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I wonder if those japanese exporters regret cutting the axles in half on all those gen3 swaps not knowing in the future lsd axles are worth 1k.
 

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I wonder if those japanese exporters regret cutting the axles in half on all those gen3 swaps not knowing in the future lsd axles are worth 1k.
Maybe but it's only the stub axles that are different. Unless they cut the long right hand shaft.

The first car I bought was my current SW20 12 years ago. It wasn't my first car as such so I had learnt about cars prior to buying it but like others say, there are downsides to these older cars and I have had quite a few issues with the car even from it being 18 years old to it now being 30 years old. I love it and have learnt so much from owning it but now they are older, they might not be quite suitable as an only car or your first car.
 

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I know autocrossing w/ its furiously fast lock to lock steering inputs can have a tough effect on the clock spring and steering rack alike.

I agree w/ GDII. As a first car, I believe the SW20's time has passed - unless you're willing to spend $8K to $10K. But as a 2nd, 3rd, track or hobby car, it's still going strong and is a great choice.
 

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I would never consider dailying one of these cars without some sort of backup. Cool cars are fun, but not when you rely on it to run daily. Save your pennies, and look at picking one up later on as a summer toy. These are starting to age, and parts won't be readily available.
 

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Don't get me wrong, I used mine as my only car and a daily for 10 years but it's always had to have something done to it and having access to another car has always been a must. The longest I had it off the road for was 1 month due to the coolant tree rusting out a pipe and having to get it rebuilt because you can't buy new ones. This is quite an important part of the engine. Now that it's 30 years old I have bought myself a 1996 Corolla as a daily as it's cheaper on fuel and more comfortable than my modified MR2. I still drive the MR2 but not to work. I probably could but sitting in traffic is not this cars strong point, at least how mine is.

I want to tell you YES! buy one! but I also know what I have been through and others of which I have helped out to fix their cars with the same recurring problems mine has had. But I wouldn't change my choice and I do not regret buying one. Each time it broke I learnt something new and I have met so many great people because I bought this car. Would do it again even with the knowledge that it would cause me issues.
 

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I'll take a slightly different approach. Do you need the car to be a daily, or can you get by with getting rides from your parents or brother for a while to come? The reality is even an N/A with a straight body in that price range is going to need a lot of maintenance work. Suspension bushing, likely struts, strut mounts, ALL of the engine gaskets and seals (except head gasket), transmission gaskets, timing belt (really anything rubber), distributor, coil, igniter, ignition wires, are all likely going to need to be done in short order. Whenever I buy a new MR2 or any 30+ year old car, I do all of that at a minimum before driving for anything more than diagnostic runs.

If the car is high mileage, expect balljoints, seized brake calipers, tie rod ends, sway bar end links, and wheel bearings/cv joints. Regardless you will need to flush the brake fluid and clutch fluid on any 30+ year old car you buy.

My vote is, if you want to learn how to work on cars and have a project that you car drive unreliably while you do the maintenance, then it's not the worst idea. People say parts aren't available, however I find you just have to get creative. Many parts are shared with other Toyota's from the era or are close enough to make work. MR2 specific parts like front bumpers are unobtanium. Expect not being able to go to the parts store and buying a part the same day. Expect days to weeks to get replacement parts. Make sure you have budgeted at least $1.5-$2k extra to buy parts. If you want to daily it from day 1, it will be a horrible 1st car. If you want a fun project that you can work on and learn how to fix cars from (and have something unique and mid-engined in the process) then it's not the worst idea. (I know I would have done it lol).

As for the snap oversteer, never let off the throttle mid corner. If you're coming in too hot, then your chances of loosing it go up to nearly 100% if you let off. (Weight transfers forward, rear gets light = spin). That's a feature of all mid engined cars - not just the MR2. The 93+ wheels and 225mm rear tires help A LOT on the limit. Find the limit by approaching it slowly. That way when it goes, you'll still be able to recover. This isn't a front engined, rear wheel drive car that you can just throw at the limit and easily drift out of trouble - you need a lot of skill to do that. I've been dailying these cars for 10 years and while I know what to do at the limit, I'm still not 100% confident. Don't get cocky thinking you are Senna because you have a mid engined car. I had that problem when I was younger lol. . .
 

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My MKII is a conversion piece when I’m pumping gas, head turner for younger crowd, admired by people of my age group(50ish) Above all else, she’s my weekend warrior.
 

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I bought an MR2 when I was 19/20. Before that I had a Honda that was in minty condition, pretty reliable (only had a distributor issue iirc?), but the damn thing was constantly the victim of a break in or attempted theft every few months it seemed. If I'm remembering correctly, the deck was stolen 3 times, the rims stolen, car was stolen once too. And I was living in a nice part of town then.

I originally saw an SW20 in Gran Turismo 1 when I was a kid and thought it was the coolest little car, think it was an A class license test lol.

10 years ago getting any part I needed was not an issue. Bought my current SW a little over 10 years ago and now if I look at RockAuto for something, the parts availability is half what it used to be. Or some parts are listed but will never be available to ship. Five years ago I had 93+ brake calipers on order from Amazon for over a year, the last one never shipped and was just set as straight up unavailable. I just needed to replace my clockspring, straight up no replacements anywhere. Toyota doesn't have any and the aftermarket never made any. Most cars are T-tops, which all leak, but guess what- weatherstripping is going out of stock too. If you get an NA, 5SFE parts won't be hard to come by- but everything else will be.

The 3SGTE is not a good engine for a broke teenager. Trust me. Parts are expensive compared to other 4cyls, they're not always readily available, and I've had all sorts of weird issues. I was 'lucky enough' to have my main catalytic converter go bad in 2013 or so, and I was able to buy a cat from Toyota for $500. Now you can't get them and there is no direct replacement available anywhere since they're giant cast iron pieces that are not shaped anything like a 'universal' cat you CAN buy. If I didn't get that, getting passed smog would be a giant PITA for me.

At this age, every original suspension is shot. Everyone is right. Some maintenance will have to have been done by now. But every car is different. My 2 has left me on the side of the road several times. It's a great car when everything is aces... But if you're 15-25 and a surprise $500-1500 being pulled from your butt is impossible or a big stretch... Not a great idea.
 

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It definitely comes down to a project should never be depended on for a daily. a 30 year old sports car will always be a project car.
 

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You want as new of a MKIII MR2 as you can find - totally bone stock. An SW20 is a terrible idea for any teenager in 2020.
 

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I love my SW20, but I wouldn't want it as a daily driver at any age. It has a reasonable amount of storage space for a 2 seater, but it's still just a small 2 seater. Think of trying to move in college etc., no way you're doing that in an SW20. Same goes for a Miata of any generation - don't do it as your only car.

IMO, if you want a '90s fun car that's suitable for a first car - I'd totally get a DC2 Integra ('94-01). It was actually my first car, and the hatchback gives a surprising amount of utility for a pretty small car that's good on gas. The hard part would be finding one in good condition - but if you open your search to non-VTEC models (which are still pretty fun and faster than an NA SW20), then you can probably find one with a manual in decent shape. Parts are common (most are shared with Civics of the same vintage), and the base vehicle is really reliable. IMO, the driving control feel stock for stock is better in the Integra. The SW20 has a bit more of a GT cruiser level of isolation when stock. You might find a pretty decent example in your budget, but it's still a 20+ year old car, so expect to put some work in on the car when you get it.

They're pretty easy to work on - way way easier than an SW20. I've been working on cars as a hobby for over 20 years, and I still consider the SW20 a car that pushes my boundaries on the difficulty in doing jobs. That's part of the fun for a second car - not when it's your primary mode of transport.


Fiesta ST would be a decent option that's much newer, but it sounds like it's double your initial budget. But don't underestimate the cost and time to bring an old car up to a reasonable condition, so ultimately it might be cheaper.

My 2 cents - save cars like the SW20 as a second fun car when you get older and can take that on in your life.
 

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It could work out as a first car, but the budget should be around 10K. Either you find one where everything is done for you, or you dedicate around 10K (with the purchase price) to do it yourself. Being 15-16 , you will have to take it easy on the corners, learn to work on it. I assume you will not daily it for long distances so it could work out. The biggest issue I see with MR2 - they lack safety features (air bags mainly). So I would discourage somebody having their 15 year old getting MR2... but we are all different. Maybe you are extra careful, will never speed and love working on cars?
 

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I've owned a lot of MR2s over the years. It's been at least 20 years since an MR2 was the only car I had to drive.
 

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I was in the same boat you are.. wanted an MR2 in high school more than anything. couldn't get one so I bought a GSR. loved that car and I would buy another one today.
For budget and fun, hard to find but, id look at getting a second gen Celica all-trac. my brother has two and they are a lot of fun. 3sgte powered but AWD and 4 seats so you can bring your friends along for the ride. you can get a decent example for under 10k...

under appreciated car IMO
 

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90s cars are no longer viable daily drivers, look for something in the early to late 2000s well kept. Even if you had 20k+ to drop on a cherry MR2 Turbo I can assure you that you're going to find that it still has problems and needs work. Parts are getting extremely hard to come by for these cars and extremely expensive as well. A 3S-GTE AFM goes for 700 dollars new.

I like the SW20 Turbos a lot but the value proposition is long gone with the BaT crowd jumping on these cars and Toyota discontinuing parts with no plans to ever start a heritage parts program for the MR2. It's expensive enough just to keep these cars running with low yearly mileage more to keep the fluids moving than anything else. It would bankrupt a teenager to try and daily one of these cars, Turbo or not.
 

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90s cars are no longer viable daily drivers, look for something in the early to late 2000s well kept.
Hey!! I still daily my 1996 Corolla but then it's a Corolla. Also your point is valid as I see less and less 90s cars on the road in the daily commute to work and back. 80s cars, well, I'd see very little of them making their way to work along side the rest of the fleet of modern 2000s+ stuff.
 

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Thanks for all the info it is very helpful. I an aware of the snap oversteer problem in early sw20 mr2s. I think that what im looking for in a car is a fun little japanese sports car, my brother owns a miata so I know of the many good options. I am thinking of around a 3-4k budget for just the car and I only what an NA because it helps with price. Plus the fact that it is mid-engine is cool and gives the car a little more cool factor. I also like the idea of a possible engine swap considering all the good options for mr2's
As someone who recently became an SW20 owner I can tell you that you’re underestimating the difficulties. Assuming as a 15 year old you don’t have that much of a disposable income so you’re gonna be saving for a LONG time you buy the more expensive parts that you will likely need. Also, 3k-4K is not enough to get you a running SW20, at least in my area. Also, if you don’t have experience working on cars it’s gonna be an enormous deterrent when you start. I’ve been working on machines and what not since I was like 14 and as a 19 year old I still was not ready for the difficulty of working on that car. I love my MR2 but it’s a female dog to work on. Maybe try something front engine first. A Miata isn’t a bad choice and since you say your bother has one it could be fun to do them together. Like everyone said, a rare 30 year old car is hard to find parts for.
 

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Id look at getting a second gen Celica all-trac. my brother has two and they are a lot of fun. 3sgte powered but AWD and 4 seats so you can bring your friends along for the ride. you can get a decent example for under 10k...

under appreciated car IMO
All-tracs are very cool and rare I've never seen one in person. My only reservation about an alltrac is the 3sgte, it's hard enough making enough power to move a MR2 decently quick not to mention a heavier AWD celica. At least with an evo8/9 you can make 400whp on the stock turbo, you're barely making over half that with a 3SGTE.
 
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