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Back in the the 1970’s, the Celica was fighting the good sports car fight for Toyota as rival models, particularly the Nissan 240Z, burst into the scene. But it wasn’t until the latter part of that decade when Toyota decided to ramp up its efforts in the sports car market. That’s when the Toyota Supra was born. Based on the Celica until its third incarnation, the Supra became the sports car Toyota put up against some of the best its rivals had to offer. It’s popularity grew to such great lengths that the Japanese automaker even created a new logo just for the Supra.

The Toyota Supra may no longer exist and even with reports of its revival bubbling in the surface for years now, we can always look fondly at the first-generation Supra and say "that’s where it all began."

Click past the jump to read more about the 1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra.

  • 1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra
  • Year:
    1979- 1981
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    2.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    10 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    100 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
- image 552649

Whe the first-generation Toyota Supra burst into the scene, it didn’t look like the sports car we normally associate the Supra with. It actually looked more like a liftback model that owed its appearance to the fact it was so closely related to the Toyota Celica.

The Supra, though, was five inches longer than the Celica and while it did share some body panels — the doors and rear sections being the most prominent — the Supra still had a uniqueness about itself that allowed it to carve a unique niche that paved the way for future Supra models.

Among the noticeable differences between the Supra and the Celica at that time was the former’s elongated front section, which Toyota specifically did to make room for the inline-six engine that the car used.

1980 Changes

1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
- image 552651

For 1980, the Supra received new sideview mirrors and 14-inch aluminum wheels.

1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra - Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 103.5 Inches
Length 181.7 Inches
Width 65.0 Inches
Height 50.8 Inches
Curb weight 2,800 Lbs


1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra Interior
- image 553050

In a lot of ways, the first-gen Supra was ahead of its time as far as interior features were concerned. Standard features included a tilt steering wheel and a dashboard that featured an AM/FM/MPX, four-speaker stereo radio, an analog clock, and a tachometer as part of the instrument panel. These may sound normal today, but back then, not a lot of cars had those features neatly tucked close to one another.

Moving past the standard goodies, Toyota also offered a plethora of optional options, including power windows and power locks, as well as cruise control and special door trim with door pull straps, and yes, a sunroof. Believe it or not, the first-gen Supra was already spitting glamor back in the late 70’s.

Finally, the center console of the Supra carried an extendible map light and a flip-top armrest, the latter of which was used to provide ample storage for the owner’s knick knacks.

1980 Changes

For 1980, the Supra’s interior received a more streamlined center console and a digital clock — yay 1980s!


1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
- image 552650

It looks completely mediocre when you line it up against today’s sports cars, but in its time, the first-gen Supra was a true spitfire. It boasted of a 2.6-liter inline-six engine that produced 110 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque, all while mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.

1981 Changes

For the 1981 model year, Toyota increased the output of the engine to 116 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, allowing it to hit 0-to-60 mph time in 10.24 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 17.5 seconds at 77.7 mph.

1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra - Drivetrain/Specifications

Type 2.6 liters 12-valve inline-6 4M-E engine
Output 110 HP (116 HP starting 1981)
Torque 136 LBS-FT (145 LBS-FT starting 1981)
Transmission 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic


1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
- image 552653

Though precise pricing is not readily available, we do know that the 1979 Supra carried a base price of $9,578. The price jumped to $9,928 in 1980, then it skyrocketed to $11,298 in 1981 — a 13.7-percent price hike.

*Original MSRP from NADA


Nissan 240Z

1970 - 1978 Nissan Z-Car: 240Z, 260Z and 280Z
- image 172352
nissan 240Z
Source: Photo credits:

Some people might know this car as the Datsun 240Z, but whatever name it went by, the 240Z was really one of the most iconic sports cars of its time. During its launch, the 240Z was a spectacular car that could easily compete with the best cars from the American and European market.

It was a performance car with a sexy look, and came at a modest price of just $3,500. That amount helped Nissan sell over 30,000 units in 1971 and over 50,000 and 40,000 in 1972 and 1973, respectively, prompting rival Toyota to build the Rupra as a response to the 240Z’s success.

The 240Z was powered by a SOHC L20 Inline-6 engine with an output of 130 horsepower. It really did look good and more importantly, performed even better.


1979 - 1981 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
- image 552654

The first-generation Toyota Supra ushered in a new era for Toyota, allowing it to enter the sports car market that had previously been a glaring hole in its company profile. Not only did the Supra fill that void, it also gave a lot of other car markers a chance to look at themselves in the mirror and follow along that path.

The Supra may have since departed with numerous reports of its revival the only thing that’s keeping its name relevant these days. But when it was around, it was really one of the best Japanese sports cars in the market.

  • Leave it
    • Didn’t have that coupe-like look
    • The 240Z was still more popular
    • Could’ve been passed off as a family car by some
Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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