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Messing with the Recipe: Matt's 1987 1UZ Toyota Supra

Believe it or not, the Supra existed before the MKIV. While all of the debate is currently centered on the merits of the newly released MKV when weighed against its predecessor, there’s much more to consider. The Toyota Supra nameplate was first used in 1979, for the export release of the JDM Celica XX, a larger GT that sat above the compact Celica.. Never really intended to be a true sports car, the Supra filled a roll that’s much more similar to the modern Lexus RC; stylish transport with enough power to get out of its own way. This formula continued through the first three generations, with the MKIII being powered by two versions of the 7M inline 6, a 200hp NA shared with the contemporary Cressida, and a turbo version that offered a healthy 232hp. The US would never receive the range-topping twin-turbo 1JZ.

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Matt’s 1987 Supra was released into the wild with the naturally aspirated 7M engine. To call this car sporty at all would be generous at best. Additionally, the 7M doesn’t have the best reputation, having developed a bad habit of blowing head gaskets. From the beginning, Matt realized that the original powertrain was not going to fit into his vision of the car.

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Matt is a bit of a Toyota purist, so his choices for affordable engine swaps were somewhat limited. The 1JZ is perhaps the most obvious choice for the platform, but its limited availability in the US made that a tough sell. The 2JZ is another good choice, but the affordable non-turbo doesn’t put him in much of a better spot powerwise than the 7M, and a proper twin-turbo was out of reach. Enter the 1UZ. Powering both the Lexus LS400 and SC400, Toyota’s first modern V8 made good power, and when maintained properly, is dead reliable. Passing on an inline six was a bit of heresy in the Supra world, but Matt pushed forward anyways.

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The swap was made possible by Supra Store engine mounts and Yota Connectors engine harness and body harness adapter. Power is routed through a Nissan 240SX 5-speed transmission (Sorry Toyota), turning the Ambit FF4 wheels.

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The inside has remained mostly stock, but a Nardi 350mm drop spoke wheel and Top Secret shift knob keeps things interesting. The contrast of 1980s Japanese design with the Intelletronix digital gauges makes for a decidedly cyberpunk aesthetic. This thing NEEDS synthwave jams playing constantly for the full effect.

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The exterior is simple, featuring a period-correct Bomex wing and an AutoExtrude targa brace that also helps to the stiffen up the 30 year old chassis.

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If we had to compare Matt’s car to a modern one, I think he’s essentially created an ‘80s Lexus RC-F. But at the end of the day, its still a Supra through and through. A Supra is much more than a MKIV setup to run drag races with 1000hp. In the marque’s 41 year history, the Supra has taken five different shapes, and has been many varying levels of “fast”. This new chapter is certainly a challenge to the traditional recipe, but in theory, it checks the boxes. I just can’t wait until someone swaps a big Toyota V8 into one.

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