Classic Cool: Toyota Supra

Of all the Japanese supercars released stateside during the ’90s, the twin-turbo Toyota Supra has reigned supreme. Huge performance potential, timeless lines and bulletproof drivetrains have led to consistently strong prices. These cars never really depreciated, and one of them recently pulled in nearly $175,000 at auction.

In addition to the standard, non-turbo version, the Supra Turbo quickly grabbed the day’s headlines with its 2JZ-GTE engine pumping out 320 horsepower. That was Corvette performance with two fewer cylinders.

Then the tuners got their hands on the Supra, and they discovered that more boost quickly yielded big horsepower. In fact, the car happily welcomed any modification they could throw at it. “The mechanicals seem to be built from the same material as anvils, just not so heavy,” Ed Senf, dyno tuner to the stars, once told us. “I’ve done 600 horsepower on engines with 150,000 miles on them.”

But rising MSRPs soon spelled the end of the Supra line. That turbocharged model first came to market for the 1993 model year with a price just below $40,000. By 1996, just three short years later, its MSRP had climbed past the $50,000 mark–more than $80,000 in today’s dollars.

One more blow against the Supra: To meet the day’s American emissions standards, Toyota withheld the manual box from U.S. customers for 1996. The stick returned the following year, but so did other emissions woes; only the non-turbo, automatic cars were available in California for 1998.

And then that sector pretty much collapsed, with all of the Japanese supercars leaving U.S. dealers by the turn of the millennium. 1998 was the final year for the Supra in the U.S., although production continued through 2002.

The Supra story doesn’t end there, though, as a bright-orange example starred in 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious.” The model may have disappeared from the showrooms, but it quickly drifted back into the spotlight.

Why You Want One

• It’s the model that defined the ’90s Japanese supercar scene. Either you had one or you wanted one.

• There are not enough o’s in smooth to describe that inline-six.

• In stock form, the Supra Turbo could reach 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds–quicker than the Corvette, Porsche 928, 300ZX Turbo and RX-7 of the day. If you kept the throttle pinned, the Supra could cover the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds.

• For all that performance, the Supra is fairly benign as a daily ride.

• Look closely and you’ll notice seams running across each end of the roof. Most Supras featured the Sport Roof–a lift-off top, basically, like a Porsche Targa. The “F&F” car was so equipped. (And one of the movie cars–a non-turbo model at that–brought in $185,000 at a 2015 Mecum sale.)

• The non-turbo car isn’t a consolation prize. Its engine is just as smooth, and most observers won’t notice that it lacks the Turbo’s bigger brakes and wheels.

• Not fast enough? The internet is full of thousand-horsepower Supras. (And the internet would never lie, right?)

Practical Guidance

our expert:
Chris Anderson
 
ARD Motorsports
ardmotorsports.com 
(770) 965-2322

  • They’re all the same, basically. The non-Targas are the most desirable, but I haven’t seen any issues with Targas as long as they’ve been maintained well.
  • Once you get into ’96, you get into OBDII. Once you get into emissions testing, the OBDII makes things a little more difficult.
  • I don’t mind someone doing a single turbo, but so many people have turned them into race cars and then turned them back into street cars.
  • You absolutely can convert an auto to a manual, which is no problem if it’s done right.
  • Beware of non-turbo cars converted to turbo. One way to tell at a quick glance is the brakes: Turbos have four-piston front brakes.
  • If it’s been maintained, the automatic is a very good transmission. It will take 700 horsepower–that’s about the limit.
  • If it’s got a big clutch, watch out for crank-walk. Mechanically and driver-wise, there’s nothing else that pops up as a common problem.
  • Parts are getting a little more scarce from Toyota–especially interior and cosmetics. We haven’t run into any difficulties finding mechanical parts yet. That is not an issue.
  • The odometer is built into the cluster, so it can be swapped.

Recent Sale

model: 1994 Toyota Supra Turbo

price: $121,000

condition: Just 7111 miles on the odometer.

sold by: Bring a Trailer, January 2019

More Resources

Supra Forums 
supraforums.com

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Comments
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pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
7/15/19 1:36 p.m.

I saw a 100% bone-stock Supra on the highway last week, not going to a car show or auction, just out for the day running errands. I was shocked. 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/15/19 2:24 p.m.

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/15/19 2:29 p.m.
pinchvalve said:

I saw a 100% bone-stock Supra on the highway last week, not going to a car show or auction, just out for the day running errands. I was shocked. 

Dang. Stock wheels, even? I guess there are still a few out there. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/15/19 2:37 p.m.
alfadriver said:

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

But if you're now 25 years old, the mid-'90s were a lifetime ago....

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise HalfDork
7/15/19 2:41 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
alfadriver said:

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

But if you're now 25 years old, the mid-'90s were a lifetime ago....

Yup. 

 

Had my 94 mint mr2 turbo at the grocery store last week.  Its all stock, 9,100 miles. As I was putting groceries in front trunk, kid who pushes around the cart says “wow, I never knew Toyota made that” as he was looking at the badge in the back. 

 

He was probably 16-17 years old. Has a Fiesta ST. 

 

Made me feel really old as I said I have owned it since new. 

SIGH 

Robbie
Robbie UltimaDork
7/15/19 2:43 p.m.

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/15/19 2:54 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
alfadriver said:

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

But if you're now 25 years old, the mid-'90s were a lifetime ago....

Uh, David...  I recall meeting you almost 20 years ago, so I know that this car isn't nearly a lifetime ago for you.devil

(ya bastard for reminding me how old I am)indecision

On a relative basis, when we bought our Alfa, which was a classic, it was merely 23 years old.  So I'll begrudgingly say that a '98 Supra *might* be a classic.  But it would also mean that a Celica Supra is down right vintage.

mainlandboy
mainlandboy Reader
7/15/19 2:55 p.m.

Stolen from the meme thread: smiley

 

759NRNG
759NRNG SuperDork
7/15/19 3:00 p.m.

Why oh why is the latest version so berkin'buttugly...shoot I'm not much of a fan of  the 'predator' Lexus beak , but I do harbor strong feelings  for the RCF....even though it's what 22K more?

 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
7/15/19 3:04 p.m.
alfadriver said:

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

I was in high school in the mid to late 90s, and that feels like a lifetime ago. And trust me, the Supra was lusted after something fierce, even back then. A completely stock Mk. 4 Supra is still a car after which I lust. So yeah, classic.  

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
7/15/19 3:10 p.m.
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

The movie made a good car a lot more expensive and a lot more likely to no longer be stock.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/15/19 3:24 p.m.
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

It would be interesting to go back in time and look at prices, but I don't remember them ever dipping. 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
7/15/19 3:34 p.m.
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

I think the movie kept it relevant. Could you imagine if they had used a 3000GT VR4 instead?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/15/19 3:52 p.m.
759NRNG said:

Why oh why is the latest version so berkin'buttugly...shoot I'm not much of a fan of  the 'predator' Lexus beak , but I do harbor strong feelings  for the RCF....even though it's what 22K more?

 

The RC F is pretty cool.

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
7/15/19 4:04 p.m.
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

The movie increased the percieved value of the car to match the high prices I believe. 

joey48442
joey48442 PowerDork
7/15/19 4:21 p.m.
alfadriver said:

When a car was made in the 80's, and it was considered quite highly back then, I have a tough time considering a late 90's to early 00's a classic.

Celica Supra is a classic.

When I was 8 or so, 1987, our neighbor had a 69 or so GTO. Everyone called it a classic and it was only 18 years old!!!

bcp2011
bcp2011 Reader
7/15/19 5:04 p.m.

I'll take one is royal sapphire purple please!

te72
te72 Reader
7/15/19 11:50 p.m.
Jordan Rimpela said:

I was in high school in the mid to late 90s, and that feels like a lifetime ago. And trust me, the Supra was lusted after something fierce, even back then. A completely stock Mk. 4 Supra is still a car after which I lust. So yeah, classic.  

You have a few years on me, but I can't say I remember even seeing one of these cars in person until sometime in the 2000's, they just weren't on my radar for whatever reason. Now the garage has two of them, one for myself, one that belongs to the missus. I never get tired of reminding people that it's her car, she's just gracious enough to let me drive it. =)

 

As far as finding a stock Mk4, I think you're more likely to find a jar of Unicorn Jizz amongst the mayo at the grocery store. I mean, it could happen... this is the point where you ask, "is he talking about the car, or the unicorn spunk?" and I'll just leave that to the reader to decide. Good luck! They're out there, a local friend found himself an RHD model that was stock apart from the intake, it's a lovely car.

te72
te72 Reader
7/15/19 11:53 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

It would be interesting to go back in time and look at prices, but I don't remember them ever dipping. 

I can't speak for the time around the first F&F movie, but by the late 2000's they were actually quite reasonably priced. Could get turbo 6-speeds for anywhere from about 16k up to about 30k for the more desireable color / later years. Prices only seem to have started climbing since oh... maybe 2014, 2015, give or take? My wife bought hers last year, and while it is a higher mileage car (means nothing, other than you don't have to ever feel bad about driving it), it wasn't unreasonably expensive.

 

I think she might have gotten in on that boat right as it was leaving the harbor though...

NickD
NickD PowerDork
7/16/19 7:03 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:
pinchvalve said:

I saw a 100% bone-stock Supra on the highway last week, not going to a car show or auction, just out for the day running errands. I was shocked. 

Dang. Stock wheels, even? I guess there are still a few out there. 

I know a guy who owns three that are 100% stock. I don't know why you'd want 3 of the same car and have all of them stock. I'd mod the hell out of at least one to provide a bit of contrast in driving experiences. But then again, I also think this generation of Supra is not that attractive. It's a fat, jellybean shape that is generic '90s car in appearance. Stylistically, I think there are much better cars from that era. (Like the 3rd-gen RX-7)

shelbyz
shelbyz Reader
7/16/19 8:27 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:
Robbie said:

Did the car make the movie or did the movie make the car?

It would be interesting to go back in time and look at prices, but I don't remember them ever dipping. 

I recall probably around 14-16 years ago looking at Auto Trader for "tuner cars" that would get me the most high school parking lot bragging rights at the time. That probably consisted of the Supra, 3KGT VR4, 300ZX and FD RX7. I swear at the time, while not common, a well used earlier non turbo mk4 could be had for a little under $10k. Not that 16/17 year old me could afford even that at the time, but I scoffed at the lack of forced induction, not knowing that it could be made just as capable...

I actually had two high school classmates back then during my senior year of HS (2004-05) whose parents bought them turbo MK4 Supra's. One was a "bought not built" manual trans example that was often referred to by fanboys as a "TRD Supra" (not sure why) that had already been outfitted with a body kit, wing, big wheels and likely some performance modifications. Which, from what I understand, were at least professionally done. I don't recall what was paid for that car, but it apparently was expensive (for that time). The second was a bone stock automatic turbo mk4 (pretty sure it was a 94) that had around 70k. I don't recall the exact amount paid (by the parents) but the two numbers floating in my head are $23k or $26k, which was somewhere during summer 2004. The car was black with the chrome stock wheels and was beautiful. Pretty quickly after it was purchased, the car was outfitted with neon lights, a not so carefully affixed yellowy unpainted body kit and super street cred "Tanabe Racing Medallion" fart can welded to the stock exhaust. Despite it's notably "in transition" appearance, the car drew crowds everywhere it went. I was good friends with the kid, and going places in the car was like hanging out with a celebrity. I remember as an "import" slanted, "dumbestic" snubbing, "3 pedals only" kid, I was blown away by the Supra's performance, despite lacking a pedal I at the time felt gave more credibility. The slant was lessened some when the car ended up nose to nose with an automatic LS1 F-body that also parked in the student parking lot... Eventually, the car was outfitted with some 18" wheels and coated with primer in preparation for some likely outlandish color, before it blew something allegedly turbo related. It was then parked in his parent's garage in that condition, where (from what I've heard) it has sat for the last 14 years or so. Wonder what it's worth now?

The extreme increase in value doesn't surprise me at all. This was the car everyone went nuts over when I frequented car meets/events 10-15+ years ago. There is an infamous example in my area that has been around for like 20 years, with a somewhat (at least back then) boisterous owner who once made big reputation staining claims like it would break a dyno (it barely cracked 400whp) or get kicked out of the dragstrip (owner couldn't leave the light worth a damn and ran a high 13...). Despite the reputation, when that car pulled into meets and hit "2-step" or revved it's engine, a whole smattering of kids and adults would drop whatever they were doing and flock to the car and take grainy flip phone pics and videos or whatever. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/16/19 9:36 a.m.

JG can back me up, but I recall having at least two of them here at the magazine as press cars: a white 15th Anniversary turbo and a silver non-turbo, no-wing car.  

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
7/16/19 9:50 a.m.
mainlandboy said:

Stolen from the meme thread: smiley

 

I'll see your 2JZ, and raise you a 2JZ swap with NAS:

te72
te72 Reader
7/17/19 12:16 a.m.

Heh, all this talk of the early 2000's has me remembering Streetfire. Ahh, old internet, why did you leave us?

pimpm3
pimpm3 UltraDork
7/17/19 6:47 a.m.

Shortly after graduating from college in 2000 and securing my first real job I decided to purchase an adult sports car, ie something to replace the GS-R integra that got me through school.

I set a budget of $25,000 and began looking at my options.  I eventually narrowed my search to 964 Porsches, mk4 Supras and e36 m3's.  At the time 25k would buy a nice example of either one. 

I drove several of each but ended up with a one owner 1995 Daytona Violet m3 with 40k miles and no sunroof.  It was a great car and fulfilled all my needs at the time admirably but I often think about the ones that I didn't get ie the 964 and the supra...

te72
te72 Reader
7/17/19 11:45 p.m.

In reply to pimpm3 :

I hate that "bet on the wrong horse" feeling that I get sometimes with my Supra (1987, built in a "not quite Australian level of bonkers, but close enough" way), as I should have had some patience and bought a Mk4 myself.

 

Not because I don't appreciate the Mk3, it's just impossibly financially irresponsible what I've done with my car. A Mk4, on the other hand, would have been at least somewhat able to be sold for a reasonable amount down the road, if need be.

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