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The SW20 is available in more forms than the AW11. When they first came to the UK in 1990 there were 3 models.
The coupe at 119bhp, the GT coupe at 158bhp and the GT T-Bar also at 158bhp. The GT model had the optional rear body styling via the rear wing, whilst the T bar had the twin removable roof panels. In 1992 the model received power steering and a new style 15" wheel set whilst the 119bhp model was dropped from the range.
The next modifications came in 1994 with the engine output increased to 175bhp, 4 wheel ABS, suspension changes and detailed modifications to styling, including a new rear wing and round light clusters.
1996 saw the introduction of a limited edition 10th anniversary model. Only 250 were made and can be identified by a special badge as well as new alloy wheels, wooden steering wheel and stainless steel kick panels.
1998 saw revised styling with new round spoke wheels and an adjustable rear wing.
What to look for
A must is a full service history (fsh) with a very good regular service every 6000 miles on early models, 9000 miles on later versions. You will find when hunting that most cars are the owner's pride and joy and have been very well looked after. Lots of MOT Certificates and loads of old garage receipts is a good sign! Also have a VIN check run on it, and don’t forget to ask to see the Registration Document!
If you decide to buy from a garage, rather than knock the price down, get them to replace vital components such as shocks and brakes, this will save you a lot in the long run. Also bargain for extended warranties.
Firstly check that the paint matches on all panels. If different colours, then examine the fixings for that panel and determine if it's been unbolted, check for after market welding - if any such occurs, these are signs of accident repair.
In general the Mk2 does not suffer from the same rust problems as the Mk1. But areas to check for rust include the following:- open both passenger and driver doors, look at the point at which the door pillars meet with the floor. Move to the rear wheel arches and check the top sections on both sides. The rest of the arch is made from the plastic trim.
If it is a T-bar model you are looking at, you might like to check the seals in the roof. Get a hose pipe and whilst sitting inside run water over the roof to check for leaks. If they do leak it's normally behind the driver or passenger.
The alloy wheels do go scabby after a few years, they can be reconditioned for around £40 each, original wheels cost around £300 new, so take this into account if they have kerbing marks on them.
A problem with the car is up front with the radiator. There is little protection from stones as standard so do check the radiator. Many owners fit an extra grill to the car which is available through the club.
Check the cylinder head gasket all round for any signs of water / oil leak. The Mk2 engine requires a special coolant to prevent damage to gaskets, if water has been used in the coolant system then you could be looking at a large engine repair bill. Check the coolant by looking in the plastic expansion tank. The contents should be dark red, green or blue in colour.
Remove the oil filler cap from the rocker cover and check there is no white sludge present on the cap or in the lip. If there is, this will indicate a presence of water in the oil which again may be due to a damaged cylinder head gasket.
On a test drive take it easy to warm everything up. Whilst driving conservatively, find a straight road and lightly support the wheel, make sure the car wants to go in a line and not pull. Listen to the engine for any whining or clutch slip. When warm, take the car up to 40 mph, check your mirrors !! and brake reasonably quickly. Do this again and make sure the car doesn't pull to one side. If the steering wobbles the front disks are shot and need replacing. Squeaking brakes means new pads. Any vibration felt through the steering when not braking is normally due to out of balance front wheels or an imbalance in the tyre wear / pressure.
Check all of the electrical functions and the radio, amazing how many people forget to do this, me included, as my aerial was shot - DO check that ! The wing mirrors should also work electrically.
This guide has been compiled by information supplied by members of the MR2 Drivers' Club Ltd, and is only an information guide. We would always recommend a purchaser should have a vehicle inspected prior to concluding a purchase by a ‘professional inspector’ or company, prices quoted were correct at time of original article.