Classic Cool: Toyota Supra

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Mar 4, 2021 | Toyota, Supra | Posted in Features | From the June 2019 issue | Never miss an article

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.

Practical Guidance

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.

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Comments
pinchvalve
pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand 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 GRM+ Memberand 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.  

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