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The Toyota Supra is a modern classic that's rising in value


There's a lot of love out there in the world for the Toyota Supra and for many the pick of the bunch is the 1993 to 2002 Supra generation 4

There’s a lot of love out there in the world for the Toyota Supra and for many the pick of the bunch is the 1993 to 2002 Supra generation 4

If you keep up with motoring matters, you may have noticed that Toyota has recently launched a new Supra.

Uncle Bob, our resident tight-fisted git, certainly did. This news got him all excited, but not for the reason you might think.

Bob doesn’t like the new Supra at all. Why? Because in his eyes it’s not a true Supra. It’s just not Japanese enough.

Not only does it use BMW drivetrains in what is depressingly referred to as BMW Cluster Architecture, it’s not even built in Japan. 

It’s built in Austria by the same people who used to hammer together Haflinger trucks.

Yes, yes, Bob knows it’s all about platform sharing and unlikely collaborations these days, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it.

What he does like about this new Supra, however, is the extra interest he reckons it’s going to create in old, properly Japanese Supras.

For this reason he is quietly exploring his own secret used car underworld for examples that he might buy.

When it comes to choosing the right model of ‘Cash Car’ Supra, ie one that won’t lose you any money and might even make you some, it’s a balancing act.

There’s no point looking for the very first models: the generation one (1978-81) and generation two (1981-85) Supras are either far too expensive or far too rotten.

Which is a shame, especially in the case of the mark two whose wedgey pop-up headlamp styling still looks great today. 

With a 180bhp 2.8-litre six and Lotus-tuned independent suspension those gen-twos went a bit too, but the UK numbers are now down to single figures, and the prices for ones you’d want are up to £30,000. It’s out of Bob’s ballpark.

He hasn’t got much time for the A70 generation three (1986-93) Supra either. It was motoring blancmange. Y

ou could get a twin-turbo 275bhp version in Japan, but here in Europe the strongest Mk 3 only had 230bhp or so and far too much soft, curvy metal to cart around.

No, for Uncle Bob the only Supra worth having is the generation four A80 model which ran from 1993 to 2002.

For Uncle Bob, the generation four A80 Supra is the only one worth chasing down

For Uncle Bob, the generation four A80 Supra is the only one worth chasing down

On launch it was the most powerful Toyota ever built – and it cemented a place in a generation of car fans’ hearts thanks to The Fast & The Furious films.

Not only is it the last proper Supra, by Bob’s definition anyway, it also gave a debut to the 3-litre, 24-valve, twin-cam inline six 2JZ engine, which in either naturally aspirated 225bhp GE or twin-turbo 326bhp/325lb ft GTE form is one of the all-time great engines, not just from Japan but from anywhere.

Toyota Supra timeline 

1967-1970: Toyota 2000GT coupe – spiritual sourceof all future Supras (one-off cabriolet version used in 007 movie ‘You Only Live Twice’

1978-1981: 1st generation Celica Supra ‘A40/A50’

1981 -1986: 2nd generation Celica Supra ‘A60’

1986-1993: 3rd generation Supra ‘A70’

1993-2002: 4th generation Supra ‘A80’

From 2019: new 5th generation GT Supra launched

Not only is it immensely tuneable – 1,000bhp has been achieved – it’s also as tough as old boots.

As mentioned, the GTE (or TT as it has become known in the UK) had two turbos. These ran sequentially. You can actually hear the second one whistling into action at 4,000rpm.

Twin-turbo Supras were available on the Japanese domestic market but their turbines were smaller. 

Those Supras produced about 40bhp less than the brawny British bounders but you actually didn’t sense much of a difference between the two cars on the road because the smaller JDM turbos were a little more responsive at lower engine speeds.

To maximise the performance of the mark four Supra, Toyota went to a lot of effort to keep its weight down. The bonnet was aluminium, the steering wheel was magnesium alloy, the petrol tank was plastic, and even the carpet fibres were hollow. Bob isn’t sure about just how much weight that saved.

Even so, the Supra tipped the scales at not far short of 1,600kg, but in Getrag six-speed manual guise (there was also a four-speed auto option), the GTE could still knock off the 0-60mph run in 4.9 seconds, a hell of a time now let alone in 1993, especially for a rear-wheel drive car, albeit one with a torque-sensing limited-slip differential and electronic traction control.

Disable the 155mph speed limiter and it would go on to 177mph.

Better yet, the A80 had the looks to back up its performance. It was a stumpy, muscular Staffy of a car that still looks the bizzo today.

The 1978 generation one Supra was based on the Celica. 

The A80 generation four Supra was based on the Lexus SC, but it still made a very good job of paying homage to the generation six Celica, adding just the right amount of hunkered-down butchness.

The angled instrumentation put you at the heart of the action, especially at night when all the lights were on.

Here in the UK you could only get the fixed-roof twin-turbo Supra, but all the other variations including the removable-roof Aerotops, the Japanese twin-turbos and the non-turbo GEs have all been unofficially imported into Britain from the Japan domestic market at one point or another.

This is a mid-1990s Toyota press shot for the Supra - and no, we have absolutely no idea what they were thinking when they issued an action photo with a hand truck delivery either

This is a mid-1990s Toyota press shot for the Supra – and no, we have absolutely no idea what they were thinking when they issued an action photo with a hand truck delivery either

You’ll know it’s a UK car if it has bonnet vents, wash-wipe headlamps, 17in wheels and bigger brakes – unless someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make their JDM car look like a UK one by retrofitting all that gear.

UK Supras (as opposed to Japanese imports) were never that common when they were new. Only 250 or so were sold per year through just 25 Toyota and Lexus dealers.

If you agree with Bob that a sporting Toyota should taste of sushi rather than schnitzel, then why not channel your inner samurai or that droney bald bloke off Fast & Furious and step this way for some buying insights into an appealing Japanese coupe that, thanks to clever noise and vibration-isolating technology, is as much fun bumbling down the High Street as it is banzai-ing along the highway.

The mark 4 era Toyota Supra cemented its place in a generation of petrolheads' hearts when it starred in The Fast & The Furious, with Paul Walker, right, and Vin Diesel, left

The mark 4 era Toyota Supra cemented its place in a generation of petrolheads’ hearts when it starred in The Fast & The Furious, with Paul Walker, right, and Vin Diesel, left

The new Supra was long-awaited but has drawn a mixed reaction due to its BMW Z4 link

The new Supra was long-awaited but has drawn a mixed reaction due to its BMW Z4 link 

Toyota Supra: Bob’s Three To Think On

The production line for this Supra was switched off in 2002. The fact that you can still pick up good, solid examples at least 17 years later is some sort of a testament to their quality. That they still look good in 2019 is a handy bonus.

There is a problem, which is that prices are going up. This is thanks in part to the new 2019 Supra fanning the flames of desire for the old ones, and in part to the 40-something people who loved them when they were new and who now have the requisite amount of folding to get one on their drive.

These folk are scrabbling with one another to buy, and those owners who are happy to unload their cars are equally happy to make the next owner’s purchase extra-memorable by cranking up the price.

Of course, once you’ve bought one you become the new daddy, and the price negative immediately becomes a positive.

It’s the classic fine art scenario. If everybody agrees that a few blobs of paint thrown in the right direction make a piece of canvas worth a million quid, then it is worth a million quid and everybody’s happy. Just rinse and repeat from there.

The car at the very top of the Supra desirability tree would be a UK-supplied GTE twin turbo with the Getrag V160 6-speed manual gearbox. At the bottom would be the normally aspirated GE with an auto box, but even they’re going up in price.

Which tells you two things: one, any Mk 4 Supra is worth having; and two, following on from one, if you can’t drum up the readies for a twin-turbo, you could always buy a GE and fit a conventional single turbo to it.

You’re very unlikely to burst the engine or either of the GE’s transmissions – the automatic or 5-speed manual will each comfortably handle up to 400bhp, and even more in the manual if you beef up the clutch – plus you’ll have fun as your investment appreciates.

The presence of an aftermarket turbo won’t affect the value as the car can always be put back to standard if that’s what the market wants when the time comes to move it on.

Here are three super Supras that Bob found. Well, these are the three that he’s found that he’s willing to tell you about anyway. Bob’s a nice chap, but he’s not that nice.

This 1994 Supra imported in 1998 was with the same owner for 21 years and sold for £16,650

This 1994 Supra imported in 1998 was with the same owner for 21 years and sold for £16,650

1994 Toyota Supra twin turbo £16,650 – SOLD PRICE

Up for sale at CCA’s December auction this weekend was this 3.0 litre 1994 twin turbo Toyota Supra automatic, imported in 1998. It said it had been with the current owner for the last 21 years, presumably since it arrived in the UK, had 49,000 miles (78,857) indicated and an MOT until the end of next April. An MOT check reveals it’s barely covered any miles in the past decade. The lot condition score was 101/ 135. What would such a car fetch? The hammer came down at £16,650.   

This 1994  Toyota Supra for sale privately on AutoTrader sounds well cared for

This 1994  Toyota Supra for sale privately on AutoTrader sounds well cared for

1994 Toyota Supra 3.0 Twin Turbo auto, £21,000 

This 3.0 litre Twin Turbo auto is from a private seller on AutoTrader, with a listing that indicates it’s been cared for. It’s listed as a 2002 car but is actually an L-registration from 1994, which is probably a listing glitch. Oil changes every 5,000 miles, a cambelt and water pump change and new Goodyear F1 tyres, Brembo discs and pads all-round hint at a careful owner willing to spend the money needed. They say the car ‘drives beuatifully and has been meticulously maintained’, with clambering onto the property ladder the reason for sale. It has an MOT until August 2020, with a nice clean history and 95,000 miles under its belt.

This Toyota Supra RZ for sale on eBay packs a hefty 800bhp thanks to a raft of upgrades

This Toyota Supra RZ for sale on eBay packs a hefty 800bhp thanks to a raft of upgrades

1996 Toyota Supra RZ, with 800bhp, £29,995 

Thirty grand for a modded 1996 Supra? Has Bob finally lost it? Well, probably, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal of this 3 litre car with the getrag gearbox, which has had a full engine overhaul using seriously expensive performance parts. It’s got 160,000 miles on the clock, but the eBay seller says to ignore that ‘as the car has covered only around 10k miles since all the upgrades were carried out’ before giving a very long and detailed spec list. The crucial figure here is 800bhp – that’s what it’s claimed this car puts out with the perhaps unnecessary note ‘this car is extremely fast’.

Toyota Supra buying guide

Bodywork & interior

The Uchida-designed bodywork seems gratifyingly resistant to rust, although of course you can never rule it out on cars of this vintage.

There are plenty of toys and comfort features. Leather was standard. It’s a bit hard to check the operation of the active front spoiler, which retracts on startup and drops at speeds above 100km/h (62mph).

Some owners remove the fuse to keep it down for street cred, but speed bumps then become an issue. Luckily the UK Supra community has developed an easy-to-fit override module that bypasses the car’s ECU for driver-controlled flexibility.

You’ll want to check the correct functioning of the electric windows, automatic air-conditioning, cruise control, heated front seats with power adjustment on the driver’s side, and the original six-speaker stereo with power aerial if it’s still present. The ABS light should light up on ignition then go out.

Engine & transmission

The 2JZ inline six engine is one of the all-time greats for both power potential and reliability. If it seems a bit smokey from cold it could be worn valve stem seals. If it carries on smoking the piston rings may be on the way out. On twin-turbo GTEs you should be able to hear turbo no 2 joining in at around 4,000rpm.

Have a look at the service paperwork to make sure that the 50,000 mile timing belt change frequency has been adhered to and that the oil has been changed regularly. 6,000km is a good number for that.

Check the clutch operation, and if it needs changing, have the flywheel done, too. It can fail, causing a severe judder and rattling as you let out the clutch and pull away.

Buy a Supra and you are unlikely to ever  lack like-minded folk to go hang out in a car park with

Buy a Supra and you are unlikely to ever  lack like-minded folk to go hang out in a car park with

Surprisingly the Supra TT cost the same amount on its UK launch – £37,500 – irrespective of which transmission it had, 4-speed auto or six-speed Getrag V160 manual. The manual was very over-engineered, but if you turn the wick right up on your engine – which with the right tuning can develop up to 1,000bhp – even this beast of a transmission can throw its innards to the four winds.

You can’t get new V160s any more. New old-stock ‘boxes do pop up from time to time, but they are eye-wateringly expensive. One of Bob’s motorsports mates has one right now that’s still in its plastic wrapper. The price? A few quid short of £16,000.

Synchromesh wears out on the non-turbo Supra’s five-speed gearbox and you may notice slight jerkiness on the four-speed auto’s 1-2 change.

Suspension & steering

Like the engine, the big suspension bits are strong – along with the front crossmember, the upper suspension arms are made of aluminium – but, as with any big, heavy performance car, ‘moving’ parts like bushes and dampers don’t last for ever. The speed-sensitive steering generally works well but the racks can leak.

Wheels, tyres & brakes

As mentioned earlier, the twin-turbo UK Supras have 17inch wheels rather than the 16-inchers on the naturally aspirated JDM cars. The back wheels are wider than the fronts (8in vs 9.5in), so the tyres are differently sized too. The spare is a one-size-fits-all space-saver. Brakes are ventilated discs with four-piston calipers at the front and a then-innovative lateral G-sensing ABS system.

A 1994 update to the pistons increased the rate of wear to the pads and discs, and Supra tyres tend to wear on the inside edges which is not easily visible unless the car is up on the ramp, so keep an eye on all that. 

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