Toyota Made Fewer Than 100 MR2 Convertibles, and This One’s up for Sale

This wasn't the Toyota MR2 Spider you were expecting—it's better.
1996 Toyota MR2 Spider, viewed from the rear three-quarter angle
Cars & Bids

To most people, the Toyota MR2 Spyder is the poor man’s Porsche Boxster. The slightly disappointing finale to Toyota’s mid-engined sports car never got the power it deserved, and was hampered by an automated manual. But what few people know is that its more popular forebear the SW20 was also made as a convertible—by Toyota itself, in tiny numbers. And one of them is for sale right now in the United States.

Listed for sale on Cars & Bids is a 1996 Toyota MR2 Spider, an obscure convertible produced by Toyota Technocraft. Technocraft was one of Toyota’s specialty in-house production divisions, responsible for those widebody MR2s and Supras, plus a handful of oddball models like the Toyota Classic. Today, the department is known as Toyota Customizing & Development. Only 88 or 91 of these top-optional MR2s were built, with the vast majority being automatics, and only two getting the turbo engine. This one sadly falls into the former category, but there are some redeeming features.

For one, this is a ’96 model, meaning it has the 1993-onward suspension updates that make it easier to drive. It also has the more popular kouki taillight style, introduced in 1994. Also, while naturally aspirated U.S. SW20s used the 2.2-liter 5S-FE from the Camry, Japan got the more developed 2.0-liter 3S-GE. It’s not the revvy BEAMS version, but 168 horsepower is still enough to have fun.

Besides, if you want the power to go with this Spider’s budget Ferrari 348 looks, you have plenty of engine swap options (swoptions). Many use the later version of the MR2 Turbo’s 3S-GTE out of the Caldina—mine does with a 2.2 stroker—while others borrow the 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V6. They were used in tons of cars, including the Lotus Emira and Evora, where they sound fantastic. (Some people also do Honda K-series, but it’s frowned upon. Rightly.)

Of course, what powers this Toyota is up to the buyer, who will be decided when the Cars & Bids auction wraps up at 4:10pm eastern on Friday. It’s already at $8,000, and it’s easy to see this rare MR2 climbing much higher.

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