around a race track, or driving a Volvo 240 to work.