RE: Toyota Supra (Mk3): PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Toyota Supra (Mk3): PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 28th February

Toyota Supra (Mk3): PH Used Buying Guide

This third-gen GT, often overshadowed by its successor, has a lot to offer - but there's much to consider before buying one



You've plenty of options if you're looking for a high-performance Japanese coupe from the '90s. Mitsubishi GTOs, Nissan Silvias, the 300ZX, Honda Preludes, Integras and Mazda RX7s are all likely to make an appearance on your shopping list. Then, of course, you have the likes of the flagship Honda NSX, if budget permits.

That list wouldn't be complete without a passing mention of the fabled A80 Supra, launched in 1993, mind. The fourth-generation Supra rose to fame thanks to its eminently tuneable twin-turbo 2JZ-GTE straight-six engine and became ingrained in modern culture after a screen-stealing appearance in 'The Fast and the Furious'.

The value of a Mk4 Supra in a desirable specification has long since escalated into the five-figure zone, however, making that particular slice of rear-drive, straight-six fun harder to justify. But, if you want to stick to the Toyota brand and don't fancy the soap bar-styled Soarer, you do have an alternative: the overshadowed, underappreciated third-generation A70 Supra.

The rear-drive grand tourer, which was launched in the UK in July 1986 and built until 1993, was an advanced four-seat coupe. It featured a range of straight-six engines, including the naturally aspirated 3.0-litre 7M-GE and the single-turbo 3.0-litre 7M-GTE; the latter was introduced in January 1989 and claimed to be capable of propelling the Supra from 0-60mph in just 6.1sec.

The engines were backed by either automatic or manual transmissions and drive was sent to a limited-slip diff at the rear, while each corner benefitted from a double wishbone suspension set-up. Stopping power, plenty of which was needed given the potential performance on offer, was provided by ventilated disc brakes.


While the Mk3's more angular styling may not appeal to some these days, it at least shares a few core attributes with the more desirable next-gen iteration. The third-gen Supra wasn't devoid of motorsports cachet, either, competing in Group A racing, rallying and the European Touring Car Championship.

Wide aftermarket support means that there's plenty you can do with a Mk3 Supra, too, be it building one up as a weekend hack or creating a devastatingly fast standing-mile racer - and, with tired examples starting for around £1,000, it's an accessible candidate for a fun project. Serviceable Supras can usually be had for between £2,000-£3,000 and, if you're happy to hit the auctions, you can pick up good turbocharged manual Mk3s for around £5,000.

Prices vary wildly depending on condition, history and source, though, so take your time to get familiar with what's available - and what to look out for...

Inspired? Buy a Toyota Supra here.



Bodywork and interior

UK sales of the Supra started in 1986 and, unsurprisingly, that means that time will have taken its toll on many an otherwise sound-looking example. Rust can rip through a Supra, so you're going to have to carefully inspect the structure for corrosion. Pay particular attention to the rear arches, sills, strut towers, the lower edge of the windscreen and the chassis rails. Removing the boot trim and inspecting the condition of the rear towers is a sensible move.

Keep an eye out for odd panel gaps or warped metal, which could indicate previous crash damage. In any case, get a history check to see if there's anything untoward about the car's past. Similarly, check for signs of overspray, mismatched paint or filler.

Inside, you've relatively little to worry about. The interior trim and fabric is all durable but do check out the usual places prone to wear, including the seat bolster and the rim of the steering wheel; Make sure everything works, including the heating controls and pop-up lights, and check the seals and carpets for any sign of water ingress. This is particularly important in the rear hatch area.


Engine and transmission

Two engines were offered to UK buyers: the naturally aspirated 3.0-litre 7M-GE and the single-turbo 3.0-litre 7M-GTE. Both of these engines have a cambelt which should be changed every 60,000 miles or four years. The engines are non-interference, however, so should theoretically survive cambelt failure. Additionally, water pumps can be changed without disturbing the timing belt assembly.

While the 7M-GE is a very reliable engine, the turbocharged 7M-GTE has one prominent flaw: improper head bolt torque. Toyota originally specified a value of around 58lb ft but this was not enough to properly clamp the gasket, eventually leading to failure. To prevent this the head bolts should be replaced and retorqued to 72lb ft to ensure proper clamping. Most are likely to have been replaced or upgraded already but, regardless, check the coolant and oil for any signs of cross-contamination and the exhaust for any signs of smoke.

Naturally aspirated Mk3s feature a light-duty W58 five-speed manual gearbox, while the turbocharged versions get a tougher R154 five-speed manual. Clutch action should be smooth and both should be quiet and slick. The R154 can take a fair amount of extra power but its lifespan will vary tremendously, with luck being a major factor in longevity.

Both versions were offered with a four-speed A340E automatic. Check the condition of the fluid and make sure it shifts smoothly during the test drive. Any harshness could be indicative of a problem; also make sure that the 'Power' and 'Overdrive' functions work properly.

Cheap modifications, including bleed valves that permit far higher boost levels, can cause problems. Ideally, try and find a standard example that hasn't been messed around with - or, at least, try to ascertain what has been done and how well regarded it is.

You may encounter import Supras with other options and engines, including the twin-turbocharged 2.5-litre 1JZ-GTE. This is a similarly stout powerplant, devoid of gasket issues, but its induction set-up is more complicated. It also has a cambelt, so pay attention to the history file.


Suspension and steering

A Supra in good health should track straight, feel planted and be quiet on the move. Listen for any odd noises that could indicate shot bushes or tired dampers. Fortunately, suspension components are easy to come by and myriad aftermarket options are available.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

Make sure the Supra doesn't pull in odd directions while stopping and test the handbrake to ensure it functions properly. Discs, pads and reconditioned calipers are available, however, so restoring a tired braking system isn't expensive or difficult.

Check the tyres for signs of uneven wear, which would indicate suspension problems. You have a wide range of replacement options, so getting new tyres isn't a problem. Expect to pay around £80 for a premium-brand tyre.


SPECIFICATION - TOYOTA SUPRA 3.0I/3.0I TURBO

Engine: 2,954cc straight-six
Transmission: 5-speed manual/four-speed automatic
Power (hp): 201/232@6,000/5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 187/254@4,800/3,200rpm
MPG: 26/24
CO2: N/A
Price new: £15,299/£22,961
Price now: £1,000 upwards

Author
Discussion

James Junior

Original Poster:

730 posts

87 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I have always liked these. With just a nice set of wheels they look cool with tonnes of retro appeal and there still seem to be plenty of unmolested ones left. Wish you could say the same for it's successor.

I am currently in the process of trying to source a tidy original MK4 Supra TT manual 6spd from Japan and the number of butchered cars is staggering. Almost every car that comes to market or hits the auciton wears tacky wheels, awful bodykits and ironing-board spoilers. It makes me sad that almost all have been ruined, but hoping to do my bit by finding and preserving a good one. Might just have to wait a while for the right car to come up...

TommoAE86

1,564 posts

57 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I love these because of the looks but also as they are available with a legendary engine, but they are rarer than my stock Skyline so didn't get one in the end. For full 80's effect get one with a Digi-Dash, I believe you have to be great with the solder to keep it tip top.



In terms of ones being butchered it took Torque GT 3 months to find an un-modified R33 GTS-T to bid on! redface

Prinny

862 posts

29 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Article said:
Make sure the Supra doesn't pull in odd directions while stopping.

This - so much this.

I had one - long ago - K48PFB - MOT history suggests it’s dead. The head gasket went twice, but apart from that it was usually reliable.

Two things stand out in memory - the first was the fact that it had electrically adjustable side bolsters - that was way cool back in ‘96/97. The second relates to the article comment.

No matter where, if you had to brake above 90mph, the back end would step out. Sometimes it’d go left, sometimes right, but it’d always do it, you just got used to being ready to wind the lock on. Various places had a go at fixing it. All were quite able to replicate the issue (it wasn’t hard, if not necessarily legal), but no-one ever managed to eradicate it. Swapping to Pirelli P7000 (iirc) helped a bit.
Looking back, knowing what I now know, I suspect it was the diff momentarily locking on the transition from throttle to brake, as it’d do similar at 5mph in the snow when you let off the accelerator at idle speed in 1st (mine was manual) - appropriate to today!

It remains the only car I’ve owned with pop-up headlights, and so for that reason alone, I love it.

carjerk

118 posts

114 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I had one of these for a few years around a decade ago.

A few photos...
https://photos.app.goo.gl/IrDn2Bc55SHOjOlv1

Was a manual non-turbo, so wasn't particularly quick but made a great cruiser.

One of those cars I really regret selling.

Lewis Kingston

133 posts

7 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
carjerk said:
Was a manual non-turbo, so wasn't particularly quick but made a great cruiser.

One of those cars I really regret selling.
Snap!









I'd love another but I think I'll go for the turbocharged one next time. Make a great noise with a few tweaks...
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TwinExit

174 posts

22 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all

The above head gasket information is out of date - it's not really applicable today.

Chances are any 7M-GTE powered Supra still on the road today have either a metal HG or it has been replaced with a Toyota composite or ebay jobbie.

And they still blow HG's / suffer cooling problems regardless of the head bolt torque settings.




Resolutionary

648 posts

101 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Definitely one to watch - these are the next vestige for people looking to secure a classic bit of Japanese performance. One of my policeman friends has one; turbo manual in black, and it's a menacing old thing for sure. Has an air of C4 'vette to it, which I love.

Lots of cheap fallen projects out there but I suppose the phrase buyer beware is omniscient in these cases.

Cambs_Stuart

233 posts

14 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Properly cool car. I'll have a turbo in black or red with the digital dash please!

MalcolmSmith

121 posts

5 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I recall Toyota’s adverts on this quoting Tony Blackburn as to why he swapped his 911 for one.

I think his rationale was 1) cheaper 2) Standard radio cassette 3) better fuel economy

The 3 things one always considers with a 911.

Pity he didn’t look at resale.

TwinExit

174 posts

22 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Resolutionary said:
Definitely one to watch - these are the next vestige for people looking to secure a classic bit of Japanese performance. One of my policeman friends has one; turbo manual in black, and it's a menacing old thing for sure. Has an air of C4 'vette to it, which I love.

Lots of cheap fallen projects out there but I suppose the phrase buyer beware is omniscient in these cases.
IMO, the one to have is the 2.5 litre twin turbo (1JZ-GTE) powered MK3 Supra, 280 horses standard and a near invincible motor if looked after correctly.




Greenbot35

35 posts

23 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Stunning cars when in good condition, The bargains on these seem to have dried up though as is the way with anything slightly retro now.

J4CKO

24,344 posts

130 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
These were so posh in the 80s. before everything was "premium" a Supra turbo in white on white was quite a motor.

cptsideways

12,674 posts

182 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
The one to have is a non rusty import 2.5TT 1JZ-GTE engined car in manual or maybe the 2.0 TT in manual (auto is dog slow) The 7m engine is just a horrid thing to work on in comparison.

Of the UK ones left non rotten ones are few & far between.

dc2rr07

896 posts

161 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
With the current weather, circa 91’

And yes useless in the snow smile

Supraman

6,546 posts

201 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I loved my old Turbo Auto. It was on a 1992 K plate, which had the nicer 5 spoke alloys, which they started fitting from 1991.

By the time I got rid of it 10 years ago at 160k, everything was going wrong with it. The radio had packed up, Air Con compressor had failed, the front and rear screens were leaking, and the exhaust was on it's last legs. There was also an oil leak which I tried to fix with some £100 pipes, which didn't work. The other ticking timebomb was the oil pump pulley which had worn, and was knocking. A permanent fix was over £2k to completely strip the engine. I went for a temporary fix of a few hundred pounds to get it back on the road .

I still do miss it though.

Saabaholic

191 posts

86 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Prinny said:
Article said:

No matter where, if you had to brake above 90mph, the back end would step out. Sometimes it’d go left, sometimes right, but it’d always do it, you just got used to being ready to wind the lock on. Various places had a go at fixing it. All were quite able to replicate the issue (it wasn’t hard, if not necessarily legal), but no-one ever managed to eradicate it. Swapping to Pirelli P7000 (iirc) helped a bit.
OMG, i remember this.
I "Borrowed" shall we say, a 3.0 Turbo when they were new. This one had less than 1000 miles. Anyway we might have been into 3 figures when i had to start slowing down. Then it all went Pete Tong.
Luckily i kept it together and maintained control. But boy that was a change of pants moment.
Never liked them after that.
Also, it didnt really seem that fast. I was working for Saab at the time, and the 9000 Carlsson was a quicker motor all round. And handled better.

Supraman

6,546 posts

201 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
I didn't think they were bad at speed. I cruised in mine on the continent for at least an hour between 90 and 110. I also once got mine (very briefly) to just over 125 indicated.




exgtt

2,007 posts

142 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Ultimate chestwig car back in the day, Dads mate had a bright red Turbo manual in 1993. He had a year round tan, shell suit and chest hair for days.

Terzo123

2,557 posts

138 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Lewis Kingston said:
Snap!









I'd love another but I think I'll go for the turbocharged one next time. Make a great noise with a few tweaks...
That is a fine looking car.

My uncle had a red turbo manual with black leather about 20 years ago. It was a fantastic thing, or at least it was in my opinion.

Cruscotto

2 posts

4 months

Wednesday 28th February
quotequote all
Had one of these few years back, an '86 non-turbo

Number one thing when looking at one has to be rust...
As mentioned in the guide it's only a few screws and a bit of work to remove all of the interior aft of the doors and get a good look at the metal around the rear arches. If there's significant rust I'd reckon one to only be good for spares as I don't believe a fix would be feasible as repair panels are unattainable. A lot of odd parts used to be available through the Toyota dealer network, don't know if this is still the case.

Underrated cars however!
A proper Grand Tourer, comfortable and very reflective of the fact that this was a Toyota flagship - hydraulic clutch, LSD, double wishbones, air con, electric seats inc. lumbar, electrically controlled dampers & digi dash on JDM, handy analogue battery gauge to tell you that the next click on the key won't start it on the UK model. Pop up headlights so you can spend far too long at zebra crossings using them to wave people across!
Great noise from the straight six, always enjoyed starting it up for that. Nothing styled like it on the road but with the size and long overhangs, it's not one for multi-storey car parks and similar tedium, it's a car for the open road. Found the steering to be a bit on the light side and a large proportion are autos.

Reckon an immaculate UK model or a good Japanese import at the current prices would make a lot of sense compared to the other modern classics of the era (AE86/Porsche 924?). JDM Turbo A would also be a very special and different car to have.