My Toyota Supra Story

Supra needs a new story? How about an old one? Here’s mine.

The cat’s out of the bag, or rather the Supra is. A leaked video has revealed the all-new Toyota sportscar in all its glorious sound and fury. In it the Toyota President, Akio Toyoda says ‘I think we need a Supra story again’.

Well here’s mine…

Back around 1990 I was a fledgling and, quite frankly, pioneering motoring journalist in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I’d managed to develop a decent relationship with the people at Abdul Latif Jameel, the Toyota Dealers there, and was working my way through reviewing the Corollas and Cressidas, to my ultimate goal, getting my mitts on the Supra.

That was the A70 third generation car, and it was already about four years old by this time, but car lifecycles seemed to naturally stretch longer than they do now, so it still felt fresh, and rather special. I eventually got hold of a black demonstrator with the 3.0-litre inline six and took it over to the Arab News HQ – the newspaper for which I was doing a motoring column.

My features editor – who really wasn’t into cars at all – was always complaining I never took him for a ride in any cool motors. So picking him I headed over to a deserted street network I knew, and unleashed the 200bhp.

Yeah I know it doesn’t sound like much today. Back then it was enough for my exuberance to overtake my skills (fairly non-existent in the first place) and break the rear loose. Overcorrection sent the car flipping back around the other way. Thankfully stomping on the brakes finally brought us to a halt a mere few millimetre from the pavement on the passenger side.

Freaking out on the inside, I somehow managed to maintain my chill on the outside. The editor was staring at me wide-eyed and aghast, slightly green and… wow… was he actually trembling just a little. So I conjured up a big grin, turned to him and said, or rather yelled a little too loudly very unnecessarily: ‘Wow! Shall we try that again?!’

Regaining his normally cool composure he retorted ‘Sure, YOU can…. right after you drop ME safely back at the office!’

Regardless of this near contretemps with concrete paving, I had an absolute blast in this car. Perfect proportions, sleek and sexy bodywork, cool style, decent handling and surprisingly potent performance. Only the stereo was disappointing – but I figured they expected most owners to rip out the standard unit and upgrade the sound system.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was back in London working on a small community newspaper. At the time I had become fixated with the Ford Capri and was saving up to buy a 2.8. I’d reached about GBP2000, but probably needed another 500 quid.

Walking with a regular contributor back outside to his car I was absolutely gobsmacked to see him stop at a blue/grey two-tone 1984 Toyota Celica Supra 2.8i – the A60 second generation car. This particularly car was a higher spec with a very 1980s full digital dashboard, plus the mean-looking widened wheelarches.

Now I need to pause here for a moment to fill you in on a couple of sidebar details. Firstly, like all car folk at this time I was a huge fan of Knight Rider – so the hi-tech aspects of the car already had me salivating.

Secondly, as some of you will know, my dream car is the Lotus Esprit. Now a collaborative arrangement between Toyota and Lotus in the 1980s meant that Lotus had actually helped develop the Supra; the widened track and bolted-on wheelarch extensions were a direct result of Lotus sorting the early ride/handling issues on the car.

Plus it was low, sleek and wedgy like an Esprit and… OMIGOD it had pop-up lights. I mean c’mon!! Toyota, you had me at pop-up lights.

Now why did this political journalist and normally quite sober and serious chap own such an exuberant performance car? As it turned out, he had only bought it to help out a mate who needed the cash and so was actually looking to move it on. And there I was totally smitten and with two grand weighing down my wallet.

‘I’ll give you 1800 for it,’ I proffered. He shook my hand on the spot. I was as happy as Larry, or as happy as Larry was when he went up the hill with Jill. Yep that’s right, she was two-timing Jack all along. Anyway this car could pull Jill, Jane or Jemma – well the car could, I’d be the handicap.

The Celica Supra to give it it’s full name for this gen, was my favourite kind of car, one that looked like a million dollars but didn’t cost it. It had megastar presence, a real show-stopper and head-turner. And if you got people to peek inside they were completely bowled over by the many-way multi-adjustable seats, Jap-attack gadgetry and the spectacular instrument panel theatrics. They would almost demand it say ‘Hello Michael’.

Not only was this my very own high-tech musclecar, that was fast and fun to drive, but it was rare and striking to look at. I started dressing up like I was in my own TV series – yes I am wearing a fedora in that night image. In my fantasy world I was a vigilante journalist out to right wrongs on the mean streets of London in my faithful blue straight-six steed.

I drove it everywhere and anywhere, gave everyone lifts as often as possible, and one my most exciting journeys into work was on a hilariously slithery snowy morning, virtually sideways all the way from Islington to Willesden, only to have to turn around and come back as all of London had stayed at home it turned out!

I happily volunteered to deliver our weekly newspaper to the printers on deadline night and even pick up the subscription copies the next morning – the Supra was astonishingly capacious when it came to cargo space.

One night, about four hours after deadline, as usual, and in the early hours of the morning I was blasting across to the printers based in East London when I managed a perfect drift through the right hander into the Great Eastern Street at Shoreditch.

It was one of those times when you’re like ‘Damn, how come there was no one around to see me do that? That was awesome!’ Except that someone had witnessed it.

Whilst waiting at the next lights before Commercial Street, a police car pulled up alongside and an officer gestured me to wind down the window. I stared at him in horror and reached over as slowly as possible to the window button (they were electric of course) whilst simultaneously breaking into a sweat and finding my throat parch out, too dry to utter even a cry. I even witnessing the pit of my own stomach abandoning me and running off in the direction of Aldgate when suddenly, a blessed miracle occurred.

His partner tapped him on the shoulder, the lights and sirens went on, and they took off at speed to something rather more important than an idiotic young driver in a flashy car going sideways. God bless you and your high crime rate East London. And God bless you my beloved blue Supra!

I would’ve kept the car for years, especially after I’d had the engine rebuilt for 700 quid when the cambelt let go. Sadly however, rust ate away at the rear tailgate and I tried and failed to source a replacement (this was and is a rare car in the UK remember, and these were the days before the Internet was useful for anything other than sourcing rude dancing girl gifs). Meanwhile  the water seeped in and digested the floorpan as well and left me with a prohibitively expensive-to-repair MoT failure.

In the end I sold it to a chap who had Supra he’d imported from Europe. The body on his car was perfect but the engine and gearbox were dead and he wanted to convert it to a right hand drive. I liked the idea that some part of my car would live on and continue to provide service. There’s only about 40 of these still on the roads here today it appears, perhaps mine is still part of one of them. I’d like to think so.

I can’t wait to sample the all-new Supra and see if there’s even a smidge of the same awesomeness present in one of my most favourite cars I ever owned.

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