The MKIII Toyota Supra is hardly an icon in the automotive world. It has neither a cult following, nor is it really ever in the media. Some may go as far as to say that it’s simply flawed in design. The main offending factor is simply its weight; at close to two tons, the suspension is completely overworked just by attempting to keep up with the rest of the car. The engine has its fair share of nonbelievers as well, the 7M-GTE is notorious for blowing head gaskets and is generally not sought after by any means, especially not to propel such a heavy car. Only a true enthusiast would even consider an MA70 Supra as anything but a beater to get through a few winter seasons. But Russel Rumbawa is, in every meaning of the word, a true enthusiast. As one of a handful of people around the world who have successfully modified this platform, exclusive may be an understatement. It took the 36-year-old from Hawaii eight years to get this car to the state that it is now, and the end result is nothing short of impressive.
Russel has literally lived in every stage of the automotive “scene” and has witnessed it firsthand evolve from nonexistent to what it is today. His first car was a ’91 Honda CRX that he purchased brand new when he was 15 years old. It was in that car that he learned to drive its manual transmission right there on the dealer lot. He shared with us that he wanted the Si model but it was out of his budget. We say it’s plenty impressive that he was able to buy a new car at that age. Right off the bat he started racing the car on highways against other compacts; he realized immediately that in stock form the car just wasn’t up to the kind of driving he enjoyed. So he did what any resourceful teenager would do, he started researching the few parts that were available at the time. He continued to race on the highway until he moved to the mainland in 1994, where he was exposed to the ever-expanding car culture of Southern California. At the time, the vast majority of Japanese car aficionados were drag racing Hondas on the street, with thousands of cars gathering and drivers who were eager to show what their car could do. It was a sight Russel never forgot. Despite what everybody else was driving, he purchased his second car, a ’85 Toyota Corolla GT-S hatchback. Drifting was unheard of at the time but Russel’s eyes were forever opened to the joys of rear-wheel drive.
Let’s fast-forward to 2003, Russel had since moved back to Hawaii with plans of staying there. It was time for a new project but the cars on the Island just weren’t what he was looking for. Remembering how easily rust-free cars could be found in California he enlisted the help of his brother, who researched Autotrader (it was still years before luxuries like Craigslist were available) and found a few cars of interest. His choices were a MR2 Turbo, a Turbo II RX-7, and the Supra seen here, which he purchased from the original owner. Living in Hawaii, a working air-conditioning unit was very important to him and a few interior luxuries sweetened the deal. Immediately, he noticed that the steering felt sloppy and handling was virtually nonexistent when drifting, coming from a background of Corollas, disappointing must have been an understatement.
So began the journey to turn a nonresponsive, numb car into a capable machine. The suspension could use all the help it could and help came in the form of JIC FLTA2 coilovers, which originally came equipped with 14kg/mm (front) and 10kg/mm (rear) springs. Russel felt that the spring rates were too soft and gradually worked his way up to the current 22kg/mm (front) and 18kg/mm (rear) setup that he preaches is perfect for allowing his car to feel nimble and much lighter than it actually is. A Megan Racing hatch bar and JIC strut tower and lower arm bars provide a bit more chassis rigidity and Suspension Techniques sway bars keep body roll to a minimum. A Safety 21 rollcage keeps occupants safe when Russel utilizes his newfound steering angle from the Drift Motion tie-rod spacers.
While the vast majority of MA70 Supra owners who modify their cars to this extent opt for a JZ-series engine, Russel was confident that the original 7M-GTE would suffice for his needs. The bottom end was left stock; however, the valvetrain has been augmented with Brian Crower camshafts, springs, and retainers working with AEM cam gears to allow the maximum amount of gases to be inhaled and exhaled by the engine. On the fuel delivery side of the equation, Denso 550cc injectors are fed by a Walbro fuel pump, which was made necessary due to the addition of a CX Racing T61 turbocharger replacing the stock unit. A Blitz blow-off valve keeps pressure levels in accordance to what the A’PEXi AVCR prescribes as the compressed air travels through an HKS intercooler. ARP head studs keep the distance between the block and the head uniform with the 1mm HKS metal head gasket. Lastly, waste gases are deposited through a BIC downpipe and Exhaust Customs 4-inch catback.
As you can imagine, 415 hp would be literally impossible to manage with the original wheels and tires. Russel chose 18x10 and 18x12 SSR SP1s wrapped in Nitto NT555s to put the rotational energy to the ground. An aluminum driveshaft and Kazz limited-slip differential make sure that torque is transmitted evenly to the rear wheels. Russel says that the huge wheels and tires were an absolute necessity. Due to his background with Corollas, fitting his wheels and tires just on the threshold of the Shine Auto fender flares is not an option but a requirement—providing for a functional but also an aesthetically appealing stance.
The exterior has been heavily modified, updating the look of the car. A Bomex front lip spoiler and side skirts combined with an Insurance Group Diana Godfather lowers the visual bottom of the car closer to the ground. The S2 air guide in the front bumper is both functional and stylish, channeling air to the intercooler while really setting this car apart from the masses. Club Hotness Bodyworks laid down the paint, and the graphics are courtesy of Section D. Small details such as the Japanese market front markers and the HIDs mounted in Hella H4 housings make sure that Russel can see well and is seen at night. And of course, the 35 percent tint ensures that the extreme temperatures of Hawaii in the summertime are bearable. Providing the balance between comfort and performance, Bride Zeta III seats cradle both the driver and passenger in place. A Greddy shift knob and Razo pedals make shifting a pleasure. An Alpine head unit, powering JL Audio speakers, provides a break from the sound coming from the exhaust and the turbo spool.
It’s always nice to see an owner who is completely satisfied with his creation. It’s especially cool when the car is something as unique as this Supra that is often overlooked, assuming that its potential isn’t worth tapping into. Once in a while, however, somebody comes along and provides a chance for the car to shine. Trial and error becomes a routine with every part installed, but the reward of being a pioneer is great and to an inspired individual like Russel Rumbawa, it’s more than worth the extra effort.
Behind the Build
Custom Exhaust Tech
bodyboarding, body surfing, skateboarding, hiking, running, training
“I built my car evolving and revolving around the sport of drifting.”
Toyota MA70 Supra
Engine Toyota 7M-GTE; T61 turbo; Brian Crower 272 camshafts, valvesprings, and retainers; AEM Tru Time cam gears; ARP head studs; HKS FCD, intercooler, 1mm metal head gasket, and Powerflow intake; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Nippon Denso 550cc injectors; A’PEXi AVCR and SAFC; Exhaust Customs 4-inch catback; BIC divorced downpipe; NGK BKR7E spark plugs and wires; Blitz blow-off valve; Driftmotion braided oil line kit; TRD radiator cap and oil cap; Horsepower Freaks timing cover; Sun Auto ground wire and amplifier kit
Drivetrain Kazz two-way LSD; Drive Shaft Shop one-piece aluminum driveshaft; 4.3 ring-and-pinion; Driftmotion Delrin shifter bushings
Suspension JIC FLT-A2 coilovers, strut tower bars and lower arm bar; Suspension Techniques sway bars; Megan Racing hatch bar; A1 rear traction rods; Driftmotion steering angle spacers; Cusco aluminum side bars; Safety 21 six-point rollcage
Wheels/Tires SSR SP1 18x10 (front), 18x12 (rear); Nitto NT555 225/40/18 (front), 275/35/18 (rear); Project Kics lug nuts
Exterior Bomex front lip and side skirts; Insurance Diana Godfather rear bumper; Horsepower Freaks hatch visor and front turn signal covers; JDM front markers and JDM S2 carbon-fiber intercooler air guide; Retro-spec Turbo A carbon-fiber insert and carbon-fiber window/door pillars; Shine Auto Godfather-style fender flares; paint by Club Hotness Bodyworks; graphics by Section D; Hella H4 headlights; O-nex HIDs; 35 percent tint from Rontint
Interior Bride Zeta III seats and rails; JDM steering wheel; NRG steering hub and quick release; Greddy shift knob; Razo carbon-fiber pedals; Retro-spec carbon-fiber doorsills
Audio Alpine DVD head unit; JL Audio speakers; MTX 10-inch subwoofer; Kenwood amplifier
Gratitude Sean at Munkywurks, Auto Customs; JR at Exhaust Systems Hawaii; Ben; John F.; and Section D boys