Toyota MR2: surely the closest thing to a bargain basement Ferrari

12 June 2018

Few automotive companies worked so hard to upgrade their image in the 1980s as Toyota. By the time we had embarked on that decade, the glorious 2000 GT of the mid-1960s had become the faintest of memories, a rare and exotic specimen with no evident connection to dull mainstream Toyotas.  The Corolla was still a boxy little rear-drive runabout, the Corona was probably the worst car in its class and the first Cressida of 1977 (despite its Chaucerian name) had nothing to recommend it except good finish and reliability. (My father replaced his HQ Premier 253 with one: what a letdown!) Even the supposedly sporty Celica was slow and unexciting to drive.

So, when, outspoken Wheels editor, Peter Robinson, wrote ‘At last, Toyota turns the corner' as a cover line for an issue in 1983, this seemed like huge news. The car he was referring to was the imported Corona Liftback – a machine absolutely not to be confused with the locally built Corona – and it marked the beginning of a series of exciting Toyotas.

After the Liftback came the first front-wheel drive Celica which was, frankly, nothing short of astonishing in 1985, closely followed by the third generation Supra (the second version to be sold here, the first having been the 1983 Celica Supra).