So, while working on the Mini over the past few weeks, my buddies have been discussing future automotive plans for myself and my family. Essentially we’re going to try and get the Windstar back on the road and just run it till it kicks the bucket for good, at which point my fiancee and I will hopefully be in a position to find and buy her a 3rd-generation Subaru Legacy Outback with a turbo-4 or, preferably, the H6. It’s the vehicle we both have decided on, as we need a family car but neither of us want another Minivan and we’re both big Subaru supporters.

During this time, I’d like to get the Audi back on the road reliably as a backup vehicle for us as well as a good inclement-weather car and something more durable to handle rally stages when I volunteer to marshal at Sandblast and any other nearby rally events. If I can, I’d like to swap in the suspension geometry from an Audi 5000, which looks like it will bolt right in and beef up the suspension on my 80 Quattro a good bit with a slight ride height increase.

As for the Mini, I’m holding off on anything beyond upgrade-repairs (replacing repaired components with better parts), along with basic mods (camber-and-caster plates up front, rear sway bar, maybe a good intake), until it’s paid off. After it’s paid off, I may look into some other, more serious upgrades like the exhaust, a smaller pulley with a tune, and probably upgraded dampers. But the plan for the Mini is for it to always be a fun daily driver with weekend trips to the mountains and the occasional autocross.

Here’s the rub, though:

I have my AWD, I have my FWD...I feel compelled to have a RWD vehicle to complete my trifecta. By the time I’d be in a position to get a third vehicle, myself and Meredith would both have our daily drivers with the Mini and the Subaru respectively, with the Audi as a support/backup vehicle. As such, the RWD addition would be more of a toy for track use, autocrosses, and weekend-warrior duties.

As for preferences, I’m really not interested in having another European or American vehicle, so the RWD option will need to be Japanese or Korean. Even though it’s not going to be a daily for either of us, we still want it to be decently reliable, with parts availability better than that of the Audi, though not necessarily as plentiful as the Mini aftermarket.

I’m wanting something very lightweight, 2-door, probably a convertible but that’s not a requirement, and I want it to have a manual transmission mated to a responsive, small-displacement, free-revving 4 or 6 cylinder engine.

With the Mini paid off and Meredith taking care of any payments on her Subaru, my budget will probably be in the $10K-$15K range. As such, nothing brand-new. I’m thinking late 80's up until 2014 or 2015 models, which may be in my budget in a few years.

I’m not really big on Nissans for various reasons, which helps narrow the field.

Blasphemous as it sounds, I’m not super interested in a Miata. I’ve owned one before and while it was decently fun, I didn’t really fit. If I had one, I’d have to do a foam-ectomy on the seat and buy a smaller steering wheel in order to have somewhat decent visibility and be able to heel-toe downshift in some modicum of comfort. Not the end of the world and I’m not completely against a Miata, especially if an ND is in my budget by then (I fit in those quite well). But having had one, I’m leaning towards something else.

S2000 makes a strong case and checks all the boxes, but for some reason it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’ve never felt that ‘click’ when sitting in one or seeing one. I respect their engineering, but I’m just sort of...numb about them.

Toyobaru is another very very strong option, especially seeing the price of used ones in my area that are still in good condition. It’s probably my second option, but wouldn’t leave much room in the budget for modifications and such.

In the end, I keep coming back to the MR2. I’m madly in love with the styling of the AW11 1st-gen series, but the aftermarket is weak, parts availability is an bit of a hassle, the chassis’ often haven’t aged well and tend to have rust issues, and to be honest? I’d want to do a powertrain swap, as I’ve heard many many horror stories about owners trying to eek decent power out of the original power plants.

I have zero interest whatsoever in the 2nd generation MR2. I find the styling overwrought, the piggish curb weight unacceptable, the rear suspension geometry issue vexing, and I just...no. I don’t like them.

So, even though I’m a little “meh” on the front end styling, I keep landing at the 3rd generation MR2, the Spyder. I’ve sat and ridden in a couple and I’ve always, every single time, felt that ‘click’ that says “Yes...this is right. This is me.” The aftermarket, while not on the level of Hondas, Acuras, Minis, or Miatas, is still formidable enough for what I want to do. It checks all of my boxes, and engine swap options are fairly plentiful if I want to go that route, especially considering I’ve got access to a rebuilt K20A2 in a friend’s garage the next town over.

There’s also the fact that right now, in my area, an MR2 Spyder with a manual transmission, in good condition with fairly low miles sells for $6k-$8k, meaning I’d have a good chunk of my budget left over for maintenance and upgrades. It’s the compromised between “cheap initial cost, tons of leftover budget” like an NB Miata and “My budget got the car, but there’s not much money left over”, like the Toyobaru. As I see it, the S2000 is the next nearest option to the MR2, but I just...don’t really have a desire to own an S2000... >.>

Even better, the girlfriend likes it because it looks “super fun without looking as girly as a Miata.” XD


So...what are Oppos thoughts on the MR2 Spyder? What about the other options, such as the NB or ND Miata, S2000, Toyobaru, or AW11? Any options I haven’t entertained?