Seems as if someone likes his ‘90s Toyota coupés to be on the scarlet side of the spectrum. The thing is, they’re both built by the same carmaker, both in deluxe trim, both have two doors and are both some kind of red (or used to be, anyway), but in many ways, these two are completely chalk and cheese.
Age before beauty, then. The 2nd generation MR2, launched in late 1989, continued in its predecessor’s footsteps: it was still a sporty mid-engined two-seater, propelled by a 2-litre 3S 4-cyl. (163hp or, if turbocharged, 218hp). Toyota made this pocket rocket, which some dubbed the “poor man’s Ferrari,” for eleven seasons. An unqualified success, and there are still a few about, but this one doesn’t look quite as fresh as some.
I love how the sun turned this MR2 into a pale shadow of its former self, exactly like the one Paul posted a few years back (see “related posts” below). Our feature car doesn’t look like it’s had much cause to move in the last couple years. The tyres are starting to deflate… it’s almost a goner. Poor poor man’s Ferrari. You were too common for this world.
Let’s turn our attention to the Levin, which is not as widespread. Some of you may not have seen these in the metal: the 1995-2000 Corolla E110 (sold as the Geo / Chevrolet Prizm in the States) was the last generation to include a Levin and Sprinter Trueno coupé variant, after 28 years and eight generations, and this final iteration was not exported very widely.
The Levin name still exists today, but only in Chinese market Toyotas (and those are saloons anyway). According to Japanese sources, this generation was seen as overly cheap, having been conceived after the economic crisis hit, and was therefore not as popular. But the mid-range coupé market was already shrinking, so Toyota hit the kill switch when the platform change occurred.
Maybe it’s because I don’t see these very often, but compared to the E110 Corolla (a.k.a Geo / Chevrolet Prizm in the US) they are related to, these Levins are almost desirable. Plus, they must be as bulletproof as their saloon cousins, so there is a lot to be said for these. I have not caught a Sprinter Trueno version for comparison, I’ll have to keep an eye peeled for one.
The MR2, on the other hand, is not yet on my personal CC radar. These are more familiar to me – a neighbour had one back in France in the mid-‘90s. As an aside, it’s one of the most unfortunate nameplates Toyota ever came up with for us francophones: “M.R. deux,” when pronounced, sounds like the words “est merdeux” (is shitty). So Toyota probably had more trouble selling “le coupé MR2” in France, Belgium or Switzerland than in Spain, the UK or Scandinavia. “Levin,” on the other hand, might look like an invitation to drink and drive. Heads I win, tails you lose.
COAL: 1993 Toyota MR2 – A Father-Son Project, by James Pastor
In-Motion Outtakes: 1991 Toyota MR2 – Lil’ Red Rocket. by Joseph Dennis