A Targa for a Bubble
Let's say, for example, instead of whatever innumerable baccalaureate accolades you have achieved over the duration of your young life, you graduated with just a undergraduate degree in finance from Kyoto University in March of 1982. You did pretty well in comparison to some of your peers, finding yourself heavily recruited by some of the 900-pound gorillas in the finance industry. After some difficult consideration and evaluation of multiple offers, you have decided - along with some of your classmates - to move to Tokyo to start an entry-level junior analyst role at Fuji Bank in the summer.
Fast forward six and a half years to the fall of 1989. It's been a charmed early career - a somewhat rapid ascent through the analyst hierarchy to find an early promotion to Senior Manager in the valuation department just weeks before your 30th birthday. Not quite the corner office, but given everything that's happening in the world around you, Vice President in the next couple of years isn't just a possibility but virtually assured.
A couple years back, after getting married, you (finally) moved out from the studio you shared with your roommates just outside Kabukicho down south to just south of Roppongi in Meguro City. It's a nice change of pace. At least for your liver.
Plus the commute is only another 10 minutes each way.
But moving to a quiet neighborhood also means more space. And with space comes room for a car in your life. You've done some research and convinced the spouse that all those romantic day trips you've been meaning to take out to Atami and Yamanashi to finally sequester some quality time alone would be within your collective grasp. The occasional 14-hour workdays and 7-day workweeks mean kids are not on the horizon yet. But that also means that a two-door is.
After careful consideration, you've narrowed down your selection to just one.
Depending on which Toyota dealership channel (of the four) you walked into in 1989, you might find:
- the New for '89 Toyota Celsior (Lexus LS400 in the United States), the product of a $1 billion (with a "b", and with inflation that number rounds up to $2.1 billion in 2020 dollars) research and development program to successfully compete with BMW and Mercedes with a quieter, more efficient, and substantially less expensive flagship sedan
- the "New" for '89 Century Limousine: while the original Century had been sold since 1967, the hockey-stick growth in the Nikkei suddenly brought forth demand for an OEM limousine for clientele who found shopping for BMWs and Mercedes to be far too plebeian
- the New for '90 Mark II MR2, the refreshed version I can only assume Toyota built solely to dance on the Fiero's fresh grave, featuring a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that enjoyed some early limited global motorsports success on the way to dominating the GT300 class of the JGTC series later in the decade
- the Only for '89 Soarer Aerocabin, a limited variant that featured an electronically retractable hard-top, a feature not seen in a production vehicle since the 1957 Ford Fairlaine 500 Skyliner
- the homologated version of the Celica GT-Four that brought home the second-place manufacturers' trophy to Toyota on the strength of a rookie Spaniard by the name of Carlos Sainz (who would win the Drivers' Championship the subsequent year with his Celica)
- the E90 Levin/Trueno/Corolla/Conquest/Sprinter/Tazz/Carri/Prizm/Nova, which would go on to be produced in 9 countries on 3 continents through 2006 (two-thousand and six) in configurations ranging from a carbureted 1.3L 2-door base model all the way through a supercharged 1.6L dual-overhead cam, electronic fuel injection top-end model which would go on to pick up the JTC-3 class Championship in the Japanese Touring Car series for Team Advan
- posters of the New for '90 80-Series Land Cruiser (which would go on to be popular with buyers for both the United Nations and Medellin Cartel), Estima (sold in the United States as the Previa, just your average mid-engined, supercharged, 5-speed minivan), and Sera (which would go on to inspire Gordon Murray a few years down the road for some gold-leaf passion project for McLaren)
- and, somewhere parked near the window for the passers-by, past the Scepters, TownAces, and Tercels, in a dramatic shade of Super Red 2 is the only car left on your shortlist: the Supra Turbo.
This, the third-generation heir to the 2-door flagship for Toyota, had been on sale since 1986. In those three years, Toyota had raced and mostly eluded the widespread success that their Corolla Levin and Celica models had. Despite A70s running Japanese and Australian touring car series and notching as many DNFs as finishes in WRC events across the globe, the Supra, in this iteration, would never hang a championship banner back in the Mega Web.
But, as a near 30-something senior manager, the thought of cruising down the Hakone Turnpike with the targa top off breathing in that crisp mountain air, this is without a breath of doubt the car for you.
You make it maybe 400 yards on the test drive before realizing just how quiet the cabin is. With a targa. But everything stationed inside this dealership feels like it rolled off the assembly line and had someone in quality control come along with a socket wrench giving every single bolt just an additional quarter turn to make sure everything stayed within torque specs for another decade.
Boost isn't the comical one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, POWERoversteerguardrailditchtree experience you get in a your divisional director's 911 Turbo, but rather a pleasant build in force through the rev range thanks to the addition of a second turbine to speed up the process. TEMS - the active suspension system - provides multiple modes tailored to just how aggressively you'd like to tackle the inner C1 loop. The sales team doesn't even mention that the system firms up the dampers under braking to actively prevent brake dive.
It's one of a heaping mound of features that hardly feels two iterations removed from the first generation that came off the assembly line just 11 years prior, while you were still in middle school. Since 1978, the available power in the car has more than doubled in the top-end models.
Between the build quality from a company that just built a billion dollar middle finger to the entrenched German competition and that silky effervescence of a turbocharged inline six-cylinder motor make the Supra every bit as compelling a grand touring entry regardless of how many GT-Rs stacked ahead on the podium on Sundays.
These last few years have been an adventure for you and your new family. Looking out over that long hood with your view only obstructed by pop-up headlights validates gutting it out with obnoxious managers and sunrise-to-sunset marathons at your desk.
Hard to believe now that this Mark III - along with your spouse - will be the only pieces of your life you find are left when the bubble bursts and the world ends just 24 months later in 1991.
Still, you've got a good couple of years before that impending doom and the beginning of the Lost Decade. Driving back to Meguro City after signing the papers you feel so inspired you make plans to head up north to Akita to catch the late cherry blossom blooming next April.