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Swooping Soarer

A positive displacement supercharged 1997 GT-L Soarer V8?! That's one you won't see too frequently!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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Anyone into imported Toyota Soarers will know the pecking order in terms of performance - oddly enough, it's the littlest engine - the 2.5-litre 1JZ-GTE hung with turbocharger technology - that out-grunts the atmo 4.0-litre 1UZ-FE V8 and 3.0-litre 2JZ-GE versions. The 1JZ twin-turbo - and the later single-turbo VVT-i variant - are the 206kW hares, while the 194kW V8 is somewhat of a lazy performer and, well, the 168kW 3.0-litre is the one you get when you can't afford either of the others.

With an aftermarket supercharger kit fitted to the V8, though, the balance of power is more than slightly tilted...

Craig Dean - owner of Melbourne's Sports and Luxury Cars and experienced GT-P and Targa Tasmania steerer - has imported and driven more Soarers than you can poke a stick at."I'd have to say I've imported somewhere around 800 Soarers over the years," he says. "I loved the Soarer from the very beginning. Compared to the Mustang I'd been driving in GT-P, in felt a lot more controllable on the road. It had a lot more finesse and, of course, they're really nice and smooth and comfortable."

It's fair to say Craig has a soft spot for Soarers; Craig's a guy who imports only the cars he has a personal liking for.

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Sitting in his office one day, Craig received a call from Japan; a rare (only 113 built) 1997 model Soarer GT-L had popped up for sale at the car auctions. Craig's interest pricked up, as he instantly recognised the collector worth of the '97 model - the last of the Soarers, which came equipped with dual airbags and a few other cosmetic differences. In immaculate 60,000 kilometre condition and with a couple of aftermarket goodies thrown in, Craig gave his Japanese buyer the instruction to bring it back to Australia. "I wanted it pretty bad, so we ended up paying top dollar for it," says Craig.

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The vehicle that materialised on the Melbourne wharf was indeed all it was cracked up to be. Sinister in jet black, dark tinted glass and dumped into the weeds, the curvy coupe made a real statement. Unlike many other second-hand Japanese import we've seen (not from Sports and Luxury Cars, incidentally!), the Soarer was in absolute perfect condition; not a scratch.

What happened next concreted this car as one of the most desirable Soarers in Australia.

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Craig managed to source a C's supercharger kit for the Soarer 1UZ-FE engine and figured it'd be the ideal way to complement the vehicle. A complete kit was imported from Japan comprising an Eaton M9 CS positive displacement blower unit, replacement 'adapter' intake manifold, alloy induction pipe, a new serpentine drive belt, adjustable fuel pressure regulator and a piggyback ECU.

Thanks to the relatively low profile of the rotor housing, the bonnet could be left untouched; no unsightly metal mountain poking through the bonnet of this smoothie! Interestingly, the standard airbox and airflow meter still reside, but the pipe into the back of the supercharger is a cast alloy replacement with all necessary hose fittings and a section of rubber flex in order to let the engine rock on its mounts without breaking the airflow meter.

Oh, and - when the car arrived in Australia - the whisper quiet factory rear mufflers had already departed the scene to make space for a tough looking pair of Blitz Nur-spec straight-through polished cans. These improve gas flow through the otherwise stock dual exhaust system.

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Fitment of the blower kit was a pretty major job but the results speak for themselves - it could quite easily have been offered as, say, a TRD option. Stick you boot into it at low rpm and there's an instant hit of torque that'd shame the standard atmo V8; kick-down performance, meanwhile, is simply breathtaking. Unlike a centrifugal type blower, however, (which 'winds out' to maximum boost as revs rise) the top-end gain is not quite as strong from seat of the pants; it's no slouch, though, with 168kW measured at the back wheels driving through the standard auto trannie. Oh, and that power output is achieved with nearly 10 psi of boost shoved down each inlet port.

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Those purposeful-looking Blitz mufflers are the only hint to the presence of any aftermarket power play. The previous owner in Japan obviously liked to keep things looking as factory as possible. "Notice that the wheels - 18-inch versions of the factory BBS option - look like they're meant to be on there," says Craig. Monster 275/35 Falken ZE-326s do their best to convert the blown V8's power into forward acceleration, while 235/40 ZE-326s take the majority of cornering and braking loads. Suspension height is also in-cabin adjustable using a R-spec electronic controller that's wired into the airbag suspension system.

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This example may look a little different to the 'the rest' of the Soarers you see cruising the 'burbs; the rare '97 model features a restyled grille and revised taillights, plus this car is also fitted with gas discharge headlights.

The only addition Crag has made is the fitment of a front lip - "we've got the fibreglass moulds for that in-house and we normally retail them at about $325" he says. Craig also warns that the front lip is susceptible to being wiped out on driveways when the suspension is set to its lowest position; a quick toggle up on the R-spec height controller is a mandatory preparation.

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Inside, well, what the hell would you want to change from factory? The '97 GT-L spec brings standard leather seats and trim, electric seat adjustment, dual airbags, power steering column, windows, mirrors, subwoofer sound system with in-boot CD stacker, central locking, 3D digital instrument cluster and a central multi-function screen. Who'd wanna stuff it up with poorly integrated monster tachos and the like?

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The cental touch screen forms the display and control system for heating, ventilation and cooling, audio system and navigation. That last item took some tricky spark work to make operate in Australia; a VDO Dayton nav system was slipped in behind the console and integrates with the factory colour screen. A remote control unit is used to operate the Dayton system.

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After about 10,000 kilometres of punting around Melbourne is his beautiful black beast, Craig has found himself in automotive bliss. "The V8 is normally a bit laggy to get going and feels like it's being held back up top; with the blower, though, it's responsive from idle and it pulls great on the street. Yeah, it's my toy," he laughs. "At the end of the day, though - as my wife says - I'm here to sell cars so I've kept everyone happy by offering it for sale - at $84,000... If someone wants it more than I do, they'll have to pay for it!"


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