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I'm looking to buy an mr2 as my second car and eventually want to v6 swap with a 2gr; is there any reason to buy a turbo model over the non?
 

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If you are going to build it out all the way, I wouldn't be as concerned with turbo vs non. What you want to find is something as clean and complete as possible. There are a lot of expensive odds and ends that add up with something that hasn't been cared for well. (a set of ttop and door seals will run you ~$600 as an example) those dollars saved will work well going to a big brake kit or some of the other things you get with a turbo model.

When I bought my '91T I was distracted by the fancy gen4 swap and didn't notice it had no strut braces, no sway bars and had front tires so wide it rubbed through and put a hole in the washer fluid tank. Now I am looking at over $1k to get them, never mind all the other "little" things missing or broken that are $50-$250 each IF you can even track down the part you are looking for.

The exception is the E153, they are becoming harder and harder to find and therefor getting more and more expensive. Last year you could get a brand new one with LSD for about $3k, these days I've not seen it less than $5k (more than I paid for my 2).

Preferably YES you would want the turbo but personally, knowing what I know now... I would buy a NA auto over a Turbo manual if it were a better example and do the conversion work. For what turbo's vs NA's are going in my area a guy could almost do the work and not be too much deeper in, financially speaking.
 

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Focus on getting a clean rust free chassis, then worry about the other stuff. The main plus side to buying a Turbo is the E153 transmission. As said above they are getting really expensive now and hard to find, but they are almost bulletproof. But the NA S54 transmission bolts up to the 2GR and will hold the power as long as you don’t launch it.

One other plus to a Turbo is the bigger turbo fuel pump. If the car is in good working order, you don’t have drop the tank to change the fuel pump for the 2GR.
 

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1. As mentioned the E153 that comes with the turbo is the stronger transmission. Price varies for used ones. You can buy a new one for $26xx plus shipping here but no telling how long this will be available for. Toyota may just be selling out the current stock.
2. As for buying an NA automatic. I did that and my car is in impressive condition. However, key manual conversion parts such as the clutch and brake pedals are discontinued and it is very difficult to find LHD versions of them.
3. The turbo car will give you other strong and expensive parts like the axle shafts which will cost you over $1k later.
4. The turbo models come with a clutch pedal that has a spring mechanism that makes pressing heavier clutch plates less of a chore.
5. Turbo instrument cluster with 9K rpm and 160 MPH is also a discontinued item. If it matters to you.
 
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