The Toyota JDM MR2 design process started in the mid 1970's culminating in the first prototype, the SA-X. In the early 80's the Toyota designer Seiichi Yamauchi was appointed head of planning for the Toyota MR2 project, the SV3. The original concept was for a small two seater commuter car, many different combinations of engine placement and drive were considered before the eventual mid-engine rear wheel drive set up was chosen. During the design phase engineers from Lotus where involved with Toyota on ride and handling characteristics for mid-engine cars but Lotus were not involved with the final production specification.
The SV3 prototype made its debut at the 25th Tokyo Motor Show in the autumn of 1983 and was very well received.
The Toyota JDM MR2 was launched shortly afterwards, in June 1984. Named by Toyota from the initials from 'Midship Runabout 2 seater", this first generation has become known as the "AW" MR2.
The early models came with a choice of engine and transmission, the slightly underpowered 1.5ltr (AW10) 3A-LU engine from the Corolla and the 1.6ltr (AW11) 4A-GELU engine from the Levin/Toreno. Transmission choices were either a 5 speed manual or electronically controlled four-speed automatic.
Changes in August 1986 saw the T-bar option added along with modifications to the rear suspension, brakes, rear lights, front bumper and interior. The most noticeable change saw the introduction of the 1.6ltr 4A-GZELU supercharged version raising the power from the NA models from 112hp to 145hp.
The second generation Toyota MR2 saw its debut in October 1989.
The second generation Toyota JDM MR2 was an all new car. It retained the mid-engine, two-seat layout, but it was longer, wider, heavier, and more powerful. The distinctive angular styling was replaced by a softer more curvaceous style. The engine was upgraded to the 2.0ltr 165hp 3S-GE and th 2.0ltr turbo charged 225hp 3S-GTE. Four further 'facelifts' followed up till 1997, during this time the engine output was increased to 180hp and 245hp respectively.
The third generation Toyota MR2 , the MR2 Spyder or MR-S, went on sale in Japan in October 1999.
Returning to concept basics, Toyota drew upon their roots for lightweight sports cars, the Sports 800, and the two previous generations of MR2 to create a new style sports car for the 21st century. New Toyota JDM MR2 is mid-engined, rear wheel drive for precise handling. Toyota engineers have used the very latest technology to cut weight and boost performance. But it is in the area of agility that the mid engine and lightweight design really shines. The mid-engine design, combined with an ideal 'wheelbase to overall length' ratio, makes this one of the most nimble of vehicles on the road. Quick and accurate driver response is the name of the game for the new MR2 roadster. The MR2's 1.8-litre engine has VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing - intelligent) for maximum midrange torque and superb top-end power, with the best fuel consumption in its class.
Information courtesy of http://www.toyotaimportsforum.co.uk/