When was buying a sports car – a proper one, with pop-up headlights, a 6-cyl. under the hood and RWD – ever the rational choice? In Japan, that time was probably the late ‘80s / early ‘90s, just before the bottom fell out of the economy and automobile showrooms, be they displaying the wares of foreign or domestic carmakers, were a treasure trove of tempting toys. So while rationality and sports cars are still two distinct circles on the Venn diagram, they were almost touching at that point in time, thanks to cars like the A70 Supra.
Since the early ‘80s, Toyota had hit the ball out of the park with the Soarer, which reigned supreme on the higher end of the coupé niche. The Celica and its Supra variant took care of the middle bit and the Corolla Levin / Sprinter Trueno sat at the lower end. But as the Celica was following the Corolla’s lead and switching over to the FWD side, a set of parallel mid-range sports coupés were deemed necessary to cover all bases.
The Corolla Levin / Sprinter Trueno made the switch to FWD in 1987. But the great schism happened over a year earlier, in August 1985, when the Celica T160 was born. The Celica and the Supra, hitherto fraternal twins (with the Supra being the evil one, I guess), became philosophically opposite ends of the same niche. In February 1986, the Supra A70 was launched in Japan and though its Soarer-related platform was (sort of) new, it stuck to its RWD roots.
Initially, the Supra’s engine options mirrored those of the Soarer: a 2- and a 3-litre straight-six were on offer. The former was available in several flavours: OHC (105hp), DOHC (140hp) and with twin turbochargers (185hp); the 3-liter, DOHC only, made do with just the one turbo and provided 230hp. In foreign climes, a 200hp non-turbo version of the 3-litre was also on offer. Later in life, the JDM Supra became available as the 2.5GT Twin Turbo, with a 2491cc 1JZ 6-cyl. churning out 280hp.
Our feature car, which I found recently while on a weekend jaunt in Hakone, about an hour outside Tokyo, sports the Toyota logo, which only started gracing the Supra’s front end in 1990. Always found it amazing that Toyota waited until that time, i.e. their sixth decade in the car business, to finally come up with a logo.
Lakeside location aside, the real show-stopper is the interior. I murmured an audible “wow” when I saw it. Bring back the deep red velour, Toyota! And make sure it’s colour-keyed with red plastics, leather and all. You do that and I might forgive you your current range’s bloated and boring angry frowny-face exteriors.
Plenty of contrasts are evident in this Supra. A mere 2-litre engine, but two turbos (which mathematically translates to one turbo per litre, which sounds impressive). A competently designed but slightly bland exterior, fortunately countered by velvet volcano of a cabin. A modestly-sized coupé, but whose influence and appeal are still huge to this day, both here and abroad. Probably because it’s that good.