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Tuned, Red, Dynamic – Toyota MR2 1991

Yes we know TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development but our take on the title does seem quite fitting for this mid-engined wonder that pays homage to TRD with the right assortment of tuning bits.

The Toyota MR2 always exuded a certain aura about it. Here was something with all the characteristics of an Italian exotic; it had a turbocharged mid-rear engine driving the rear wheels and could only seat two. That’s also what its name defined, ‘M’ for mid-engined, ‘R’ to denote the driven wheels and ‘2’ for the occupant headcount. Sounds very much alike to the supercars of that generation doesn’t it?

However, this one had a Toyota badge on it, was surprisingly easy to drive and reliability was on the bombproof side as well. Toyota never envisioned it as a no-holds barred sports car but more of a mid-engined car with fun driving dynamics and decent fuel economy that wouldn’t break the bank to own and run.

The MR2 won its fair share of fans and the Japanese aftermarket scene embraced it with open arms. As the flagship variant was turbocharged from the factory, the avenues for increasing performance started at a simple increase in boost pressure and ran all the way to larger turbos and built internals for some staggering performance figures.

This mint specimen here falls towards the latter part of the tuning gauge but is a wonderful demonstration of how to go about simply polishing up the original recipe rather than outright revolutionising it. After all, the MR2 was never a slow poke to begin with.

Finding one in decent nick is beginning to resemble a formidable task but fortunately, the one here looks like it just rolled out of the showroom and has a choice number of additions to sharpen it up a little without ruining the original feel of the car. Going with performance parts from the manufacturer itself is arguably the smartest move as you’re guaranteed high levels of quality. In this case, TRD came to the rescue.

Under the rear hatch sits the turbo inline-four 3S-GTE that had 245hp from the factory and probably a pinch more now with a Super Circuit custom twin-box exhaust and downpipe to free up the exhaust air flow out and amplify the sound. On the intake side, a K&N air filter allows for more air to be sucked in and compressed. Playing a supporting role would be the Sard radiator, HKS SSQV and a switch to Samco radiator hoses for longevity. The TRD touch here is limited to just a simple TRD magnetic drain bolt.

The transmission was left alone with the exception of a TRD short shifter to reduce the distance of the throw. Power levels are still very much near factory so a clutch upgrade isn’t necessary yet.

Bringing the car to a halt should never be overlooked, even if the car is still stock. Stopping in a shorter distance will always outweigh quicker accelerating so some larger TRD four-piston calipers were fitted and they’re hiding behind a set of the most recognisable aftermarket wheels TRD produced, the T3.

Measuring 17 inches in diameter, the wheels are wrapped in Federal 595 RS-R tyres and are fitted with TRD air valve stems. On the suspension side, a switch to some proven Tein HR coilovers has done the trick for better ride quality in all conditions and lowering it a bit as well.

You might noticed the added girth and that is courtesy of the custom TRD 2000GT body kit that is inspired by the 2000GT version. Apart from the custom panels, there’s also a Phoenix Power engine hood scoop together with an air scoop sitting over the roof to channel in the air towards the engine. Adding a touch of modernity to the rear are the facelift taillights.

Defying its age, the interior is an altar to TRD with the manufacturer’s performance arm supplying the speedometer, steering wheel, sports seats and gear knob. In fact, the only non-TRD addition in the cabin is the Blitz boost gauge nestled in a holder pod right above the steering wheel column for easy viewing.

A mid-engine, rear-driven layout is still the recipe for a performance car and it continues to form the basis for many of the sports cars that are available today. Toyota gave us an affordable one back in the day with the MR2 and it continues to provide an avenue for those seeking the driving dynamics of an exotic without the costs associated with calling one your own.

Toyota MR2 1991

Engine Mods
Super Circuit custom twin-box exhaust and downpipe, K&N air filter, SARD radiator, Samco silicone hoses, HKS SSQV, TRD magnetic drain bolt

TRD short shifter


TRD four-piston calipers

Suspension & Chassis
Tein HR coilovers

Wheels & Tyres
TRD T3 17-inch wheels, Federal 595 RS-R tyres, TRD air valves

Exterior Mods
Customised TRD 2000GT wide body kit, Phoenix Power engine hood scoop + air scoop, facelift taillights

Interior Mods
TRD speedometer, TRD steering wheel, TRD sports seats, TRDF gear knob, Blitz boost gauge + holder pod

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