RESERVE LOWERED -1990 Toyota MR2

Highlights


・Two owners from new, including comedian and television star Julian Clary
・Wonderfully original condition
・A faithful everyday car for over 30 years
・Well-documented MoT and service history

The Background


Having secured its place in the motor industry with solid and dependable, if slightly unremarkable, family cars, in the 1970s Toyota began to tentatively explore the sports market with models such as the Carina and Celica. Since these early sporty takes on family cars proved to be very well-received, in 1979 work began on the first Toyota to be designed from the outset as a sports car, the MR2.

Intended to be nimble, fun and economical rather than eye-wateringly fast, the MR2 (an abbreviation for Mid-engine Rear-wheel-drive Two-seater) was similar in principle to British classics like the MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire, but much more modern in its execution. With a mid-mounted, dohc engine, electronic ignition and a supercharger option, the MR2 was very much a sports car for a new age.

After the first-generation W10 of 1984 had won a strong following, in 1989 Toyota released its replacement, the W20 model, with numerous improvements and more curvaceous styling. The W20 was larger and more spacious and more luxurious than its predecessor, available with larger engines and generally more durably engineered, with Toyota having sought the advice of several professional racing drivers when designing it. The Coupe model seen here was the entry-level offering, with the 138bhp naturally-aspirated two-litre 32FE engine and no rear spoiler or front fog lights. Like the W10, the W20 proved an extremely strong seller in Japan, Europe and America and remained in production until 1997.

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The History


“I know nothing about cars, although I did once spend 20 minutes in the back seat of a Honda Jazz. Happy days.” So said Julian Clary in response to a petition calling him to replace Jeremy Clarkson as host of Top Gear, but he was underselling himself somewhat. Though he might profess to have no interest in his cars, plenty of other people will take an interest on his behalf.

Clary was 28 when he bought his first car, a Citroën 2CV, in 1987. That was soon shown the door when he took a liking to the newly-released second-generation Toyota MR2 in 1990, and he replaced that in 1998 with an Alfa Romeo GTV. All those cars have since acquired their own enthusiast following, but it’s the MR2 which concerns us as we are offering it for sale.

Clary bought the MR2 from a Reading dealership, although he was living then in Camden. Having cultivated his famously flamboyant stage presence, he was best-known at the time for his stand-up performances in London’s alternative comedy scene and appearances on Friday Night Live, and his career was on an upward trajectory. After using the MR2 as an everyday runabout for eight years, he decided to upgrade to the GTV and sold it to a friend and colleague, who is now offering it for sale after 23 years of ownership.

Since the vendor is not a car enthusiast either, when she was applying for insurance she had to be reminded exactly what car she was insuring, so she got in touch with Mr. Clary.
She asked him, “What’s it called?”
Clary replied “Geoffrey,” and the name stuck.

The vendor has kept Geoffrey in regular use up to the present day, although he has been used more lightly of late due to the increasing difficulty of driving in London. Geoffrey has lived in London all his life but, sadly, the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone means the vendor can no longer justify keeping him. When she notified Mr. Clary of the sale, he said he would have Geoffrey back, if only he too were not a London resident.

Since Geoffrey has given loyal service for 31 years, there is no reason why he shouldn’t continue to serve a new owner faithfully, but perhaps he has earned his retirement and could look forward to some sympathetic care from an enthusiastic owner.

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The Paperwork


Besides the current V5, Geoffrey has a fairly well-documented history with the present owner, who has retained almost every MoT certificate since 1998 and a service history up to 1998. Additionally, there are many invoices from 1998 to 2021 detailing all the work which has been undertaken to keep Geoffrey running faithfully and in good health.

The present MoT is valid until 25th November. The more recent invoices show that Geoffrey received a thorough service in February, 2020, a new battery in February, 2021, and a new rocker cover gasket in August.

The Interior


As with any 31-year-old car which has been kept in everyday use and never subjected to any restoration work, Geoffrey is starting to look a little tired on the inside, although his interior is still fundamentally in good condition. It is also totally original and unrestored, and we imagine it would be extremely difficult to find another W20 MR2 with an interior as unmolested as Geoffrey’s. The seats may benefit from a good clean, and the fabric may be wearing a bit thin in places, but they are not torn anywhere and have plenty of life in them still. The floor mats are a bit frayed at the edges, but they have done a good job of protecting the carpet underneath.

The plastic fascia and centre console only suffers from superficial wear, with some noticeable scratches on the plastic, but the steering wheel is in good condition with the stitching appearing to be all intact. Sadly, the ashtray-cum-cubby hole in the centre console has suffered some damage, as the lid does not sit closed properly.

Despite its philosophy of economy, the MR2 did come with a surprising number of luxury features, including heating and air-conditioning, a radio and tape player, digital clock, power windows and power mirrors. Unfortunately, the radio no longer works, but the clock still gives the correct time. 

We are also advised that the speedometer at some point stopped working and was replaced meaning the current mileage isn't accurate, the driver’s window will rise slightly too high if allowed to, and the alarm is prone to going off when the passenger door is opened. Geoffrey also boasts an opening sunshine roof, for which a cover is also supplied.

Despite its compact dimensions, the MR2 provides plenty of luggage capacity with a reasonable-sized boot, some space for bags behind the seats and some extra space under the bonnet, where the spare wheel and jack reside. In Geoffrey, all these areas appear to be in good condition and quite clean.

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The Exterior


As with the interior, 31 years of regular use in London has had an effect on Geoffrey, and he now looks slightly weathered. There are some obvious cosmetic defects, with paint chips or scratches on most panels. These are especially noticeable on the passenger door and on each corner of the bumpers. 

The vendor assures us that she was not responsible for these, and suggests that Geoffrey may have had some encounters with passing truck drivers. However, despite the scratches and scrapes, we did not observe any dents besides a very small one on the nearside, above the side repeater.

The wheels, too, have a few scuffs, but we believe their appearance should be transformed by a very thorough clean. There are some signs of cracking and delamination in the number plates, but these do not seriously compromise their visibility. The glass is mostly good, although the lens of the nearside rear indicator is broken along one edge. Importantly, of course, the impish pop-up headlights still work as they ought to.

Underneath, we believe the car is fundamentally solid but there is a visible welding repair on the offside sill, and the same sill may require further repairs in the future. We would advise bidders to view the photographs and satisfy themselves as to its condition.

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The Mechanics


Having been maintained in order to give regular service, Geoffrey is in good mechanical health and behaved very obediently during our visit. Starting straight away and running very quietly, we were most impressed by his nimble handling, small turning circle and quick acceleration, all of which make him ideal for urban life, especially with his automatic gearbox as well. When driving, the only indication Geoffrey gives of his age is that his suspension creaks when mounting sleeping policemen, but the vendor advises that this does not compromise the quality of the ride.

At its most recent MoT, the tester advised that Geoffrey was suffering from a slight leak of exhaust gases, a minor oil leak, corroded front coil springs and a parking brake which only just meets the minimum test requirements. The vendor had the oil leak rectified with the fitment of a new rocker cover gasket, but we are told that the other faults remain outstanding.


The Appeal


The appeal of an MR2 today is much the same as it was when new. They are still affordable to buy, highly economical and good fun, especially on urban streets where their nimble handling really comes into its own. What’s more, we now know that they can be used on a regular basis for 30 years without anything major going wrong, as Geoffrey proves.

While Geoffrey himself may be starting to show signs of age, an early W20 MR2 is extremely difficult to find in such fantastically original condition, so he’s an ideal candidate for preservation and sympathetic renovation with an enthusiast of Japanese cars or 1990s classics. Geoffrey also has a uniquely fascinating history with his connection to Julian Clary, so that’s another reason to get bidding. 


Notice to bidders

Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.

As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1990
  • Make Toyota
  • Model MR2
  • Colour Blue
  • Odometer 50,355 Miles
  • Engine size 1998
  • Location London
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
12 bids from 9 bidders
  • molliti•••• £3,500 24/10/21
  • Highfly•••• £3,200 24/10/21
  • Highfly•••• £3,100 24/10/21
  • Highfly•••• £2,800 24/10/21
  • jim-oby•••• £2,400 24/10/21
  • Puds £2,000 23/10/21
  • jonatha•••• £1,900 22/10/21
  • Modena £1,700 21/10/21
  • jonatha•••• £1,500 20/10/21
  • robin-f•••• £1,200 19/10/21

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