Legends Of The Rising Sun – The Toyota Supra
If you mention the words “Toyota Supra” to any petrolhead, you’ll most probably have their attention straight away. If you throw in the acronym “2JZ-GTE” straight after that, you’ll have a new friend for life. Why? Only because these words and numbers translate into one of the most iconic sports cars to ever come out of Japan…
The Supra brings up images of drifting around a Japanese mountain pass, or a supercar slayer for regular car prices. Also, who can forget the orange Supra that Brian Walker drove in the original The Fast And The Furious movie? I remember the first time I saw a Toyota Supra on local roads. It was around the year 2001. Myself and a friend were skating outside his house in Umbilo, and the neighbours garage opened. Out rolled a silver Toyota Supra, with an exhaust pipe that was the size of a cannon. Back then, we had no idea about the rarity of these cars in South Africa (since they were never sold here), and this one was probably the only one in KZN at that time. We took a photo on one of our very low res camera cellphones, and left it at that. I can still recall that the registration was BRIGHT-ZN.
Now many years later in 2014, I found out that a friend of a friend of a friend was driving around on Durban roads in a black Toyota Supra. This Supra in question had been shipped back to South Africa with the owner after he spent some time working in Japan. Immediately, I set about to contact the owner and to try arrange a photoshoot of his pride and joy. After what must have been a fairly awkward conversation for him, we had a time and place set. Imagine my surprise, when he pulls up to our meeting point outside of uShaka Marine World, and tells me that his friend will be arriving soon, in a silver Toyota Supra. I didn’t quite plan for there to be two cars.
To begin with, we decided to examine the black Supra in more detail…
This car is – for lack of a better word – immaculate. For a car that turns 20 years old this year, it still looks in showroom condition. There was not a single mark or scratch anywhere in the highly polished gloss black paintwork, and the engine bay was so clean you could probably eat out of it (an old cliche, I know. But it was seriously spotless). Speaking of the engine bay, it was crammed full of various engine mods that give this Supra some serious performance potential. It’s not everyday that you see a 20 year old Toyota that can embarrass your regular Porsche or BMW M3.
The silver Supra, was much more toned down. It had standard wheels, a mostly standard interior, and only a few select mods done to the engine. While some of the car modding scene might shrug at a person owning a standard Supra, there is something special about seeing a rare, untouched example of a modern day classic. Fun fact – the black lip that you can see underneath the bumper on the silver Supra? It automatically retracts at a certain speed to improve aerodynamics.
For some readers who aren’t too clued up on the rarity of these cars, let me give you some extra info. I’ve already said that they were never sold in South Africa, and our local import laws are a maze of paperwork that most often ends at a dead end. This is more to protect the local car industry, because if importing was legal, the industry would crumble. Actually, not even crumble, collapse. Quite simply, these cars are next to impossible to source and register locally. You could go the route of registering your import in a neighboring country, but then the issues of insurance, running a car on foreign plates, and the fact that it has to be registered to another address spring up. So when one appears on the road, many people are often a bit suspicious of how the cars became registered. Not so with these ones. The owners have spent time living in Japan, and were therefore legally allowed by law to bring their cars back with them after a certain amount of time (provided they aren’t sold within 2 years).
But back to the photoshoot…
We had arranged to do the shoot around the Point Waterfront area, which had undergone a huge transformation in recent years. From an area littered in various shades of urban decay and renowned for prostitution and shady characters, the Durban municipality has undertaken a massive overhaul, and created a rather unique area nestled at the far end of Durban. The roads are quiet, the buildings are in a 21st century style, and the whole area has a urban-chic vibe about it. It’s a pity then, that the area is a bit too quiet. Much like Dubai, where massive new developments stand empty, the high rise apartments of the Point are giant monoliths – an eerie backdrop for the imposing lines of the Supra.
The rest of the afternoon was spent moving to various different locations, and chasing the potential of the perfect lighting backdrop. Eventually, around 5pm, we lined the Supras up for one more shoot by the canal. The resulting photo was certainly one of my favourite automotive photographs I’ve ever taken. Feast your eyes below:
A big thanks to the two owners of the cars, for taking time out of their Saturday afternoon to lend their cars out for some camera time.
One day in the future, I’ll have my own Supra in my driveway…
– Canon 5D MKIII
– Canon 16-35mm
– Canon 100-400mm