The early fall is a magical time of year. The hot humid days start to give way to pleasant, crisp mornings. Leaves begin their colorful transition from green to yellows, oranges, and browns. Pumpkin spice flavored everything takes over the menus. And for one day, the sound of turbos rings through the New York/New Jersey border.
The annual Joe Pearlstein Memorial Bear Mountain MR2 Meet is the largest gathering of Toyota MR2s on the East Coast. Every year, hundreds of people make the trip to see old friends, meet new people, and see some amazing cars.
Around 7:30, the ring road around the Sheraton Crossroads hotel begins to fill up with cars. The massive beautiful building surrounded by mountains is a wonderful setting for the morning’s activities.
This year saw a record number of cars, with around 155 in total.
The vast majority were SW20 chassis, second-generation cars with over 100 in attendance.
There were over 30 AW11 chassis, first-generation cars (my personal favorite) as well, with a surprising number of 3S-GTE swapped cars (known as the MK1.5).
As is tradition, John brought out the MR2 BBQ, pulled by his immaculate Supercharged AW11 all the way from the Great White North.
MR2 owners are a bit eccentric, and really love their cars.
This AW11 duo, known as Sonic and Knuckles, also made the trip from Canada.
Bear Mountain may primarily by an MR2 meet, but the rare and elusive Celica All-Trac is also welcome. This ST205 was driven from Canada, as they are not yet able to be legally imported into the United States.
After an hour or so of meeting fellow drivers and looking at some awesome cars, Rich and JD host the driver’s meeting and explain the history of the meet, and the day’s agenda.
The massive meet is then divided into groups of around 15 or so to embark on a gorgeous 60-mile drive through the mountains into New York.
The views and the roads are just spectacular. While the rules of the road are generally obeyed pretty well, some more spirited driving can occur from time to time. An unfortunate Evo driver happened to see a bunch of MR2’s carving the corners and tried to keep up, only to cut his day short – beached on a rock next to the road. Always drive safely, folks!
At the end of the drive, everyone pulls into a shopping center parking lot to grab a bite to eat, and hang out for the Show and Shine portion of the day.
The three generations are given their own parking sections. That’s me in my Bear Mountain 2009 shirt from my first meet! Unfortunately, krylon paint jobs don’t go very far in the “show and shine” judging though.
A solid turnout from Spyder owners this year, they were still the least-represented model. Maybe once prices go down, more enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on these incredible chassis.
Here is an extremely rare sight, all three generations of Celica All-Trac together in one place. One day I hope to have one in my collection as well.
Driving behind one of these only adds to the scenery. They really don’t make them like they used to.
When your engine is in the middle and you want to make big power, sometimes you have to get creative with your intercooler placement.
Speaking of unique solutions, the screamer pipe on this SW20 has earned its owner the affectionate nickname “Smokestack Willie”.
Smokestack Willie is a fellow Virginian and has quite a few Bear Mountain trips under his belt over the years.
Although turbo power seems to be the engine of choice for the SW chassis, there is a definite charm to some high revving NA power as well. The BEAMS 3S-GE is a special engine, hitting that magical 100 horsepower per liter ratio.
After the show and shine, many of us retire to the Super 8 hotel in Mahwah, just minutes from the Sheraton where we started. The Super 8 has been amazing hosts year after year for us out-of-towners, offering special rates and a great spot for our post-Bear Mountain cookout: Beer Mountain.
We all gather around the MR2 BBQ to drink some beers, grill some delicious meats, and hang out until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, we all head back home. For some that’s as far south as Virginia, as far north as Canada, or as far west as Oregon, but we all get together due to our shared love of a weird little car with it’s engine in the middle.
To everyone that we met this year, cheers, and we hope to make it out again next year!