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Mudflaps and Ladas

    I'm sure everybody has heard the joke about the guy that went to a spares shop, said 'Can I have a mudflap for my Lada" and was told that "Well, you drive a hard bargain, but I will do a swap". Well on a variation on that, one day I went to the local Toyota dealer to buy a plastic bleed valve for my AW11 and came out with a whole car. It started when I noticed that the plastic bleed valve for the cooling system located down by the thermostat was leaking. So I wandered off to Toyota to buy a new one. On the way to Spare Parts I walked through the showroom and in the showroom was a 1995 NZ New MR2. It was for sale on behalf, the lady owner having paid $80500 for it new. It had only traveled 23000 km and had been serviced six times - basically it was as new. I had been contemplating in the past buying either a NZ new SW20 or another NZ New MX5, but newer than the one I have. I hadn't thought about doing anything for another six months or so, but had pretty much decided that when I did buy one it would be an MR2 as although the MX5 is great to drive the one thing it lacks is power. I had already been down that road before when I bought a 1994 1800 MX5 with the intention of selling my present 1600. But I found the 1.8 no faster due to the extra weight and was less rewarding to drive, so I sold it and kept the 1.6, which I still have. I had also decided that if I was going to buy an MR2 I wanted a 94 with the new suspension and the new 3SGE and I also wanted it to be NZ New. Hmmm, sounds like what was in the showroom, only problem being is that it was red. The colour was my only obstacle as I have owned four cars in the last two years that have been red, and I wasn't too keen on another one. But as Malcolm pointed out it is a much brighter shade of red than the earlier ones. So after umming and ahhhing for a couple of days, I took it for a drive, fell in love, made an offer and bought it. I still had to tell my wife when I got home, which actually went down quite well, considering we now have four cars. So how does it drive? Well compared to my 87 Supercharger it doesn't have the same initial pick up, lacking a bit in torque down low. It starts pulling at 5000rpm with a real kick at 6000rpm and before you know it, the rev counter is at 7500 rpm and its time to change gear. Completely opposite to the Supercharger which goes flat at 6500 rpm. In fact the power delivery is like the MX5 which also gets a surge at 5000rpm although not to the same extent of course. The handling is unbelievably good, surpassing both the AW11 (which has uprated springs and shocks, 2.4 - camber at the front, 2.0 - camber at the rear) and the MX5. I still have vivid memories of the first SW20 I drove back in 1990 in Austria. On the Autobahn at speeds in excess of 200kph it was horrible, the suspension revisions of the 94 have definitely worked.
The initial turn in of the SW20 isn't as good as the MX5 or the AW11 (both of which are very go-kart like) and having power steering the steering feel isn't as good as the MX5 or the AW11 either, both of which have manual steering. But once into the corner it is sensational. The level of grip is exceptional, the car is very neutral before going into slight understeer but like a 911 the back does step out with very little warning and once out, I was very aware of the large amount of weight over the rear wheels - more so than the AW11. The MX5 is far more composed on it's limit (although the MX5's limit is a lot lower than the SW20) where I can dictate how much oversteer I want and control it easily - the beauty of a 50/50 weight distribution and unequal-length A-arms.
In the wet when I don't tend to drive fast anyway, it is also vastly superior to the AW11 (with it's rock hard suspension and Supercharger, I only have to fart on the throttle and it snaps sideways) and on a par with the MX5.
In summery I love it, it is the closest I think I could come to owning a new MR2 (I got the wheel alignment checked and the guy doing it said it was like new underneath - completely unmarked). I have driven (and owned) Porsches, Ferraris and other exotica and admittedly they were quite old, but to me a drive down a winding road in the SW20 brings just as big a smile on my face (I'm sure a drive in a 355 with the sequential 6 speed would be perfection and far surpass the MR2, bit I haven't had the opportunity yet).
Now if I can convince Malcolm to sell me Monica I will have one of the first and one of the last NZ New MR2's............

Matt Halliday