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Love at First Sight – 1993 Toyota Supra JZA80

20 June 2023

David Knowsley’s 20-year journey to his very own dream car took him from non-turbo automatic to the perfect 398kW weekend stress reliever

Words: Warren Sare Photos: Glen McNamara

Imagine for a moment it is nearly 20 years ago and you are out car shopping for what you think you want. All you need is a reliable daily driver — perhaps something like a VR-4, because you’ve always been a bit of a car guy, but you know you need to be sensible. When you get to the car yard, something catches your eye — and it isn’t the VR-4 you think you want; you just can’t stop looking at a MkIV Toyota Supra. It has to be yours, because there is just something about those lines.

So began Auckland-based David’s journey with this car. We here at NZPC have to admit that, right from when we first pulled up, we noticed this is a car that has a presence — and that is coming from a group who see car after car, month after month.

“It’s scary to think about building something that you might not ever get to enjoy,” says David.

At first, this doesn’t make a great deal of sense to us. However, as David shares his story with us, we learn that this car is a true labour of love that kept him going through many long days over the past few years as he battled with cancer. 

We are stoked for David that he is on the road to recovery and is now able to enjoy his weekend street car with his friends. It’s well deserved given that it’s taken a while to get to this stage. You see, it turns out that this car used to be bog-stock, automatic, and naturally aspirated (NA), and, for a car guy who enjoyed getting out and about, there was nothing more frustrating than having people pull over to admire the car only to ask, “Hey mate, where’s the intercooler?”

Enter Jon and his team of wizards at Strange Workshop. Jon is a man who has been a clear influence and a willing set of hands throughout the build, which apparently started off with David telling his wife, “Oh, it’s just off getting converted to manual,” and snowballed from there.

A brand-new Toyota 2JZ block was sourced for the build from the good folk at NSTParts, and, from there, a fairly simple-but-effective diet of air and fuel combines to make a streetable near-400kW at the wheels. David says that he isn’t about drag racing or dyno sheets, and he has trusted Jon, who, along with Steve from MSE Turbos, specced a custom hybrid MSE6868 single-turbo. Turbosmart came to the party with 50mm wastegates and blow-off valve — and why not, with its race-proven technology? — while GReddy provided that big ol’ intercooler we talked about before, mated up to an off-the-shelf piping kit. 

Drinking a solid diet of 95 octane from a 559kW in-tank pump that feeds six 1000c injectors, this car is all about having usable fun power for the streets. Indeed, it’s almost refreshing to hear an owner say, “I’d eventually like 600hp [447kW] but I don’t really need it; where would you even use it?” 

One thing that is essential if you want to drive in Auckland is ensuring that your engine stays cool, and a Fenix radiator with twin 12-inch fans is on duty and given instructions via a Link G4+ Xtreme. When you hear Glen at GDS Automotive has been the man tasked with tuning, you know it’s safe all day. 

The engine bay has been fully rewired, and the ignition upgraded to ensure consistent spark, while Strange Workshop has contributed all the fab work that isn’t off the shelf, along with all the mechanical work. 

There’s a bit of a theme through the discussions, and it seems Jon and another mate, Chris Hunt, have played sounding board along with David’s wife and kids over the years.

This is a car with a presence, and the subtle-but-muscular lines of the Supra are well acknowledged for inspiring emotion; indeed, they’ve kept this owner engaged in a near two-decade love affair. 

One of the things that was done from a hospital bed was the selection of the Ridox body kit. Apparently, the original stock front didn’t quite cut it — there was an experiment with a Do Luck variant before settling on what has gone on to be coated by Evoke Bodyworks in a factory Lexus grey that does a nice job of being both subtle and menacing.

Suspension-wise, a set of Tein coilovers takes care of ironing out Auckland’s ever-improving roads, while, should the car ever see the track, coming to a stop is sorted by a set of RZ model Supra ‘big brakes’, which feature four pistons and more than enough stopping power for what a mild-tune 2J can throw at it. Being blacked out, they sit nicely within the theme, hiding behind the set of 18×9.5-inch and 18×10.5-inch staggered-fitment Work Emotion D9Rs, which are shod in semi-slick tyres — because when you need that grip, well, you need to have that grip. 

When the lads head out cruising, it’s all factory comfort, with the interior as it left the showroom floor. Swapping gears isn’t a chore, with a twin-plate clutch matched up to a Tremec TR-6060 and Sikky remote shifter — more than adequate for the power levels — while a Cusco 1.5-way diff centre will try to keep things headed in the right direction should the semi-slicks ever lose traction. 

We can’t quite help but appreciate the smile on David’s face and in his voice as he talks to us about his car; you can tell he’s an enthusiast and just one of the guys, who has gone about his build in his way. 

He did jokingly say, “If I did it again, I’d have just bought the turbo RZ to start with” — but we are sure some of those build memories are worth it. 

We’ll be sure to give David a friendly wave when we see him out on those sunny days, and reckon those 20 years have been pretty well spent as guardian of this fine piece of turbocharged kit.


This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 298