This is a 1989 Toyota Supra. Largely considered to be the MIT graduate of the movie franchise world, The Fast and the Furious series played a considerable role in popularizing the fourth generation Supra, what with its Porsche-worrying handling and insane turbocharger. This is not that car.
This is the fourth generation’s slightly less-talented older brother: the third generation. This one exploded occasionally. But don’t let that fool you- it was actually quite good. Okay, exploding is a bit of an exaggeration. The third-gen Supra was known for blowing its head gasket, which is a real thing, despite how steeped in double entendre it may seem. However, most used Supra’s today have had the problem already, and have since had their head gaskets (and corresponding rods) replaced. Also, the convertible model’s roof sometimes leaked.
If this seems a bit nit-picky so far it’s because, quite simply, I am picking nits. The Supra is made by Toyota, a company which is known for churning out millions upon millions of relentlessly reliable cars. Additionally, this is a Toyota from an era when Toyota actually made cars for enthusiasts. Power came from a front-mounted, 3 liter, inline 6 cylinder developing 200 or so horsepower. It had a five-speed manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive. In other words, everything was right with the world. Right up until the moment your head gasket exploded.
I mentioned it earlier, but the third generation really was overshadowed by its successor, which was a rarer and ultimately better car. That’s the one everybody knows. But this is Forgotten Metal, and I think it’s time the third generation’s time in the sun. This one is a little worse for wear: the paint is peeling (probably from the aforementioned time in the sun) and the black plastic trim around the doors is falling off. But it does have pop-up headlights, which are always a delight, and it’s still a small, rear wheel drive sports car, which means it’s fun. And that’s the important part, because it’s been a long time since anyone’s said that about a Toyota.
After the demise of the Supra in 2002, the Japanese manufacturer settled into the world of the reliable, efficient, and soul sucking. Don’t get me wrong, Toyotas today are by no means “bad.” They’ll never break down, they’re inoffensively styled and they generally last until just after the eventual heat death of the universe. All that is fine and dandy if you don’t really care what you shuttle yourself around in, which in fairness many don’t. Walking into a Toyota dealership is like turning on a Ken Burns documentary: it’s everything you expect, and nothing you don’t. There’s nothing there to get your pulse rushing, and that’s fine. If you’re a fan of public broadcasting.
But cars are something that you generally use every day. For many, it’s their family’s second biggest investment, after their house. Until humanity thinks of something better, we are, for better or for worse, stuck with the car. My question is, why not make the most of it? At every price range, in every segment, there is an interesting, fun vehicle for sale. And yet still, millions of people buy Camrys, Accords, Altimas, Malibus and Corollas every single day. Unfortunately, Toyota has become one of the biggest proponents of all this boredom. They weren’t always this way. They didn’t always rely on Kaley Cuoco and talking squirrels to make a RAV4 seem like less of a depressing a life choice than it is. Just think if there was a cheap, attractive car that could reliably take you to work every day, not break the bank at the gas pump and still manage to put a smile on your face every single minute you were behind the wheel. PSYCH! The Supra, even the forgotten third generation, is that car. Just be careful of the head gasket.
- Apparently, the head gasket problem stemmed from a torquing issue at the factory when Toyota switched from using asbestos gaskets to copper ones. They never issued a recall for the problem.
- This isn’t one, but Toyota did do a turbocharged version of this car, which bumped the horsepower up to around 230 or so.
- I was a little misleading earlier. Toyota does actually make a modern sports car called the GT-86, which is supposed to usher in some newer, more exiting Toyota products. We can only wait and see.