These days, even Toyota's supposedly affordable mid-engined sports car, the MR2, is no performance bargain. Rather than buy one, it seems you can do better by just kind of building one yourself out of a cheaper Celica. Or, better still, just pick up the finished product, as you can from a listing on British eBay.
Listed for sale on eBay.co.uk is a final-generation Toyota Celica with a mid-mounted four-cylinder from the higher-performing GT-S model. Underneath a combination of stock and custom fiberglass bodywork sits a tubular spaceframe, one which allowed the builder to relocate the 1.8-liter engine and six-speed manual from the front of the car to the middle. This particular 1.8, though, is better than any Toyota stuffed in the MR2 Spyder: It's the revvier, more powerful engine from the Lotus Exige, making it an upgrade over the real MR2's engine.
The improvements extend beyond the drivetrain, too, as the seller describes significant suspension upgrades, starting with double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear. Both are linked by pushrods to inboard coilovers, which are connected laterally by adjustable sway bars. There's no telling how it handles without getting it on track, which the owner says they haven't done on account of a spinal condition. According to their account of a 50-mile test drive, though, it seems to be reasonably sorted.
Considering this pseudo-MR2 has a better engine than the real deal, an actual trunk (the Spyder lacked one), and potentially better suspension geometry, it should be worth real MR2 money any day. Yet somehow, it's cheaper, coming in at the equivalent of under $5,500, and that's including the molds to recreate the custom rear body panels.
I wouldn't trust its roll bar, but if you're buying this car, you're signing up for a project regardless. How far you take it is up to you. But remember one thing for god's sake: Keep a Honda K swap out of the equation. It's not even close to the only four-cylinder that can make serious power, you know.
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