VIDEO: Chip Foose reimagines the AW11 Toyota MR2

We recently learned about Chip Foose’s new video series, in which he applies his designer’s touch to popular classics, when he drew his interpretation of an FJ40 Land Cruiser. Turns out, he drew an AW11 Toyota MR2 as well, reimagining it as a fastback. First, though, a trigger warning. If you like your A-dub, you’re not going to like what Chip Foose has to say about it.

Foose absolutely hates the MR2’s production looks. He prefers the smooth-lined 1981 Toyota SA-X prototype that came before it, and says the production version looks like a kitchen appliance. Charitably, we will say that he’s probably just not a fan of the 80s techy, angular look. But when he says that it’s awkward and doesn’t look sexy, elegant, or masculine, that starts to feel a bit personal.

Foose’s solution is to soften the lines, stretch out the wheelbase, and give it the rear end of a 1969 Mustang resto-mod. But part of the AW11’s appeal was the very fact that Toyota could use drivetrain bits, accessories, steering and brake parts from other models and standard 14-inch wheels to make the car affordable. Or as Foose calls it, a cheap production car, like a toaster.

All those sharp angles and edges were part of the car’s identity. It personified the 80s in the same way a Buick Riviera was emblematic the 60s. It aligned with the rest of the Toyota sports car family — A60 Celica Supra, AE86, — at the time. If it was pebble-smooth like the concept, it wouldn’t have been cool enough to star in 80s revival electronica videos, and if it had been as exotic as Foose’s drawing it would have been lost to history in a sea of mid-engined supercars. The MR2 was an everyman’s midship sports car, with a unique enough design as to not ape more expensive exotics and a reputation that has withstood the decades far better than its contemporary rivals from Michigan and Turin.

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20 Responses to VIDEO: Chip Foose reimagines the AW11 Toyota MR2

  1. speedie says:

    I don’t particularly like this new series from Chip. It’s similar to what he did on his cable show but without an actual car to implement the redesign on. The AW11 is a great example of the mid to late 80s angular design ethos (which I happen to like). I have never been a fan of designers panning others work, but since I am not a designer here are my thoughts. His redesign has too much rear overhang which makes the fastback slope too long and adds a look of heaviness to the rear of the car. He counters this visual by putting bigger rear wheels on. Since the car was powered by a small four cylinder, a production model would never use larger wheels in the back. With smaller rear wheels his redesign falls apart. In the end I think it looks like a mashup of a Lotus Esprit and a 90s 300zx.

    • nlpnt says:

      The one that stuck in my mind was his “update” of the Jeep Cherokee XJ – which was a two-door as though 99.999999% of the SUV/CUV market wasn’t 4-doors. He even called out how kludgy the fake vents on the 2-door rear pillars was, when the 4-door was unbesmirched by them.

  2. cesariojpn says:

    After Overhaulin’ had a couple of seasons, two things became evident:

    1. Stealing cars as part of the gimmick was a dumb idea.

    2. Foose has to have his way or the highway.

    I remember at least a couple episodes the marks family/friends would tell him ” The owner HATES so-and-so thing or whatever design.” What does he do? DOES THE EXACT OPPOSITE. And expects the mark to accept it cause “it was done by Foose.”

    This video unfortunately highlights this. His bias in his design and backslapping owners that their personal preference is bunk is evident here.

  3. Iainwmcf says:

    Is it just me or has he just drawn a badly proportioned Nissan 300ZX

  4. Ellis says:

    It just looks like he drew an SW20…

    As far as I know he’s never actually designed a ‘proper’ car….he just draws hot wheels fantasy cars for rich folks with zero taste…

    (that’s not a knock to HW designers, they do some amazing work)

    Stick to drawing hot rods Chip…

  5. Joe says:

    I can’t imagine anything worse than Chip Foose redesigning cars. Not everything needs giant dished wheels.

    Anyone who needs a good laugh go and watch his video on blending the classic Mini with an M3.

  6. Jim Daniels says:

    Thought Foose took one of the worst looking Z cars and spruced it up a bit and it looked good. Then I noticed the rear vents and thought they were for looks like on a 65 Mustang. I had to read the article to understand that this was not a 300XZ. The design looks great to me. Just had no idea it started out life as an MR2.

  7. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Well… Chip Foose morphed an MR2 into my 88 Lotus Turbo Esprit, 2nd Gen by Peter Stevens. If I could only morph the mechanicals of my Lotus into a reliable means of propulsion with Toyota engineering (like they did later), it would be great. Peter Stevens morphed the original hard wedge (James Bond) by Giugiaro into a more sumptuous (Pretty Woman) form. Foose seemed a bit put off with the overstated side intakes. The Lotus uses the rear quarter window as a ramp into the intake. When you mash it, the turbos spool up right next to your head when the window is open. Sounds better than a stereo.

  8. Bob says:

    I’m not really in the mood to watch the video right now, but I will say this-

    A friend built a flat green DA Integra coupe years ago and it ended up in the basement of the Detroit Autorama, where Chip Foose took a serious liking to it, ended up signing it, and spent a significant part of the non-show time that weekend hanging with local import people I knew at the bar… where people kept buying Chip Foose drinks, which he kept handing to another friend with an RSX Type-S on display (which was a drag car). That friend’s kidneys shut down that weekend and he vomited blood for hours.

    If nothing else, Chip Foose once really liked a flat green DA Integra enough to give someone alcohol poisoning.

  9. Alan says:

    Looks like a Torino fastback crashed into a late Fiero GT that then crashed into an M100 Lotus Elan. I know it’s easy to hate and difficult to actually do, but come on, by virtually any standard this is amateurish and heavy-handed regardless of personal preference.

    It’s unbalanced, with a visually massive, heavy rear end (that a 351C in there?, or a 1.6 liter twin-cam, boss?), mismatched overhangs, and just look at the distance from the top of the front wheel arch to the cowl – ideal if you want to store upright beer kegs in the frunk I suppose? The “windshield-down-to-the-knees” feeling you get in an AW11 or NSX is a defining feature of their greatness, both visually and from a tactile perspective.

    Shouldn’t the reimagining an icon draw on identifiable characteristics? It could be wildly different of course, and ideally should – imagination is good – but what about this sketch says AW11? I can’t imagine a single enthusiast would be able to recognize it as such were you to ask them what Foose’s inspiration was here. “It’s mid-engined with flip-ups” really isn’t enough.

    One last thing – cover the front of the car, look at the rear, now switch ends – tell me they’re not drawn at different scales.


    • Iwakuni91 says:

      I think his front to rear scale is reminiscent of 70’s muscle car aesthetics.
      Google Detomaso Pantera GT4, and look at the first image. I always thought GT4’s were dope (especially the Hall Super Panera’s), but Foose definitely aped the two-in-one rear wheel look.

  10. Jtotheace says:

    I prefer the harsh looking MR2 over this bigger/heavier car attempt. Thanks but no thanks chip. I don’t want a Toyota NSX. I am happy with my ugly cheap kitchen appliance that I am not supposed to enjoy until the end of time.. but I will anyway.

  11. Jed says:

    The AW11 is unmistakable in it’s shape & representation of an era.
    Putting that aside and just looking at his drawing. It looks like a nice sporty car. However if I was an owner of an A-dub and he did that to my car, I’d shoot him (metaphorically speaking of course)

    So he’s drawn a sporty car, that actually looks good and is reminiscent of the SW20.
    So Toyota’s already done his job for him.

    This drawing’s kind of going over old ground, but it has nothing to do with the A-dub and in fact it goes too far. It disrespect the spirit of an MR2 AW11 and the A-dub fan base.

    Seems like a great guy – very creative, makes a lot of people happy, don’t let him near and AW11, Love his show ‘overhaulin’

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