The one. The legend. The Supra. Arguably the most famous Toyota, the Supra is up there with the most iconic Japanese cars ever made. Even if you’re not a car enthusiast, you’ve surely heard of the Supra. It was in production from 1978 to 2002 and spanned across four generations. In the last few years, the famed automaker teased fans with talk of a new Supra and in May 2019, the die-hard fans were finally able to get their hands on the new, fifth generation Supra known as the J29.
The J29 was and still is a highly controversial car as the purists do not feel that it is a genuine Toyota, thanks to the company joining forces with BMW. Take what you want from it, but it has definitely proven to be popular car regardless of the public’s outlook on it.
Since its initial release in 1978, the Supra was a sports car that followed the same basic recipe: front engine, RWD three-door liftback coupe. It has gained the reputation for being the ultimate JDM car thanks to its 2JZ engine that nowadays can be tuned north of 1000hp, but the Supra had very humble beginnings.
In this buyer’s guide we are going to go into detail about the pros and cons of owning a Supra, the different models and generations, average prices, etc. We intend to give you as much information as possible before you go out and purchase one of these legendary sports cars.
Pros and Cons
- Renowned Toyota reliability
- Huge aftermarket support
- Bulletproof 2JZ twin turbo engine
- The fourth generation Supra has timeless looks
- Optional six-speed manual
- It’s an iconic car
- It has been in production for 25 yeas and counting
- Stock, pristine models are becoming increasingly harder to come by
- Driving in wet conditions can be hazardous
- Hard to find a hardtop model
- Too many poor-quality aftermarket parts
- Only seats two people comfortably, even though some models were technically 2+2
As iconic as the Supra might be, it still has its fair share of issues. We have scoured internet forums and websites far and wide to find some of the most common issues regardless of generation. Like with most models, issues are bound to appear as the car ages. There is no amount of testing or research and development that a car maker can do to ensue a car will never have issues.
Here are some of the most common issues Supra owners have reported:
Cylinder head gasket failure. If you know anything about cars, then you know that when a head gasket fails, it means money. On the Supra, this is usually due to the head bolts being improperly torqued. The best way to look for this issue is to check the water temperature and look for white smoke coming from the exhaust.
Low power/Running rough. This issue is most commonly caused by the exhaust gas recirculation valve getting blocked up. There issue can be easily resolved by removing the EGR valve and cleaning it. There are tons of videos online detailing how to do this.
Headlight issues. If you have an imported Supra, you will most likely encounter this issue. On Japanese cars headlight covers were only made of plastic and years of UV damage from the sun’s rays have taken a toll on them causing them to have a hazy, yellow look to them. The easiest way to fix this problem is to buy genuine glass headlight covers. Not only are they more durable, but they are also UV resistant.
Coil packs. Another common issue that MKIV owners have reported was that the coil pack clips seem to break over time thanks to the intense heat they are exposed to. This is not and expensive or difficult issue to resolve; it’s more annoying than anything.
Age related problems. On the older models’ issues such as rust, worn out weather stripping, and random rattles and creaks are common, as they are with most older cars.
All the issues mentioned above should serve as a guide for you, so you know what to look for when you are in the market for a Supra. Overall, the car is very reliable, and this should not stop you from making your dream car a reality. Remember, every car has issues in some form or another.
If you have been following the car market over the last few years, you will know that the Supra, especially the MKIV generation has skyrocketed in price. Some examples can sell well above $100,000. This may seem unattainable for the average person, but rest assured, as some examples can still be had for under $7,000. JDMBuySell.com currently has over 150 Supra’s currently for sale. These cars are only going to go up in value, so it makes a great investment.
Here is a list of the cheapest and the most expensive Supra’s on JDMBuySell.com :
There are plenty of other alternatives that use the famous, front-engine, RWD sports car formula. Almost every auto manufacturer has its own version, although not many have come close to the notoriety that Toyota has gained over the years with Supra.
Here are some of the closest Supra competitors:
- Nissan Skyline GT-R (Read our Nissan Skyline Buying Guide)
- Mazda RX-7 (Read our Mazda RX-7 Buying Guide)
- Nissan Fairlady-Z
- Mitsubishi GTO
- Honda NSX (Read our Honda NSX Buying Guide)
- Honda S2000 (Read our Honda S2000 Buying Guide)
- Toyota MR-2 (Read our Toyota MR-2 Buying Guide)
Models and Specifications
The Supra is currently in its fifth generation and is being built in conjunction with BMW at their factory in Graz, Austria. In this section we’re going to get into more detail about all the generations and what made this car be the icon that it is today.
First Generation (A40/A50):
The first generation Supra as was built between 1978-1981. It was largely based on the Celica as it used the liftback trunk and doors. In some markets it was even known as the Celica Supra. The only main difference was that it was made 129.5mm longer in order to accommodate the inline six-clinger engine as the Celica was only offered with a four-cylinder engine at the time.
Three inline-six engines were offered, ranging from 2.0L all the way up to a 2.8L. Strangely enough power on the 2.0L was 123hp, while the 2.8L made only 117hp. There was also a 2.6L engine which made 110hp. For transmissions, Toyota had three choices: two four-speed automatics and one five-speed manual.
As standard, the Supra came with disc brakes on all four wheels, stabilizer and lateral track bar, and a four-link rear suspension. Customers could opt out for power windows and locks, cruise control and an optional sunroof found on the convenience package. Additional features included an available tilt and telescoping steering wheel, tonneau cover, and available zippered pockets on the back of the front seats for storage. Overall, the Supra was quite a high-end sports car for that time period.
Second Generation (A60):
The second generation Supra was in production form in1978-1981 and it was still named the Celica Supra or the Celica XX in Japan. It still wasn’t its own model, but that would soon change. Major exterior differences could be seen in the second generation. These included the pop-up headlights and an overall boxier styling approach. In addition to that, the new supra was slightly longer and wider that its predecessor.
Toyota responded to customers demands for more power by adding a further two engines to their lineup, brining the total up to five. They now offered three 2.0L engines and two 2.8L engines. The 2.3L from the previous generation was no longer available. The available transmissions were also bumped up to five. They included and three five-speed manuals and two four-speed automatics. Horsepower numbers ranged from 125hp all the way to 178hp.
North America received two distinct models. Those were known as the “Performance Type” and the “Luxury Type”, or “P-Type” and “L-Type” for short. Mechanically, they were the same, but cosmetic differences made it possible to tell the two models apart. The P-Type was fiberglass fender flares and eight-way adjustable seat, whereas the L-Type did not. The easiest way to tell the two models apart was the transmission. The Luxury Type came with an automatic and the Performance Type was equipped with a five-speed manual. Moreover, the L-Type had a digital instrument cluster which consisted of a digital speedometer and tachometer and an electronic fuel and coolant level gauge. Lastly, all P-Types came with optional headlight washers, while the L-Type never did.
Third Generation (A70):
Finally, in 1986, the Supra became its own brand as it was no longer associated with the Corolla. The third generation was built for seven years (1986-1993). Although the Supra cut ties with the Corolla, it was now related to the Soarer mechanically.
Toyota kept the 1G engine lineup for the previous generation, but added two 7M engine variations The now-iconic 1JZ was also added to the list and for the first time ever, the Supra was making over 200hp from the factory with the highest powered engine (1JZ) making 276hp. This time around, only three transmissions were available: two five-speed manuals and one four-speed automatic.
Technology was the main focus for Toyota when it came to the third generation Supra. Some of the optional equipment available was three-channel ABS system and an electronically controlled shock absorber that varied the damper rates depending on the driving style. In addition, all models came with double-wishbone suspension as an available targa top. There was an optional metal sunroof that became available in 1991.
A total of 241,471 units were made for this generation.
Fourth Generation (A80):
This was the longest produced generation Supra to date. It was made from 1993 and went all the way up to 2002, totaling up to nine years. This time around, the exterior looked sleeker and more rounded than previous generations, and it focused even more on performance.
Only two engines were offered for this generation. Both were 3.0L 2JZ variants; one was N/A while the others had two turbos strapped to it. Power went from 220hp, all the way up to 326 for the for the twin-turbo, later models. Three transmission choices were offered, including one five and one six-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic.
Although it still borrowed many parts from the Soarer/Lexus SC, the Supra was total of 340mm shorter, cementing their focus on performance. In addition, many components used lighter materials such as plastics, aluminum, and even magnesium in some instances. Technology and safety were still very important for Toyota. Supra models came with dual airbags, bigger brakes, wheels and tires. With all this added tech, the car was still 200lbs. lighter than its previous generation. After all the dust settled, the Supra ended up with a nearly 50/50 weight distribution, making it a very capable track monster.
Sadly, by the late 90’s coupe sales in general were on the decline in North America and Toyota decided to pull the Supra from Canada in 1996 followed by the US in 1998. It continued to sell in Japan up until 2002.
Fifth Generation (J29/DB):
After teasing the world for years, Toyota released the new Supra to the in 2019. It was met with mixed reviews as the die-hard fans did not like that it was basically a BMW Z4 with Supra badges glued on. People and auto journalists are slowing starting to warm up to the fact that it is just a re-badged BMW and are accepting it for what it is. In North America, the new Supra is offered with one engine configuration. That is the infamous 3.0L inline-six from the Bavarian automaker and it produces between 335hp-382hp depending on the market it is sold in. Japan and Europe do offer a four-cylinder engine that produces 194hp-255hp. As far as gearboxes go, you can only get the car with an eight-speed ZF transmission. This may be a slap in face for the purists, but in Toyota’s defense, it can shift faster than any human ever will. That being said, it still takes away from the feeling of driving a sports car.
While the coveted MKIV platform is becoming rarer and becoming more expensive, the other generations are still fairly affordable, but they are slowly becoming a future collectable.
In recent years, the Supra has become somewhat of a legend thanks to the mighty 2JZ engine being able to hold upwards of 1000hp with stock internals.
That depends on what modifications, if any, you have done to it.
Yes, although the focus of the Supra was to be more of a sports car and less of a comfortable GT cruiser, like its brother, the Soarer.
No. Supra’s were commonly sold in North America, although in a lower volume. That and the low price of a Japanese model makes people opt out for a RHD model.
How to Import a Toyota Supra
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.
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