The Problem: For the last 8 years I've taken my 90 Targa MK3 from a perfectly stock, high mileage N/A car to a mildly upgraded turbo beast. From the start, my build was done with a certain power level in mind - 300-340whp. This is about where the 7MGTE ECU starts to say enough is enough. Fuel cut violently thwarts any attempt to suck in more air through the intake by shutting off fuel supply. If you don't know what fuel cut is or when it can happen, this event would probably make you think you just ran over a cinder block or hit a small deer. It's not a subtle experience. You can get around fuel cut, but it introduces a few new parts and potential complications for a daily driver. To go much beyond the limitations of fuel cut I would also need to consider a new transmission as the W58 has been known to grenade itself much above 350whp. My factory intercooler and piping was another limitation, as was the 50-trim CT-26 turbo. What I had created was an excellent, reliable 300whp MK3. I could keep up with most "sporty" cars on the road and could embarrass 99% of cars of a similar age... but I was up against a wall. A significant upgrade would require a lot of perfectly good parts to be removed and replaced with more expensive parts. In addition, I never liked the idea of high powered Targa chassis MK3s. The targa is nice, but it's flimsy and adds weight to the chassis. It was great for my 300whp plan, but wouldn't satisfy my ultimate MK3 goal. I wanted something newer or more powerful. I debated starting on a different chassis altogether and even went as far as putting dozens of hours of research into the BMW E39 M5 and lining up test drives. Before I worked up the courage to jump into the M5 I found a for sale post on Supramania.
The Solution: A 91 Turbo Hardtop MK3. It was the right year (91 or 92), the right engine (7MGTE), the right transmission (R154), and from a good region of the U.S. for old cars (California). It wasn't perfect, with faded paint, non-operable registration, and a drop-in JDM motor that smoked, but the price was right. One minor problem though - I live in Phoenix, about 850 miles away and this car was going to sell fast. I debated for a day or two while chatting with the seller and planned out what would need to happen if I decided to go through with the sale. It was early Friday evening and both my wife and I had work obligations Monday morning. To make the drive a viable option, we would have to cover 1700 miles in the next 48 hours. We would also have to abandon any pre-existing weekend plans. Google said the drive would take a little over 12 hours - and I'm sure that's true if you can somehow fuel up while moving and have Jimmy Johns deliver to a moving spot along the interstate. Leaving realistic time to stop to eat, gas up and sleep, we weren't left with much free time. I decided to go ahead with the purchase at about 7pm Friday. We (my wife, our dog and I) were on the road shortly after.
The Pickup: Of the 850 miles ahead, nearly all of them were in California. I learned two things during this trip about California: The roads are all terribly maintained and they have trailer speed limits. I would pick up a u-haul trailer mid-day Saturday as close to the pick-up point as I could. Timing dictated that I would have to pick up the trailer with a few hundred miles left before I really wanted to. As 12:30pm Saturday afternoon rolled around I had a very unsettling realization... I hadn't picked up cash yet. Not counting on a stranger to accept and IOU for a few thousand dollars I frantically searched for a bank near our location that was open until 1pm Saturday. There was one within striking distance, but we would only arrive 10 minutes before closing with good traffic. Thankfully we made it in time and walked out of the bank with a thick wad of hundreds soon to be traded for a 25 year old piece of Japanese metal. Close to the destination we drove through orchards of peaches, apples, plums, nectarines and other fruit. Roadside fruit stands were too much temptation and we made a rare side-stop to pick up a bag of amazing California peaches. Well worth the 30 minute delay. Arriving at the seller's house revealed the prize. It was exactly as advertised and after a quick 5 minute drive around the block I knew all I needed to in order to sign the title. Along with the car I picked up a couple boxes of parts including forged pistons, rods, lightweight flywheel, ARP hardware, etc... The next challenge was loading up the car onto the u-haul trailer. Anyone who's used a U-haul auto-transport may know that they aren't made for sports cars. They are made for your average clearance vehicle. Certainly not a lowered, long nose beast like the MK3 Supra. It took some awkward maneuvering and a few different attempts to finally get the car loaded up without major damage.
Now the drive home - at a California-mandated 55mph. This limitation was not something Google counted on. Our ETA back in Phoenix climbed as we crawled home at a whopping 60mph. Early on in the return trip I saw flashing red and blue in my rear-view. Shit. What now? Am I really going to get a ticket for going 5 over? The officer came up to the passenger side window, cautiously, and told us we'd been called in by someone who saw a large trail of sparks and thought the 911 operator should get an officer on the case. The rear of the car had dropped a few inches after loading up the car and the trailer chains were now creating a nice light show behind us on the freeweay. Oops.
1am rolled around and we decided it was time to find a hotel and resume the drive in the morning. Now, I've road-tripped a LOT in the last couple years. The Land Cruiser which was now carrying the 91 Supra has seen a little over 45,000 miles in 2.5 years... and I rarely use it to commute. Over the last dozen overnight stays I've always relied on late night calls to the graveyard shift desk clerk at a variety of hotel chains to help secure a room after most patrons have fallen asleep. Until this night it had never been an issue. On this night, however, nobody had vacant rooms, certainly none that would accept a dog. We passed Sacramento and hoped that in the few cities nearby we'd find a roadside motel. 10 calls to hotels... nothing. 10 more calls.... "Sorry, all booked". 10 more calls... "All Booked, sorry!" It was now 3am. 2 hours after I was ready to stop driving. I had never called more than two hotels to find a room. What the hell? We finally got in touch with a no-name "inn" that had a phone line answered by a tired and/or drunk individual who spoke English... mostly. He seemed to answer that they did have a room, but wasn't clear. He was located 45 minutes off our planned route and an hour away from our current location. Ugh. We called a few other places and got the usual, "no rooms" answer so redialed our fuzzy, non-english, inn-keeper to verify room availability. It was a significant detour, after-all, so arriving to a closed up, no-vacancy motel would have been crushing. Someone answered, said something that wasn't "Hello" and hung up. Great. Our best chance at some sleep on a real bed just disappeared into the ether. After a few minutes we called again and got a regular answer from the tired and/or drunk inn-keeper. As far as we could tell, he did have a room. Onto the detour we went...
The last day of driving was thankfully uneventful and just filled with typical California traffic and terrible roads. Crossing the border back into Arizona felt like driving on glass. The transition in road quality was abrupt. A few miles into AZ the road was German-autobahn quality and road crews were busy working to repave roads that at their worst were still better than the majority of California's roads.
We arrived home at about 11pm Sunday night and unloaded the car. With the new car tucked into its garage space the first chapter in this journey was now over. Now it was time to plan the project and make some shopping lists...