Nine lives
By Jeffrey Fazio
a.k.a. JekylandHyde

They say some cats have nine lives, well this cat has had 9 MR2s. That's right, nine of them. Jekyl, my 1991 NA, is the 8th MR2 I have bought in my life and Hyde, my 1991 turbo, is actually the 9th. Why so many MR2s? W ell, you might say that during my college years I volunteered as a crash-test dummy for Toyota.

This is the story of the MR2s I owned. Parts of this story may be funny ... parts may be sad ... parts will show how stupid I was when I was much younger. My stupidity is much different now. Now it has more to do with women than cars.
My proclivity for automobile accidents did not start with my first MR2. In fact, it didn't even start with my first car. It started when I was 10. One night, while riding in my aunt's car, a guy ran a red light, hit us and we just sat there spinning in the middle of the intersection. That accident began a 15-year stretch of my body being thrown around the inside of crashing cars like load of laundry in a dryer. Someday a chiropractor is going to be very happy to meet me.

By the time I actually got my driver's license, I had already been in 3 car accidents -- all as a passenger. There was the previously mentioned accident with my aunt. The second one, I was in my brother's pick-up w hen he was t-boned and in the 10th grade I was lucky enough to be riding home from school with a friend when she rolled her dad's brand new SAAB three times over.

That girl made me wear my seat belt that day. Interestingly enough, that was first time in my life I ever wore a seat belt. It made me a believer. There hasn't been a time since then that I do not buckle up. That girl has saved my life many times.
The first accident that I could claim as my very own happened exactly 5 hours after I got my driver's license. A mere two blocks from home I was rear-ended by a drunk driver as I slowed for a stop sign.

I am now 30 years old and over my entire lifespan I have been in 16 accidents, 10 of them in MR2s. On four other occasions MR2s I have owned have had contact with another vehicle while I was not inside.
I bought my first MR2, a 1986 model, when I turned 19. At the time I was too assertive of a driver ... too inexperienced ... too brave ... too young for a mid-engine sports car. Mid-engine sports cars are not for the inexperienced.

I wrecked that '86 MR2 about 2 months after buying it. Excessive speed in an exit ramp combined with rain resulted in a total wipe out. I spun the MR2 around several times clearing an entire row of signs and reflector posts. The end result was every single panel (all doors, fenders and bumpers) received damage to varying degrees. All the glass was fine, all the signals were fine, but one wheel was torn off.

I had the wheel repaired and since the car was still able to pass inspection, I drove it all dented up for a good two years wearing its damage as a badge of dishonor. Over those two years, the car was hit 2 more times while it was parked.
On a third occasion, during an ice storm, I parked on a hill at a shopping mall. When I exited the car and closed the door the car slid away from me. I can't explain what that felt like. My first thought was "Wow, I'm strong". My second thought was "Hey, there goes my car". The car slid until it hit a parked Chevy Berreta, adding few more battle scars.

When I was in college, I worked with a girl who had a blue 91 MR2 NA. She ended up getting into some financial difficulties and had to sell the car. I picked that 91 MR2 up from her fairly cheap. Not even 2 months after buying the car, I to ok a friend for a ride. We were on a back road and I crossed into the on-coming lane, mid-turn, to pass a Jeep on the inside. That unfortunately was my first lesson in not getting off throttle quickly mid-turn in a mid-engine car. My first over-steer experience resulted in the rear bumper tagging a guardrail.

At this time I still had my original '86, but not for long. While driving on a highway, I saw a car approaching me from behind, in my lane, going good 5 - 10 mph faster than I was. I was amazed as he got closer that he was not changing lanes. I said to my friend, " I think we are about to get hit."
We did.

Not surprisingly, the guy was drunk. After initially getting out of his car, he jumped back in and took off. So we chased him down and got his plates. I sold the '86 shortly after that incident. Soon after that experience, I traded my 91 NA in on a white 1991 turbo MR2.

So now I had boost. I was still too assertive of a driver ... too inexperienced ... too brave ... too young for a mid-engine sports car. The addition of turbocharged horsepower to the equation of my life was a heavy dose of ominous foreshadowing the likes of which Ray Bradbury has never seen.

Soon after this purchase I moved to VA Beach, a place of very boring straight roads, but very wide intersections. Those intersections are where I learned to control oversteer. Throwing an MR2 sideways in the middle of a huge intersection making a left turn (with a green arrow) gives ample room for mistakes and learning.

A foolish confidence i n my oversteer ability started to grow and I started throwing the back end of my MR2 out while turning into my apartment complex on a regular basis. After a few weeks of doing this, I learned the hard way that the apartment complex does not fit the above description of "ample room for mistakes."
One fateful morning, I entered the complex a little too fast and the rear end came around a little farther than I was used to. In the excitement of the moment, I squeezed the throttle while counter-steering and the car snapped back in line. Then it kept snapping until it went full circle in the opposite direction of the initial oversteer. My 91 MR2 went up and over a curb while taking out a small reflector sign resulting in a nice ding to the driver's side fender.

Three months later I left VA Beach and moved back to my home state of Pennsylvania to finish my degree. I also started to modify my car, which was the beginning of the worst 3 years of my driving career.
Upon returning to PA I decide to take this MR2 thing a little more seriously. In fact, I became a boost junky. I ordered parts - lots of parts.... GReddy TDO6 turbo kit, GReddy Intercooler, GReddy boost controller, HKS VPC, intake, exhaust, etc. I loaded up all of these boxes of parts into the MR2, drove two hours to a performance shop in New Jersey and dropped everything off. Two weeks later my car was ready.

I got the car back and it was fast... disgustingly fast. Faster than anything I had ever driven before. I absolutely enjoyed that MR2 the entire two days I had it before it was destroyed. Two days after I got the car home, I was giving a friend a ride to show off my newfound power (I have wrecked 2 MR2s and blown one MR2 engine while giving rides. Giving rides is an expensive prospect). \

At any rate, I was in the left lane of a local highway and I was at speed. I had clear road except for an 18-wheeler in the right lane. As I approached the truck at a healthy rate, a guy in a Mercury Sable station wagon comes out of an exit and sees the truck. The Sable driver proceeded to just shoot into the left lane, in front of me, to pass the truck. The relationship between my speed and his proximity did not allow enough room to avoid a collision.

The last thought I had was where am I going to get my bumper fixed. I knew I was going to bump the guy, but I knew it was not going to be that bad. I knew nothing.
That was my introduction to air bags. That air bag punched me in the face so hard and blew my hands off the wheel so fast that I lost complete control of the car. It was like fighting Mike Tyson without the huge payout. One hit and I was down.

The MR2, of its own volition, swerved into the rolling rear wheels of the 18-wheeler. It was promptly ground up and spit out. The air bag removed my entire left cheek. All of the skin was gone and my beautiful MR2 that could have had a dinged bumper was now totaled. That was to be the second-worse injury I would ever have in an MR2.

My friend Brian and I tore the performance parts off of the car and the insurance company hauled it away. Within a few weeks I located a teal 93 Turbo MR2 at a Toyota dealership. So back to the performance shop in NJ to have all of those fancy aftermarket parts installed again. Little did I know that a mere six months later I would be selling the center CD-storage box out of this car stained with my blood.

This accident was completely not my fault. I was sitting at a red light on my way home from college and a kid in a Ford F150 XL pickup drove into stopped traffic at 50 mph. As if I won the "lottery" in a Shirley Jackson story, I was the first car he hit. He shortened my MR2 by 3 feet and shoved me out of the way. He continued on and slammed into another car that was in front of me.

I was knocked out. Both people in the car that was in front of me were knocked out and from what I understand, the kids' father wanted to knock him out. The tow truck driver told me later on that the kids' father was inventing words as he yelled.

I had about 3 months of physical therapy on my neck and lower back. To this day, sometimes when I am driving and I glance to my rearview mirror my neck pulls in a very bad way. I can feel it pull from the top of my skull to the middle of my shoulder blades. I guess it could have been a lot worse.

His insurance company paid in full and with that money I went shopping. I bought a black 91 turbo MR2 and I also bought a red 1988 MR2 NA. With the luck I was having, I figured the 88 would be a good daily driver and keep the turbo out of harm's way. The 88 MR2 was to be my sacrificial pawn in the chess game of driving. My black 91T was to be my black king, safely kept at home. Within a year I would learn that one simple pawn cannot protect the king.
All of the performance parts I took off of my wrecked 93T were installed onto the Black 91T. That GReddy TDO6 turbocharger kit was now on its 3rd MR2 ... but not on its last.

As a matter of course I was on my way to class one morning in the 88 MR2 and I entered a one-lane, one-way alley with parking on the right. The alley was the width of two cars. I was traveling behind an SUV. About halfway into the alley the SUV pulls over to the right (where the parking spaces are) and I continue straight. As I approach the SUV he makes a hard left into a smaller alley ... well, actually he ma de the hard left into me.

He sent my MR2 up the handicap ramp of the sidewalk and into some bushes. Unfortunately the only thing on the other side of the bushes was gravity. Like the Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, I realized I just went off a cliff without any ground under me. So down I go. Down a 12-foot embankment that led into a U.S. Post Office parking lot. The MR2 came to rest in a vertical position with its nose resting on the back of the mail trucks.

I was relieved. I was relieved because my black 91T was still at home in the driveway. I thought I won the game this time. I had another accident, but the turbo MR2 was safe at home. That car remained safe for nearly six more months.

One morning I left late for work in the 91T. Anyone who knows me knows it is unusual for me to leave late for anything. I used to joke that the later I left, the faster I would have to drive. Well that morning that logic proved fatal for my MR2.

In an effort to make up lost time, I took the back roads. I was making great time until I came out of a turn onto a long straight and in front of me was one of those really large farm grain dump trucks going less than 20 mph. That was unacceptable. Seeing as visibility was clear for a good distance and there was no oncoming traffic the choice was obvious. I downshifted, punched it, boost kicked in and I swung into the oncoming lane to make a brilliant pass at exactly the same instant the truck made an unsignalled left-hand turn in front of me.

It happened so fast that the thought of stopping hadn't even touched my synapses. I clearly recall dropping my arms from the wheel in resignation (probably saved my thumbs). My MR2 t-boned those huge rolling rear wheels, completely destroying the front of the car. Fifteen minutes la ter the interior and front trunk went up in flames.

I had previously removed the air bag from that MR2 since my first experience with MR2 air bags was less than fulfilling. Hitting the truck above 50 mph with no air bag resulted in some mild seat belt pain, that's all.

While I stood on some random person's lawn watching my MR2 burn I realized I was done. Like an alcoholic that knows he had his last drink, I was done. I voluntarily stopped driving. That was November of 1998 and that was my last recorded accident; although I have had two MR2s since then receive minor damage. I went six months without a car and I did not buy another MR2 for over a year.

So over a year later I bought a red 1987 MR2. I had that car for a few months before it received a health y ding. In the midst of holiday traffic I got distracted for the briefest possible moment right when the guy in front of me jumped on his brakes. I braked, swerved and just caught his rear bumper resulting in a dinged corner on my MR2. Compared to everything I had gone through years earlier that was small potatoes.

In November of 2002 a deer jumped out in front of me while I was driving Jekyl, my current white 91 non-turbo MR2. The deer's hoof caught my passenger-side headlight and slid across the hood. Luckily I was cruising at a very low speed so the only damage to Jekyl was the headlight getting twisted out of shape.

My other MR2, Hyde, is the only MR2 I have owned that has not ever hit anything while I was driving it. Ironically, Hyde is the only MR2 I have ever bought that already had body damage. Coincidence?