Why The Mk3 Supra Is An Underrated Dream Project Car

JDM / 10 Comments

It's not the most famous Supra of them all, but this classic Toyota sports coupe deserves its share of the limelight.

The Toyota Supra is an automotive pop culture icon, which owes much of its fame to the famous A80 and its mega 2JZ-GTE six-cylinder that redefined what was capable with an inline-six engine. But while the A80 - otherwise known as the Mk4 Supra among many enthusiasts - is the most iconic of the five generations there have been so far, it's not the only one worth investing in, and the Mk3 Toyota Supra is an under-appreciated gem just waiting for you. Whereas Mk4s sell for anywhere between $40,000 and $150,000 depending on condition - and even more in the case of famous movie cars - the price of the Mk3 is substantially less, and you can easily pick one up for under $20,000.


Mk3 Supra Specs - Punchy Inline-6 Powerhouse

The Mk3 Supra was produced for seven years between 1986 and 1993 and had the honor of being the first model to wear the Supra nameplate in a standalone fashion, as the two prior generations were called the Celica Supra. In Japan, a compact 2.0-liter straight-six was available, but the engine in US Mk3 Supra models was the 7M-GE, a 3.0-liter inline-six available in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged form. The latter was titled the 7M-GTE and was the first distributor-less engine from the brand in the US. It punched out 230 horsepower and 254 lb-ft (up from 200 hp and 196 lb-ft in NA guise), sent solely to the rear wheels via your choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The transmission of choice for the Mk3 Supra was the manual, though, as in turbo guise, it was reinforced to handle the extra torque.

ABS, an electronically modulated suspension that adjusted based on throttle and braking inputs, and double wishbone suspension were all technical highlights, while a limited-slip differential was standard on the turbo Mk3 Supra and optional on the base trim.

US Mk3 Supra Specs:

  • Engine: 3.0-liter inline-six, naturally aspirated (7M) or turbocharged (7M-GTE)
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic
  • Power: 200-230 hp
  • Torque: 196-254 lb-ft
  • 0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds (independent testing)

Tuning Potential

Toyota had turned the Supra into something that could genuinely rival the Corvette, Porsche 944 Turbo, and Mazda RX-7 Turbo of the era, but decades down the line, the Mk3 Supra is perfect for a different type of audience entirely: tuner culture.

As a classic JDM icon, the tuning potential for something like the A70 is nearly infinite. Parts are readily available from a number of suppliers, both in Japan and the US, with mods ranging from simple updates to the interior of the Mk3 Supra to far greater ones with visual and performance impacts. Because of its simple nature compared to modern standards, engine swaps are more easily accomplished, netting big gains on the dyno. One common swap is dropping a 2JZ into the Mk3's body, resulting in a classic wedge-shaped, pop-up headlight JDM toy that can easily pump out 1,000 hp.

Agile Performance

Widebody Mk3 Supra kits are common, too, many of which feed into period-correct modifications that stand out. The Mk4 may be a design icon, but a modified Mk3 Supra screams classic JDM car culture from the first time you look at it.

Prices for the Mk4 are getting out of hand, and as they get older, get scrapped, and as bad drivers wreck them, they're becoming scarcer and scarcer. But maybe that's why the Mk3 is the perfect alternative. It blends classic 1980s JDM style with an ideal platform for expressing your own style, and because of its age, there are tons of parts readily available for it. It's also a collector's car in the making, meaning it's a sound financial investment. Even if you're not a fan of modifications and want to keep it stock, Toyota's Heritage Parts program means you can buy brand-new replacement OEM parts to keep the Mk3 in pristine condition.

Project Cherry Widebody/Facebook
Project Cherry Widebody/Facebook

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