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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    St. Louis
    Posts
    165

    Default Letter to a future owner of a used Supra

    So, you have $4-14k burning a hole in your pocket and a lovely used Supra caught your eye. Just like that, you have visions of beautiful afternoons on the lake doing a little waterskiing, wakeboarding, surfing, or maybe tubing with the kids. You may also have visions of a bikini-clad woman named Ginger smiling at you from the observation seat. It seems like a dream. And it can all be yours for just a couple nickels. How can you resist?

    Before you buy, here are a couple things to know about used Supras. Like any boat, all the sayings about boat ownership are true. “There is nothing as expensive as a cheap boat.” “BOAT – bring out another thousand.” “A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into.” “The happiest two days of your life are the day you buy a boat and the day you sell the boat.”

    Yes … but owning a boat is a whale of fun …. and …. there is Ginger.

    So, we press on to major issues you should know about Supras: stringers, maintenance, leaking, and driving.

    There are two kinds of used Supras, those with wooden stringers and those with composite stringers. Generally, anything after ’93 will be composite, and if the windshield is round, it is composite. Why does this matter? The short of it is that the wood stringers almost invariably rot. This becomes more than just a cosmetic problem when the wood that holds the motor mount lag bolts begins to rot, and the engine starts to vibrate or break loose.

    The short answer is, if you can find a composite boat, go with that. It is one less thing to worry about.

    You say to yourself, Yes, but the wood-stringer boats are cheaper, and maybe easier to find, and maybe this wood stringer thing isn’t such a problem, and maybe the stringers on this lovely boat are in good shape. Generally, if there is wood on it, there is rot in it. A’87 Supra is now going on 30 years old. That’s a long time for 2x4’s under to floor to stay dry. Think of all those wet kids and their drippy wet life jackets climbing in and out of that boat over the last 30 years. The motor has 700+ hours on it. How many drippy wet kids climb in and out of a boat per hour of use?

    That water has to goes somewhere. Sometimes it goes into the bilge and it is pumped out by the bilge pump. But some of it goes under the floor. The factory design did not include an exit route for water once under the floor. It also included a notch in the stringer that made for a weak point in the fiberglass that allows water to enter the 2x4’s. It doesn’t matter how well kept that boat has been. Wet skiers have climbed in the boat, and water has made its way under the floor and is doing its magic. Here are links to threads showing the underbelly of rot when you pull up the floor:
    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...or-Restoration
    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...ebuild-process
    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...ation-and-more
    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...ss-(with-pics)
    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...-by-a-pro-shop


    Are you willing to risk it? Maybe the seller tells you about how the boat never got wet and was always kept in a heated garage or maybe they tell you the stringers were rebuilt. What to do. First, ask if the boat also has a turbo charger that runs on unicorn kisses. After that, ask to see pictures of the rebuild. Then, look around carefully. Take off your shoes and walk the floor. It tends to get soft in front of the observation seat and in front of the driver’s seat. If the floor is soft, there is rot happening. Take the doghouse off the engine and look at the floor plywood. Pull out the plywood floor panel that sits between the doghouse and the back seat (this is not hard). Pull out the plastic ski locker behind the back seat and look at the wood under the gas tank (this also is not hard). Does the plywood floor look questionable? Tap the length of the 2x4’s with the motor mounts and transmission mounts. Sound solid? Put a wrench on the engine lag bolts. Do they spin, or feel tight? If you really want to know, drill a little hole in those boards. Does it come up dry? (be sure to properly patch the hole).

    Here the issue. The 80’s Supras look pretty cost effective as a starting boat. For $4-10k they make a good waterskiing wake and with some ballast and respectable wakeboarding wake. But, a professional stringer rebuild runs about $4-5k. If you are up to a DIY stringer adventure, the materials are ~$2k.

    So, if the floor and the engine mounts feel solid, things may be ok … for now. The question you will have to ask yourself is, how much boating time will you need before doing the stringers so that you are happy about buying this boat now? Say you buy a lovely ’89 Sunsport for $6k, like I did. And the seller promises you the floor is composite, and what do you know, so you buy the boat because that sounds great. But, it turns out that in ’89 the floors were wood and there is in fact a soft spot near the observation seat, and once you figure this out, you feel a bit like a dope. Here’s the thing, the motor mounts have felt solid for the last 5 years. So good for me. It’s been a great 5 years. I’ve certainly had $1k worth of fun on the boat every year for the last 5 years and I feel good about it. At some point, I know I have a stringer rebuild in my future. I like my boat. I ski on a river that is only 4 feet deep in places, and I can’t see putting a more expensive boat on that river. So if you buy a boat with wood stringers, just be ok putting 5k into it later on to fix the stringers.

    Maintenance. These are lovely boats. But deep down, think of them as mid-80’s American trucks (they usually have Ford 351 or Chevy 454 V8 truck engines). If you owned a 30 year-old truck, you’d expect to spend a couple days a year under that hood. Same thing with the Supra. Some folks get upset with boat expenses. A lot of this is just expected maintenance. You have to change the oil and transmission fluid and winterize the boat every year (link 1 link 2 link 3). You should probably pull the impeller from the water pump and change it every year or at least every other year (be sure to put it back on right-side-up). The teak wood will need to be oiled every couple of years. The trailer bearings need to be repacked every year or two. If you get 3-4 years out of a boat battery, pat yourself on the back. In a 30 year-old boat, if the carb hasn’t been rebuilt, it probably should be. And while you are at it, it will run better with a new distributor cap, rotor, points, plugs, and wires. If the water pump and alternator are original, be honest about how long you expect them to work. Also, you can only expect so much from the 30 year-old vinyl, and some of that will need redone. All of this is “expected maintenance.” It is not “unexpected expense.” If you are good with that, welcome to boat zen.

    Before you buy a used boat, best if you take it for a test drive. Does it drive straight? Vibrate? Does it start like you mother-in-law’s mid 80’s truck? How is the hole-shot? What does the oil look like (nice and clear, or milky like the block has a crack)? Also recommended that you check the compression … this is an old engine.

    Other issues you should know about with these boats. They leak. They are designed to leak. The drive shaft goes through the hull. The amount of leaking is minimized by wax-impregnated string in a packing nut. The wax dries out. It needs replaced. It can be replaced with Goretex string, with wax, or with a dripless system. Here is how to fix this problem: http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/stuffing_box. The transom can also get a little soft and may leak around the wake plate bolts or the mufflers. This may require a little fiberglass work and maybe a metal plate to shore things up.

    The bow rides low on the water. Naturally, this looks cool. But, if you have people up font, and come off plane quickly, you can take water over the front of the bow. Try not to do this. If you do, relax. Let the boat right itself. The bilge pump will work (hopefully). If you motor up, you either will come back on plane and look like a hero, or submarine your boat, and you’ll swim to shore (http://forums.wakeboarder.com/files/themalibu_889.jpg).

    Last, this may be obvious, but the efficiency of the propeller is greatly affected by small nicks and dings. From someone who boats in shallow water, a new prop makes a huge difference.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    saratoga springs, NY
    Posts
    112

    Default

    image.jpg
    .... All I can say is, thank you Ginger for the great memories, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
    mr.jrc -- 1986 Supra Saltare

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    Pendleton IN
    Posts
    97

    Default

    Awesome thread!!! I love my old Supra but I have had to put some money into it with new stringers and floor and alignment with prop shaft seal as well. Still wouldn't trade it!!
    Great thread for anyone looking for a older supra

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Posts
    23

    Default

    Probably should sticky this post.
    '87 Saltare

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    St. Louis
    Posts
    165

    Default

    It also may be helpful to remember that we all go through Salty's stages of stringer denial: maybe it's just one soft spot; maybe I can leave the cap on; maybe I don't have to pull the engine; nope, cap-off, engine-out, full stringer repair.

    https://forum.supraboats.com/showthr...3-Cap-on/page3

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Oyama, B C , Canada
    Posts
    609

    Default

    Upon reflection I have spent far more on car repairs and taken much more of a financial hit on depreciation on my cars than I ever have on
    my Supra!
    I love my cars and maintain them to pristine A-1 condition. The exact same goes for my Supra,
    Stringers still dry , no soft spots , if boat not in water being used it is on its lift or wintered stored in climate control bldg with interior of boat opened up as much as possible to ensure air flow.
    My theory is simple in that if you take care of the above they in turn will take care of you.
    And in agreement with “mr.jrc” ————- then there is Ginger!
    Wouldn’t trade the boat for anything!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    28

    Default

    Thanks for the honest and concise letter

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    1

    Default

    Thank you for the letter. I am looking at a 1990 Saltare. I have been looking for info on what to look for. You have given me the info needed to go look at the boat again.

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