A history lesson on the Toyota Supra

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Feels like we’ve waited a century for the A90. It’s been 41 years in the making

Toyota Supra, this is your life...

Despite the new Supra being teased, camouflaged and leaked to within an inch of its life over the past year, its recent launch still broke the internet as quickly as the back of a lady called Kim.

The Supra has a huge cult following, so it’s no surprise that Toyota has been carefully developing the new one, with the help of BMW, since 2012. For most, the name evokes fond memories of the A80 – released in 1993.

That car wasn’t the first to carry the name though. So just how did the Japanese brand create such an icon? Click through to find out…

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The original – The mk1 Celica Supra
The Supra was born in April 1978 when Toyota decided it needed a more powerful and luxurious coupe. To solve the problem, a six-cylinder engine was dropped into the second-generation Celica and the body was made longer and wider.

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The aim was to compete with the Datsun Z cars that were dominating the Japanese and American grand tourer market at the time. Thanks Datsun.

The A40/A50 wasn’t around for long though – production lasted just three short years.

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The headlights – The mk2 Supra
With the release of the third generation Celica in the early 1980s came the second ever Supra. Once again, the car was lengthened and this time Toyota shoehorned in a 2.8-litre twin-cam engine, as well as giving it independent rear suspension and some wonderful pop-up headlights.

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The A60 remained a rare sight on UK roads, with just 100 being imported from Japan each month. It did however feature on the track in the British Saloon Car Championship – the forefather of BTCC – with the brilliantly named Win Percy at the wheel.

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The split – The mk3 Supra
In 1986 the Supra made its break from the Celica, moving on to a unique platform to become its own model with a range of straight-six engines available. The most powerful was a 3.0-litre turbo producing 230bhp – although that was later increased to 270bhp.

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That power increase allowed the Supra to compete in a number of different race series including the European Touring Car Championship and the World Rally Championship - before the Celica returned with four wheel drive to oust its new big brother.

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The icon – The mk4 Supra
The fourth generation Supra is undoubtedly the king. It arrived in the early 1990s when Japan was producing some of the best sports cars in the world and set about beating anything in its price range, as well as plenty above it. The swooping design and *that* spoiler all pointed at something smaller, lighter and more focused than its predecessor.

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The standard mk4 - which got from 0-95 in 4.9secs - soon became the darling of the tuning scene. In fact, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six that we got here in the UK was well known for being able to handle four-figure power outputs with ease.

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The new kid – The mk5 Supra
Big shoes to fill then. The first hint of the new Supra came with the FT-1 concept back in 2014, and other than the lack of a rear wing and some slightly toned-down bumpers, the production car looks mightily similar.

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Thankfully, Toyota has stuck to the mechanical blueprint that made the Supra so popular… via BMW, of course, and its new Z4. At its heart, the Supra carries a 3.0-litre straight-six sending 340bhp to the rear wheels via an 8spd auto and limited slip diff. We approve.

STORY Greg Potts

Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.