Curbside Classic: 1984 Toyota Celica Supra Mk II

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classic 1984 toyota celica supra mk ii

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.

If t he 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.

The 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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  • Zombo Zombo on May 08, 2010

    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 .

  • Styles79 Styles79 on Mar 27, 2011

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

  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!
  • EBFlex For those keeping track, Ford is up to 24 recalls this year and is still leading the industry. But hey, they just build some Super Dutys that are error free. Ford even sent out a self congratulatory press release saying they built Super Duty’s with zero defects. What an accomplishment!