My Two Collectibles

I’ll include the pictures in the end of the article, but I’ve loved reading the articles and “Your Stories” in the magazine, and finally feel like I can effectively share my story here. (Caution, I can be long-winded)

A bit of back story. In 1988, my uncle bought a brand-new 1989 Toyota MR2 S/C. It was such a cool car. At some point later on, he acquired a 1988 S/C MR2. Now he had two. To this day I don’t know how the decision went down, but he decided to give it to me and my brother. I had it my senior year of high school, my brother had it the next year for his senior year. The day before I was supposed to get it and buy my little brother out of his half, it was hit by another driver and totaled.

A few years later, I bought a 1991 MR2 Turbo. I kept that for a sadly short period of time during my early 20s because I simply couldn’t afford to keep it any longer.

Just prior to that, my uncle had attended an auction in Miami where he bought one of the MR2 Spyders from 2 Fast 2 Furious for a friend’s daughter. The friend decided it was not a safe vehicle for a high school student, so he kept it.

I had motorcycles for a long time, starting with a Suzuki Katana and then a BMW R1200RT. Once I got married, my wife never asked me to get rid of the motorcycle, but she had ways of making it clear she’d rather I didn’t ride. It took me seeing too many headlines of people getting killed by drivers for me to decide to get rid of the motorcycle. I told her I would IF we could get a collector car in its place. She jumped at the chance.

See, my wife had fallen in love with 1957 Chevys the first time she saw them. I have always deeply loved the tri-five Chevys, but my preference was always for the 56. I had a fantasy of buying one and restoring it to black with a deep, royal purple on the rear quarters. I know it wouldn’t have been original, but with the black leather interior with red stitching I fantasized for in the interior, it would have looked phenomenal, in my opinion.

So we began the search for a tri-five, looking for anything 1955-1957. As I was looking, I discovered that would could afford, in the range we were looking, to buy a Corvette. Our focus changed. In fact, we were narrowing in on a C3 when we found out C5s were within our budget.

However, the motorcycle wouldn’t sell. Nothing I could do would get rid of it. Then I found a dealership about four hours away from where we live in Lincoln, NE that had a 1999 C5 with a 6-speed that would take the motorcycle on trade. It was a risk to ride the bike out that September morning, but it worked out and we had a Corvette.

Well, as elated as we were, the sheen quickly wore off what ended up being a lemon of a Corvette. It peaked when we discovered that the block had likely cracked and been repaired with JB-Weld. We made the decision to sell the Corvette and found a buyer who wanted to tear it apart and rebuild it, so it was sold.

Then we refocused on the search for a tri-five. However, we quickly narrowed our search on 1957s. Since my wife passionately wanted a '57, and while I had a specific affinity for the '56, it wasn’t so strong that I was unwilling to compromise. Like getting a classic is EVER a compromise. :smiley:

Six weeks after our son was born, in January of 2018, I found a beautiful, all-original 1957 210 four-door post at a shop in South Dakota. It has the Blue Flame 140 straight-six and the PowerGlide. My dad, who is retired and a HUGE car guy, drove from Denver, Colorado to South Dakota to look at it. He called me, told me we should buy it, and then drove here to Lincoln. We rented a trailer and left at 5 am to head up to pick it up. The last thing my wife said before we fell asleep that night was, “I can’t believe we’re really getting a '57.”

And unbelievable it was. The color is dusk pearl metallic. Of course it’s not perfect. There are small dings in both the chrome and the body. The rust is, at best, a patina, so the body’s in no way compromised.

The car has a good story, too. It was bought by a woman who didn’t have a driver’s license. Her neighbor drove her when she needed to run errands. The car was manufactured in Janesville, Wisconsin on September 11, 1957, two days before the shut the plant down to retool for the 1958s. She kept it until giving it to her grandson in the 70s. He held on to it until he sold it to the dealer we bought it from in 2017. It’s actually a museum/dealership and he had thought about putting it in his collection, but he already has a gorgeous Bel-air convertible on display.

On the dash is the oil change sticker from September of 1974 when the car had just over 59,000 miles. It now has just over 64,000. Since it’s been driven more of late, the seats did have to be recovered. As I drove it, the fuel pump went so I had to replace that, and my dad and I rebuilt the single-barrel Rochester carburetor. The brakes went out and so when I had them repaired (my mechanical ability only goes so far), I had the vacuum from the wipers re-routed for a brake booster to give it power-ish brakes and I installed an electric wiper motor. I’ve also replaced the ignition and coil.

The car still runs great. I can start it any time I want to and take it out for a spin. It, naturally, turns heads any place we take it. I will finish the restoration soon, hopefully. While leaving it all-original would be wonderful, it’s really not realistic for the car’s long-term health.

To come full circle (and since this started talking about MR2s), now we own that 2000 MR2 Spyder from 2 Fast 2 Furious. Now, I had once looked at the MR2 Spyders in my late 20s, but had elected to stick with motorcycles. How we acquired this one is a much sadder story, however.

In April of 2019, my uncle completed suicide. We were completely blindsided. I had forgotten that my uncle had the car until my dad mentioned that they’d gotten it running. We chose to buy the car from the estate with money we’d inherited from his estate.

For the first movie, the producers of The Fast and the Furious bought cars from tuners in southern California. For the second film, the studio bought cars and modified them. The paint, then, is notoriously bad, and while the car looks like it’s really fast, it’s bone stock through the drivetrain.

I flew from Lincoln to Naples, Florida in May to drive the car home (no cruise control). Day one was Cape Coral, where I have a brother, to Nashville, Tennessee. Day two brought me all the way home. I had already hooked up with a custom car and motorcycle shop here in town (he’d worked on movie cars before) to look at it and likely at least repaint it. On the way home, one of the coil-over struts was broken, so that sound every time I went over a bump was jarring, but that was easily redone when I got home.

The MR2 got repainted, coilovers replaced, and new tires were bought for the movie rims. I drove it home on stock rims since it made the ride nicer. There was some fiberglass repair that needed to be done to the body kit (which, shockingly, is a fairly high-end kit) that the shop handled as well.

Now our garage has two beautiful, unique collector cars. Part of me still longs for a 1988 MR2, but the story and family connection to this 2000 is more than strong enough to overcome that latent desire. If you’d have told me that before I turned 40 I’d have these two gorgeous vehicles, I’d have laughed myself into abs. However, I recognize my good fortune and am blown away every day.

Apparently, I’m only allowed on picture per post as a new user. If there’s a better way, please let me know. I’m uploading a pic of the MR2 post-repaint.