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.
Curbside Classic: 1986 – 1992 Toyota Supra – Chasing Elusive Ponies, by PN
Curbside Classic: 1987 Toyota Supra – Somebody Still Wants You, by PN
Want To Buy A Brand New 1990 Toyota Supra Turbo? This Toyota Dealer Still Has One – For $70k, by Clayton Seams
Very nice find – great to see one of those in lovely, original condition. Here in the US almost all of those MKIIIs are beat up and thrashed. Time will tell if they’ll even find appreciation and love, they shadow in comparison to the great MKIV…
We can probably thank the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise for alot of cars getting used up by people who couldn’t afford to take care of them properly.
Ever since I could drive, I couldn’t afford to take care of my cars properly. Instead, I did what I could, when I could, and loved those cars. That wasn’t a nice thing to write, in my opinion and experiences.
Many of those people seem to have enough money to stick bits of fibreglass to them, buy lowered springs – they just thrash them to death.
I guess I just know too many of “those people” to see them as unworthy of the cars they are loving to death. Some of the coolest experiences I’ve recently had was walking up to one of “those people” and asking about what they did to get their rides to look like they do.
Once they figured out that I was sincere, they open up and we bond over their love, history of thoughts about what they are driving. A lot of time, they flip these cars and sell them to someone else, so that they can customize another car. It earns young men without jobs extra money and adds value to their lives.
The idea that an plain VanillaMan can admire their rides makes their day. My kids have learned that when their dad sees someone with an unusual car, they can expect him to find out more about what they are driving.
Curbside Classic has taught me that we can be different and still share a love that crosses racial, age and cultural differences.
So please – just don’t judge what others do with their cars.
Can’t believe the condition of that rear tag – in Japan. That ship looks odd too. Like they just hauled it from Disneyland.
The stylized Bulls head is just their latest logo previously they used a Bulls head that looked like what it was there was one front and rear of my 73 & 74 Toyota Corona MK2s, The last time I saw any Supras this model was in the driveway at a friends place where I store my 66 Superminx, one black and one white they both belong to his eldest daughter she was moving house and thanx to a level 3 lockdown the towing company charged with moving them wouldnt take them out of the district, she sold one that was rusty and kept the other which is going to be revived theyve now gone and I have access to the shed I was offered so my toy is now under cover again.
It’s actually sorta genius that the “stylized bull” is simply made up of three ellipses.
Please back this up with some sort of photo, Bryce, because I’m not seeing what you mean exactly.
I’m not aware of any prior Toyota corporate logo. They just put a “TOYOTA” script wherever it was deemed appropriate. Grille emblems were linked to the specific model, i.e. a Crown for the Crown, a star for the MkII, some kind of mythical rooster for the Century, etc.
Bryce is being slightly loose with his language here, but I reckon he’s right even so.
The Mk2 got a badge – here, anyway, though i can’t for second imagine a unique badge for Australia – that was a sort of tall-ish rectangle shield with lines coming out the top, the sides, and the bottom, that, combined, actually does indeed look like a stylized bulls head.
And I can’t find a clear pic of that badge, but try this link from an Oz mag in ’72 and pan in to get a fuzzy idea of what I mean.
My avatar is the old corporate logo up until the debut of the Celsior at the end of 1989. I don’t think many (possibly any?) cars had this badge, but it’s all over literature and manuals well into the early 1980’s:
Right – that logo never showed up on cars, and was rarely seen outside Japan, being katakana.
Only nameplate emblems ever appeared on cars, until the “bull” logo circa 1989 – yet even then, not all Toyotas wore it. The Century G50 and the Progrès never did, despite being born long after the logo happened.
I recall a similar one to below back on maybe 70’s cars? And a more basic one on the steering wheel, I think of my Dad’s friends Hi-Ace.
As far as I can recall the “TOYOTA” only logo was only used from the 80’s, particularly on the front. Obviously I’m referring to export cars, as I think most, if not all JDM cars had model-specific badges.
Or maybe it was a commercial-only thing? I haven’t found any examples on passenger cars…
I’m with you on that red interior. It is gorgeous! I still can’t get over seeing the steering wheel on the wrong side though.
This was probably my favorite Supra sub-generation. The approach to the exterior was subtle. The separation from the Celica name was cool too; as you mention, the Celica went to FWD, so it was a necessary move.
Back to that awesome interior, my wife and I were trying to recall the last car either of us had with an interior other than black or a shade of grey. My current Civic is Black and Tan, but although tan is a color… I’m sorry… that does not count.
I had to go all the way back to my ex’s ’94 T-Bird that had a blue interior. Even my ’83 & ’88 were both a shade of grey. She couldn’t even recall her last car with an interior of color, although her 2009 Lancer’s dark grey and black are being faded by the sun to a weird sorta blue color.
Bring back color choices on normal cars!!! Sure you can get wild oranges and such on high end stuff (at even higher prices), but a better interior color palette would be really nice. That goes for the exterior color choices too, although I kinda like this car in the white it is sporting.
These are fantastic cars and deserve our admiration. The Celica, like the Probe and Prelude, are also great cars, but rear drive has the edge.
I purchased a 1986.5 Supra soon after they became available in Canada. They were still pretty scarce at that point, but I was able to score a corporate demo car, supposedly driven by a Toyota Canada VP.
It sported a (200 HP, 185 lb-ft) 3L V6, and a 5-speed manual. The turbo was not offered that first year.
It was dark metallic red, with a red velour interior, as shown above. This may seem like too much red, but the interior was actually a very dark shade of red (it was called maroon in the brochure), which looked and felt very classy.
In 1986, that car definitely turned heads.
To me, it was more a very nice GT than a sports car. It was reasonably fast, but it was also fairly heavy at 3468 lbs / 1573 kg.
Unfortunately, I had to trade it in after only three years, since my aging parents started to require frequent transportation assistance. As much as I had enjoyed the Supra, it was totally unsuited to my new circumstances.
That interior is delicious.
Interesting how velour was once so common on nicer European and Japanese cars, while Americans favored vinyl and leather. And now those two have taken over the world.
I remember when this generation of Supra came out. It quickly garnered a reputation as a poor-man’s BMW 6-series coupe (which wasn’t a bad thing).
Schwing. I’ve always loved these. I wish I had bought one when they were used but not used up.
These are admirable buses, but a wee bit stiff and generic in the styling to be too interesting. Not inside this one, ofcourse, which looks positively exotic today.
We are a foreign clime – say, what is a clime? – that got the atmo 3 litre and then the turbo 3 litre here: the car was too heavy for either to be properly fast. Wasn’t much good in production races because of all the pies it had ate, either.
It probably needed that incredibly complex 2 litre, which not only had one turbo per litre but also 1/3 of a turbo per 333cc (or, obviously, 83cc per valve per turbo), the highest ratio of turbos to cc yet published on CC.
“the highest ratio of turbos to cc yet published on CC”
Au contraire, Monsieur Baum – Any official kei car with a turbo has the ratio beat at one per 660cc max. It could perhaps though be the highest ratio if a multiple of turbos is part of the requirement?
Here’s one that was bagged in the states of all places… https://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/curbside-classic-1995-mitsubishi-pajero-mini-vr-ii-little-car-big-personality/
Ah, yes, about that, obviously I was referring to thirds of a turbo – a fiendishly complex device, that – but I must concede my point is blown, as it were.
Seems pretty fitting that it’s next to a Harrier, which probably most closely holds this Supra’s spot in the Toyota lineup today.
Wouldn’t the current Supra be the one that holds the old Supra’s spot in the lineup today? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting the comment. We’ve reviewed a new Venza (the Harrier) and it’s a very fine vehicle, but I don’t think I once thought of any Supra while driving it.
While not a fan of the wheels and much preferring the original nose (without the centerpiece thing), I like these, and recall enjoying the test drive of the naturally aspirated one I was looking at sometime in the early ’90’s. They are definitely quite rare these days over here although fairly common in their era. As others have stated, the interior is amazingly well-kept in this one, it boggles the mind.
Looking back on it, it’s amazing just how much Toyota changed their design language right around the mid to latter part of the mid-80’s with huge shifts in how the Celica, Supra, and even the sportier Corollas looked. A few more years and both the Cressida as well as MR2 went from highly angular to much more organic shaped as well. Equally baffling is the very boxy original MR2 coming out just before the Celica lots its boxiness in favor of curves. And then this Supra being sort of a mid point between the angular Celica-based one and the subsequent curvy one to bridge that gap.