SEMA 2018: Toyota brings it with Supras, Trucks, and RWD Corollas

We’ve poked fun at Toyota’s SEMA presence before, like when they brought a buncha Camrys to the world’s biggest tuner show. This year, however, they brought the ruckus, with a slew of Supras, a team of Tacomas, and a rear-wheel-drive Corolla. This is how SEMA should be done, by connecting with enthusiasts (i.e., your brand ambassadors) and not trying to foist an otherwise plebeian car dipped in kandy paint onto your fans.

Toyota came out guns blazing with a procession of original Supras going back 40 years. The lineup of pure white examples made a strong statement, the lineup ending with the upcoming fifth-gen in Gazoo Racing trim.

Toyota’s Supra show didn’t stop there. They also invited owners modified and restored Supras to join the party. Roger Reyes’ yellow 1985 should be familiar to regulars of Toyotafest and JCCS, winning multiple awards in various southern California car shows. Roger has owned the car since receiving it as a high school graduation gift. In 2008 he resto-modded it to the state seen here, with a 2JZ-GTE swap, yellow paint, and SSR EX-C wheels.

Javier Paramo has owned his 1983 A60 since 1989. Another Toyotafest award winner, the car was “inspired by period-correct 80s-era modifications” and “vintage Japanese car model kits.” It, too, has  swapped the original 5M-GE, but for a turbo 1JZ.

Behind it, Craig Higa’s 1988 Supra (see lead photo) is also a JCCS and Toyotafest medalist. It still retains its original naturally aspirated 7M-GE engine, but every nut and bolt has been gone over during Craig’s restoration several years ago. It rides on Work VS-XX wheels and runs a GReddy SP exhaust.

Driftmotion owner Aaron Kahn’s 1993 Supra may look stock, but runs what claims to be the “world’s first” 1.2JZ-GTE, a 1JZ bottom end with a 2JZ VVTi top end. Blueprinted and balanced and with built internals, the two halves dynos at 1,000 horsepower and has redlines at an astounding 10,000 rpm. Supras have long been capable of posting sky high numbers, but a decade ago cars with that kind of power would have worn a vent-filled body kit and an enormous GT wing. Nowadays, a factory appearance is favored, making it a true sleeper.

Nick and Jill Stonawski is another familiar name among Supra enthusiasts, having built award-winning cars of varying generations. Their A80 Turbo is described as a “low-mileage gem [that was] tucked away in a garage for most of its life.” After acquiring it, the duo did a nut-and-bolt restoration with a new 2JZ longblock, topping it off with a full HKS turbo and induction system.

One of our favorites was Brendan Taft’s Advan-liveried 1995. As a long-time Toyota enthusiast and former AE86 owner, Brendan took inspiration from the naturally aspirated engines of YSR Japan and their vintage-style ITB 2JZ-GE motors. He says the goal was to see how much power he could extract out of a non-turbo 2JZ when used as a time-attack vehicle. The 286-degree cam, oversize valves, 6-to-1 equal-length header, and custom intake with AE111 throttle bodies sounds like it would a great motor for any number of 2JZ Lexuses. Impressively, the widebody was fabricated in metal and sits on SSR Formula Aero Mesh wheels in Yokohama Advan A052 tires over 6-pot calipers and 13-inch rotors.

Toyota also brought a rear-wheel-drive Corolla hatchback, built for drift demos. The Jon Sibal-designed body kit pays tribute to the vintage Toyota USA racing livery of red-orange-yellow, but throws in a splash of blue for the Corolla’s launch color. Powered by a turbocharged 2AR-FE commonly found in Camrys and RAV4s it’s built to a claimed 850 horsepower with a shot of nitrous.

The Toyota USA livery was perhaps most iconic on Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s trophy trucks like this mid-90s T100. Over the years, various Toyota trucks won 17 Baja 500 and two Baja 1000 races. In 1993, the team became the only one in history to win the Nevada 400, Baja 500, and Baja 1000, the so-called “triple crown” of desert racing. All in all, Toyota and Stewart won 34 such races, resulting in 10 drivers’ and four manufacturers’ championships.

As a result, Toyota trucks’ brand loyalty and resale value is second to none. Like the Supra, used car prices for Toyota trucks stay afloat at almost ridiculously high levels. It is perhaps even more impressive with the trucks, as they are, at the end of the day, mass-market vehicles, not high-performance sports cars, and the phenomenon affects models of nearly any generation. Dogs love them, too!

Toyota has cultivated a fierce loyalty and enthusiast base for both its sports and off-road models. Not many carmakers can claim that, and it’s refreshing to see Toyota acknowledge both camps at SEMA.

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11 Responses to SEMA 2018: Toyota brings it with Supras, Trucks, and RWD Corollas

  1. alvin says:

    Strong work Nissan! STRONG work!

    • Mark Newton-John says:

      Since Nissan is somewhat under the thumb of Renault, I’m not surprised you don’t was Nissan at SEMA. On the other hand you may see Zs, GT-Rs, Titans, and maybe a RWD Note someday. Or not…

    • Last Iconoclast says:

      I hear they are saving their best for the upcoming International Car Rental Show next April in Vegas.

  2. Mark Newton-John says:

    Unfortunately, Tundras are only a small percentage of full size truck sales in the US. Due to the limited options, they miss out on a lot of the market. I have horses and want a 3/4 ton longbed crewcab… No Tundra equivalent. And Toyota really needs to come up with a new Tundra, not just a refresh.

  3. Jayrdee says:

    Jesus … that rwd Corolla looks fierce

  4. Cesariojpn says:

    Gonna go a minor rant here……

    SEMA/Toyota needs a better plan when it comes to the outdoor displays like this and wanting to go back in. I’m sure they can’t fence off the display due to fire hazards, but they need a better solution to get back in without going thru the hassle of going thru screening again.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      That was a new thing this year. Every year prior to this I was able to go in and out no problem.

      • cesariojpn says:

        They clamped down last year after Stephen Paddock went nutso at Las Vegas Village a month before SEMA 2017. I had mixed results last year with the “Toyota Beige Retrospective” last year . First day was come as you go; the three days after that the security guards were patrolling the doors.

  5. Last Iconoclast says:

    That dog next to the Tacoma was hilarious. There were more visitors crowding around and taking photos of the dog then there were of cars. He stole the show.

    The Toyota exhibit was definitely better this year. Honda also needs to step it up.

  6. Joe Musashi says:

    Wish I could race a supra in Forza 7 … oh wait.

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