Mods and Con­se­quences

Toy­ota MR2 MkI

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Richard Dredge

‘If you’re slightly un­hinged you can go all the way and t a Lexus V6’

How times change. Many said that the Toy­ota MR2 was the per­fect sports car when it was launched in 1984, cit­ing its per­fect bal­ance, great feed­back, de­cent per­for­mance and sub­lime han­dling. The idea of it need­ing any up­grades, then, would have seemed faintly ridicu­lous.

But with hot hatches now rou­tinely pack­ing a 250bhp punch, some own­ers are be­gin­ning to think that the MR2’s stan­dard 132bhp is rather anaemic. The 1.6-litre twin-cam four-pot is sweet and smooth, but many own­ers crave more power. And the good news is that there are lots of ways of achiev­ing this. Toy­ota did a pretty good job with the MR2’s camshaft and fil­tra­tion so rather than go for small tweaks that don’t pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant re­sults, en­gine swaps are def­i­nitely the way to go. This might sound rad­i­cal but it needn’t be.

The stan­dard en­gine – dubbed 4AGE – can be swapped for a 2ZZGE VVT-i (vari­able valve tim­ing in­jec­tion) unit as found in the Cel­ica 190. As free-revving as the orig­i­nal pow­er­plant and no heav­ier, it pro­duces 190bhp in stan­dard form and can be eas­ily up­graded. The tur­bocharged 3S- GTE en­gine from an MR2 MkII can also be trans­planted; tuned to give a re­li­able 300bhp, this pro­vides a power to weight ra­tio of 275bhp per ton or so.

If you’re slightly un­hinged you can go all the way and fit a Lexus V6 (1MZ in VVTi or non-VVTi forms). Wood­sport will even do the work for you for around £3500, or you can have a su­per­charged ver­sion of this en­gine for around £6000. It en­tails cut­ting the en­gine bay to make ev­ery­thing fit so it’s def­i­nitely a non-re­versible mod, but if you want some­thing a bit crazy then look no fur­ther. It’s also pos­si­ble to fit the 2GR V6 that Lo­tus uses for its Evora. It’s also in the Lexus RX and lots of Amer­i­can-spec Toy­otas; take this route and you’ll in­vari­ably have to im­port an en­gine from the US.

What­ever you do, make sure that you sort the chas­sis be­fore tack­ling the en­gine; the brakes, wheels and sus­pen­sion all need to be over­hauled.

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