By on December 16, 2009

superior supra

Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to go back in time and make different choices about the cars we bought? As I sit here and contemplate the qualities and my memories of the Mark II Supra, I ask myself just what the hell I was thinking when I bought that ’83 T-Bird Turbo Coupe instead of a Supra? Don’t remind me; it was in a moment of typical youthful impulsiveness. The Supra had it all over the noisy, thrashy, live-axle T-Bird: a silky-smooth DOHC inline six, more horsepower, IRS, four-wheel disc brakes, and Toyota’s superb build and material quality. Live and learn.

CC 22 073 800If the first Supra was something of a Japanese Buick Riviera, favored for its smooth, soft manners, the Supra Mk II was closer to a BMW M3, at least in image if not actual performance. I say that from the perspective of living in LA during the Mark II’s heyday, when the same demographic that you might expect to see in an M3 in more recent times would very likely have been in a Supra Mk II: young, affluent, hip, and quite often Asian; in other words, almost the polar opposite of the Nissan 280 ZX demographic of the time. I may not have been hip or Asian, but I sure could see myself behind the wheel of one, unlike the Supra Mark I or the highly-unhip Zx.

The Mark II was still Celica based, with an extended front end for the longer engine. Somehow, this second nose job looks a bit less grafter on than the first one. Perhaps because the Japanese designers of this generation had the longer front end in mind from the get go. The smooth and rounder Mark I was based on the California Calty-designed Celica, a first for a Toyota. But this generation’s styling was brought back to the Japan-based studio, and it shows. The Japanese love for lots of angles and busy details is obvious, especially compared to the organic and simple shape of its predecessor. It may be the main reason why I grabbed for the T-Bird: it’s new slick aero-styling was much more my cup of (non-green) tea than this generation Celica and Supra.

But for a lover of inline sixes, the Supra’s engine was quite compelling: a classic in-line DOHC 2.8 liter unit, smooth and willing, for the times. From today’s vantage point, its power output looks modest at best, rising gently from 145 hp for the ’82 to 161 for the ’86. That’s just behind the Mustang GT’s numbers, 157 hp in ’82, and 175 from ’83 on. The Mustang was definitely the performance bargain of the time, but it wasn’t exactly a refined piece of machinery by any stretch.

CC 22 076 800The Mark II came in two distinct flavors: L for comfort, and P for performance. The P-type had fender flares, better tires and suspension tuning, eight-way seats, and an LSD. The L-type’s claim to fame was its optional fully-digital IP, with one of the first integrated trip computers. Very hot stuff in 1982. Very long-dead stuff in 2009. The P-type was the way to go for that reason alone, if not for the more obvious ones.

I had a brief drive in one of these, and the contrast to my Turbo Coupe was stark. In fact, they were pretty much polar opposites, given their similar genres. The TC felt lighter and a hair nimbler, for better or for worse. The Supra was almost Mercedes solid, and much less unflappable over broken pavement, with its four wheel independent suspension. The biggest difference was the engine, though. The TC’s little ex-Pinto four was horrendously thrashy the minute it hit 4,000 rpm; it was like a rev-limiter due to the pain it inflicted above that. But its power did come on in a fun if brief burst of turbo boost. The Supra’s engine had no real bite, just a steady smooth flow of power; refined and sophisticated in comparison. Not unlike the silky-smooth six in the W124 300E that replaced the Turbo Coupe in ’85. Now that’s one car buying decision I’ll never have regrets about.

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48 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1984 Toyota Celica Supra Mk II...”


  • avatar
    carve

    I have SUCH fond memories of this car.  My mom bought one of these when I was 7, in 1985- a metallic blue P-type.  What a spectacular car for the day.  The power seemed unbelievable at the time, and the engine had this silky-smooth hum that sounded like it was straight from the future, with a board-flat torque curve and utter smoothness to redline.  The interior looked straight out of a spaceship or fighter plane to my young eyes, and was MUCH more modern than all but a few cars of that era. Nine years later, I took my driving test in that car.  I took it to the back roads along Mt. St. Helens and found the car amazingly docile driving sideways.  I remember going somewhere with some exchange students once, and, attacking an on-ramp this German kid said “Ja!  I feel like I’m in Germany!”  I took this car to prom, driving through the Columbia River Gorge and up to Crown Point and drove home on empty roads at 100 mph at dawn.  Later I had this car in college, where I really appreciated the practicality. With the hatchback and the seats folded down, I could haul nearly as much stuff as in my Cherokee. A couple of mountain bikes was no problem.  It was eventually sold to a cousin, who destroyed it in 2002 by having a tug-of-war contest with another car.  I believe he sold it to a friend who dropped in an LT1.
    Today, I drive the modern car that is most similar to that old Supra- a 335i.  It’s an agile, docile handling sports/luxury car with an inline 6 that provides the best acceleration in its class- a REMARKABLY similar car.  I think the Supra might’ve had better seats though, even though the ones in the 335i are great.  A WAY ahead of it’s time car.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I had an ’83 Celica GT in this color/body style. One of my all-time favorite cars. The body had typical Toyota corrosion problems as it got old but it was a wonderful car and I had a tough time parting with it when it was ten years old.

    I also had a ’90 Supra in this color; pretty much crap on wheels. Parts were prohibitively expensive and it developed deep-seat electronic problems that no one could diagnose, much less fix. The saddest thing was its performance. Standard 3.0 litre in-line six with an automatic and it was sloooooooooow. The Celica with its 2.4 litre four and five speed manual transmission felt faster.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    What a great car!  The Supra had it all over the also-new for 1982 Camaro and Firebird in the refinement and reliability departments.  I believe the 2.8L DOHC six also matched the Z28′s standard 305 at 145hp.  Of course, the Supra was also more expensive.  This car even had a great stereo with the 7-Band Equilizers.  And automatic A/C.  And the P-Type had terrific seats with a pump-up bulb lumbar adjustment.  The first time I plunked down money for a car magazine was because of this car.  Road & Track and Motor Trend each had terrific photo spreads and write-ups.  MT later named it Import Car of the Year.  Despite the COTY’s dubious reputation the Supra definitely earned the award fair and square.  Other participants like the DeLorean and the Alfa GTV6 just didn’t measure up in one way or another.  No doubt, having Colin Chapman’s and Dan Gurney’s stamp of approval didn’t hurt it saleswise.  The styling still looks good if not as good as the Camaro’s.  To me, the L-Type (without the fender flares) has aged a little better especially the later ones with the faux P-Type wheels.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I had a long-term rental of an 83 when I suddely picked up and moved to Dallas back in, well, 83. It was a reliable car and quite comfortable, but not being a Supra, mine had the 2.5l 4 in it.  It was not particularly fast but a nice ride overall. Thanks for the memory jog.

    A pity Toyota seems to have lost the passion.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    @ carve:  I think that the modern day successor to this car is the G37 ( btw I know it’s a V6.)

  • avatar
    Brian Tiemann

    Why am I the only one who keeps thinking there was more than just transmissions and door handles shared between the Mk II Supra and the Lotus Excel?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Excel

    Differences abound on close inspection, but at first glance they look like the same damn car.
     

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck

      They do look remarkably similar!  I could never understand why Toyota decided to copy AMC’s door handles on the 82s and 83s.  That explains it.  Check out this picture of the 1982 Excel with the Supra P-Type wheels:
      http://www.autoevolution.com/images/models/LOTUS_Excel-1982_main.jpg

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’d argue the spiritual successor to this car is the new GTI.  Super practical, sporty, but it does have a nerdy squarish look this car didn’t have.  I bet as far as interior space goes, a GTI is pretty close if not a bit bigger as a result of the tall boy roof line.

  • avatar
    carve

    A G37 and 335i are remarkably similar cars, so we’re splitting hairs there.  I’d also through the IS350 on that list, with a bonus for being a Toyota.  The bimmer is the only one with an inline 6 though.  The GTI though is front wheel drive with a boxy body, rather than a RWD long hood, low, sexy, coupe.

    BTW- the example in the pic above is pretty clapped out and doesn’t really do the car justice. This car is identical to my old Supra…

    http://classicsupra.com/images/BlueMkII-1.jpg
    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/686/941/26712970004_large.jpg
    http://media.motortopia.com/files/10710/vehicle/4823e8d40b67f/HPNX0016.jpg

    Here’re those nice seats…
    http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a76/dmcmanis/IMG_5896.jpg

    & the ultra-modern (for 1982-86) dash, minus the cool stereo with equalizer. Instrument layout is similar to my 335i’s
    http://www.syncorsystems.com/SupraPhotos/Supra85InteriorFront.jpg

  • avatar
    James2

    The sad thing is Toyota styling is veering back in this direction. Just look at the new 4Runner for proof.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I like the styling of the first gen better, this one has too many angles IMO. The front mudflaps on the example are no doubt functional but look like they belong on a full size pickup. If Toyota had a similar car today I think it would sell.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    That’s got the hatch from the 85+ Supra.  May still be an 84 though because the hatches were generally the first to go so it probably got replaced.  The 84 had the single black spoiler at the top, rather than the two smaller body colour ones.  I think the 85 hatch looked better and always sort of wanted to replace the one on my 84 with one.
     
    Other than the differential and the alternator/water pump (all things that tend to go in sports cars that get driven hard) these cars were indestructible.
     
    The one thing I remember about the one I had was that it loved being pushed past its handling limits; I never once felt out of control no matter how much I abused it.  The only issue it did have was when hard on the brakes, just before you came to a stop the rear end would slide out a bit to one side.  Thing was, it always slid out and always in the same direction and only just a little bit.  It even got mentioned in a car magazine as one of the cars “issues”.
     
    11/10th’s was never far away and the car loved being there.  The 3.0l turbo engine from the Mk3 also fits (with a custom wiring harness) if you want to go fast as well and feel like dumping a lot of cash into a 25 year old car.
     
    And the car comes with a full size spare on a proper matching wheel, how great is that!?  Could have done without the rust and the pinstriped interior though.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Based on your spoiler knowledge, this probably is an ’85 then. Thanks!

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      I mentioned the docile handling in my post above, but yeah- it can’t be said enough; this car had classic RWD characteristics, but also very docile, controllable handling.  The first time I ever had serious oversteer on a dry road was in this car.  Even though it was accidental, I just countersteered and drifted around the corner as though that’s the way I always drove it.  No drama.
      The features were pretty high-end for the day, as you mention, too.  Many things we take for granted today, but were very high-end at the time.  I recall the…
      Automatic climate control, cruise, power locks & windows, rear wiper with washer, power antenna, pop-up lights WITH washers (you can see the little dots of washers in the pics above), fog lights, equalizer with FOUR SPEAKER stereo, limited slip diff, map light that could be moved around the cabin, vanity mirrors with lights, air bladders to customize seat fit, adjustable side bolsters, etc.  This car was definitely a BMW competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      @carve
       
      Sorry, didn’t read anybody else’s post in the rush to put my 2 cents in.
       
      And yeah, lots of features.  And all that extra crap would still work after decades on the road as well! Except for the Fujitsu-ten tape deck and apparently the digital dash which I never had anyways.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Does the C-pillar/rear fender area of this car and the Celica of the same era remind anyone else of the CTS coupe?

    Bunter

  • avatar

    The P-type had fender flares, better tires and suspension tuning, eight-way seats, and an LSD.
    Is that so you could really take a trip in it?

  • avatar
    dswilly

    The tail lights where used on the Lotus Esprit Turbo

  • avatar
    Styles79

    I love this model, which we got here as the Supra, or more commonly as the Celica XX (JDM import). The XX had numerous engine choices too, from the underpowered 1G-EU, the M-TEU 2.0 Turbo to the rather rare fairly revvy 1G-GEU 2.0 24-valve. I lusted after a good 2800GT for my first car but struggled to find one. Unfortunately most of the examples I found were the 2.0 sohc or turbos and just in rubbish condition (this was in the mid-ninteys that I was looking). I did find one white 2.8 manual with all of the goodies, but it had some problems, which scared me off as a first-time buyer. I will always regret that decision! I ended up settling for a fairly nice ST162 ’86 2.0GT Celica, which in many ways was probably a better choice.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I once heard someone comment that the Toyto Supra was the best Camaro GM never built.  After reading this I have a tendancy to agree. 

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Nice car. I think it was Car and Driver that called it a ‘poor man’s BMW 630CSi’. Sounds about right.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    I actually like this design very much. Crisp, sharp, coherent. It grows on you. In the 80′s, I thought the design aged fast and looked old very soon. I guess it’s the 70′s angular theme that became very old with the Audi 100 and Aero-Birds in the mid 80′s. But in hindsight, it’s a very sharp design, it still looks solid and quality-like.
     

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      In profile, I think the nose looks disproportionately long. The base Celica was better proportioned, but the front end was ugly. The long nose was probably to accomodate the straight-six.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      I like the Supra-version better than the Celica. I guess it’s more than the longer nose. It’s the wheel-arches, the wider more aggressive stance. the Celica looks more narrow and tin-like, not as substantial as the Supra. As Paul said, I guess it’s because they designed both versions simultaneosuly from scratch, and not as an afterthought as with the gen-1.

    • 0 avatar
      Styles79

      I prefer the long-nose on the lift-back, it looks a little funny with the short-nose. The proportioning looks better for the short-nose on the coupe. IMHO

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Didn’t this also have those seats that were adjustable with the hand pump, like the one on a blood pressure cuff?

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Yeah- you’d pump up all the air bladders in the lumbar area by squeezing the bulb (which you can see by the e-brake in this pic.. http://www.syncorsystems.com/SupraPhotos/Supra85InteriorFront.jpg
      Then, you’d push three buttons on the side of the seat that would let air out of three seperate chambers until you got the feel you wanted.  You’d be hard pressed to find a scrap-yard supra that still has its (leather) seats.  They were extremely popular with the custom car set.  They were just as comfortably and held you just as well in the corners, as modern sports-car seats you might find in a bimmer today.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Yea Supras were  great. Too bad so few people bought them they quit selling them.
    Let’s see, mustang still selling well. Supra gone for a decade. Supra = Fail
    Just the facts maam.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      I don’t know, isn’t it the case rather that Toyota lost their way with sports cars? The latest Supra was out in ’93 and discontinued without replacement in ’02. The Celica and MR2 was discontinued without replacements in ’06 and ’07. Do they have anything remotely sporty left in production?
       

    • 0 avatar
      Juniper

      http://www.supradreams.com/mk4/
      98 last in US. No Sales.

    • 0 avatar
      mistrernee

      The Mk2 actually sold quite well.  The Mk4 was far too expensive for anyone who actually wanted to buy one and personally the 300ZX looked a lot better, the Supra didn’t look anything like a car that cost as much as it did.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    You can’t go wrong with a Supra (any model).

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    At that time in 1984 the Mustang, Camaros, Firebirds, Buick Grand Nationals, ZX Turbos, etc. had much over the Supra until the Supra Turbos in 1986. You’re calling the MKII Supra a classic is…wrong by me.

  • avatar
    Styles79

    I prefer the long-nose on the lift-back, it looks a little funny with the short-nose. The proportioning looks better for the short-nose on the coupe. IMHO

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Definitely a Curbside Classic for the better!  The 1984 Supra is as much a classic as any 1984 Camaro, Firebird, Mustang, Grand National or ZX.  Given that it reintroduced Americans to dual overhead cams and refined, affordable 2+2 performance/handling is enough to deem it a classic in my book.  Plus it changed the rules.  If you wanted a twin cam engine before 1982 you took your chances with an expensive unreliable Italian.  The only thing the 1984 Camaro, Firebird and Mustang had over the Supra was less expense.  The ZX Turbo was faster but suffered from the standard ZX’s tail squat.  The Grand National didn’t have a manual transmission available and didn’t handle as well.  The GN of 1984 (and certainly not of 1982!) was not the classic it would become by 1986.  You forgot to mention the RX-7 which wasn’t as refined or as powerful. 

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Why might the TC Bird have been a better choice than the Supra? People weren’t having the seats stolen out of their TCs. At a replacement cost of $2500 in 1984 dollars, it had a serious effect on insurance rates.
    Having said that, there weren’t a lot of good cars available in ’84.  The oft-mentioned Mustang GT which I bought new the following year is a car I never regretted buying.
     

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    The 5.0 TBird was a much better car than the turbocharged “Super Coupe.” The car was just too damn big and heavy for a 4cyl engine.  I got a two year old 1985 bird with the 8cyl and sport package in high school. It ran forever, got me though college and into my first job without any serious defects or aggravation. It was incredibly easy to drive fast and looked better than just about anything back then. Frankly, early 80s Supras weren’t so sexy. Back then, it was a Nissan Z or Celica convertible or Mustang GT that everyone wanted.  Of course that was from the perspective of a teenager with a mullet.

  • avatar

    The pundits didn’t think the Supra’s six was that powerful by the standards of the day, either. Most of the critics pointed out that the contemporary 2.8 L BMW six (not the eta, but its predecessor) was considerably more powerful with only one cam and 12 valves, and Car and Driver noted that the Toyota engine was only about 10 hp more powerful than the 2.8 L Chevy V6, although far more civilized.

  • avatar
    285exp

    The Supra was much less unflappable than the T-bird? You say that like it’s a good thing.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Ahhhh yes. Supra MkII, it brings back a lot of memories. I had a 85 White over Burgandy. Solid heavy GT car, definately not a sports car. The engine was so smooooooth. Could not feel or hear it al idle. That lead to a few incidents of cranking the key on a running engine. I miss that car and have been looking for another white/burgandy….

  • avatar
    Zombo

    The last generation Supra stickered for over 40K in 1998 . Toyota literally priced them out of the range of the people who would buy them . The last one I saw on the showroom floor was priced at 44K . If the base model Mustangs were priced over 40k (let alone 12 years ago) they’d soon be gone also . By going after the BMW/Porsche crowd Toyota forgot who the real customer for the Supra was and how much car they could afford at that time .

  • avatar
    Styles79

    I just bought one of these, and I’m stoked!


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