MR2 - Yes We Should Be Very Excited
There are two great reasons why we should be excited about a Toyota collaboration with Lotus; history and MR2 DNA!
The internet is awash and abuzz all at the same time with MR2 renderings and stories about a potential (done deal in some circles) collaboration with Lotus. Car nuts with an encyclopaedic knowledge can tell you that this is not the first Toyota - Lotus dance, and in fact their first was way back when Duran Duran were belting out Hungry Like the Wolf. The dancing stopped when GM arrived around the time Kenny Logins was belting out Danger Zone though and GM took control of Lotus.
Now most motoring numpty's can tell you that Lotus' Exige and Elise had a whole lot of "Oh What a Feeling" underneath their alluring body work over the last 20 years . The Elise being powered by Toyota 1ZZ-FE, 2ZZ-GE, 1ZR-FAE and 2ZR-FE (supercharged if you please) engines all being powered through Toyota transmissions from 2001 right up to this year. The Exige of course also powered by the 2ZZ-GE but also the 2ZZ-VVTL-i and later the 2GR-FE V6 all gladly supplied by Toyota. All these lovely bits in most part being shared by Toyota favourites MR2 and Celica (and don't forget Corolla). This gives us good reason to believe that the next MR2 will most likely share something in common with Lotus' planned updated or new models.
Lotus Exige - a whole lot of "Oh What a Feeling" going on in the back end
But what a lot of folks don't know is that the dance between Toyota and Lotus has been going on for sometime and its had some really interesting and significant results for both organisations.
These two motoring icons first learned to dance with each other back in 1982 when Toyota needed a hand with the A60 series Supra - shock horror I'm telling you that the latest Supra isn't the only collaborative effort Supra!! Yes that's right, the Supra needed some chassis and handling magic and as the dance went on Toyota ended up with a 16.5% share in Lotus and an agreement to supply parts. But what did Lotus get out of it at the time?
Well look closely at a Lotus Eclat Excel (later known simply as a Lotus Excel) and you will notice, perhaps, that its dancing shoes are in fact the 14 inch x 7 inch alloy wheels straight off the A60 Supra.
Lotus Elcat Excel - dancing shoes by Toyota Supra
But wait there's more, as Tim Shaw would say. the Lotus Eclat Excel actually put its power out through a Toyota W58 transmission, drive shaft and differential all kindly donated from the Supra, along with the door handles. Arguably, this Lotus had as much "Oh What a Feeling" as Exige and Elise.
Toyota got a real leg up at this time, as they were developing the SV3 concept. This concept developed into the W10 series MR2 (aka AW11 and AW10), and we all know what a fire cracker that little midship runabout is. These first generation MR2's were developed with the help of Lotus engineer Roger Becker and it is said that the cooperation with Lotus can be seen in the W10 series. In fact some say that the AW11 owes a lot to the Lotus' of the sixties and seventies. As this is the MR2 genesis, its simple - the MR2 has Lotus DNA...it may have got mislaid after this but like all good family genes it may just re-appear.
Lotus DNA in the MR2 - you be the judge
But sadly as the dance slowed and went though the phase of 'what could and should have been' the only tell tail remnant of the relationship was the lonely tail lights grafted from the Toyota AE86 Corolla Sprinter to the Lotus Esprit from 1994 to 2001. Its not hard to believe that Lotus and Toyota feel these were the intervening years.
Lotus Elise -gorgeous back end with help from the AE86 Corolla Sprinter
And that brings us full circle to the Exige and the Elise. By the early 2000's Dancing with the Stars , automotive style, was all the rage and Toyota and Lotus were back dancing. I'm truly excited by the prospect that history is repeating and that the next MR2 will most likely carry that wonderful Lotus DNA! I hope you are too.