I Just Don't Believe What the Toyota Supra's Chief Engineer Says About the Fake Vents

Look, I’m not trying to be a jackass here or anything, and I fully realize that I’m just some drooling simpleton that writes about indicator lamps and Tetsuya Tada is an incredibly smart and skilled Chief Engineer for one of the largest carmakers in the world. But I can’t change what I saw. So when our good pals at Road & Track reported that “The Toyota Supra’s Blocked-Off Air Vents Can Be Made Functional, Says the Chief Engineer, I had to re-examine my Supra fake vent take and see what was really going on. What I found was that I’m in the awkward spot of disagreeing with the Chief Engineer about his own project.

Where do I get balls like that, you may be wondering, quite justifiably? Well, it’s not so much about balls as it is holes, specifically the lack thereof. Here’s what the Road & Track story said:

“If you look at the vehicle today, there’s holes all over the body,” Tada said. “They’re just capped on the production car. Those are for the racing model. When the customer goes and converts it to a racing car, or adds those necessary components, those caps come off very easily. So, it’s already pre-made, ready to accommodate.”

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Okay, so, based on what I saw on the car itself, these statements are simply not accurate at all. There are no easy-to-remove “block-off plates” on any of the fake vents. The plastic covers that mimic the look of a vent can be pried off, sure, but you’re just going to have some sheet metal behind them.

Here, let’s look at two of the vents, the ones on the hood:

...and here’s a shot of the hood from the underside:

Image cropped from larger picture
Photo: Motor Trend Canada (https://www.motortrend.ca/en/news/six-secrets-2020-toyota-supra/)
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There are no easy-to-remove block-off plates. If you were to pry off the plastic covers on those hood vents, you’d just find yourself with a way to allow air into a shallow volume surrounded by the sheet metal that forms the under hood structural supports. That’s it. It has no use as an engine vent.

Sure, I suppose you could Sawzall a lot of that material under there and carve yourself out a heat-extraction vent or whatever you want, but you could do that on literally any car, ever.

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The same goes for pretty much every other fake vent on the car. Like these vents on the doors:

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Here’s what’s behind those doors, which you can see in this, um, Schmee video walkaround:

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Behind those door vents is just a normal doorjamb. There’s no air intakes or holes, covered by knock-out plates or not. That door vent does absolutely nothing, and even if you were to punch that whole vent open, it would still do effectively nothing beyond, I guess, keeping your door latch nice and cool.

The blocked off panels on the side front grille areas (not the little teardrop below the headlamp; that still appears to be fake even on the racing one) are the exception here; you could likely pull off that whole plastic grille part and replace it with an open mesh, like in the racing edition did:

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Also, when they do need more airflow, like at the rear to give an exhaust for air trapped in the wheel well, the racing version of the Supra uses a completely unique rear bumper skin to accommodate it:

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The point is, the fake vents on the production car are in no way just useful and ready-to-go by just popping off some covers, as R&T reported Tada said. Maybe there were translation issues? I don’t really understand why the engineer would say something so counter to what reality appears to be, so I reached out to Toyota about this, too.

Here’s what they told me:

“In speaking with our Sr. Product Planner, there are some vents that could likely be altered for airflow, but others are probably best left as they are.”

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I think that’s about as close as a major automaker can come to saying that something their engineer said to the press isn’t really true.

So, to all of those who commented on the original story and pointed me to the Road & Track piece, I’d just like to say that I took what you said seriously, and looked into it.

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And I found that these vents are still fake.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)