MkIII Toyota Supra: A Decade
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MkIII Toyota Supra: A Decade

Sep 04, 2023

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Everyone loves a bargain, especially those that appreciate a good, solid foundation for a full-blown project build. This 1989 Toyota Supra was a steal at just $1,000 way back in 2011. Sure, it had its fair share of issues like the noticeably rough exterior, an unwanted non-turbo engine, and then there was that issue of the automatic transmission that was actually broken, leaving the car immobile at the time.

Nevertheless, Martin Phan had no problem looking beyond the shortcomings and instead focused on the positive, adding, "the body wasn't in the best condition; however, the interior was super clean with no cracks on the dashboard - that was ultimately the selling point of the car." It might sound strange to drop a grand on a beat up used car that only had a clean interior to offer but truth be told, it was purchased out of necessity.

The owner of a pair of Cadillac Fleetwoood Brougham lowriders, Martin says he was struggling to keep the tank full on either and found himself in need of a solid daily driver. Yes, the Supra would need some work but it was fixable and over time, went from a daily driver to an only child, with the Caddys being sold off about a year after the MkIII was back on the road.

Having pulled daily duty for quite some time, Martin decided the exterior deserved some attention to match the cars excellent condition interior. Rather than dropping the Supra off at a body shop, he brought it to the local high school where students that he helped teach pitched in on the long hours of body work. All these years later, that silver paint has done much more than just hold up, it looks pristine from any angle

The long, slender body of the MkIII appears lower and meaner thanks to some choice aero additions. Up front, a Hiro bumper lip is joined by an S2 air guide and Turbo A bumper duct. Just above, a custom vent is added to the passenger side headlight cover and sends fresh air to the intake. Along the sides and rear you'll find Bomex skirts, Abflug rear bumper spats, and a carbon fiber rear diffuser. Ancient OEM artifacts, like the OEM window visors and rear hatch visor were also included in the revamp.

The car's exterior looked better than new with all the right touches and as such, its automatic transmission and naturally aspirated heart no longer fit the description. A 2JZ-GTE non-VVTI engine was sourced and torn down, then loaded with JE pistons and ARP head studs, mains, and rod bolts, before a Cometic MLS head gasket was cinched down. Up top, Brian Crower valve springs and titanium retainers inside of a Stage III ported and polished head are joined by a Holset HX40 Super turbo.

In order to move the sort of air that you'd expect from this set up, 4-in. exhaust tubing was used for the downpipe with an exhaust cut-out, but for those times that Martin wants to bring the noise down and just cruise, a complete 3-in. exhaust system that leads to an old school Sheepdog Racing muffler is in place. Bosh 850cc injectors, fed by an AEM 340lph pump and regulator are overseen by Haltech's Platinum Sport 2000 which helps make a reliable 500hp without breaking a sweat - all transferred through a 5-speed R154 trans.

Once the dust on the dyno had cleared and Martin fully realized his once painfully slow Supra was now a cruise missile, he got to work upgrading the brakes and suspension to help keep the car under control. Behind the Volk TE37 SL are Ceika 6-pot front and 4-pot rear brake kits with 330mm rotors that, with help from Toyo R888R, help slow things down on command. Tein Flex Z coilovers fitted with Swift springs, front and rear Whiteline sway bars, and Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings update the vintage factory underpinnings.

The interior served as the car's only high point upon purchase and much of its burgundy and black panels remain. The original seats, however, were pulled in favor of Recaro SPG3 buckets with Schroth harnesses, and the factory steering wheel and shifter were replaced by a Momo Race wheel and Tomei knob atop a Cube Speed short-throw shifter. A Safety 21 6-pt. roll cage traces the cabin and if you look closely, you'll spot TRD dash gauges.

A rough exterior MkIII Supra with a non-operational automatic transmission and no sign of turbo motivation sounds like an automotive nightmare to most even at $1,000. For Martin Phan it served as the ideal starting point for a daily driver which would eventually become the remarkable build you see today.

Car 1989 Toyota Supra

Owner Martin Phan

Instagram @martinphancy

Engine 2JZ-GTE non-VVTI engine swap; ACL Race bearings; ARP head studs, main studs, rod bolts; Cometic MLS head gasket; JE Pistons 9.5:1; Ferrea stainless steel valves; Brian Crower springs, titanium retainers; Stage 3 ported/polished head; Sheepdog 3-in. stainless exhaust, 4-in. downpipe, exhaust cut-out; GReddy timing belt; ATI Super Damper crank pulley; Holset HX40 Super Turbo; TiAL Q 50mm blow-off valve, MV-R 44mm wastegate; 3-in. intercooler piping; Mishimoto radiator, electric fans, shroud, R-line intercooler; AEM Tru-Time adjustable cam gears, Tru-Boost boost controller, 340lph fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, ; Bosch 850cc injectors; Haltech Platinum Sport 2000 management; Phancy Wiring custom engine harness

Drivetrain R154 transmission; Marlin Crawler and Driftmotion shift forks, bearings; Exedy Hyper Twin-disc clutch; Driveshaft Shop 1-pc. aluminum driveshaft; LSD; 3.9 final drive

Suspension Tein Flex Z coilovers; Swift springs; Battle Version rear suspension links; Energy Suspension polyurethane; Cusco front and rear shock tower bars; Whilteline front and rear sway bars

Brakes Ceika 6-pot front/4-pot rear calipers; 330mm rotors; Goodridge stainless brake lines; Driftmotion brake master cylinder brace

Wheels & Tires 18x10+30 Volk TE37SL; 275/35 Toyo Proxes R888R

Exterior Hiro front lip; Bomex side skirts; Turbo-A front bumper duct; S2 front bumper air guide; Abflug rear spats; custom rear carbon fiber diffuser, pop-up headlight vent; OEM JDM window visors, rear hatch visor

Interior Recaro SPG3 bucket seats, custom brackets, sliders; Schroth 6-pt. harnesses; Cusco Safety 21 roll cage; Momo Race steering wheel; NRG quick-disconnect hub; Nightrun Garage gauge cluster faces; AEM boost, air fuel ratio gauges; Cube Speed short throw shifter; Tomei shift knob

Car Owner Instagram Engine Drivetrain Suspension Brakes Wheels & Tires Exterior Interior