FEATURE: Emilio Rescigno's 1991 Toyota Supra - The Supra Remastered
Since the dawn of the automobile there has been a draw to improve upon the basic bones a manufacturer offers. Early Model T owners were fitting perfromance carburetors and aftermarket water pumps on the cars as early as 1910. As we all know, these innocent little attempts to improve the usability of automobiles would eventually evolve into the $73 billon per year industry we have today. At the heart of it all is the same desire, the drive to improve the machine you have and overcome it's inherent weaknesses. Back in 1991 the Toyota Supra was one of the best sports cars you could buy, it was an amazing performance machine that could seemingly build power from merely breathing on it. While by modern standards it's far from perfect, there are still those who would rather build a Mk.3 Supra than drive anything else. They're not stuck in the past rather, like those original car enthusiasts over 100 years ago, they're continuing to improve on what the manufacturer started.
Let's take Emilio Rescigno, Emilio is no stranger to the Mk.3 Supra otherwise known as Toyota chassis MA71, Toyota Supra Turbo. Emilio has had no shortage of these dating back to when he was in high school, he is what you would call a Supra guy. His first Mk.3 was originally a non-turbo automatic hardtop but had been swapped over to a 5-speed turbo, the car was much faster than your average Mk.3 but it was a mess mechanically. For a high school kid though, it's still a wedge shaped sports car which was the definition of awesome. After his first Supra another Supra, this time a factory Turbo, from Texas followed but still wasn't the right car and went on to finance this car.
Third time's the charm for Emilio when he spotted this particular car down in San Diego in January of 2013. A deposit was placed as soon as he saw it for sale and he flew down to get it. Upon arrival, he was greeted by the owner at the airport along with what would be his very own 5 speed 1991 Toyota Supra Turbo Targa. The car was mostly perfect, it came complete with the 7M-GTE DOHC 24-valve straight-six, all the options were working perfectly and it drove like it was healthy. The only flaws were due to it's life in California, some ripped seats and cracked vinyl, but overall it was better than anything here. It was no question, this was the perfect car and of course he bought it. The purchase was followed by jaunt up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco to store the car at his father's garage until winter was over.
Four months later Emilio flew back out to drive the car home. With the exception of a radiator cap failure in Utah, the drive nearly was trouble free until he hit Northfield, MN when the car sputtered to a halt. Frankly the 22 year old sports car with a pedigree for blowing headgaskets made it 99.98% of the trip without any major failures which was astounding. After a $175 tow home was completed, Emilio discovered a faulty ground on an aftermarket turbo timer was to blame. With the exception of dodgy electrical work, the car had proven itself quite reliable. The internet would have you know that it is impossible for anything sporting a 7M engine to be reliable for any period of time.
I guess those who aren't drinking the Toyota kool-aid deserve an explaination as to why the 7M isn't terribly popular with enthusiasts. The engine came in both a naturally aspirated variant (7M-GE) and a turbocharged variant (7M-GTE), which both made respectable power for the era. However, due to Toyota rushing the development of the 7M engine, there were some oversights made and the factory headgasket torque was about 1/3 of what was necessary. This caused them to have catastrophic headgasket issues as consistently as the morning sunrise. This problem is quickly remedied by re-torquing the stock headbolts before the headgasket eats itself or replacing them with ARP headstuds while doing a headgasket post failure. The damage was done to the engine's credibility though and it never saw the popularity that it's successor the 1JZ/2JZ family saw, despite showing similar power building capabilities.
Surprisingly, Emilio never had this issue. He was even able to take the car out to autocross and beat the crap out of it for months. The only part giving him any trouble was a faulty fuel pump which was replaced with an Aeromotive A340LPH pump. Fate occured at Powercruise 2013 at BIR though. After an entire day of hooning around the track he came out of his room the next morning and was greeted by a rod knock.
Emilio towed the car back into town where he plucked out the engine to evaluate the damage and weigh his options. Before inspection he decided that there were three options: 1.) fix the damage and keep the 7M-GTE close to stock 2.) build the aging 7M-GTE or 3.) 1 or 2JZ-GTE swap. Honestly, Emilio really wanted a JZ swap but it was cost prohibitive so he weighed the other routes. Option A of just mending the 7M ended up being his first choice. Of course much like in the rest of life, fate doesn't care about your plans. It turns out that in addition to scuffed crank journals, the cylinder bore was more pockmarked than Edward James Olmos's face, so a temporary 7M rebuild wasn't happening.
Suddenly all other options were off the table and a 1JZ swap went in. Luckily the JZA70 Supra had a version of this engine in Japan so the engine would not require hammering in the firewall like a 2JZ would have. Normally engine swaps mean that A/C, power steering and cruise control all take a hike because it's what we call in the industry "a giant pain in the ass." To avoid this pain, people generally say "without *insert accessory*, it looks cleaner." While there is some truth to this, Emilio isn't a masochist and wants to actually enjoy himself while he is driving his Supra. He had 3 goals in mind with his swap; Keep it reliable, Keep the creature comforts and keep it tidy.
For the reliable factor, a 1JZ-GTE is one of the most bulletproof engines ever designed with it's closed deck head and non-interference architecture. So, short of sticking a turbo the size of a small commuter car onto it, reliability won't be a problem. A later model VVTi 1JZ-GTE was the exact engine chosen as the powerplant due to it's vastly improved midrange power capabilities. Since Emilio will be using this car every day throughout summer, being able to drop third gear on the freeway is more important than being able to type big numbers onto internet arguments. Keeping the bay clean looking was the next step, a rat's nest of wires would be the worst case scenario so a call to Tweak'd Performance was made for one of their VVTi 1JZ-GTE wiring harnesses.
For accessories, while a JDM JZA70 power steering pump went in without trouble, the 1JZ/2JZ A/C compressor was originally sourced but was found to be damaged after installation. Off it went and a second attempt was made with much greater success. The hardest accessory to procure was a working cruise control system. The JZA70 cruise control cable was for a RHD chassis, so that was out. The original 7M engine cruise control actuator wouldn't mate to the JZ throttle body either. So a custom fix was required, Emilio and some friends in the Supra community solved this by fabricating a bellcrank together to accept both throttle cables. This was done by franksteining the 1JZ and 7M throttle brackets together and has since been widely adopted in the Toyota community. Emilio's execution was so spot on that you could mistake it for a completely unmolested car. Add all of this together and you have what amounts to the perfect MA71. A significantly more powerful and reliable turbocharged Supra with all the creature comforts in full operational order, why would you not want that?
After the swap was completed and some minor updates to the interior were made in name of fresh leather for the seats, a TRD shift knob to replace the worn old one and NOS floor mats. Emilio was left with just needing to dial in the car via using it. Some less than desired autocross performances made apparent that the suspension needed to be addressed. The solution was found with custom spec'd Ground Control coilover sleeves and Koni adjustable struts. In upgrading the suspension, Emilio also found that in addition to some snapped sway bar end links and worn bushings, the stock rear sway bar had been pretty beaten up from rubbing against the driveshaft. Some experimenting with the sway bar and end links was performed to dial in the rear end. Those experiments resulted in a rear OEM sway bar and Whiteline end links with a much beefier Suspension Techniques front sway bar as the optimum setup. Now that the suspension was sorted out, it was time to address braking on the MA71. It is much better than the previous MA61 Celica Supra generation so the only upgrades required were some EBC Red Stuff pads and Brembo rotors. After some 10" wide versions replaced the old 9" wide 5zigen FN01R-Cs in the handling of car was dialed in just right.
Mechanically the car was pretty sound since Emilio spared no expense when putting the 1JZ under the hood. Most of his modifications are just to optimize the natural characteristics of the engine. On the hot side of the turbo a Tomei Expreme Turbo elbow feeds into a 3" downpipe and exits through a Tanabe Medallion Touring exhaust. An oil filter relocation kit makes maintenance much easier and an aftermarket oil cooler helps prevent the rod knock which killed his 7M. That oil cooler did have a fairly consistent drip coming from it after it was initially installed but after some troubleshooting a new set of oil cooler lines were fabricated.
During it's initial shakedown runs, a very small leak from the cold side intercooler pipe leading to the throttle body was found. So, for both aesthetics and better air flow, custom intercooler piping was made and is complimented by a Blitz bypass valve, none of that eBay garbage. Finally, a minor vibration in the driveshaft resulted in a replacement utilizing a 1-Piece driveshaft which both saved weight and simplified the driveline. Once all of this was put together, Emilio had a pass on the dyno which resulted in 271 WHP. It wasn't dyno breaking but Emilio was looking to have reliability first and being able to overcome all of the driveline loss of the factory setup was enough to not upset the balance of the car.
While the stock Mk.3 Supra is heavier than the Mk.2 Supra, less reliable than a Mk.4 Supra and has a hard time against a Del Sol in Autocross, there is more to the chassis. It's about the feeling that the car gives you when you're driving it. that mile-long hoodline, the flip up headlights, the targa top, they all lend themselves to the intoxicating aura you only get with a 1980's GT car. It's about the plush ride, the planted road feel, the rush you get when you put the gas down. The Supra wasn't designed for a world where keyboard armed e-warriors puke out performance numbers to bash cars they've never driven or seen, it was designed for a time when the feeling a car gave you was above all else.
Emilio took that basic DNA of the MA71 Supra and updated it with modern technology. He didn't want to turn it into something it's not, but rather he aimed to enhance it's natural characteristics. Much like a remastered album, Emilio remastered this Supra reinforcing its inherent positives and overcoming it's flaws without disrupting it's natural balance. Someone who isn't familiar with the Toyota lexicon could be fooled to think that this car is simply an engine swap and some quickie suspension work but it's subtlety is it's beauty. It's not wildly stanced and the engine bay isn't chromed out, it is the definition of OEM+. It's designed hold up to the modern world now, so Emilio could enjoy it any time and anywhere he wants. Never mind that it's not a perfect chassis, if everyone was working with perfect chassis nobody would be modifying their cars.
1JZ-GTE VVTi swap, JZA70 Motor Mount Brackets, JZA70 OEM Intercooler, SPEC Stage 3+ Clutch, Rebuilt R154 Transmission, Shaftmasters 1 Piece Aluminum Driveshaft, Aftermakret Oil Cooler, Mocal Thermostat, Mocal Oil Filter Relocation Kit, Tomei Expreme Turbo Elbow and 3" Downpipe, Tanabe Medallion Touring Exhaust, Blitz Bypass Valve, TRD Oil Cap, Aeromotive A340LPH Fuel Pump
Tweak'd Performance 1JZ-GTE VVT-i Wiring Harness, 1JZ AC Compressor and harness
Fully functional heat and climate control, TRD Shift Knob, NOS Floor Mats, Reupholstered OEM Leather Seats
17x10 +35 5Zigen FN01R-C wheels, 17x9 +35 5Zigen FN01R-C Wheels, 235/45 R17 and 255/40 R17 Kumho Ecsta LE Sport Tires (street) / Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec Tires (track), Ground Control coilover sleeves with Koni shocks, 800lb/in Eibach Front Springs, 550lb/in QA1 Rear Springs, New Brembo OEM brake rotors, EBC Redstuff brake pads, Suspension Techniques front sway bar, OEM Rear Swaybar, Whiteline End Links, JZA70 TTR Front Lip with factory brake ducts