Straight from 1988 came my first sports car, the venerable (and vulnerable) Toyota Supra.  I bought this Supra back in 1997 from a lady about to have her first child and realized a small sports car wasn’t the best fit in her family.  It was bone stock with 46k on the odometer, even the tires were original.  I fell in love with this car once I slide behind the wheel.  The body style was a perfect fit more me, part sleek sports car, part muscle car.  Even though the generations of Supra that came after this one were much more recognized and had higher performance, this design always got me.  The burgundy paint colour went out of style in the 2000s but has recently started coming back around.

Check out this ad straight from Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIuisuHeS0A  80s style. 🙂

I learned so much from this car and eventually sold it in 2015 with only 125k on the odometer.  It was a hard working 80k though, which I’ll get into below…

Mods

Short for modifications, any automotive enthusiast wants to give their car something a bit special to set it apart from the crowd.  I’m the type of guy that goes by the “form follows function” principle and I’m also a huge tinkerer.  When I was a boy I would take everything apart that I could to figure out how it worked and sometimes would do some modifications while I was in there.  Pretty much any toy I had with a motor got this treatment, maybe I’ll do a post sometime about when I made my own gunpowder to power a custom rocket motor.

I treated this car the same was as my childhood toys.  I wanted to open it up and see what I could do.  There were two distinct phases to my modification history as well as some other things I learned on the way.

Phase 1 – 1998 – 2008

I didn’t know much about cars at this time.  The supra was my third car, and the only mods I did on my first two cars were to install extremely obnoxious stereo systems.  My second car was so bad I fried an alternator and the bumper had just about rattled off because of the massive subwoofers I put in.  Now that I’m in my 40s I get grumpy when I hear the car next to me pounding out the bass.  At first anyway, then I remember how dumb I was as a youth.

The original motor in this car (oh yeah, it’s been through a few) was called the 7M-GTE, a 3.0L inline 6 single turbo fuel injected motor.  Turbo = good, inline 6 = good, stock design = bad.  Toyota had outsourced the head design to Yamaha, who made a really cool aluminum head, which Toyota mounted to a cast iron block and then put in a regular old headgasket and basically applied finger torque to the headbolts.  This was a recipe for disaster, which my car also fell victim to.

Chronology of Phase 1: 

  • Increase the boost and throw on a high flow muffler.
  • Add a high flow air filter
  • Add a stupid stereo (of course)
  • Add larger injectors, fuel pump, fuel regulator and ECU tuner
  • Increase the boost some more and take it drag racing (legal!)
  • Blow the headgasket at 160km/h and shut down the drag strip – Oops!
  • Rebuild the motor, head rebuild, metal headgasket, head bolts, etc etc
  • Add a bigger turbo, custom build my own exhaust (taught myself how to weld)
  • Break a ring land at 20psi boost
  • Rebuild again, learn how to shot peen rods,  modify a cylinder head.
  • Bend a rod at 18psi boost spike
  • Rebuil… wait, I’m not sure this is the right thing to do…

 

Phase 2 – 2009 – 2014

Well, something wasn’t right.  There was a major issue here preventing me from making reliable power from this car.  Without going into to much detail, the issue really at the end of the day was that this car wasn’t designed for this amount of power.  Others have done it with the 7M-GTE, but they have spent thousands and thousands on ultra strong engine internals and custom tuning an engine management system.  That’s not my style.

In Japan, Toyota made this car with multiple different engine types.  I found a guy in Calgary that imported one of these cars and wrecked it in an accident.  Inside this car was the 1JZ-GTE, an inline 6, 2.5L twin turbo.  The engine was 0.5L smaller, but it came from the factory with super strong internals, a metal headgasket and a 7000 RPM redline with a much better ECU that the old one I had.

Chronology of Phase 2:

  • Winch the 1990 Japanese Right Hand Drive car into my garage
  • Remove the 1JZ-GTE motor.  By this point I was able to remove a motor from these cars in a little over 4 hours by myself.
  • Remove the twin turbos, manifold, injectors and electronic bits
  • Fit on a massive T70 turbo (eventually downsized for a GT35), larger injectors, custom manifold, fuel pressure regulator, etc etc
  • Extend the wiring harness of over 100 little wires by 18 inches so that it would fitin the stock location
  • Desolder and replace 3 leaking capacitors on the 1J-GTE ECU
  • Fabricate a new downpipe to match from the T70 to the exhaust I had build a while ago
  • Install new high lift cam shafts
  • Install a heavy duty carbon fibre and copper plate clutch and lightweight flywheel
  • Lower the car and upgrade the struts to a high performance variety
  • Wide profile tires
  • Custom built wide format Air / Fuel gauge system, EGT gauge and Fuel Pressure Gauge
  • Pop that engine into the car, hook up the factory AC (yes I was able to keep the AC)
  • To my surprise is fired up right way.  I had to do a light tune and it was solid.

I should have done this years ago.  The car was rock solid reliable and quick.  Before I sold it, it was close to 500 hp at the crankshaft, which is quite the thing from a 2.5L motor running 91 octane fuel. 

Conclusion

I’m sure I missed dozens of things I did to this car.  I learned so much and I became quite fearless when it came to working on my own vehicles, even the ones I own today.  While my performance modding days are (probably) over, repairs and maintenance never phased me and probably won’t again.  I’m sure I’ll just get sick of doing the work before I can’t figure it out anymore.  Well, maybe when I finally have an electric vehicle.  But we’ll see… 🙂

Big A$$ Turbo

Too big really…

Donor Car

1JZ-GTE out of the donor car and stripped down

Ceramic Coated Piston

Did this really help?  Probably not

Trailing Arms

Nothing like welding some angle iron onto a car part to make it stronger.  Worked great, the car really dug in on launch afterward

Bumper Repair

Learned a bit of body work after the garage door came down on the poor thing.