- Local time
- 9:26 AM
- Feb 15, 2016
- Reaction score
- Chicago area
Toyota MR2 you say? Never owned one - but I knew at least one, quite in-depth...
Ed Story Time - you've been warned:
A good friend I worked with in the late 80's raced in SCCA's SSC (Showroom Stock C (slowest) class) in
an MR2. Rod was a quiet, polite, unassuming fellow who was advanced in years from the rest of us
younger folks; I wouldn't find out until much later he'd been retired as a Navy Lt. Commander and had
"seen some ****" in Vietnam, as the story went.
You'd never know it to speak with him or work with him; he never brought it up much at all; once I found
that out though, a lot of his mannerisms made sense. Just very precise in his work, very direct, yet easy-going
He worked our reproduction room (blueprinting mostly, running one of those massive old
ammonia-powered behemoth monsters I wound up helping to fix all the time. I can still smell that damn
All of that to say that this quiet, shy-appearing older fella of smaller stature had a hobby - road racing, SCCA
style - and once behind the wheel, the quiet left and the competitor emerged.
Again, Rod never bragged about his racing exploits (of which, it turned out, he had many, going all the way
back into the early 60's, in those days racing an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite).
He was a perennial top 5 guy at the National Runoffs each year; he was known as being able to get every
ounce out of a car and would race you hard, yet never dirty.
That sort of amateur racing was spendy, even in those days - you had to be pretty hardcore to compete at
that level, all for what they joked about being "a $5 plastic trophy".
By the time I met and eventually befriended him in 1986, though, he had sold off his beloved Sprite and
decided to step back to regional racing only and he wanted a fuss-proof car to do it in.
The rules favored certain new-car models for the Showroom classes and he chose an MR2, new and bright
red, bereft of any adornments, not even a spoiler - because he knew Lotus had been instrumental in
designing the suspensions on them.
The engine was truly tiny, but it had dual overhead cams and the redline was insane for those days - perfect
for road racing, where you just wrung it out and kept it up there all race, if it would take it.
Well, Rod didn't know much about electronic fuel injection and ECU's and such and he was alone in life, so
since he knew I was a greasemonkey for a hobby, he and I hit it off and I became his "crew" on the Toyota.
No, I didn't know a damn thing about the car either (and true to 'Murican prejudices and Mopar blood, didn't
really care much about 'em prior, honestly) - but for Rod and for going to the races at Summit Point?
Sure, what the heck, I'm in....
In Showroom classes, you weren't allowed to monkey with anything much at all. You even had to run the
stock sized tires (any DOT brand was acceptable) - but since that thing had like 112hp, it handled a ton but
went like pokey.
Ed being Ed, though - I learned ways to "fool" the computer into doing things, the sort of cheats it would take
someone sharp to catch - in order to get Rod competitive with the other cars in his class.
The driving part, he was one of the best of ANY class out there (and everyone knew Rod at the races too, of
course) but he needed some power, so I set about messing with sensor lines, mechanical advances, things
of that nature and got him a little more to play with.
The results? The 3 years I crewed for him, he won his class championship twice - once in SSC, then later in
ITA (Improved Touring A class) when the car became too old to stay in SSC.
That MR2 took everything Rod and I threw at it, pounded mercilessly as racing does to them - and never gave
a moments' problem. Not one...
In the end...
I left the company after that; Rod had finally retired-retired as the economy crashed in 1990 and the company
collapsed from lack of work and I eventually lost track of Rod and the MR2, much to my later regret.
It's one of those all-too-brief periods of my life that I look back fondly on now and realize with hindsight
how much there was left to benefit from, had I not been so youthfully hasty to move on constantly...
I genuinely miss Rod, the MR2, my life at that stage of it (entering my third decade shortly thereafter).
Great car, for what it was. Great friend, that guy too.
Rod's up there givin' them hell in heaven's Saturday features somewheres...
I hope to see him again one day.