Any of us who write for Curbside Classic know that alleys often contain the really good stuff. And so it was when I was walking behind one of my rentals in Laramie last week and just a couple of doors down caught sight of this, one of my favorite 80’s cars, the 1983 Toyota Celica Supra, tucked away between a couple of garages.
Yes, while everyone just called it the Supra, even Toyota’s own brochures prominently advertised it as Celica Supra, as did the decklid script in those years. This particular one, while being the most horrifically sun-bleached one of these I have ever seen, does sport remainders of my favorite hue of this generation, named Terra Cotta if I am not mistaken. Sitting here undisturbed in this color for who knows how long until finally discovered by me reminded me of that so-called eighth wonder of the world, the Terracotta Army of China. I had the opportunity to see it myself about eight years ago just outside of Xi’an, China and it completely astounded me as well as everyone else there on the scale of seeing something like the Grand Canyon or similar. It’s truly hard to fathom until actually seeing with your own eyes.
Discovered by a farmer digging a well in 1974, this literal army of over 8,000 warrior figures along with 130 chariots and around 700 horse figures made of terracotta in life size (!) scale, was created about 2,300 years ago and buried with the emperor at the time. Archaeologists descended on the site after discovery and eventually the “pits” containing the life-sized figures were covered with large protective structures (see above) and are now open to the public.
After we toured the site, we purchased a couple of sets of small figurines and they are now displayed in our house along with a larger (about 24″ tall) one that sits on the fireplace mantel in my office (above). We actually got two of these but traveling around the world with them took its toll and this one is the only one of the pair that made it back more or less intact (in three pieces, actually), the other was pretty much pulverized in the box and beyond saving/reassembling.
We still often remark or are asked questions by guests about them and our new house has a niche at the end of a hallway that isn’t really usable for anything but would be perfect for a suit of armor, or….a life-size terracotta warrior! As it turns out there is an operation near Xi’an that actually reproduces these in the correct size and colors (http://www.terracotta-warriors.com) and ships them anywhere in the world, so we currently have our own General (already nicknamed “Terry” by the kids) en route in a huge crate (coffin?) that I will be picking up from Denver in a couple of months and then figuring out how to get a 400lb terracotta statue up the staircase and into the niche.
Just as odd, but perhaps not, the last time we were in Las Vegas I walked by a Chinese restaurant in Luxor Casino and was shocked to see a couple of them at the entrance of the restaurant, which pretty much sealed our decision to get our own as they seem to be quality pieces and the perfect size for our space.
But back to this Terra Cotta Warrior of the Japanese sports car persuasion…I’ve always been a fan of most of these rectilinear designs with Ford’s European offerings such as the 80’s Granada and Escort being amongst my favorites and this generation of Celica and Supra, especially with the fender extensions, as well as the Cressida and early 80’s Audi models (Quattro, 80, 100) being right up there as well.
But the Supra especially speaks to me with those fenders, wide wheels, flat nose, and the wing/spoiler over the back window. And something about how the liftgate on these versions of the Supra (as opposed to the more luxury-oriented narrow-body non-flared fender version) were only available in black for some mysterious reason is just the icing on the cake.
Since it’s not plated I’m assuming it’s waiting for that “some day” for it to be restored or perhaps just repaired but I probably should knock on the door just to find out for sure. I’d love to own one of these, or, perhaps better stated, I love “the idea” of owning one of these; not sure if I have the time or energy to tackle even modestly restoring a 36-year old Japanese car. Still, this one seems complete, and probably “ran when parked”.
Even with this terribly poor shot of the interior, it doesn’t seem to be in very bad condition, and I do love being ensconced in a completely reddish interior. The steering wheel along with the fender flares being body color give it away as being a 1983 model, in 1982 the flares were black only and in 1984 the Supra got the more “square” center wheel section.
I’m not picky on the year, any of them from 1982-1985.5 work for me and it being a stick shift to work that 2.8liter inline-6, while my preference, probably wouldn’t be an absolute necessity for me these days either. Those seats are very comfortable, if I remember correctly there is a way to inflate the lumbar support with a little rubber squeeze bubble on a stalk which was the height of cool to me when I first experienced that some time in high school.
Jeez, the more I look at these pictures, the more I want to run back up there and knock on his door. Am I alone in liking these here? Or do others like these as well; are those into 80’s Mustangs and other American cars cognizant of these at all or are they just viewed as another economy car from the far east?
Here’s a random web shot of what it would have looked like many years ago and I suppose could again one day. This takes me back to high school again; while completely unattainable at that time for me, this to me now is significantly more attractive than the new, just released Supra. I suppose this is the kind of thing that some members of my generation will be “collecting” at car auctions of the future (and probably are already today, at least online), especially those of us nearer the coasts where this was really much more common than american iron.
To make up for my own poor shot of the interior, here’s another random web shot of a perfect interior. I think the squeeze bubble bladder thing for the lumbar is just visible to the left of the handbrake and those seats are just reveling in their own bolstery-ness. Anyway, here’s to hoping my tenant’s neighbor eventually gets around to his Supra. Otherwise I may be knocking after our “re(al)-production” Chinese terracotta warrior arrives and I find I want another one, but a Japanese Terra Cotta warrior instead this time…
eople call it “just” the Supra *now*, but in 1983 the Supra was just starting to earn its rep, not many people knew of it, but nearly everyone knew of the Celica having been sold since 1971. The first-gen Supra was regarded as a sort of Japanese interpretation of a personal luxury coupe, not as a high-performance car, and this one was the first to move a bit away from that direction. The now-legendary 4th-gen model, by then forked from the Celica, was far in the future.
I had a friend with an ’82 in this color (or maybe just red), also with the performance package. I recall the multiadjustable seats to be quite comfortable, and the stereo seemed insanely complex.
The first generation Supra looked way too much like a Celica, and the next generation, while still showing a Celica kinship, had much more of an individual appearance. With its smooth inline six-cylinder engine, the magazines called this the poor man’s BMW 6-series. That’s not too far off the mark as they were more of a grand touring car than an outright performance vehicle (at least back then).
Well, it looked like a Celica because it was — it just had a stretched nose to accommodate the M-series sixes. That’s also true of this generation, which I think people tend to forget because the survival rate of the Supra version seems to be better than for the four-cylinder cars.
This generation does have a much more muscular vibe, especially with the flared fenders. It’s very ’80s action movie! I’ve heard quite a few people say they don’t like the subsequent A70 nearly as well because while it’s faster, it’s just not as macho.
> This generation does have a much more muscular vibe, especially with the flared fenders. It’s very ’80s action movie!
P.J. O’Rourke, writing in Car and Driver, got it right: it looked like something that shoots down the alien mothership in a video game
Don’t remember that quote – I’ll have to open up the old C/D archive and get it out. That was such a GREAT magazine! 🙂
While the second Supra was still a close relative of the Celica, Toyota did a very good job of distinguishing one from the other. Only the Supra had the covered headlights. Only the P-Types ever seemed to be featured in magazines and most of the advertisements, and they had all the distinctive flares and winglets. There was a special version of the Celica that had the Supra’s IRS and the P-Type’s wide wheels, but I believe it was only available as a notch-back instead of a hatch.
I graduated from high school in 1988. One might think these Supras would have had a presence in my high school parking lot. There were certainly plenty of Toyotas. There were a few new Mustang GTs. There was the odd Porsche 928S and a few RX-7s. I don’t think anyone ever had a second generation Supra. There might have been a few first generation ones, but they would have blended into the background of anonymous used cars.
The first generation Supra was effectively a tarted-up Celica with a bigger engine (and bigger price tag). If you liked the Celica’s styling (I thought it was kind of bland), it was okay.
I suppose the same could be said for the second generation Supra, too, but Toyota did a much better job of differentiating the styling of that one from the garden-variety Celica.
The third generation Supra was even better. That one was my fave.
The fourth generation, melted-jellybean, full-gonzo drift-mobile? Not so much.
I’ll speak up as a Mustang guy who LOVES these!
At the time, I had my first T-Bird and was about to buy my second, my ex and I were shopping for a small car for her. She and I both wanted the Celica Supra, but even slightly used (around 1989 or so), they were still kinda pricey. We ended up with an 84 or 85 (still RWD) notchback Celica GT with its 2.2L (slightly slanted IIRC) in-line 4, and that car was a hoot to drive.
So this Mustang guy is definitely a fan of this generation of Japanese Pony Car, or in the Supra’s case as la673 said above, a Japanese PLC. I still miss the PLC(s) like the T-Bird and this beauty.
Actually I was referring to the previous generation Supra (78-81); as seen below, note that it was the “plush, lush Celica Supra”, not the “sporty Celica Supra”. That would start to emerge in 1982, though there was still some PLCness left in gen 2. Both had longer hoods than the standard models, just like American PLCs.
I like those Celicas and Supras too, but the pictured one you have there has one of those wheels that I recall from a QOTD a while back that was quite a few posters’ LEAST favorite wheel ever. That wheel falls into the “The seventies made more sense in the seventies.” category; and one of my most favorite quotes ever here. I’m trying to recall now who said it…
“The seventies made more sense in the seventies” was mine. I might have forgotten it had it not been for your positive reaction. Glad you’ve enjoyed it.
Car magazines at the time ran comparison tests between the Celica Supra and the Buick Regal T-Type.
Toyota decided to push the second-generation six-cylinder car in a sportier direction because they also launched a mechanically similar personal luxury car: the Z10 Soarer, which we didn’t get.
Also, I think they were hoping to reclaim the Celica’s momentum in the home market. The first-generation car had been a big hit there, but Japanese buyers didn’t love the CALTY-styled second-generation and sales really dropped off — too bland.
I love these, full stop. Good looking and powerful for their day. My college roommate bought one new and let me drive it sometimes. Super enjoyable.
Supra enjoyable is the phrase I believe you were searching for. Or perhaps you just have a better developed sense of shame than I do. 🙂
Great find. Perfect post-porsche-partum gift for yourself. Do it.
Well, I would need to actually part with the Porsche first. But if that space becomes available..
It is one of my great regrets that I did not test drive one of these when shopping for my first new car in 1985. My best friend at the time was reinforcing my bias against rusty Japanese cars as doing the sports/performance car thing less effectively than American and Euro stuff. The Supra probably would have been beyond my price range but I would have undoubtedly enjoyed the drive.
Wasn’t there some old movie about a family that brought an ancient life-size statue into the house only to discover too late the curse that made it come alive at night and murder the occupants of the house one by one? Maybe not. And I wouldn’t worry Jim, that sort of thing almost never happens.
That was an episode of the Brady Bunch, the murderous Tiki-warrior one. Here’s Peter, about to die…and be reborn as Spider-Brady 🙂
It is one of my great regrets that I did not buy one of these when I had a chance. In the early 1990s I was looking for a replacement for my first car, and a friend of my parents’ had an immaculate black 1984 Supra that she was replacing with a new Celica. That car had relatively low mileage, was garaged its whole life, and was meticulously maintained.
For some absurd reason, I really wanted a Saab, so I bought a used 900 Turbo instead. Within a few years, the Saab began eating me out of house and home, so I got rid of it. If I had bought the Supra, I’d probably still have it!
As an aside, I somehow never realized that the liftbacks on these were only available in black (I assume that changed after 1983). I remember quasi-two-tone appearance, but it never occurred to me that that’s how the look was achieved.
These Supras were a nearly-perfect combination of all 1980s-era sports-coupe qualities… the looked great, were well-built, quick, handled well, were comfortable, etc. The biggest downside is that they were frequently stolen.
You and I have very similar tastes in cars, in the early 90’s I probably would have made the same choice and did in fact look at Saab 900T’s several times.
Yes, the hatch did become body color for 1984 and beyond and the SUPRA sticker on the back became ginormous and covered the whole width of the rear (but still looked good!)
There were also actual two-tones available that undoubtedly were considered quite cool to go along with your Members Only jacket and feathered hair. Nowadays all seem to have fallen from grace a bit…Maybe another decade or two.
I’m in the same boat as several other commenters: I should have bought one of these instead of the ’83 TBird Turbo Coupe. But then it was a company car, it was cheaper, and I left it behind after just a couple of years when I switched jobs.
I loved this color! Still do.
These cars are poised to be valuable classics, similar to muscle cars for the Baby Boomers. For several reasons I don’t think they will reach the same absurd prices that Chevelle’s and Challengers command today, but they are definitely going up in value. Just as you say, they are the cars people of a certain age wish they could have had in their teens or twenties, and now we are of an age where many can afford to relieve those dreams.
I can’t tell from the pics but this one might be a great candidate for restoration, and I doubt you would pay any more for it than you’d pay for the other Terra Cotta Warrior.
That picture with those warriors….this came to mind immediately:
One of my favourite cars ever. Friend of mine in the early 90’s had one, black and silver two tone, five speed with the digital dash, tinted windows and an Alpine stereo.
Jim, what a find, and I also really like the “terra Cotta” color on these! This generation of Celica Supra has always been on my short list of white-hot Japanese coupes of the ’80s.
I may have mentioned this is some other comment in CC Land, but these Celicas (and Supras) seemed like Japanese cars that were okay to like in my GM-centric hometown of Flint, Michigan – these, and Datsun Z’s (which would accommodate an SBC under the hood).
That’s also super-cool about the discovery of that terra cotta army – and that you have a replica on the way! Take it from the Insurance Guy: schedule that thing under “Fine Arts”! 🙂
Thank you for the advice! They are actually not *that* expensive although I think I will get hit with the tariff (aka tax) as I am quite certain the “fake news” is correct that the shipper in China is not paying it.
Very interesting, I would not have thought Flintonians (? Flintstones? Flinters?) would have looked too kindly on these.
These were fairly exotic in my high school parking lot (class of ’89) but, of all people, my music teacher had one in all black. He thought very highly of himself.
When one came into my Dad’s repo impound lot I spent more than a little time sitting inside the cabin, which felt like the seat of a jet fighter. There were switches for everything, and as someone mentioned above, the stereo was impossibly complicated. It made the spartan cabin of my B2000 feel like a pedal car. I never got to take it out on the road but moving it around the lot sure was nice.
Great find! I haven’t seen one of these in years and really miss this very 1980s look, along with the whole two-door Japanese pony car genre. These Supras were among my absolute favorites when new (along with all the other models Jim mentions above), especially the 1981-83 versions in that terra cotta color with the black contrast liftback.
A good college friend of mine was among the first of my group to start a great job after graduation and in his newfound prosperity bought a 1984 version of this car. We all loved that car and I remember driving all over Southern California when visiting him on my first trip to LA. He drove that car very hard and was not at all into maintenance. As I recall, the car met its demise a year or so later when he hit a steer standing in the middle of the road at dusk while on a trip down to Baja California. Tough ending for what was undoubtedly the best car my friend ever owned; this same guy has been driving Chrysler minivans for the past 20 years.
Count me as a fan of these Supras. There is something about their proportions and athletic stance that give them an elegant yet sporty air. The size is right too. Big enough to hold a couple of back seat passengers. I was also a huge of the early Datsun Z fan and the Datsun had a better chassis and slightly better performance. The Z also had a huge racing legacy which just added to it’s cred. I stuck with the Zs for years, but have decided that ’96 Mustang GT checks the boxes better. I still find myself longing for the Supra.
These are, by far my favorite Supra generation (favorite Toyota, really) I would have had an all-black one in about 1990, had my loan application not been rejected… not that I could have afforded the insurance, either. So in hindsight it’s probably OK that I never got it… but I still want one.
Years ago, I saw online a whole website about a guy merging a Supra chassis and a first-gen Mustang body, since the two cars were within millimeters in size. I just spent way too long, looking for the website…
Put my .02 cents in. I love the hatchback RWD Celicas a lot. Supra or Celica GT doesn’t matter. I’m still bummed about the one I lost in the Tubbs Fire.
CC Effect! I pass by an old auto repair shop that has an identical car for sale in front of it; however, the car was ridden EXTREMELY hard and put away soaking wet! It is in such a dilapidated condition, that I feel no need to get any closer than 20 feet away! 🙂
CC Effect again! I haven’t seen one of the Supras in quite a while, and then just saw this ’85 model tonight:
Nice find, there’s the big Supra script on the back! That one looks in worse shape than my alley find…but still fun.