1986 Toyota Supra Celica Supra 2.8L DOHC I6 from UK and Ireland
Performance, practicality, handling, noise - I am in love!
Rust! These cars rust VERY badly. Do not EVER take them on gritted roads! The sunroof panel has two big spots and needs replacement, tailgate began rusting inside and had to be professionally refurbished, just failed its MOT because the wheel arches and sills are very bad and need professional restoration. Brake pipes are also unserviceable.
Parts are not as bad as people might think for the car's rarity - I have been able to source most consumable parts directly from Toyota for a good price - but for bodywork and engine parts, you need a donor car.
Intermittent ignition problems for six months, eventually traced to a simple faulty relay.
Thermostat stuck open when I got the car so it wouldn't reach operating temperature. Fixed in an evening, very straightforward.
Original size tyres are no longer made in the UK; you have to go a size bigger or smaller.
Vibration on pullaway, suspect propeller shaft bearing has worn out.
Leaking fuel tank due to design flaw allowing water to collect on it.
Rear brakes seized on and had to be overhauled.
Aftermarket speaker upgrades are very poor and buzz against their housings.
There's a few negatives to get out of the way, some down to known design flaws with the car, but let's get onto the positives.
Everything else is perfect.
The car and its 5M-GE engine are a work of art. Super-retro 1980s wedge-shaped body with sharp lines and a low nose, not forgetting pop-up headlamps, very few curves apart from a very noticeable 'power bulge' above the straight-6 engine. And what an engine. As Toyota are renowned for, it's a bulletproof engine that will long outlive the car. Six cylinders in line develop massive torque low in the rev range, and this car will eat others off the line if pushed. It's lightweight, too, just 1,250KG. Put your foot down, all the weight shifts to the rear drive wheels and the car digs in. Most models came with factory limited-slip diffs too. The engine is paired with a faultless W58 5-speed manual transmission, which is harder to find in the UK, although I understand the ECT automatics are also superb. But with this engine and pedigree, for the most fun you need a manual.
This car was my father's, and its original owner had it for 20 years. I know some of the service history in person, but the remainder is extensively documented and this car has been loved. Receipts dating back to the late-80s for work and parts, always at a main dealer. As such, it's in perfect mechanical condition and the bodywork is good (see above for why it's not 'great'). My father also had some modifications done - a stainless-steel exhaust and conical air filter restored it to almost factory power after 20 years, and the noise is unbeatable. Idling, it's very quiet, remarkably so, but when pushed it absolutely roars. There's a characteristic, guttural rumble from the straight-six, which is greatly enhanced by the exhaust, and it sounds superb. It almost sounds more powerful than it is. Almost!
It has great power nearly 30 years later, and handles just as well - even with 100k on the clock, it grips the road brilliantly, though it's very tail-happy in the wet because it's light; it's all too easy to kick the back wheels out around a corner. Correctly handled, it's unbelievable fun. There's overtaking power just about anywhere in the rev range; the engine always delivers. It has an early, but not unsophisticated, electronic fuel injection system that, whilst lacking the polish of a modern system, is far from obsolete and grants superb responsiveness. There is also very little interference from any of the car's systems - no traction control, no ABS; you have to know what you're doing. The power steering and brakes, however, are very good - the steering is very light whilst providing feedback, although the brakes could be more powerful.
Riding in the car is great. The interior is very well thought out, very spacious in the front. The front seats are just about the most comfortable seats I've ever sat in - the driver's seat features 8 points of adjustment, including a 3-bag air cushion for lumbar support. You sink right into the seat in exquisite comfort; perfect for long journeys. After all, this car was intended as a cruiser. The steering wheel is also tilt-adjustable. There isn't as much room in the rear, being a 2+2 layout, but it's enough to take a couple of children. UK models also feature 3-point seatbelts for the rear seats and a fifth lap belt, although squeezing one more person in this car would be exceptionally difficult! There are convenient cubby-holes all over the place for storing things, and the interior is very bright due to large amounts of glass all around. Even better with the roof open.
The boot is very big, and with the rear seats folded down the load bay is enormous. The spare wheel pokes up under the carpet in UK models, but this is because US models have the floor raised to compensate, meaning the UK boot is bigger. You can carry huge things in the back of this car, and with the large rear hatch, loading and unloading is easy. For a performance sports car, it is remarkably practical. It is low to the ground, however, which can also make getting in and out difficult.
Something else in this car's favour - *everything* works. All of the electrical, electronic and mechanical things work, everywhere in the car, nearly 30 years after it left the factory. This includes the superb cruise control (yep, cruise control with a manual gearbox, perfection) which is seamless in use and makes long, or even short, journeys very easy. Most noticeable is the electronic, digital dashboard - the closest thing you'll get to a DeLorean. Right in the centre is a big three-character digital speedometer, with selectable MPH/KMH - why modern cars lack this simple option, I don't know. The tachometer is a long string of LEDs around the speedometer, in 100RPM and 200RPM scales, and every segment works. It's fantastic watching the LEDs chase each other as you rev the engine up. The fuel and temperature gauge are also electronic, and the fuel gauge allows you to magnify the final quarter for more accuracy - it's little touches like this that tell you Toyota really thought about the design of the car.
Onto the subject of fuel; for such a big car you'd be forgiven for thinking it's a gas guzzler. It isn't! Okay, it is if you floor it - if you go mental and push it to the edge you can get around 20MPG-imp, but get this - I successfully drove to Paris and back from Normandy, covering 457 miles, on one tank plus 10 litres, and that was before I fixed the thermostat and leaky fuel tank! If you drive gently and stick to 56MPH, the car will return 40MPG-imp, which is incredible. I can easily get 30-35 out of it. The fuel tank is big, and I'm pretty sure it can be pushed to 500 miles full to empty.
Maintaining the car is almost a pleasure. Everything comes apart logically, and even tight spots in the engine bay can be easily cleared by sequentially removing parts. Common engine parts are relatively easy to access, rather than being hidden away under covers. There is not much part crossover between other models, although the Cressida shared much with the mk2 Supra. Trouble is, that's just as rare. The good news is that, if rust is kept under control, the car should not require any more maintenance than regular. Oil changes are best if done every 3,000 miles, but I don't do enough miles, so I stick to 6,000. The M-series engine does have a reputation for overheating and blowing head gaskets, but this is down to poor maintenance rather than anything else - if the gasket is changed following the proper process and the coolant is flushed, you won't encounter unusual problems. The 5M is regarded as one of Toyota's finest power plants for a good reason.
It's best to stick to limited miles and get a classic-car insurance policy, if only for your own protection - with the rarity of the car, any damage will be inordinately expensive to repair. Keep it garaged as much as humanly possible. Be exceptionally careful on the road, too - one careless driver is all it takes to make this car even rarer when it's written off due to repairable damage!
As sports cars go, the Supra doesn't have a whole lot of power - 178HP from the factory - but the torque more than makes up for this, as does the lightweight body. Engine swaps are popular and well understood for those wanting more - many enthusiasts run engines from the later-generation Supras. There is a lot more modification potential, and the stock chassis and drivetrain can cope with much of it. Mechanically, the Supra is very well built and a tribute to design and engineering. Styling will polarise people - if you don't like the 80s wedge shape, don't bother, it's all about the wedge! And the rust problems will be a constant worry and expense. However, it is a classic car, and is fondly remembered by many who lived through the 80s. These cars will only get rarer, especially due to the UK climate, so their value is almost guaranteed to rise. Get one now before too many rust away, but not mine - I am never selling this magnificent beast!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 27th June, 2014