1986 was a great year for Supra fans. The Celica name was dropped from the third generation’s moniker as the final ties were cut to the smaller (and now front-wheel drive) coupe.
This was a grand touring car for the middle class family man who just got a small bonus. Toyota threw all of its latest technology into this car including ABS brakes and an electronically adjustable suspension as options. The styling was as sleek as everything else in the mid-1980s, and it even had the obligatory pop-up headlights. This Supra looked slightly more upper class than the Nissan 300Z and Mazda RX-7, but wasn’t quite as yuppie as the BMW 6-Series and Mercedes E-Class coupe. Best of all, the optional Porsche-inspired targa top told the world that this young dad still wanted to look cool.
The nearly 15% weight gain over its predecessor meant it forever lost any twinkle toes references, but this grand tourer could still move. Its 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine made 200 hp, which could keep up with the Bimmers. Then in 1987 a turbo version gave the car another 30 hp bump. While that today’s V6 Camry will blow the Supra Turbo’s doors off, this was a 80s-era screamer.
Unfortunately this new Supra’s time in the sunshine was short-lived. It showed up just as the personal sports car was leaving the upper middle class. Gone was the time when a two-car family meant there was one car to carry all the kids, and the other was a cool little machine just for the parents. Coming in was the era of the SUV. A vehicle that looked rugged enough to be cooler than the minivans, but large enough to pick up the soccer team on the way home from work.
Toyota’s lineup today is an exact reflection of this change. Gone are the Celicas and Supras. Highlanders, RAV4s, and Venzas have replaced them. Toyota’s lack of a Supra today is one of the reasons why the brand is seriously uncool (and may also help explain why there’s a new rear-wheel drive Celica-sized coupe on the way!)
But Toyota is not completely to blame. The personal sports car has entered the horsepower wars, and everything from the Nissan 370Z to today’s base BMW 6-Series has about 100 more horsepower than the top-of-the-line third generation Supra. Had the Supra been around today, it would either be overpriced or outclassed. The proof of this is the fourth generation car that was a great handler, but it was rarely chosen as the price hit a level of more prestigious sports cars.
So enjoy the third generation Supra for the classic it has become. For those who are beginning to appreciate 80s style, this quick, nimble, and comfortable machine may be the perfect Saturday night car to wisk away the wife.