The Japanese supercar killer of the 20th century has attained legendary status among petrolheads around the globe. It wouldn’t be a long shot to say that if “God” had a garage of sports cars, the Toyota Supra would feature there as one of his top picks. Though rolling out of the factory floor, the Supra wasn’t the crazy supercar killer it became known to be. But the catch was that it was so invariably easy to extract walloping performance by the simplest of modifications. It could probably have something to do with the Japanese Gentleman Agreement in the 90’s to not exceed 300hp power output.
It was a clever move used by the Japanese manufacturers to release the car with a highly detuned engine so they could adhere to the Gentlemen’s Agreement, but anyone with half the skills and with a spanner could unleash the car’s true potential. This ability to convert the Supra to a totally different animal with the rather simple alterations made the car a true favourite among tuners. As a tribute to probably the most incredible car of the 80’s and 90’s, we look at the evolution of the first Supra a.k.a A40 to its formidable A80 with which the Supra name ended.
Toyota Celica Supra Mark I (A40) 1978 – 1981
The first iteration of the Supra started out as Toyota’s answer to the vastly popular Datsun Fairlady Z which was gaining the attention from driving enthusiasts. Toyota developed a very formidable 6 cylinder engine to compete with the Datsun Z, but didn’t quite know which chassis to put it on. They finally zeroed on the Celica’s already proven chassis, this created a bit of an issue as the larger dimensions of the 6 cylinder engine couldn’t fit into the smaller engine bay of the Celica. Toyota made a few minor modifications to the front of the Celica and made the engine bay longer to accommodate the engine. The car was named the Toyota Celica Supra which subtly distinguished itself from the Celica. Toyota essentially sold the distinguished Celica Supra as a car that offered a perfect blend of comfort and sportiness.
A60 Mark II 1981 – 1986
The second generation of Celica continued in the path of the first generation and built on its strong points of being luxurious. It was sold in two trims of ‘L’ for luxury and ‘P’ for performance. This generation also had the benefit of having its suspension tuned by none other than Lotus, which had the track record of building the best handling cars till date. The second generation like the first used the smooth and powerful engine of the previous generation but only this time it produced a lot more power. The wheel arches were flared and the second generation featured pop-up headlights which distinguished it from its sister, the Celica.
A70 Mark III 1986 – 1993
This is the first Toyota Supra to lose the Celica name altogether. The A60 Mark III Supra also moved away from the layout it shared with the Celica. True to its evolution, the engine capacity increased to a naturally aspirated 3-litre engine further churning its power output to 200bhp. Also debuting was the first of the JZ series of engine. The 1JZ series of engines are a favourite among the tuners for its ability to make huge horsepower gains with minimum spanner wrenching. The 2.5litre twin turbo 1JZ engines were in fact so formidable that it promoted Supra’s to compete with the next class of cars such as the Nissan Skyline and Mazda Rx-7, outputting power in excess of 280bhp. The A70 Mark III Supra also wore its 80’s styling with a lot of panache, featuring the pop-up headlights and the ridgeback design. The suspension was also improved in the form of double wishbone suspension at both the front and the rear with forged aluminium upper arms, taking its road holding ability to a whole new level. The Mark III also saw the introduction of a clutch type limited slip differential to aid with fast cornering.
A80 Supra Mark IV 1993 – 2002
This arguably the most iconic Supra among all enthusiasts. The A80 generation of Supra essentially had the identical drivetrain and suspension set up as the Toyota Soarer. The updated styling with rounded edges featured a longer and wider wheelbase giving the car a more aggressive stance and aiding better handling capabilities. The A80 models were also packed with technology in the form of traction control and individual 4 channel ABS system, which was essentially taken from Formula 1. The ABS system used sensors on each wheel to individually measure not just the speed but also the angle and pitch to ensure the most effective braking performance. The braking system was so incredible that the Supra had the shortest braking distance from 70mph until it was broken by Porsche’s Supercar the Carrera GT in the year 2004. The engine on the A80 was an absolute peach, featuring sequential twin turbos bolted to the Legendary 2JZ engine displacing 2997 cubic inches of capacity. The 2JZ engine produced 320hp and weighed in at 1410kgs, it also did a 0-60mph sprint in a swift 4.6 seconds and delivered a top speed of 250km/h. The A80 Supra competed with the big league Japanese performance cars like the Nissan GTR, Mazda Rx-7 and even the Japanese mid-engined Supercar, Honda NSX.
The sights of the A80 Supra even today is bound to catch the attention of any petrolhead. The unique styling of the car, the bulletproof 2JZ engine, and a brilliantly sorted chassis meant the Supra lives in the hearts of the enthusiasts even though the last Supra to leave the Toyota factory was 13-years ago. The car is surprisingly competitive with the current generation of sports cars, with a little bit of wrench work the performance can be doubled if not tripled from its factory output. The stock internals on the car are built quite robust, being able to handle upwards of 700hp, it has truly cemented itself in the hearts of tuners and track day enthusiasts alike.
Though Toyota has been working on the successor to the Supra for over half a decade, Toyota hasn’t yet confirmed a release date. The new concept called the FTHS (Future Toyota Hybrid Sport) is said to feature a hybrid V6 engine outputting in the range of 400hp, packed into a sporty coupe body. There are strong rumours of the new Supra debuting in 2018. The delay from Toyota with the new Supra is quite understandable as it has got some big shoes to fill in terms of the legend it is replacing.
In a world that is moving towards self-driven electric cars, the enthusiasts in you and me are bound to appreciate the era when cars were meant to be enjoyed. Driving to us is a pleasure-filled experience with going around fast bends, working the manual gears and making the car an extension of your body and in the process savouring every bit of the journey. The Toyota Supra has been a car that has stayed true to the pleasure of driving and only time can tell if the new Supra of 2018 can keep up this driving spirit.