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History of the Toyota Supra & 2JZ Engine

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Last Updated on: 7th September 2023, 12:47 am

The Toyota Supra and its 2JZ engine is iconic with a rich history behind it.

In 1978, Toyota wanted a car that would compete with Nissan’s hugely successful ‘Z’ car.

Nissan Fairlady Z S30 Wangan Midnight

However, they didn’t feel like designing a whole new platform, so they took their existing Celica, stretched it out a bit gave it a bit of a superficial redesign.

They packed an inline six-cylinder under the hood and called it the Celica Supra. Although the name sounds strange today, back then, it made more sense.

‘Supra’ means above and beyond the limits of something, and this was what the Celica Supra was.

It was beyond the limits of the regular Celica.

1983 Toyota Celica Supra

It had more power, it was larger, and it looked different, so the Celica Supra (although it’s the equivalent of saying Toyota Prius today) back in the late 70s made more sense.

It was a pretty desirable car, but it didn’t manage to come anywhere near the sales figures of the Nissan Z, but it did do something historically significant.

It created the bond between the word Supra and the inline six-cylinder engine.

Unlike the Celica upon which it was based, which had a four-cylinder engine, the Supra Celica got an inline six-cylinder engine.

Toyota’s ‘M’ engine came just three years later, 80’s design came knocking and as a result, the entire Celica lineup was redesigned.

Along with it, of course, the Celica Supra, the second-generation cars arguably differ more from each other than the first-generation cars.

Although the second-generation Celica Supra was very different outside from the Celica inside, it still shared many components with the Celica.

It was larger, more luxurious, better equipped, and had an inline six-cylinder, but it was still a Celica.

Toyota Celica XX

Now, everywhere the name ‘Celica Supra’ was still retained, except in Japan, where Celica Supra wasn’t called the ‘Celica Supra’.

Both the first-generation and the second-generation of the Celica Supra in Japan were known as the Celica Double X.

The second-generation Supra also did something important; it was the first instance of turbocharging in a Supra.

In February 1986, something significant would happen; the word Celica would get amputated from the Celica Supra.

Celica and Supra were now two separate models, and they went different ways.

The Celica would become a front-wheel-drive vehicle, while the Supra would retain a rear-wheel-drive configuration.

The Supra was no longer mechanically associated with the Celica; it was now based on the Toyota Soarer platform.

The Soarer was a more extensive platform, giving the Supra room to grow. Using the larger platform, Toyota would develop the Supra into a proper performance vehicle.

mk3 toyota supra

The Supras’ suspension was upgraded to a double-wishbone setup and received some pinnacle technology from the 80s.

Some of this technology includes a 3-channel ABS and TEMS, which stands for Toyota-electronically-modulated-suspension, which gave the supra variable dampening.

In the engine department, the third-generation Supra received the last and the greatest iteration of the ‘M’ family of engines.

These 7M engines increased displacement to 3 litres, a number that would become synonymous with the supra model in its turbocharged form.

The 7M-GTE engine made some impressive power; although it had a weak head gasket, it still made the Supra a genuine high-performance vehicle.

7M-GTE engine bay

But the third-generation Supra was important for one more reason; it was the first Supra to get a 1JZ.

In Japan, only the third-generation of the Supra became available with the 1JZ engine, the successor to the 7M engine.

It showed a glimpse of what the future would look like for the Supra, and in 1993, we would find out just how amazing the future would be.

Toyota started production of the fourth-generation Supra, it continued on the path set by the previous generation, but it was so much more.

Because for the fourth-generation Supra, Toyota went all out and used all of its 90s over-engineering skills to create a genuinely spectacular car.

Under the hood was the brand new 2JZ engine; the 2JZ and the 7M engines seemed very similar on paper.

Both of these engines existed in naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants, and both engines were 3-litre inline six-cylinder engines, but that’s where the similarities end.

The 2JZ wouldn’t just fix the minor issues that the 7M had, but it was an engine with a much greater potential, and only time would unveil just how significant that potential was.

toyota 2jz engine bay

But the engine wasn’t the only impressive thing.

The fourth-generation Supra, despite its better safety, larger brakes, larger wheels, an extra turbo and a host of other stuff, managed to be almost 100kg lighter than the previous generation.

This weight saving is because Toyota used aluminium and magnesium alloys in various parts of the Supra to make it lighter.

The Supra could accelerate from 0-60 in just over four and a half seconds, and it could clear the quarter-mile in 13.1 seconds.

mk4 toyota supra

Unfortunately, the fourth-generation Supra didn’t last very long.

A rising yen and a weakening high-performance car market ended the production of the fourth generation pretty quickly.

It was over in 1996, in Canada, sales stopped in 1998. In Europe and the USA, it would last another four years. In Japan, it was finally over for the supra in 2002.

The world would have to wait two decades for a successor to the mk4 Supra.

Arguably, those two decades are more critical for the supra and the 2JZ engine than the years during which it was in production.

In 2001, the fast and the furious movie was released, and the world fell in love with the Supra and its insane engine capable of crazy power.

fast and furious toyota supra

In the early 2000s, tuners across the world started to push the power output of the 2JZ, but the early tuning was rudimentary.

You needed three different ECU’s for three different things, and it was messy.

The aftermarket for the 2JZ and the Supra started to evolve pretty rapidly, and soon it gave tuners the tools needed to find the limits of the 2JZ engine.

But it seemed that the word ‘limit’ wasn’t in the 2JZ’s dictionary. Doubling of the engine’s horsepower seemed too easy, soon triple-digit horsepower became the norm and expected.

Anything less was underwhelming. Dynos worldwide reported crazy power outputs from engines that used more stock components than anyone believed was possible.

The legend of the 2JZ was forged long before Toyota announced the successor to the supra and the 2JZ.

mk5 toyota supra

In 2019, Toyota revealed the fifth-generation Supra, and along with it, disappointment resounded across the world.

Supra fanatics expected a successor to the 2JZ, something that would walk the steps of the 2JZ.

Instead, they got a BMW engine, and although the new engine and the car itself is good, fans weren’t happy.

Soon people started necessitating that the 20+ year old engine be swapped into the new Supra, and if this isn’t a testament to how incredible the 2JZ is, then nothing is.

  • Andy Lewin

    Andy Lewin is a senior mechanic, ASE qualified master technician, and an experienced automotive engineer. He's passionate about serving the automotive community with the highest-quality and trustworthy information on all things automotive. He loves to write about car repairs, maintenance, car modifications and tuning, faults, and much more.

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