EVENT: Back to the 80’s 2019

The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows.

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I went to the first Back to the 80’s back when they were hosting it up in Blaine. It was pretty cool to see the show happen but, good lord, you don’t realize how far away Blaine is from Minneapolis until you sit in traffic for an hour and a half in a CRX without AC just to go walk around in a hot parking lot for the rest of the day. It was a sign of things to come though, the organizers had more passion for that show than I’ve seen in most other shows.

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Fast forward to 2019, the show is now in Burnsville, still a third ring suburb but much easier to reach. The word has gotten out and the sponsors have been coming out of the woodwork, the organization has improved drastically and the show itself has exploded in size.

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Going to the show for the first time in years, I was worried about it being another parking lot show. That being said, it didn’t feel like it was in a parking lot. Of course, it was cloudy, which did help but I didn’t feel like I was walking across the entire Earth to get from one end to the other end. I could walk from Shane’s Celica to the food trucks, effectively across the show, and I wasn’t looking off into the horizon to find something worth looking at.

Ford Exp.jpg

The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows. This Ford EXP is a prefect example, I had never seen one in the flesh until this show. Apparently the owner owns a dozen of these, the majority are parts cars to support the runners, and as the owner of an obscure 80’s car, I feel his pain.

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Cars like this Pontiac Tojan were there, speaking of weird things that you just don’t see. The Tojan was supposed to be a Ferrari fighter based off of the F-Body platform with a heavily modified TPI V8, vastly improved handling and Gotti wheels. Unfortunately given that the Pontiac name didn’t have the cachet of the Ferrari name, less than 150 were produced. There might be a day when the Tojan just explodes in value, remember Duesenbergs were once totally forgotten too.

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Next to the Tojan was my personal favorite car of the show. The world’s cleanest V20 generation Toyota Camry. This car was never intended to be preserved, it’s shocking to see one in this good of condition. The V20 Camry holds a place in my heart, not only was it the first car I learned to do spark plugs on but its actually a really cool car when you start to look into them. I actually did an in depth history of this car for Japanese Nostalgic Car a couple of years ago, you can find the link here.

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Talking to the owner of it, he said that it was actually an eBay buy. The car had an insane reserve price, so the current owner PM’ed the seller to drop the price a bit, after some back and forth it became his and for a much more reasonable price. While I still am confused as to why this was preserved to such a level, I couldn’t be any happier about the results and his buying process was totally within the spirit of Carbitrage. Our friend of the show that I was walking aroung with, Darren Brooke, described the car as “profoundly beige” and that it was the “essence of the color beige.”

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One more insanely rare car goes back to GM, or rather Suzuki, for one of the coolest cars I’ve known about but never expected to actually see in real life, The Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. This is a 3 cylinder captive imported Suzuki Cultus featured a turbocharger and possibly the smallest intercooler I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Here is a picture of said intercooler with Josh Stowell’s hand for scale, like I said, comically small. With the 8 psi of additional boost and a large dollop of torque steer, the Sprint Turbo reached 70 HP and a shockingly fast 8.1 second 0-60 time. For reference, thats faster than the last years of the C3 Corvette, the AW11 MR2 non-supercharged and even an E30 325i.

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Anyway, this car went through a complete engine out restoration and is likely the best Chevrolet Sprint in existence. If I recall correctly, the owner’s efforts resulted in a first place finish for the Captive Import category of the show.

Grand National Stage 2

Outside of the weird stuff floating around the show, there were so many C4 Corvettes, 3rd generation Trans-maro-birds and G-bodies that it would make your head spin. They likely accounted for at least 10% of the show but what felt good about it is that they appeared in smaller clumps and it made it a bit easier to take in. With so many cars, some were easy to walk past while others were rather unique. This Regal T-Type was a great example, judging by the chrome trim, I don’t think it was actually a Grand National or GNX but with the drag radials in the back and massive exhaust, it looked like it could boogie.

I do have to mention the C4 for a moment because there were a lot of them. Some of them looked slapped together with coathanger exhausts but, cars like this Lingenfelter ZR1, were in amazing condition. We forget how important the ZR1 was for the Corvette when it came out, it brought the Corvette back into the limelight after people had written it off for the better part of a decade. The ZR1 sported an aluminum V8 with DOHC 32 Valve head and 375 HP from the factory. The Lingenfelter version even expanded that an extra 100 HP, making it one of the most powerful cars you could purchase in the early 1990’s.

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Of all the manufacturers from Asia, one brand in particular was able to create more consistently great cars than any other, Toyota. The Toyotas in show were excellent, a handful of trucks were there, a few Mk2 Supras and every variant Celica sold in the 80s. Getting a good look at the white MA61 Celica Supra at the DJ booth was entirely worth experience all of the 110 decibels of Huey Lewis coming out of those speakers behind it.

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Outside of the Supras, the 80’s Celicas were all pretty great, albeit not the fastest thing in the world but they’re 80’s cars, it likely never will be the fastest thing around. Instead, for very little money a Celica can get you into something that is fun, bulletproof reliable and easy on the eyes. This red A40 Celica falls deeply into the podium of best A40s I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but have seen at all.

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The first car I saw when I pulled into the show was this ST185 Celica. At first, I saw it and thought that it was a nifty little GT Four clone, it had the right bumpers, hood and even graphics. Then the owner got out and I saw that it was RHD, it was a real ST185 GT Four and further more was a GT Four RC, the highest trim level with the widebody and AWD. The owner and his girlfriend were wonderful people, extremely friendly and were thrilled to show off their car in the show.

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Robert Correll brought out his Hello Kitty Itasha Suzuki Alto Works. Fun fact, me and Jana have almost bought this car on several accounts but the logistics never worked out, it was either posted for sale when we were out of town or right after we had just bought a car. I am really happy to see it went to a good home and Robert has done a great job expanding on it’s theme. When we were at the show this little girl came up to Jana and poked her on the butt asking if she owned the car, the girl was rather shocked when a tall mustachioed man turned out to be it’s owner.

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If you’re not familiar with a Suzuki Alto Works, it is a kei hot hatch. It was government limited to 60 HP but you can easily double the stock output with bolt on parts. The car came in either FWD or AWD and was manual only. If you want a more in depth description of the Alto Works, I have an article here at Japanese Nostalgic Car. The Alto Works is most definitely a Carbitrage Top Buy.

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Speaking of imported cars, we should probably mention the R32 Skyline. To stand out with an R32 GTR today, you have to have something really special, I found the coolest and most special GTR I’ve seen yet. This is an actual Tommykaira R32R, one of 400 ever made. These were $76,000 when new back in 1992, that was double what the standard GT-R retailed for. For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, this is to the GT-R what RUF is to Porsche.

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It came with a bespoke bodykit, wheels, interior accents and was tuned to make more power while still being just as driveable as a standard GT-R. Unfortunately the owner didn’t have the Tommykaira wheels on the car. Apparently, the night before the show he discovered a loose wheel face bolt. With dozens of bolts holding the wheel face on, he didn’t have the time to make sure every bolt was torqued correctly and didn’t want to damage the car so he threw on his spare wheels.

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Naturally with a show featuring 80’s cars, we were bound to see a lot of the first wave of modified trucks, sky high Toyota pickups, the last clean Bronco II, both generations of Subaru BRAT and some wild paint jobs were to be seen.

C1500 Diesel

Without any doubt, the one that caught our eye was this slammed C1500 with a choptop, a FedEx truck Detroit Diesel engine coming out of the hood and in the bed, not only smokestacks but two fog horns out of an old supertanker that was scuttled in Duluth. This truck is every bit as ridiculous as it is awesome.

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So not only is this arguably the best Cabriolet in existence but it also has a cool story to it. Chad Erickson, the owner of SCI, originally built this with his dad back in the 90’s and it’s still in the family. It still has the Calloway turbo kit on it that they installed over 20 years ago and it is still going strong. Chad posts regularly about cruising around in it with his mom, his kids and, fun fact, he can even fit his BMX bike in the back.

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Back to the 80’s has grown massively since it’s inception. I am really happy to see what it has done, it’s a testament to the commitment of the hosts. Growing from a small show put on by the local Minnesota Fiero club to something that can take up nearly a quarter of the parking available at one of the largest malls in Minnesota is nothing to scoff at. It is a unique show in of itself too, kind of a combination of Concours of Lemons and Radwood. I really have to say, if you didn’t go this year then you have to go next year. Even if you don’t particularly care for 80’s cars, there is still something there for everyone.

What’s the deal with the Toyota Celica Supra? #BTT80s

Today cars from the 80’s like these are getting their legs in the larger collector market. For someone who wants an 80’s era GT car that has an inline six and has been thoughtfully designed to be a 2+2, it’s extremely hard to look past the MA61 Celica Supra. Yet not everyone is familiar with the Celica Supra, we have to ask, what’s the deal with the Toyota Celica Supra?

What's the Deal with the Celica Supra

We are partnering with Back to the 80’s for a series about iconic cars from the 1980s, these will be longer form versions of the short descriptions on the Back to the 80’s- MN facebook group. To find all of these posts search for the BTT80s tag on our site.

Back when I was a teenager playing Gran Turismo 4 and Forza Motorsport 2, I discovered a beautifully boxy 80s sports car called a “Celica Supra”. For years I had longed for one and I finally when I was 18, a 1985 Toyota Celica Supra P-Type ended up in my parents driveway. It immediately got gapped by a BB6 Prelude in a street race, then it developed no shortage of electrical issues and I eventually sold it at a loss. With the exception of one random Hmong guy in uptown who was gleefully unaware of how terrible it was, everyone thought I was a lunatic for buying that car. They might have had a point too, that was a truly terrible car. Plus retro-80’s cars weren’t en vogue yet outside of the Japanese classic car community, so it was completely stagnant in value, however I loved that car regardless of how stupid it was.

82__Celica_Supra

Today cars from the 80’s like these are getting their legs in the larger collector market. For someone who wants an 80’s era GT car that has an inline six and has been thoughtfully designed to be a 2+2, it’s extremely hard to look past the MA61 Celica Supra. Yet not everyone is familiar with the Celica Supra, we have to ask, what’s the deal with the Toyota Celica Supra?

Celica vs Supra

The first question, inevitably will be, what’s with the Celica Supra name? Wasn’t there the Celica AND the Supra? If you’re sensing a “yes, but…” coming then you’re correct. Yes, there was a Celica and, yes, there was a Supra but the Supra was originally a sexier high displacement GT cruiser variant of the Celica.

Mark I Celica Supra 1978-1981

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This all started in April of 1978 when the A40 generation of Celica needed a GT variant to help it move up market. While Datsun had moved from the sports car S30 280Z to the hefty S130 280ZX GT car, and even Honda had a Prelude that it was developing that would appeal to both sports car fans and GT car fans, the Celica was still very much so a sports-first car. Needing a GT car to compete, Toyota made the most 1970’s vehicle they’ve ever made.

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Toyota took the Celica liftback, stretched the front of it to be just over 5 inches longer and placed an inline 6 under the hood. The specific engine they used changes between markets, the Japanese market got the 2.0L M-EU engine and we received the 4M-E, regardless you weren’t seeing much more than 120 HP out of either engines. It’s the malaise mind you, and regardless of what side of the ocean you were on, it was in full effect.

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The Celica Supra in Japan originally had a completely different name, the Celica XX. In America however, the rating for films not suitable for children was X and the terms XX and XXX were often applied for softcore and hardcore porn respectively speaking. In hindsight, having a car with a name that means “not suitable for children” was huge publicity just left on the table, but at the time Toyota decided that the Supra would be a significantly better naming convention. So it would be, Toyota went on to create a big fluffy GT car that was strangled by the malaise and had a name that borderlined on pornographic, what could be more late-70’s than that?

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The sports package of course is the peak of malaise coolness. It added some spoilers and tires with raised lettering, but no additional power was found. Yes, the first generation Celica Supra wasn’t much of a standout performer, but to be frank in 1980 even a Corvette wasn’t much of a performer then, so it fit in perfectly during the malaise. Eventually by the end of it’s run there were some standout trim levels but the standard 4-cylinder Celica was still Toyota’s motorsport golden boy.

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This doesn’t mean that the first generation Supra doesn’t have it’s appeal. Due to it’s living in the shadows of every other car to hold the Supra name, it is a great platform for Japanese classic car tuners to start shakotan projects with. It is also available for pennies on the dollar of most other cars of the mustache era and they’re as reliable as the sunrise.

Mark II Celica Supra 1982-1986

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This would all change, however, with the second generation Celica Supra in 1982. It launched with a 145 HP engine but eventually grew to 178 HP in American guise. Not only did it have as much power standard as the best of the previous generation came with but the new 5M-GE engine was purely a product of the 1980s. The wide valve angle cylinder head, timing belt driven dual camshafts and electronic fuel injection were on the cutting edge of technology for the era. The engine also featured variable assist power steering, while parking it would be lighter to steer and more responsive once moving.

1985; Toyota; Supra

Once the engine had sent it’s power to the transmission, it was met with either a 5 speed manual transmission or a 3 speed automatic transmission that was computer controlled and offered a normal power delivery mode or a power mode which allowed faster acceleration and locked the torque converter. Naturally, the manual was the one to get though. Once power left the transmission it then fed into another wonderful piece of technology, a standard equipment limited slip differential.

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The powertrain wasn’t alone for being at the peak of technology in 1982, the car as a whole came loaded with a ton of tech for the era. 8-way manually adjustable seats, headlight washers, a 5 speaker stereo with graphic equalizer, handheld corded map light, automatic climate control and heated sideview mirrors came on the car. There was an optional trip computer that would calculate your fuel economy as well. Sure a trip computer is pretty simple but the additional features were the real wizz-bang tech of this option. You could enter the distance you would be traveling and it would tell you how close you were to your destination and give you an estimated time until arrival based off of average vehicle speed. In an era that predated GPS, this was the world’s first navigation computer. Now you could officially tell when you’re lost, the future was now.

L vs P type

While Japan got a litany of trim levels, in America it was much simpler, there were two body styles of the Celica Supra available. You could get either a narrow body L-Type Supra, meant to satisfy the Japanese-market size limitations but sold here as a more luxurious model or the performance orientated P-Type with an absolutely radical widebody added on. The P-Type Supra’s wheels were another marvel. While the standard L-Type wheels were a rather plain 14×5.5, the P-Type came with a girthy 14×7 or 15×6 wheel option. These still are on lists of the coolest factory wheels of all time. In 1982 though, a 225 mm wide tire was something to behold, even a Ferrari 308 GTB only had a tire that wide in the back.

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The 225 mm wide tires were aided by a fantastic suspension setup as well, MacPherson struts sat at every corner with an independent rear suspension design. That design was aided in development by Lotus, just one of Lotus and Toyota’s many stellar collaborations. The suspension is just on this side of soft with your typical 1980’s era body roll, it is a GT car after all. While its comfortable, it still does handle exceptionally well for a car of the era. It can keep up in the corners with any of it’s competitors, yet still keep it’s composure over your typical terrible river road surface quality. As good as it is, there is a lot of handling left on the table for an enthusiast with a wrench. Stiffer springs and dampers, a lower ride height and a fat sway bar in the rear does wonders to tighten up the handling of these cars.

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The engine also left performance to be unlocked, Japanese performance tuner HKS was able to get this engine to a rumored 600 HP and was able to surpass the 300 KPH (187 MPH) barrier soon after introduction in 1983. The power came from the same 5M-GE that you could find in any Supra but heavily modified. A balanced low compression rotating assembly was added with 2 mm wider pistons and the cams were switched out for a set of 300 degree units. The EFI system was ditched in lieu of a set of modified Solex 44 mm carburetors complimented by twin Garrett T04B turbos with an intercooler.

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Once an aerodynamic body kit was added on, HKS took the car to Yatabe test circuit and laid down a scorching 301.25 KPH. To grasp the importance of how blistering fast this was in 1983, there had only been a single street legal car that was able to break 300 KPH at Yatabe prior to HKS. That was a heavily modified DeTomaso Pantera built by GA Mitsunaga with mostly NASCAR and Cam-Am parts. Yatabe has been the defacto speed testing facility for decades in Japan and this was the first time a Japanese make ever was able to achieve this speed.

1982 Toyota Celica

The Celica that was the basis of the Mk2 Supra wasn’t a terrible car either. Power was supplied by a 22R-E 4-cylinder engine which, while slow, was endlessly reliable. The chassis came in hatchback or coupe form with ASC making convertible models under contract for Toyota as well. The headlights when turned off were flush with the grille but would move upright once turned on. This changed in the 1984 model year when the Celica got fully retractable headlights which really brought the front end of the car together. While the Supra was able to contend for touring car victories around the world, the 4 cylinder Celica also had a notable racing pedigree in group B rally racing with 6 victories at Cote D’Ivore and the Safari Rally and several other wins in lower classes.

Front

The Celica Supra name finally ended in the second half of 1986 with the arrival of the third generation Supra. That generation introduced the world to the Supra Turbo, the 7M-GTE’s 276 HP was able to blow away the old 5M’s output and it’s racing pedigree dwarfed the older NA car’s racing history in every way. It was everything the Celica Supra was and more, with a single exception, the 7M-GTE was marred by headgasket issues. These issues were from improper head bolt torque but once fixed, they’re stellar cars in their own right.

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Today the Celica Supras are a bargain of a car, having been overshadowed by their turbocharged descendants since their conception in 1986. The Mark II Supra’s 5M engine and W58 manual transmissions are bulletproof reliable, even if they’re not the fastest thing in the world. If you need more power though, Toyota’s venerable JZ engine family swaps into the Mark II Supra with minimal effort. If you want to keep the originality of the car though, the standard 5M engine is completely adequate and you can still find plenty of vintage performance parts floating around on the internet from Trust exhaust manifolds to HKS turbo kits. Not that power matters though because with the amount of rear end squat you get when on the throttle, you will swear you’re going lightspeed so long as you don’t look at the speedometer.

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