Gallery >> Supra Test Mule – But What’s It For?

Hello all, this one's a little different…On the Gazoo Racing day out at Fuji Speedway on Friday, a number of us remarked on a fleet of six Supra JZA80s driving down the main straight while we were tucking into our bento lunches.

The cars were all conspicuously old and very worn looking, at least on the surface – each appearing to have covered an extraordinary amount of mileage – I'm talking a million klicks-type of levels here. The cars were obviously well-used test mules. But what were they being used for (at least on this occasion….).

As well as all machines running identical (and obviously totally up-to-date) wheel/tyre packages, they conspicuously had their fuel filler caps removed – I suppose for convenience. Hmmm.

But just as quickly as they had appeared, they were gone. It was only an hour or so later that I spotted them again, this time running once more in perfect formation (the gap between each car exactly three lengths as they plodded round) on one of the testing areas at the lower end of the sprawling facility.

All cars had full roll cages and a complete complement of safety devices. Just by chance I later spotted one of them up in the paddock and took these few snaps. As well as the other obvious 'mule' traits, there was this multitude of transponders and sensors in the rear hatch of this lone example. My interest was piqued!  

While they are not overtly interesting until one considers what the cars might be getting used for: test mules for the FT86 concept is what one learned scribe opined – and I think he might be right! That's not just patina on the door folks – I rubbed and scrubbed, and it's deeper than the surface – who knows what these cars have been through. (And what great things they're developing in our midst….)

One can never be too sure of course (anyone I asked was ultra tight-lipped), but it's nice to imagine what they might be up to. FT86 development tests sounds most interesting…what do you think?

 – Len Clarke 



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I would be so much happier if they were testing the new Supra platform over the FT-86. Personal opinion.


I was ready to say that you guys are wrong, that it has to be a mule for the new Supra in accounts of wheelbase, but I was surprised to find that the Supra has in fact a SMALLER wheelbase then the FT86 concept car and the proposed wheelbase for the final car. The Supra has around 100 inches of wheelbase, while the FT86 is 2 inches larger.

Excellent website Speedhunters! I check it every day! Godspeed.


thats where all the supras went


Did they sound like Supras when they were driving?

Maybe they're putting some miles on a new model of engine and transmission, for use in new cars.


maybe GPS/autonomous data gathering, I thought the Supra was dead and is now the LFA, as the LFA has a striking resemblance to the Supra?


Is it just me or do the front wheels sit slightly forward and the rear wheels sit slightly back when compared to a mass-produced Supra? If that is the case, it does push me towards thinking that it is the FT86 concept testing


and with one comment, Sprokt has brutally murdered any last hope i had for the FT86


Those wheels look like they're off of a nissan or something, anyone know what those are?


OMG the Japanese have redesigned the flux capacitor. 1.21 GIGAWATTS!


but why in a JZA80?

this is interesting for sure...

i'd like to know whats doing here!


you said u saw them driving, what did they sound like? strate 6, boxer, v8, lfa v10?


What about a Mk5 Supra? :D I would love that!


Next time take photos of suspension and brakes instead of just the wheels. We may learn some more from close up like these


sound reasoning to me with the 86 mule bit


probably testing a new engine for a new lexus coupe? the LFA will have people salivating for a cheaper more accessible alternative




I wonder how they sounded like...


Hope toyota is getting smart and wanting to enter the sports car market again. They have NOTHING going on in terms of performance and with the american cars getting back into hp wars this would be a good time for a turbo rwd platform.


Wait, all this just to test out some wheels?


hmmm....very interesting...


you make no mention of what they sounded like... this is important.

turbo 4?

inline 6?


slow shifting manual transmissions or electronic paddle box whizzbangery?

this stuff is far more telling than most photos ever are


They're probably gathering benchmark data. It HAS been awhile since Toyota has produced a potent (reasonably priced) sports car.


Well seeing as in they havent actually released ( they being toyota ) any concept drawings or figures, aside from individual companies, it might in fact be the new supra. I mean think about it, they already have camouflaged ft86 cars running the ring and other tracks so why would they need to be more secretive about it. The supra was a mechanical masterpeice as far as a coupe was concerned and also technically advanced. Stock TT from the factory? Common how many manufacturers did that with a car that reliable and that ( well relatively) cheap price? So heres my thoughts on these diamonds in the dirt. The supra is coming back, quite possibly with identical dimensions to its mark 4 sibling. There could be an eplithra of drive train and engine combinations, but im thinkin v6 or straight 6, twined and with a sequential gearbox + improved aerodynamics that we are seeing in these newerjap cars. But thats just my opinion.


I am freaking excited by this excellent news!

So Sprokt, are you implying that the FT86 is larger than the JZA80? Or is the FT86 still smaller because of the minimal overhangs.

Either way, I still wonder why Toyota didn't dust off the blueprints to the Supra, take the molding casts out of mothballs, tweak the design a little bit, add more steel/aluminium for safety or to reduce weight, and slap in a new eco friendly motor... Surely it would have been faster and cheaper than chopping up the Impreza chassis, and now they talk of turning the chopped up Impreza chassis, which was a chopped up Liberty/Legacy chassis, back into a sedan?!?!


Personal opinion. Its something with those wheels. Who knows what might be under the hood, may be a 3.5L V6 hybrid electric motor or a V10 and running gear with a supra shell on top.


It sounded for a second like they were testing front and rear anti-crash sencer capabilities. Judging by the odd "perfect formation"/"exactly three lengths" claims and the photo having to do with the sencer equipment planted in the trunk would make sence. But ofcourse, it could definitely be anything. That does include being a FT86 motor/trans mule (I would've said "chassis but its definitely a Mark IV chassis we're seeing here with no legit modifications). The only really way to know is to see whats under the hood... or beat it out of the people working with it. ;)

Great post Len.


Probably just testing a new cruise control system. I still see Supra brakes on it and the rear strut towers seems unmodified.


My guess would be testing some kind of vehicle-to-vehicle device for use on highways, etc to keep traffic speed consistent and safe and prevent jams. A kind of auto pilot, if you will. Perhaps Toyota is working on this ofr its next generation of cars? I know that in Japan various kinds of 'smart' technologies are being trialled to improve traffic flow and prevent collisions (collision avoidance is much easier if the cars themselves know where other cars are at intersections and can pre-brake to avoid the other vehicle)


Going from the quote "the gap between each car exactly three lengths as they plodded round" possibly running tests on an adaptive cruise control system...? Newer cruise controls will allow you to set a gap between you and the vehicle in front of you and maintain that distance. I would assume they haven't zeroed in on the FT86 chassis so they could be working out all the kinks for all the misc. crap that adds weight and price so when the chassis is defined they can plug and play... Less time in development once they pull the trigger? Just my guess


Possibly mules testing a radar cruise control.


lol, the cars are so f***ed up that they already catch attention :-D

maybe they test some hybrid stuff, like making the technology of the endurance sard supra ready for street use?

if they tested any ft86-related stuff i'd be disappointed... that would mean, the lightweigt concept of the ft86 is gone, as the a8 supra is quite heavy...


Doesn't seem to be enough computer in the trunk for a full autonomous vehicle or even cruise control algorithm.

Judging by the removed gas cap and what seem to be wires running into the fuel tank, they were testing fuel maps or emissions components for JP compliance.

Could have even been a local college group doing engineering tests.




j, the FT86 may appear smaller due to not only the overall lines of the car including the sloping nose, but most importantly due to the short overhangs (like you mentioned), however the car is larger where it matters: In the wheelbase. That's not all that bad, since it increases mid corner and straightline stability. If that's what rocks your boat. But believe it or not, 2 inches makes quite a difference dynamically.

I think that those pictures (if they really are of a FT86 prototype) should be even more alarming not as an indicator of the future Toyota's true dimensions, but as a reminder of how large and porky the "small cars" of today are when compared to the cars of the past.

And with that I also answer jay dub's comment: Sorry dude. :(


Not sure if someone's already answered this, but I believe those are Nismo 370Z wheels.


Hate to burst your bubble guys, but there is a good chance that these are not test mules at all.

For those of you who don't know, Toyota uses Supras for training purposes, and judging by the look and description of the cars (well-worn with safety gear and full roll cage) I think this is the case with these cars.

The "perfect formation" is simply part of the test, while the gear in the back records the driver's input for analysis later by the teachers (braking, throttle usage, lap times, etc.)

In my opinion, this has nothing to do with a "new" Supra.

FYI, the wheels are from a Lexus IS.


hybrid supercars are the next big thing! I suspect it's some R&D guys testing out a new system....

But i'm thinking its just a bunch of dudes that spend way too much time together, getting out and all driving their dirty Supras equal distances apart.... just because.


Yes, I would probably bet on testing another Toyota driving aid than any engine/trans or whatever. These cars have ages. I don't know how they could be that helpful testing any new mechanical stuff.

But the thing about them driving exactly at the same distance apart does it for me. Driving aids. Autobrakes or something.


whatever it is, it's not going to be something fun.


Don't get too excited on the wheels, they're just OEM ISx50 wheels.

I think there's a large potential that they're testing a particular system of the car, whethere it's a whole engine/transmission, a sub system of the engine or transmission, or the potential cruise control mentioned, a new stability control system, hey, maybe even just a new steering rack or something.

This sounds stupid, but where the drivers actually driving? Maybe they've been modified and are driving themselves, with GPS


I thought Toyota said that the FT86 would have nothing to do with the previous Supra? And I thought they were kicking around the idea of making the new '86 a *gasp* hybrid?


comment farming blog this one is


The wheels look like IS-F wheels, Im thinkin it has to be toyota engineers since they own the track. Im hoping it is a new supra not the FT86..............THIS IS TRUE SPEEDHUNTING.


Toyota is testing out a new pedal setup for the corolla/camary/matrix, pcm for the corollas and a new hybrid setup for the prius. in a supra body...

Did I miss any Toyota's defects from the past 2 years?

I really hope it is the FT86 and i think the wheels are from the isf or lf-a

regardless what theyre testing thier numberswill be flawed inless the vehicle is using the same aerodynamics as the supra...


Adaptive cruise control is already available

FT86 is probably nearing the confirmation vehicle stage so that's not it

Not nearly enough equipment for autonomous control (check Anthony Best Dynamics)

I can nearly guarantee that an inline six is not coming back

Most likely transmission (assuming this is actually powertrain development) would be a dual clutch auto

There's not enough equipment for a hybrid powertrain (there would be hundreds of thermocouples)

My best guess is that they are doing some kind of emissions or engine tuning related testing being that the cars are so old, the equipment is right next to the fuel cell and they're all on identical rolling stock. I hate to be "that guy", but the Supra isn't coming back and the FT86 can't possibly live up to expectations for the price demanded and government standards required.


Or maybe they're testing a new 500lb heavier FT86...Ok I'm sorry, I didn't mean it.


I have read in a couple other places that Toyota Japan makes use of a fleet of old veteran JZA80 hardtops for engine & powertrain development. The chassis rigidity and consistent platform make it easier for them to scientifically compare things like NVH concerns, power delivery, etc.

I think Al Clark's thought about it possibly being a radar or some other kind of cruise control testing is quite possible given the behavior observed by these Supras.

I would bet a large sum of money against these being any kind of secret mules for a new Supra. The Supra is dead, the FT-86 will be an overweight, overpriced, and underpowered wet fart.

Toyota's soul is gone.. all that's left to show that Toyota ever had a soul are weathered relics like these Supras.


hmm interesting, can't wait to see what comes out of this... guess its safe to say its no v10 otherwise clarke would have commented on the sound it made


Can anyone confirm the wheels? They are NOT 370z - see - And they are definetly not ISF wheels. And going off the concept picutres for the FT86 they do not belong to this either.


Why no pictures from the front or rear? Was it running with a front mount intercooler? Single or twin exhaust? MORE DETAILS!


Yes, more details! Did ya even look under it? Did it sound like a Supra, or powered by something different?


They are testing for "unintentional acceleration".


omg look at those computers data logging! !#*&%@#*

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