The Truth About Cars » supra The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:10:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » supra The Stroke Of Midnight Tue, 31 Dec 2013 12:00:00 +0000 Supra

At the stroke of midnight, a new millennium would begin and the whole world was supposed to come unhinged. Religious leaders were telling us that we needed to be afraid because Jesus Christ, aka the “Prince of Peace,” was coming back to wreak holy vengeance upon us all, cosmologists hinted that that an ominous planetary alignment was going to totally screw up our Feng Shui and computer experts were saying that the silicon chips that they had been relentlessly incorporating into everything since the late 1980s were going to suddenly freak out. It was this last thing that got most people’s panties in a twist. When the computers stopped, we were told, power grids would fail and modern society would grind to a halt. Anything that had an internal clock, they said, would simply stop working.

By the dawn of that fateful New Year’s Eve, I was firmly established in my new life as an English conversation teacher in Japan. My move to the Land of the Rising Sun was a jump made of the sort of desperation that only poverty can induce, but my change of scenery had done little to improve my situation. Where my previous hell had been my childhood bedroom at my mom’s house, it was now a tiny, virtually uninsulated, one-room “mansion” in the Kyoto area where I slept fully clothed under a few thin blankets atop a lumpy futon spread out on the floor over an electric carpet while the winter wind, right off the Siberian steppes, whistled and wailed as it forced its way into the shabby little room through a million small openings. Although I ran the heater almost constantly, I had given up hope of actually trying to warm the space and now the cold added just one more layer of misery. The world was a shitty place, I had decided and it t really didn’t matter to me if it ended. In fact, thanks to the sudden resurgence in popularity of “1999” by Prince, I was looking forward to it.

There is a certain mindset that comes with grinding, persistent poverty. Managing your money becomes an all-consuming thing and you pick and choose your luxuries. For me, someone who has always loved vehicles, my own personal mobility took priority over some of the other luxuries I might have enjoyed and, over the 9 months I had been in-country I had managed to acquire two reliable, but beat-down vehicles of my own, a Honda motorcycle and a Toyota Supra. Now, as Y2K bore down upon me the weight of what those computer experts had been saying was beginning to hit home. Both of my vehicles, I knew, had chips in them and, as they were both old, there was a chance they might actually be affected by the software glitch. Would they start on the day after? Could I fix them if they didn’t? I wondered.


As the fateful day approached, my girlfriend decided that we needed to ring in the New Year with a trip to Lake Biwa. Japan doesn’t really have any mighty rivers, no inland seas or anything even remotely like the Great Lakes, but given the small size of the country, at 39 miles long and 14 miles wide, Biwako does a pretty good impersonation. Set in Shiga prefecture, just across the prefectural boundary from Kyoto, the lake is a scenic attraction and its shores are lined with industry, hotels and entertainment complexes. One of these hotels was planning a celebratory fireworks show to ring in the New Year and, I was told, we would be going.

We headed out early in the evening, wending our way through the busy holiday traffic and through the center of the city of Kyoto before turning east through the small mountain pass that separated the city from the lake. Traffic intensified as we neared the shore and we eventually found a parking place in a crowded hotel garage an hour before the event was set to start. As we left the car and moved towards the viewing stands, I noticed a row of gasoline powered high intensity work lights, the kind that are often used during night time road construction, along the edge of the garage and it suddenly struck me why they were there. At the stroke of midnight, should the power fail, these would be fired up to provide the light that people would need to get back to their cars. Someone was taking this pretty seriously, I thought, it was an ominous sign.

Despite all the hype, until that moment I hadn’t thought of the Y2K problem outside of my own little miserable bubble. Now, it hit me with a real force. If the doomsayers were actually right, I realized, I was out on a limb. I would be trapped in a foreign country on the other side of the planet from my own personal support network and if things really came unglued, I would be irrevocably on my own. I felt a touch of fear rise up but just as quickly as it emerged, I shoved it back into its place. The threat of disaster doesn’t equal the real thing, I reasoned, and I wasn’t about to let it ruin my night. If poverty had taught me anything it had been to focus on the here and now. Tomorrow, for better or worse, would arrive soon enough.

My girlfriend and I climbed the stairs, found our places in the viewing stands and had a great night. As the seconds ticked down the lights dimmed and then went out as the fireworks show began. It was so engrossing that the possibility of disaster didn’t even cross my mind again until the show was over and the hotel lights came back up. As we walked back to the garage, I noticed the overhead lights burned as brightly as ever and that the line of generators stood silent and alone, sentinels against a darkness that did not come. I found my Supra safe in its parking place and smiled to myself as the engine snapped to life at the turn of the key. The world would continue, technology had triumphed and fear had been banished.

I pulled into the lane and joined a long line of cars making their way out of the facility. One by one the line of cars moved towards the street and then slipped away into the night, each vehicle whisking its occupants away into their own individual futures. When my own turn came I turned onto the street and pressed the accelerator. As the revs came up, the twin turbos on my 14 year old Supra sang their own special song and pushed the car forward with a sense of urgency and purpose. The new millenium was upon us.

Toyota Supra

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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BMW and Toyota Will Jointly Develop Sports Car Platform. New Supra to Result? Tue, 31 Dec 2013 11:30:00 +0000 BMW-Toyota-partnership

We already knew that Fiat and Mazda are jointly developing s sports car platform, Now, BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper that the German automaker and Toyota will jointly develop and share a new platform for sports cars. “We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important is that there will be two different vehicles that are authentic to the two brands,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Diess as saying.

In June of 2012, BMW and Toyota signed a technology agreement covering cooperation on lithium-air batteries and lightweight technology. At the time the two companies said that they were looking into the possibility of creating a joint platform for an all new midsize sports car. That feasibility study was expected to be completed by the end of 2013. We’re at the end of 2013 and based on Diess’ comments, the study likely said that it’s feasible.

The newspaper said that Diess declined to provide details on specific models that would come to fruition from the agreement.

That hasn’t stopped speculation. Based on comments made in August by Toyota’s chief engineer of the GT86/FR-S sports car shared with Subaru, Tatsuya Tada, many think that Toyota’s share of the tie up with BMW will be a successor to the Supra. There are rumors that Toyota will reveal the next Supra at the big North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

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Toyota to Debut Supra Concept at 2014 Detroit Auto Show Thu, 19 Dec 2013 10:30:50 +0000 1993_JZA80_Toyota_Supra_SZ

The last time Toyota debuted a concept thought to be the return of the Supra — the FT-HS, to be exact — the end result was a three-pack of boxer-powered, rear-driven madness with a low price point. Could Toyota’s latest upcoming concept for the 2014 Detroit Auto Show finally be the one?

According to insiders within Toyota, the rear-driven supercar concept was conceived in the automaker’s California-based CLATY design studio. Alas, no images have been leaked to the automotive press so far, nor word of what might be under the bonnet beyond rumor of a hybrid drivetrain made for high performance. Said drivetrain could also be the first product from the partnership struck between Toyota and BMW earlier this year to share car-building and hybrid tech for their respective entrants into the sports car game.

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Ashes To Ashes: My Visit To A Japanese Junk Yard Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:15:27 +0000 Toyota Supra

The hot August sun beat down with real intensity, its heat baking the dun colored earth into a hard packed surface that flecked away in a fine powder that puffed skyward with every footstep I took. The area before me seemed large, but like so many things in Japan its sense of scale was distorted by the fact that, over time, I had grown accustomed to tiny plots of land and buildings crowding in upon one another so closely that they blotted out the sky. In reality the space was little more than a fraction of an acre but even so it seemed like an oasis of space in an otherwise crowded urban desert. The fact that it was packed with junk cars was just icing on the cake.

I had purchased my 15 year old Twin Turbo Supra for a song from an Australian English teacher whose wife had inherited it from her uncle. The uncle, who had actually wanted a Corvette, had purchased the car new in 1986 after he had been informed by his parking garage that “foreign cars” were not allowed in their facility. The policy, which seems unfair on the surface, was actually intended to keep out Yakuza rather than Yankees. The Yakuza, it turns out, are a problem for people who own parking garages. They contract for monthly spaces and then stop paying their rent. Because they are scary, they are impossible to evict. The best way to keep them out is not to let them in and discriminating against their preferred mode of transport, expensive, showy foreign cars, it turns out is surprisingly effective.

Like most used cars on the Japanese domestic market, my Supra was low mileage but showed the bumps and bruises typical to life in the big city. All four corners bore minor scrapes and one of the front turn signals was broken. I solved these problems my visiting my local dealer where I ordered a can of white touch-up paint and a new signal but the one problem inside the car, an emergency brake lever that refused to ratchet any longer, necessitated a trip to the junk yard. My Toyota dealer was quite helpful to me and even drew me a simple, but surprisingly accurate map to the nearest one. My first visit there netted me the desired part and the repair was simple. Satisfied with the result, I tucked the location of the junk yard away in my memory bank and waited for my next chance to use it.


My chance came in the form of a leaking radiator. Given the extreme heat of the Japanese summer and the long hours spent idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I knew the problem was a priority from the moment I first saw the pool of coolant forming under the car. Even so, I hemmed and hawed about the situation, suspecting it was condensation from my air conditioner and delayed addressing the issue until I finally got a red warning light on my dash. A cheapskate at heart, and despite the obvious the seriousness of the situation, I still tried to avoid the issue by carrying a gallon jug of water with me for a while, but eventually, I knew, the part must be replaced. The cost of a new unit would be high, I thought, so one sunny Saturday morning I determined another trip to the wrecking yard would be in order.

Despite the small size of the yard, dozens of late model Japanese cars in surprisingly good condition sat parked in neat lines and I surveyed them with an experienced eye as I picked my way across the yard to the small tin shed in the middle of the property. Among the cars I noted at least three Supras similar to my own and I suspected the same part would likely be on each of the dozens of other Toyota sedans scattered in the mix. Any number of cars on the lot could be possible donors, I thought happily.

My good mood was broken by the little old woman at the shed who greeted me with a dour, unpleasant expression and suspicion in her eyes. She wasted no time at all in telling me they didn’t have what I was looking for. It didn’t matter if they actually did, I was a gaijin and she plainly didn’t feel like playing pantomime with me. Despite her attempts to wave me away, I pressed in on her with my less than fluent Japanese and once she figured out I wasn’t going away, our conversation was brief and to the point. She waved a weathered hand at the yard and told me to have at it.

I went back to my car, gathered my tools and found my way out to a dark blue Supra that upon first glance seemed to be in better shape than my own. I popped the hood and examined the scene before me, it was all there and in less than twenty minutes I had the radiator pulled. I paid the old woman, still scowling, at the shed and headed back to my car. Reasoning that the junk yard was as good a place as any to change my radiator, I popped the hood and went to work right there. I pulled my own radiator out in no time at all and slipped under the front of the car to hook in the lower radiator hose and the transmission lines. It would have gone swimmingly except for the fact that my “new” used part didn’t have the fittings for the transmission cooler – I had pulled the radiator from a car with a manual transmission.

Radiator in hand I made the trip back to the old woman in the shed. She regarded me as dourly and unhelpfully as she had been before but based on my previous persistence she knew I wasn’t going away without a fight. Eventually she relented but looked me with dark eyes devoid of any humor, “I can’t have you out here tearing all these cars apart. Get it right this time or get out.”


My second trip out into the junkyard was more tentative and I selected to the next donor with greater care. With my own car in pieces, the old bat had me over a barrel and I believed her when she told me that I had just one more shot. Frankly, I was pissed. When I finally found a car that looked right, I started by ensuring it had an automatic transmission and then went over the radiator with a fine tooth comb prior to putting a single wrench on it. I was lucky and the radiator seemed perfect, with good solid joints and not a single bent cooling fin. With two radiator removals already behind me that day, I attacked this new job with experience to back my determination. I pulled off the shroud in less than five minutes cut the hoses with a razor knife and snapped off the steel transmission lines with a pair of wire cutters. With the radiator free, I pulled off all the excess parts right there at the front of the car and left the mess for someone else.

I made quick work of the install and, reasoning that the whole problem may have been caused by a sticking thermostat decided I was better without one so I pulled the part and left it in the dirt. Once I had everything buttoned back up, I added my coolant and water and sat there in the yard while I ran the engine up to operating temp. After about 10 minutes of idling in the summer sun, I checked for a tell-tale feather of steam and sniffed around for the sickly sweet aroma of antifreeze. Satisfied with the lack of either, I took one last look at my handiwork and closed the hood.

The old woman told me to throw my used up radiator onto a pile of metal headed for the recycler and then glared steadily at me to make sure I didn’t steal anything as I made my final trip back to my car. She was there as I climbed into the Supra and watched as I paused one final time to knock the insidious powered earth off my shoes prior to pulling my feet into the cabin and closing the door. I backed out of my spot and looked for her in my rearview mirror. She was still there in front of the shed, still regarding me with a sullen malevolence as wisps of dust disturbed by my tires licked up and around her in the breeze. I slipped the car into gear and our eyes met one final time in the mirror. Covering the brake with my left foot, I mashed the gas to the floor and the face was lost as a great cloud of dust began to boil up from my tires. The wind was just right. It was glorious.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Shakken Up: How A Little American Persistance And One Little, Old Japanese Man Beat The System Mon, 04 Mar 2013 10:00:28 +0000

My 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man. Despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. When seats are limited I will stand so my elders can sit. I always hold the door open for ladies, and I keep plugging away no matter how hopeless the situation might seem. There are a few things here and there that can cause problems once in a while, too. For example, I won’t be deliberately insulted, I need my personal space and, of course, I feel like I am loser if I don’t have my own set of wheels.

Don’t leave home without it

Owning a car in Japan is a bad idea for most people. To begin with, getting a driver’s license costs thousands of dollars and involves and extensive training program. Then there is the cost of the car, insurance, gasoline and tolls to consider. Also, unless you are fortunate to own a place to park, you will have to pay rent on a parking space and, of course, anywhere you go you will pay to park, too. Then there are the costs of oil, tires, repairs, even car washes to consider. Let’s not forget taxes and, of course, the great terror that is the vehicle inspection system known as the Shakken.

The Shakken system began in the post World War II era when the few cars remaining on the roads were generally old and unsafe. Shakken’s stated purpose has always been to ensure that all vehicles meet certain safety requirements, but it is also generally acknowledged that the policy has helped to ensure consistent sales of new vehicles as people seek to replace cars that they believe will fail the test. The guidelines are stringent, and without the correct inspection sticker affixed at the top of your windshield, where it is easily spotted, your car cannot be legally driven. There is little tolerance for lawbreakers.

Of course, when I purchased a 14 year old Toyota Supra, everyone thought I was nuts. In general, the Japanese do not buy used cars outside of a dealership, and person-to-person sales among strangers are almost unheard of. For the most part, the Japanese trade-in their cars when they purchase new ones or they sell them to companies like “Gulliver” that buy old cars for a pittance and then take them to auction. Cars that are worthy are bought by dealers, marked up considerably and then resold in-country. Cars that are unworthy are sold to exporters and eventually end up in places like Australia, Russia or parts of the third world. From my friends’ perspective, a car as old as my Supra was not worthy and should have been on its way to the southern hemisphere, preferably as scrap, instead of sitting in a Kyoto parking spot.

My 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

The whole thing was quite a scandal and everyone, it seemed, had an opinion. Two buddies, Matsuda and Taka, were especially critical of my purchase. Self styled car guys, they began to speak ill of the Supra the moment it arrived. Never mind the fact that it was a Toyota that had less than 50,000 kilometers on the clock. In their minds, simply because of its age, the car was in grave condition. Unfortunately for them, they made the mistake of spouting off and insulting my intelligence in front of my girlfriend, who, in typical Japanese fashion, believed everything they said. I, of course, in typical American fashion, ended our friendship right there on the street. So much for fair weather friends.

It wasn’t like I had paid a lot anyway. I had purchased the car from the Japanese wife of a New Zealander for roughly $600. The car didn’t have a mark on it, the engine was spotless, it sounded good, drove flawlessly and it even had about 8 months of shakken left on it. I figured that even if it somehow failed the dreaded inspection, I would have a cool car at my disposal for the better part of a year at nominal cost, and so it really didn’t matter. But then, of course, I got attached to my little car, and as the dreaded day drew nigh, I decided to ask around.

The women at my office were worse than useless, they were misinformed. They told horrible tales about the inspection process, about what would happen if the car couldn’t pass, and how certified repair shops would use the process against me. No matter how small the trouble, the women told me, the mechanics would insist upon costly repairs before releasing the car. They told me that there was no way a car that old would ever pass, and that I had been a fool for buying it in the first place. They even told me that I would end up paying to recycle it. There was the air of plausibility about what they said, but even so, I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

Another shot of my 1986 JDM Twin Turbo Supra

In addition to my workmates, I also solicited the opinions of my students, some of whom, it turns out, were much better informed. For the most part, I learned, the average Japanese man took his car back to where he bought it for the shakken. Upon buying a brand new car, another inspection is not needed for three years. After that, inspections are required every two years, and a typical dealer, I was told, pretty much rubber stamps the next two inspections so long as they have had a hand in maintaining the car. Therefore, most cars are about 7 years old the first time they really go under the microscope and, like most Americans, the average Japanese person is ready for a new car after 7 years whether they actually need one or not. The car is traded in, and the process starts anew.

Simply follow the easy instructions

Once in a while, there are people like myself who have purchased a car outside of the dealer network. People in my situation usually end up taking their car to an independent shop and, as the women at my school had said, most of these shops will go over the car with a fine tooth comb. The result is usually a pretty stiff bill and, as a foreigner, I was especially ripe for the picking. But then, one of my oldest students, a Mr. Hanaoka, a retired engineer in his 70s who spent most of his free time drinking heavily and studying English, told me about another little known option, the “user shakken.” Amazingly, in a land where there isn’t much DIY, there is a DIY inspection.

Following Hanaoka-san’s instructions, I went to the Kyoto DMV and collected the paperwork. While I was there, the helpful clerk sat me down in front of a video that explained the entire process. Then I was sent home to complete my own inspection. Although it was all in Japanese, the documents were well illustrated, and I was able to go through it at my own pace. Although there were some parts of the form I did not fully understand, the inspection was not complicated. I measured tire tread depth, checked all the lights, looked for leaks, etc and found that, as expected, the car was in generally good condition.

I did, however, uncover a leaky shock absorber and a burned out driving light. The light was an easy fix, but the shock was more problematic, there was no real way to fix it myself and unless I was damn clever they were going to see the dark stain of shock oil under the car at the inspection station. Fortunately I am damn clever.

The day I took the car to the inspection station it was raining like hell. I rolled up to the main office and took my paperwork, as complete as I could get it, inside. After waiting in line I approached the counter hoping for a little help to complete some of the informational blocks at the top of the form and was pleasantly surprised to find that for a fee of around $5 that the clerk would actually do everything. I paid my money and ten minutes later took my car around back to the inspection station.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The inspection station was set up like an assembly line and I was required to drive the car from station to station. There was a brake test where I put the car up onto a set of rollers followed by speedometer test on the same machine where I was required to run the car up to 45 kmh. There was an underside inspection station where I sat in the car while a guy underneath tapped about ten spots with a hammer and, thanks to the wet weather, failed to notice my dripping shock absorber. There was a headlight test where a set of robotic cameras examined the front of my car to make sure everything was working within proper specs, a horn test, a brake light and blinker test and an emissions test. It was all quite efficient and I don’t think the entire process took more than 30 minutes.

As I recall, the total cost was around $450. Some of that was for the inspection fee, some for vehicle taxes, and another large part of it was for some kind of insurance that would pay for any public property I might damage in an accident. The whole thing was quick and painless and after weeks of consternation and worry, I was highly satisfied when I was awarded a new two-year sticker without a single hitch. I drove home in triumph.

Wherever I am in the world I will always be a typical American man and, despite a lot of the stereotypes that spring to mind when I say that, I learned a long time ago that it isn’t a bad thing. I was raised right and I have solid values. I keep plugging away no matter how hopeless the situation might seem and sometimes that can pay big dividends. I remember the people who helped me, too. Today, many years later, when I have the opportunity to raise a glass, I often find myself thinking about those days and of Mr. Hanaoka. He was a man who knew how to get things done, and when the whole system is stacked against you, you need a guy like that on your side.

Mr. Hanaoka at one of our school parties. Even though he was older than every other student, he never missed a single party.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Piston Slap: Of Head Bolts, Bad-Ass Sedans… Thu, 29 Dec 2011 17:10:30 +0000


Earl writes:

I just bought a mint condition, dealer-maintained 1990 Cressida. I am aware of the head bolt torque issue on the 6 cylinder engine. The car shows no sign of head gasket issues. My question: should I have my dealer simply re-torque the head bolts? Their tech (30-year’s experience) says he’s done this on many cars with no issues. Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

Your tech, the Internet Forums, and my gut agree: DO IT!  The information posted in my last sentence’s hyperlink is pretty much spot on, including the technique of doing such a re-torque.  That said, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

You have an awesome car!  Cressidas get better and better with age, from a design and collectability standpoint.  Well, it’s no Supra…but bad ass sedans are just that, son!

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

LSX-FTW aside, let’s play devil’s advocate and consider a time when the head gasket lets go. Replace it (obviously) because this car is a keeper.  But instead of putting the bolts back in (assuming Toyota didn’t used Torque to Yield Bolts) install head studs instead.  It’s a great item for peace of mind and possibly even for resale.  ARP makes a great kit for Supras, and I would recommend this at some point in this Cressida’s life. 

Maybe not now, maybe not even 5 years from now. But at some point, consider head studs.


Send your queries to . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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