1993 Toyota Supra
1993 Toyota Supra. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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Toyota’s history as a builder of high-performance cars is a pretty short one. There was the 2000GT in the 60s, the Celica (which was discontinued last year) and the nifty mid-engined MR2. What’s interesting about sporty Toyotas, though, is that enthusiasts tend to remember them long after they’ve gone out of production.

While the rare 2000GT is more of a single-purpose performance car, the Supra is a somewhat more practical and more attainable example of the breed. The Supra started out as a performance-oriented offshoot of the Celica line back in the 1970s. When the second generation appeared in 1982, it had become a distinct model, and late 1986 brought the third-gen car, with its vaguely Italian lines.

Fast forward to 1994, when the fourth-generation Supra bowed in Canada. And Whoa! Was it ever a looker! Well, most people thought so, anyway. Gone were the third-generation’s retractable headlights, replaced by projector beam units. The body’s lines were smooth and sleek, like those of the mid-90s Mazda RX-7, but far more substantial. This was a big car, and weighed 300-plus kilograms more than the svelte RX-7.

That was okay, though, because the Supra packed a 320-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine under its long hood. The engine was Toyota’s 2JZ-GTE, a force-fed version of the motor also used in a few Lexus models. Interestingly, while U.S. dealerships sold both turbo and non-turbo Supras, it appears that only turbo versions of this last Supra were sold in Canada. Also, while the fourth-gen Supra was sold from 1993 to 1998 in the U.S., Canada only got it from 1994 to 1997.

Transmission choices were a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Transport Canada’s fuel consumption rating for six-speed manual Supras is a little more than 14 L/100 km city and 9 L/100 km highway; automatic versions do a little better around town (just under 13 L/100 km city) and about the same on the highway. No crash test data is available from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and no recalls were issued for the fourth-generation Supra.

1997 Toyota Supra
1997 Toyota Supra. Click image to enlarge

Being a Toyota, the Supra is generally regarded as a durable car. There don’t appear to be many common issues, but there are few things to look out for. The Supra’s twin turbos are designed to function sequentially (one is smaller and is used to help the other, larger one spool up more quickly) so check to make sure that’s still the case with any examples you look at. If that’s not the case, it’s either because something’s wrong, or the car has been modified by a previous owner. If something’s simply not working right because of old age, that’s one thing. If it’s the result of aftermarket fiddling, there’s always a chance that something was done on the cheap will result in big trouble down the road.

Also, have the engine compression tested to ensure the piston rings aren’t worn or damaged – and in manual transmission models, make sure only Toyota gear oil was used. This is the best way to prevent worn synchronizers (best case scenario) or a blown transmission (worst case scenario).

The important thing to remember is that the Supra is not a car whose condition can be accurately gauged with a kick of the tires and a spin around the block. Before you start shopping, try to find a mechanic who’s familiar with these cars. Yes, it’s a Toyota, but the Supra is a totally different beast than your grandpa’s Camry and requires a lot more care to ensure its health.

There’s a wealth of Supra-related info on the web. MKIV.com is a highly-regarded enthusiast site dedicated to this most recent Supra. The forums are busy and the FAQ and technical articles are a must-read. Also, check out SONIC (Supra Owners Network in Canada). You have to join to access the club’s resources, but doing so is free. And check out the forums at i-Supra.com and SupraForums.com.

Asking prices for used Supras are ridiculously high, a situation many enthusiasts blame on the car’s prominent role in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. And with the recent release of the third (and hopefully final) instalment of the series, prices aren’t likely to go down soon. According to Canadian Red Book, values range from $12,150 for a 1994 model to a high of $19,025 for a 1997. Browse Auto Trader in Ontario, however, and the cheapest is a $12,900 1994 model with significant collision damage and in need of a new transmission, differential and other “miscellaneous” repairs, all of which apparently makes the car an “excellent opportunity.” The other fourth-generation Supras for sale – all 1994s – are going for between $35,000 and $37,000.

Online resources

Manufacturer’s Website



Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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