Classic 1979 Toyota Celica Supra Review

Nov 14, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

Among classic cars, the Toyota Celica Supra (A40) has a special place in automotive history. The small car was user-friendly, fast, and sporty for an amazing price. It offered a unique ride in 1979 when it was first exported to the United States. Soon it was immortalized in countless movies and games. While it was sold until 1998 in America and 2002 in Japan, the first generation (also known as the A40) only lasted from 1978 to 1981. Models from this generation have a crisp style, responsive engine, and strong aftermarket support.

The Original A40

The first generation of the Supra, the A40, was based heavily on the liftback model of the Toyota Celica. But while the Celica had a four-cylinder engine the Supra was wider and larger to accommodate six cylinders. First released in 1978 in Japan as the Celica XX, it was sold in the United States the next year as the Toyota Celica Supra. (A40 models are also sometimes referred to as the “Mark I.”) The new car was reliable and affordable, and it gained a loyal following around the world, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Powertrain

The first Supra A40 to arrive began its production in Japan in April 1978. It came with a 1,988-cc inline six with 123 horsepower and the option of a larger 2,563-cc engine that clocked in at 110 horsepower. Both engines had electronic fuel injection. Those in Japan who opted for the more powerful engine had to pay a tax because of engine displacement and vehicle size regulations. When the vehicle was exported in 1979, it originally was configured with the larger displacement and the smaller engine as only available in Japan. You can find an original Supra A40 with either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual, both of which have an overdrive gear. While the steering wasn’t as responsive as it could have been, the responsive engine was always ready to leap into action.

Suspension

To complement the powertrain, the Toyota Supra A40 came standard with a four-link rear suspension that had coil springs, a stabilizer bar, and lateral track bar. Other related features include the four-wheel disc brakes and front suspension with a stabilizer bar and MacPherson struts. While the suspension wasn’t as advanced or stiff as some of its competitors at the time, any deficiencies in steering and suspension were minor considering the car’s price and eager engine.

Features and Interior

Inside, the Supra had a well-regarded cockpit for the driver. There were available power locks and windows. If you find a model with the convenience package, it will have these power accessories along with a special door trim featuring door pull straps and cruise control. There was also an available sunroof. In every Supra A40, you find will have a center console with a flip-top armrest and extendable map light, tilting steering wheel, Tonneau cover underneath its liftback, and deep zippered pockets along the back of the seats. The audio system was an AM/FM system with four speakers, and the instrument panel had an analog clock and a tachometer.

Midlife Improvements

The classic Supra A40 refers to the entire first generation of this vehicle, so you can expect a few variations depending on the model year. The 1980 version had a digital quartz clock, and the center console was redesigned. Fourteen-inch aluminum wheels became standard, and the side mirrors were different for this model. You may also find a 1980 model year with automatic climate control or leather-trimmed seats. If you find a 1981 Supra, it may have a larger 2,759 cc engine with 116 horsepower and a revised transmission that boosted performance, letting it reach 60 mph in 10.24 seconds. This was the last year for the original generation, and Toyota redesigned the car for the next model year. The reliable powertrain, accessible sportiness, and an affordable price meant that the Toyota Celica Supra was an instant success; today, these sporty liftbacks are only more appealing.

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