Sports Car History—The Legend of the Toyota Supra

The Toyota Supra is one of Japan's most iconic performance cars, and hands down, it's also the most illustrious model in Toyota's highly-esteemed sports car heritage.

Debuting back in 1978 to humble beginnings, the Supra is the result of a growing demand for a longer, wider, and more powerful Celica. Thus, the Supra was initially called the Celica XX (pronounced 'double X'). The heads at Toyota North America didn't like the name though, and so the model was renamed Celica Supra.

The car came equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-six inspired by the engine in the legendary 1960 Toyota 2000GT sports car. The Celica Supra represented a more robust version of the regular Celica, but come 1986, the Supra eventually came to stand on its own as Toyota decided to separate it from the Celica badge and form two distinctive models instead. And that's how the Supra as we know it today began. As this revered Toyota coupe celebrates its 40th birthday, take a look at how the Supra evolved through the years.

The Mk3 Supra (1986)


Dropping both the Celica and XX designations, the Mk3 Supra was launched in February 1986 and was available with five different inline-six engines with displacements ranging from 2.0 to 3.0 liters. Topping the range was a 3.0-liter turbocharged 7M-GTE, which kicked off the Supra's iconic status. At 230 hp, the top-of-the-line Supra began blazing through the contested sports car segment.

Turbo A (1988)


The same 7M-GTE unit got a performance boost in 1988 for the limited-edition 3.0 GT Turbo A, making it the fastest Japanese car ever built during that period with 270 hp on tap. As well, the enhancement qualified the Supra to compete in many Group A and Touring competitions.

MKIV: The Fourth Generation (1993)


The fourth generation Supra, otherwise known as MKIV, became a more performance-focused machine, thanks to the impregnable 2JZ inline-six engine and massive weight-trimming done to it by the engineers. Compared to the previous model, the fourth-gen Supra was approximately 90 kgs lighter. Not only that, the MKIV was also more aesthetically pleasing than its predecessors, eschewing the boxy look of Supras past for something less angular and more free-flowing. And racing enthusiasts were quick to notice, with the MKIV appearing in numerous computer games such as "Need For Speed" and "Gran Turismo," even starring in its own movie via the first "Fast and Furious" film in 2001.

The Supra--Dead and Buried (2002)

Looming changes to emissions regulations, combined with the market losing interest in sports cars altogether, killed the Supra in 2002, eventually joining its Celica and MR2 brethren in Toyota's sports car graveyard.

FT-1 Concept: The Supra Resurrected (2014)


In 2014, Toyota hinted at the Supra’s return when it unveiled the FT-1 Concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Designed at Toyota's Calty Design Research facility in Newport Beach, California, the FT-1 (with FT signifying 'Future Toyota') possessed styling that was obviously inspired by the fourth-gen Supra, and with the company dubbing the concept as a 'spiritual pace car' for upcoming designs, many believed that the Supra has finally risen from the dead.

GR Supra Racing Concept: Speculations Put to Rest (2018)


Toyota finally confirmed the return of its beloved sports car with the debut of the GR Supra Racing Concept at this year's Geneva International Motor Show. Built by Gazoo Racing, Toyota's racing arm (hence the GR badge), the GR Supra has a front-engine and rear-wheel drive configuration and uses advanced lightweight materials. The accompanying text for the unveiling revealed that the fifth-gen Supra will "signal Toyota's commitment to bringing its most iconic sports car back to the market."

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