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 |   |  1989 Toyota MR2 (AW11) - Ahead of the Curve
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1989 Toyota MR2 (AW11) - Ahead of the Curve

Young gun Luis Alvarez proves that you don't have to be older to appreciate a classic

Austin Lott
Dec 19, 2018
Photographer: Viet Nguyen

Luis Alvarez has quite the stable of classic Japanese cars. In addition to this '89 Toyota MR2, he also owns a pair of Datsuns—a 1974 260Z and a 1972 510. The Z is all original while the 510 is dropped on coilovers with aftermarket wheels; very impressive considering he's only 21-year-old. Luis is a self-employed college student who manages a few social media influencer accounts when he's not in class; however, his ultimate goal is to become a paralegal and eventually a lawyer. Japanese cars are his number one passion though, and this AW11 is his "baby."

1989 toyota MR2 kaminari rear bumper Photo 2/20   |   1989 Toyota MR2 Kaminari Rear Bumper

Luis knew from the get-go that it was Toyota's mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that was for perfect for him. "I wanted to build a Kouki 240SX at first, but everyone has one," he remembered. With California's car scene flooded with Nissan S13s and S14s, he began his search for an MR2. He was originally after a second-gen SW20, but he came across this clean red first-gen that was completely stock and just needed an engine refresh and paint job. It rocked a similar inline-four made famous by the AE86 Corolla. A limited number of AW11s, like the one Luis found, featured a 4A-GZE with a roots-style supercharger that bumped horsepower to 145 hp. In a car this light, that's plenty of power to tear up local canyon roads according to Luis. "It's like a go-kart. It's the car you want on Angeles Crest [Highway] or Mulholland [Drive]. You don't have to have a lot of power to have fun."

Though parts aren't impossible to find, the AW11 isn't something you can just jump on Google or eBay and start adding items to your shopping cart. Luis began his project with a few easy bolt-ons, enjoying the car along the way. The two-seater is dropped on Function & Form Type 2 coilovers, aided by a camber kit, control arms, sway bar and strut bar from TRD. The 15-inch wheels are a limited edition design built by AME and resurrected by Fatlace.

1989 toyota MR2 4AGZE engine Photo 6/20   |   1989 Toyota MR2 4AGZE Engine

As for the Kaminari aero, that was an exercise in patience for Luis. He was lucky enough to have good friend Jesse Ramirez point him in the right direction, dragging him to local meets and shows, then ultimately helping him connect the dots to obtain the Kaminari side skirts and rear bumper from a guy who kept them brand new in box since the early '90s. A Kaminari front bumper was missing and would've completed the kit, but other plans ensued.

Three other noticeable pieces on the exterior include the Gurney flap, and front and side splitters. They're one-off items that Luis had custom made. He provided the design and a friend figured out the exact measurements before the pieces were cut out of aluminum. The front splitter acts like a skid plate, while the BMW E30 M3 inspires the Gurney flap.

1989 toyota MR2 buddy club p1 seats Photo 10/20   |   1989 Toyota MR2 Buddy Club P1 Seats

Inside, the cockpit sports Buddy Club bucket seats, a Grip Royal Shifter, and a MOMO steering wheel-simple mods, but he didn't want to take too much away from the original spirit of the MR2.

Overall, Luis' AW11 isn't anything extreme, but it certainly has a way of catching your eyes. Might seem a bit tame for many out there, but Luis says it best... "I've done what I like with my cars. I don't build my cars for Instagram, but I build them for me and my own approval." In a world where many teens and early-twenty-year-olds are consumed in social media validation, we have to admit Luis is quite mature for his age, and that he's already ahead of the curve.

1989 toyota MR2 headlights Photo 17/20   |   1989 Toyota MR2 Headlights
By Austin Lott
21 Articles
1989 Toyota MR2 (AW11) - Ahead of the Curve
Tuning Menu
Owner: Luis Alvarez
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Student, Self-employed
Instagram: @l.atiti
Engine: 4A-GZE inline-four supercharged engine; Wicked Flow exhaust
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission (FS5C71B)
Footwork & Chassis: Function & Form Type 2 coilovers, camber kit, control arms; TRD sway bars, strut bar
Wheels & Tires: 15x8.5" AME x Fatlace F/ZERO2 wheels; 195/50R15 Falken ZIEX ZE950 tires
Exterior: Kaminari side skirts, rear bumper; custom front lip, side splitters, gurney flap
Interior: Buddy Club P1 seats; Planted Technology seat brackets; Sparco sliders, Grip Royal shift knob; MOMO steering wheel, hub
Thanks: 88Rotors; Enticed Motorsports; close friends and family who supported my interest in cars such as my brother and my dad

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