The Toyota Celica: The OG liftback

Updated Jun 05, 2021 | Same topic: Nostalgia: Cars We Miss

If it weren’t for the Celica, there would be no Supra.

Made from 1970 to 2006, the Toyota Celica was one of the longest-running performance models from Toyota. Nowadays, many car enthusiasts know it as one of the cars in Toyota’s “holy trinity” together with the Supra and the MR2.  

While the Supra eventually became the only surviving (and most powerful) nameplate of the three, it wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for the Celica. 

1971 Toyota Celica - Jay Leno's Garage

As a result, the Toyota Celica was, and still is, one of the most iconic Toyotas ever made, and is probably the only car from a Japanese brand that posed a legitimate threat to the Ford Mustang during the 1970s in the American market. That’s despite having a smaller engine displacement and smaller dimensions. 

So, what made the Celica so great? 

Toyota Celica: The most influential sports car Toyota ever made 

As said in the intro, the Celica was initially Toyota’s answer to the Ford Mustang. While the Ford pony car was based on the Falcon sedan, the first-generation Celica coupe was in-turn based on the Toyota Corona sedan. So, like the Mustang, the Celica was created by using a mass-market sedan as the basis of a performance vehicle. This allowed Toyota’s production facilities to save resources as they didn’t need to retool in order to produce the Celica.

A picture of the first-gen Toyota Celica

The first-generation Toyota Celica 

In its most recognizable configuration, the first-gen Celica came with a 3-door liftback coupe body style. Toyota coined the term “liftback,” in order to emphasize the fastback hatchback design of the Celica. Toyota even used the Liftback term to market the Celica in the North American market. 

Like its rivals, its engine was mounted on the front, and power was sent to the rear. The highly coveted GT versions were powered by the 1.6-liter DOHC 2T-G which made up to 125 horsepower and 147 Nm of torque. For those who are unaware, the said engine was then replaced by the equally famous 4A-GE in the 1980s.

From 1977 to 1981, then came the boxy 2nd-generation Celica, which now mostly used Toyota’s R-series engine. In 1978, Toyota also released the Celica Supra, which eventually split off to become the Toyota Supra Mark I. And yes, the Supra Mark I was essentially a Celica with a straight-six engine. 

>>> Related: The Top 5 greatest Toyota cars ever made!!!

A picture of the 2nd-gen Toyota Celica in the desert

The second-generation Toyota Celica

By 1981, Toyota introduced the third-generation Celica. It still exclusively used inline-4 engines, and still kept the same front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. It was, however, given a drastic redesign.  

By 1982, the third-generation Celica Turbo (Celica GT-T) was introduced. Its engine was a 1.8-liter inline-4 paired to a five-speed manual gearbox, with a limited-slip differential. The said version was then updated to meet the requirements of the now-infamous Group B Rally Car division in the World Rally Championship (WRC).

A picture of the 3rd-gen Toyota Celica for Group B Rally

The Group B Rally-spec Toyota Celica third-generation

The new homologation models were called the GT-TS. Under its hood is a 178 horsepower 4T-GTE engine. The Group B version used the same engine, but it made a whopping 320 horsepower. Sadly, only 200 GT-TS units were made.  

In 1985, Toyota updated the Celica once again. Now in its fourth generation, it shed the Toyota A Platform and instead used the Toyota T platform together with the Corona. That said, the Celica gained a bit of weight, but it did get a front-wheel-drive layout on its GT-Four variants. The rest of the lineup, however, now had a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. The 3S-GTE turbo also made its return, but it was exclusive to the four-wheel-drive ST165 Liftback Celica.

>>> Related: Toyota Crown: The peak of 1990s Japanese luxury

A poster for the 4th-gen Toyota Celica

The fourth-generation Toyota Celica  

This also marked the first time that the 4A-GE was used on the Celica. This version of the said car, however, was exclusive to the Japanese market. Other versions used the Toyota S Series engines. 

In 1990, Toyota replaced the fourth-generation Celica with the fifth-generation version. It came with a rounder design, a better cooling system, and the Japanese-market version even got four-wheel steering. This also marked the first time that a Toyota model was given the Toyota Active Control Suspension, which did a lot to improve the car’s handling.  

The most powerful fifth-generation Celica however, was exclusive to the Japanese market. It made 221 horsepower and 304 Nm of torque. It also had the GT-Four's 4WD system and a limited-slip differential.

The fifth-gen Toyota Celica 

The fifth-gen Toyota Celica

When 1993 came around, Toyota launched the sixth-generation Celica. At that time, the Toyota Supra was already flying high as a sports-oriented model. So, when the sixth-gen Celica came out, many praised it and called it the “mini-Supra,” or “supra-esque.” It now had a longer hood, and anti-lock braking was now standard on all of its versions.  

Toyota even added airbags as well as a CFC-free air-conditioning system. Most famously, this version of the Celica came with the now-iconic four headlamps. Some detractors of this generation of the Celica say that this gave the car a weird appearance. But nevertheless, the looks and the functionality of the sixth-gen Celica's front fascia have won over a lot of takers. 

>>> Related: Check out the Toyota Celica 2016 for sale

A poster for the sixth-gen Toyota Celica

The sixth-gen Toyota Celica

As for its mechanical bits, the lower-spec versions still had a front-wheel-drive layout, while the higher-trim GT-Four came with a four-wheel-drive. At its most powerful, the fifth-gen Celica made 251 horsepower.  

The GT-Four of this generation was also the last Celica to be homologated. Only 2500 homologation versions, however, were built. This allowed Toyota to enter as a Group A car in the 1995 World Rally Championship, but it was subsequently disqualified due to “turbocharger fixing.” 

The last Celica made by Toyota was the seventh generation, which was released in 1999. It only came with the Toyota ZZ series engine namely the 2ZZ-GE inline-4. This version of the Celica only came with a 3-door liftback coupe body style, which exclusively used a front-wheel-drive drive. This, of course, upset a lot of long-time Celica fans. 

A picture of the seventh-gen Toyota Celica on the road.

The seventh-generation Toyota Celica

In the US, Toyota discontinued the sale of the Celica in 2005 due to a lack of sales. In Japan, sales also slumped due to the smaller engine displacement.

>>> Related: Toyota Corolla E90: 33 years old, and still going strong

Toyota Celica: Why Pinoys love the Celica 

While the Philippine market didn’t get the Celica officially, a lot of Pinoy car enthusiasts are crazy about it. It also helped that Filipino racing champions like Dante Silverio raced on Celicas. As such, the car in question created such a lasting impression on local gearheads that even today, many are restoring and even importing Celicas to be raced on local race tracks, and ridden on local roads.

A picture of the Celica GT-Four Rally car

The Celica, especially the GT-Four versions are very versatile platforms

That said, many of you might also be itching to get your hands on one of these cars. For that, check out our car for sale section for the Toyota Celica. Note however that if you’re looking for the earlier-gen versions, you might have to fork over a hefty sum. Most examples sold today were restored, or are begging to be restored. Either way, both will cost you a lot of dough. 

For the sixth-gen versions, however, its used price can range from Php 300,000 to Php 600,000 depending on its condition and variant.  

Do you like the Celica? Would you want Toyota to design a successor or would you rather leave the historic nameplate alone? For more nostalgic articles likes this, keep reading here on Philkotse.com

Know more about Toyota Celica 2021

Toyota Celica

The Toyota Celica is an iconic two-door sports car enjoyed for over 35 years. During its active years, it was one of the legendary Japanese automaker’s best selling models that was constantly revamped to meet the ever-changing demands of driving. It features a striking and sleek exterior finely detailed with precise lines and curves that efficiently aids its proven aerodynamic capability. Inside, it is packed with premium features that guarantee the safety and comfort of its riders. Globally, the Toyota Celica was offered in four powerful variants: the Toyota Celica SX AT, the Toyota Celica SX MT, the Toyota Celica ZR AT, and the Toyota Celica ZR MT.

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Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Author

Cesar is a graduate of AB English with previous experience working as a freelance writer for varied internet publications in-between his former stints in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and later as a First Aid Provider and Training Staff at the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Since childhood, Cesar has been keenly interested in cars. He has learned the ins and outs of these marvelous vehicles and is a competent amateur mechanic who is keen on sharing his knowledge.

Cesar is perceptive of car culture in general – not only in the Philippines but in global regard, as well. His knowledge ranges from the prevalent stories and trends among car enthusiasts around the world, to closely following the latest local and international developments in the automotive industry.

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