By Clutch Admin Richie
What better era to pick a selection for an affordable performance machine than the nineties. The nineties is renowned these days for producing a variety of increasingly potent vehicles where performance came on in leaps and bounds, some of which have faded to the dark; and others rising to a somewhat iconic status with a cult following. As an era, it was very much the bridge between technologies of yesteryear and the machines we see today, but there remain some vehicles that still contend with today’s crop of ultra-hatches and cruisey coupes.
Fade back to 1992 and you’ll find Jap muscle which in their day were akin to early versions of what the GTR is to motoring today. Namely; lower cost Japanese cars which with some engineering and a couple of turbos thrown into the mix, can give supercars costing 5 fold the price a run for their money. This example was collected for around 5,000 pounds, or, close to $10,000 AUD which was representative of the average condition
I know, I know, the fist thing that has sprung into your mind is THAT scene from the fast and the furious, roaring after an F355 but there’s valid reason to that. At a time where the crown of performance was the haloed McLaren F1, with the F1 LM claiming an official 0-100kph time of 3.9 seconds, for the most minuscule fraction of the cost, the Supra Twin turbo (manual) did the sprint in .5 seconds slower. I’m not for a second comparing the two, don’t worry I haven’t been sipping the silly juice, but 90’s Jap turbo’s do start to make a case for themselves.
When you click the fob and open the door of the supra, it’s remarkably, well.. Toyota. That isn’t a bad thing, but it means that you don’t get the satisfying clunks synonymous with german build quality. What you do get, in the GZ we have before us, is a surprising blend of rigidity, comfort and outright performance. The chairs, fully electric on the driver’s side suffer the usual bolster wear and feel more vinyl than leather, but do grab and hug you in the right places and take on a simplistic, cocoon-like form. The UK spec Supras featured faster spooling, stronger steel turbo internals and larger brakes, all of which are common hotspot components for mods. Heated backs are another nice touch that you’d be more familiar with in the 7 series’ of the era. And although the interior and switchgear is very 90’s in feel, the wrap around dash makes you feel that you’re in a car way above its pay grade. Everything cowls towards the driver, perhaps suggestive of the intent behind the supra. Everything is in reach and truth be told, quite ergonomic to interact with. The dash fascia is known to wear on the surface with usage, particularly around the switchgear which isn’t easily repainted due to the plastic-rubber like coating that first needs to be stripped back.
The UK and higher end J-spec models come with a self lowering front splitter which over 60mph lowers, noticeably hunkering the front end down, and across the board there were options from Limited Slip Differentials, auto-folding mirrors, headed electrics, CD changers, the list goes on. Finding an un-molested example is a task in this day and age, with genuine import docs being long misplaced on the most part, but on the good side, they are a modifier’s dream with a Basic Performance Upgrade, or BPU resulting in around 400bhp for very little outlay (extending to a free-flowing, cat-less exhaust, colder spark plugs, boost controller and front mount intercooler). The 6 speed manual, although agricultural, is the pick to go for, but expect to pay for it. That’s not to take anything away from the Autobox which features a ‘manu’ mode allowing for surprisingly responsive manual control of the 4-speed auto box – and kickdown is a hell of a thing!)
On the move, aided by the huge rear wing and deployable front splitter; the supra has oodles of grip for a car of its size and weight. Push too hard and you can make the rear rubber squirm, and knocking the traction control off inevitably amplifies this effect. The first turbo brings a low rev clout that few cars match in day to day life, and the second kicks you in the kidneys to propel you towards the limited 155mph top end. The Supra is every bit a supercar in the same resepct that the GTR is today.
There’s a reason why the 2JZ is loved, with the first turbo kicking in as low as 1800 rpm producing 410nm of torque, and the second kicking in sequentially at around 4,000 rpm, the usable range is spectacularly versatile. My fondest memory of an 18 year old in a Supra, is perhaps the very thing about them that gets you into trouble. A Ferrari 360 tearing down the freeway scooping other commuters out of its path. On overtaking me, a split second of teenage testosterone mixed with a bootfull of kickdown meant that a few seconds later the overtaking Ferrari was pulled back in check, and slowly pulled away from by my mildly fettled Toyota. Childish? Probably. Enjoyable? Absolutely!
For sheer bang for buck pleasures, the Supra seems the perfect place to kick off the Performance Bargain Chronicles. With well used examples here in Australia $12,000, that puts them below the cost of a modern Golf GTI. Whilst a couple of turbos, rwd, and 90’s charm may not be for all, I feel that every petrolhead should have some sort of seat time behind a 2JZ! In fact, so infectious is this effect, that the Full-Chat project build will be based on one. But more about that another time!
- Prices can be low
- Some models very well specced
- Solid, Non-interference engine
- Power easy to free up for little outlay
- Futuristic looks turn heads and have aged gracefully
- Interiors can be tired
- Hard to find an example with solid history
- Age means turbo components could be coming up for replacement
- ‘Boy Racer’ styling isn’t for all