Celestial Pony: Toyota’s First-Generation Celica


Although the early Carina shared some exterior sheet metal with the contemporary T80 Corona, the first-generation Carina/Celica platform was mechanically quite different. Toyota assigned the Carina/Celica a different chassis code, signified by the letter “A” (A10 for the first Carina, A20 for the first Celica) rather than “T” for the Corona.

Since the first-generation A-platform cars were developed more or less concurrently with the second-generation (E20) Corolla and Sprinter, their engineering teams compared notes and looked for opportunities for mechanical commonality between those platforms. (It’s worth noting that even in the sixties, Toyota was already using a platform team model for product development. The chief engineer of the original Celica and Carina was Tatsuo Hasegawa, who had also been chief engineer for the first-generation Corolla project; Shiro Sasaki, who had been Hasegawa’s assistant on the E10 Corolla, was chief engineer for the E20 Corolla/Sprinter.)

While the contemporary Corona had double wishbones in front, the A10 Carina, A20 Celica, and E20 Corolla and Sprinter all shared a new MacPherson strut front suspension. Unlike the early E10 Corolla, which had used struts with an auxiliary transverse leaf spring affixed to the lower wishbones, the new setup was a fairly conventional coil-over strut layout, located by transverse control arms, radius rods, and an anti-roll bar. This layout was shared across all four cars, although springs and shock absorbers varied by application.

1973 Toyota Celica 1600ST (TA22L) 2T-B engine © 2011 Lino Manuel Araújo Pinheiro (with permission)

Toyota’s pushrod T-system engines debuted in the E20 Corolla in 1970 and were subsequently used by the E20 Sprinter, A10 Carina, A20 Celica, and T100/T110 Corona. The version seen here is the dual-carburetor 2T-B version, which was standard equipment on the export Celica 1600ST and the top engine option on the earliest JDM Carina sedans. (Photo © 2011 Lino Manuel Araújo Pinheiro; used with permission)

The Carina and Celica did not share the E20 Corolla/Sprinter’s rear leaf springs, instead introducing a new five-link layout on coil springs. Although the Datsun 510 Bluebird and Nissan’s Fairlady Z, launched in late 1969, both had fully independent suspension, Toyota was not yet willing to embrace the additional cost of independent rear suspension for mass-market cars. However, the five-link suspension did provide a better compromise between ride and axle location than did Hotchkiss drive. Toyota would eventually apply variations of this five-link layout to most of its RWD cars, including later versions of the Mark II and eventually the Corona and Corolla/Sprinter.

Another major Carina/Celica component shared with the Corolla and Sprinter was the new T-system four-cylinder engine family. While the engine bay of the Carina and Celica could accommodate the physically larger, somewhat heavier R-system fours found in the Corona and Mark II, the T-system engine would be the major focus for JDM cars, accompanied by a new gearbox that would be offered in both four- and five-speed versions.

The T-system four represented a series of interesting compromises. Where the R-system engines at that point were all-iron, with a single overhead camshaft and inline valves, the T engines had aluminum heads, a block-mounted cam with pushrods, hemispherical combustion chambers, and inclined valves with an included angle of 90°. In effect, the T engines traded some extra reciprocating mass for better volumetric efficiency.

1972 Toyota Corolla Levin (TE27) 2T-G engine © 2017 Chris Stephens (with permission)

One of the most successful of Toyota’s various early DOHC performance engines in production terms, the 1,588 cc (97 cu. in.) 2T-G made its debut in the original Celica 1600GT, but later found its way into the Carina, Corolla, and Sprinter. This one is in the engine bay of an early 1972 TE27 Corolla Levin coupe. (Photo © 2017 Chris Stephens; used with permission)

Initially, the new engine would be built in two sizes: the 1,407 cc (86 cu. in.) T, shared with the Corolla and Sprinter, and the 1,588 cc (97 cu. in.) 2T, shared with some export Corollas. (There would later be a 1,770 cc/108 cu. in. 3T version, but it wasn’t available at launch and was never offered in the first-generation Celica.) As was becoming the JDM norm, the T-system engine would be offered in several states of tune, including high-compression, dual-carburetor variants and a high-performance iteration with a DOHC head, designed for Toyota by Yamaha.

What’s noteworthy here is not that any of this was technically groundbreaking, which it clearly was not, but that surprisingly little of it was pre-existing equipment. Of course, Toyota intended to use the new hardware as widely as possible, but the company was effectively creating a mostly new parts bin to build a parts-bin pony car.


Any realistic analysis of the early American pony cars makes clear that their success was as much a matter of effective merchandising as any stylistic or technical merit. Toyota’s marketing approach for the A20 Celica demonstrated how diligently the Japanese product planners had done their homework in that area.

Initially, the A20 Celica was offered in only one body style: the obligatory notchback hardtop, sharing some design themes with the considerably more radical EX-1 concept car Toyota had exhibited at the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show. Aesthetically, the production hardtop was a straightforward synthesis of pony car styling cues. The A20 Celica didn’t look exactly like a Mustang, or for that matter a Camaro or Firebird, but it was clearly of the same genre. A few details, like the quasi-functional pot-metal hood vents, were a trifle over the top (a charge that could also be levied against many contemporary American sporty cars), but in the main, the Celica hardtop was pleasant and tasteful.

1972 Toyota Celica ST hardtop (RA21L) side © 2011 Aaron Severson

In its original form, the first-generation Celica was 164 inches (4,165mm) long on a 95.5-inch (2,425mm) wheelbase and stood 51.6 inches (1,310mm) high. U.S. and Canadian cars with the 1,858 cc (113 cu. in.) 8R-C engine weighed about 2,300 lb (1,043 kg) at the curb. (author photo)

Toyota made up for the lack of body style choices with a copious array of appearance options. Japanese Celica buyers had their choice of four exterior trim levels (ET, LT, ST, or GT), offering ascending degrees of brightwork and stripes that you could further dress up with a vinyl top and, on ST and GT models, color-keyed elastomer bumper covers.

There were also four interior trim levels. The GT had its own specific decor package, but the ET, LT, and ST grades could be ordered with your choice of Basic, Deluxe, or Custom interior trim. Borrowing a page from the Ford Capri‘s merchandising book, these could then be combined with optional S and SW packs that added full instrumentation and other minor features, either with or without a heavy slathering of simulated woodgrain.

1972 Toyota Celica ST (RA21) hood vents © 2011 Aaron Severson

All first-generation Celicas had hood vents, although the cheaper ET and LT grades had slots of a less ostentatious design (adopted by North American Celicas for 1973). Whatever their design, the slots were at least quasi-functional: The vents were open to the outside and the air cleaner snorkel was positioned to draw air from under one set of openings. On cars with crossflow engines, Toyota added an exhaust manifold heat riser under the snorkel to facilitate cold starts. (author photo)

The A20 Celica’s engine lineup didn’t quite approach the convolutions of the European Capri, but even at launch, there were four JDM engine options. Cheapest and thriftiest was the base 1.4-liter T engine, with 86 PS (63 kW) JIS gross, followed by the 1.6-liter 2T in two states of tune: a low-compression, single-carburetor version, rated at 100 PS (74 kW) JIS gross or 102 hp (76 kW) SAE gross, and the high-compression 2T-B version, which used two Aisan downdraft carburetors rather than just one and had gross ratings of 105 PS (77 kW) JIS or 113 hp (84 kW) SAE.

Exclusive to the GT was the DOHC 2T-G engine, the Celica’s opening bid for performance credibility. Along with its high-compression aluminum head and chain-driven dual overhead camshafts, the 2T-G had twin Solex 40PHH side-draft carburetors, made under license by Mikuni, which brought gross output to 115 PS (85 kW) JIS or 124 hp (93 kW) SAE. (Its European net rating was 108 PS (79 kW) DIN).)

1972 Toyota Corolla Levin (TE27) 2T-G engine Mikuni-Solex carburetors © 2017 Chris Stephens; used with permission)

Twin Solex 40PHH carburetors were as much a part of the image of Toyota’s early-seventies JDM performance cars as were their DOHC cylinder heads. Although the carburetors were locally made, supplied by Mikuni under license, Japanese manufacturers made a point of using the European brand name. (Photo © 2017 Chris Stephens; used with permission)

With the 2T and 2T-B engines, you had your choice of four- or five-speed manual transmission or a three-speed Toyoglide automatic (actually a Borg-Warner design built by Aisin). The five-speed was mandatory with the GT and wasn’t offered with the 1400 until the 1972 model year. All but 1.4-liter cars had standard front disc brakes with a vacuum booster. The GT also included a firmer suspension, H-rated tires, an AM/FM radio, power windows, and several other standard convenience features. (Not wanting to leave any bases uncovered, about two years after launch, Toyota added a new GTV grade for buyers who only wanted the performance equipment.)

Careful review of the sales catalog revealed certain limits to the possible combinations of trim and powertrain, but there were more than two dozen available permutations before even glancing at the extensive options list. To ensure that Japanese buyers could fully exploit those possibilities, Toyota instituted a new dealer order entry system that made it possible to take delivery of your personalized Celica within two weeks of specifying the exact combination of features you wanted. It was as close as the Japanese market had yet come to U.S.-style cafeteria ordering.

All of this was arguably overkill, but it’s clear Toyota was looking to make a point: The Celica was a new type of car for the domestic market, not simply another prosaic coupe or hardtop. It was the coming of the personal car, which over the next two decades Japan would embrace almost as enthusiastically as had the U.S.

1973 Toyota Celica 2000GT Liftback (RA25) dealer sticker from Shin Tokyo Toyota Corolla © 2014 Iwao (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

In the Japanese market, the Toyota Celica was sold through the Corolla sales channel, which had its own JDM dealerships. (Photo: “Toyota Celica Liftback, 1973” © 2014 Iwao; used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)


None of this would have mattered if Toyota had fumbled on price. When the Celica and Carina went on sale in Japan in December 1970, the cheapest Celica 1400ET (chassis code TA20) had a list price of only ¥572,000, equivalent to about $1,600 at the soon-to-be-extinct Bretton Woods exchange rate. For context, that was ¥50,000–¥53,000 (about $140–$150) more than a basic Corona 1500 (RT80) or Carina 1400 (TA10) sedan, but actually ¥2,000 less than a second-generation Corolla 1200SL (KE25) coupe.

1974 Toyota Celica 1600GT hardtop (TA22L) overhead view © 2011 Rui Coelho (with permission)

The original TA22 Celica 1600GT was an exciting car in the Japanese market of the early seventies, particularly given the reasonable price. This 1600GT is actually a 1974 European model (identifiable by the fuel filler on the left sail panel), but it retains the original front end shape. (Photo © 2011 Rui Coelho; used with permission)

Availing yourself of the many options naturally pushed the price considerably higher. A four-speed Celica 1600ST (chassis code TA22) with Custom SW trim — similar to early European export models — listed for ¥783,500 (around $2,175) in Tokyo. The twin-cam 1600GT started at ¥875,000 (about $2,430). However, even that was quite reasonable considering what you got for the money. The cheapest Nissan Fairlady Z started at ¥930,000 (about $2,580), and that was for a basic 2-liter model.

The first-generation Celica’s most obvious competitor was the equally new Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO, which debuted about five weeks earlier. Since the Colt Galant sedan was a direct rival for the Carina, it was natural that the Galant GTO coupe would go head to head with the Celica. The Mitsubishi was a fastback rather than a notchback, but the dimensions of the early GTO and A20 Celica were almost identical and their specifications were very similar. The biggest mechanical difference between the two was the Celica’s five-link rear suspension; the Galant GTO had leaf springs in back, supplemented on the top-spec GTO-MR with radius rods.

Although the early A53C Galant GTO was a close match for the TA22 Celica in performance, the Mitsubishi couldn’t equal the Toyota for selection or price. You couldn’t get a 1.4-liter engine in the GTO — Mitsubishi was reserving that for the cut-down Galant FTO that arrived a year later — and there were fewer variations of trim and features. The GTO also cost more than a comparably equipped Celica, particularly the hot GTO-MR, which, like the Celica GT, had a twin-cam engine and five-speed gearbox. The GTO-MR’s Saturn AIII engine claimed a 10 PS (7 kW) advantage over the Celica’s optional 2T-G, but the twin-cam GTO listed for ¥1,145,000, a substantial ¥270,000 ($750) more than its Toyota rival.

1971 Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO-MR (A53C) front 3q © 2013 Martin Reiß (with permission)

Rarest and fastest of Mitsubishi’s A53C Colt Galant GTO fastback coupes was the GTO-MR, which had a DOHC version of the 4G32 Saturn engine making 125 PS (92 kW) JIS gross, a five-speed gearbox, and auxiliary torque arms for the rear suspension. It was offered in only a few specific color combinations, including the one seen here: Kenya Orange with black stripes. Although the Galant GTO remained in production through 1976, the GTO-MR was dropped in August 1972. (Photo: “Mitsubishi Galant GTO MR – 1.6” © 2013 Martin Reiß; used with permission)

As for other rivals, like the new Mazda Capella RE (a.k.a. RX-2), none had the Celica’s image — or Toyota’s marketing budget and JDM dealer base. There just wasn’t much else like the Celica in Japan in 1970–1971.


There were quite a few cars like the Toyota Celica in other markets, but the A20 Celica made a good showing as an export model, thanks in large part to aggressive pricing and generous specification. In the U.S., for example, an early Celica listed for $2,598, undercutting a comparably equipped Opel 1900 Rallye (the federalized Manta A) or Mazda RX-2 by more than $200.

For obvious practical reasons, the JDM Celica’s “Full Choice System” was not available abroad. Early export Celicas were offered in only a few discrete trim levels with very few extra-cost options beyond the dealer-installed variety. Some markets got the Celica 1600LT as a base model, usually offered exclusively with the single-carburetor 2T engine, but many early export cars were the 1600ST, usually fitted with the dual-carburetor 2T-B. By late 1972, the twin-cam 1600GT had become available in at least some overseas markets, as had the five-speed manual and automatic transmission. So far as we’ve been able to determine, neither the ET nor the base Celica 1400 was ever officially exported.

1972 Toyota Celica ST hardtop (RA21L) front 3q © 2011 Aaron Severson

Except for their powertrain and outside mirrors, earliest RA20 and RA21 North American Celicas still looked much like their JDM counterparts inside and out. North American cars had standard front disc brakes (with the dual-circuit master cylinder required by federal law since 1968) and radial tires, which were optional in Japan. (author photo)

Early North American Celicas (chassis code RA20) were sold only in ST form with the equivalent of Custom SW trim: fabric/vinyl upholstery, woodgrain appliqué, and gauge package. Instead of the pushrod T-system engines, the RA20 used the 1,858 cc (113 cu. in.) SOHC 8R-C four from the contemporary U.S.-market Corona, Mark II, and Toyota Hilux, offered only with the Corona’s W40 four-speed gearbox. In September 1971, all those models switched to the bigger 1,968 cc (120 cu. in.) 18R-C engine, a change indicated on Celicas by a new RA21 chassis code. Output was about the same for both engines: The 8R-C had 108 hp (81 kW) SAE gross while the 18R-C had 110 hp (82 kW) SAE gross, or 97 hp (72 kW) on the new SAE net scale.

1972 Toyota Celica ST hardtop (RA21L) rear 3q © 2011 Aaron Severson

On the earliest 1971–1972 A20 Celicas, the fuel filler was concealed behind the panel between the taillights. On hardtops, the filler was relocated beginning with the 1973 model year, but early (1973–1975) Liftbacks retained the original location. Note the original taillight design, which was also changed for 1973. (author photo)

Although Toyota didn’t offer a 1.6-liter Celica in the U.S. or Canada, the TA12 Carina 1600 did make a brief appearance in North America, beginning in 1972. The federalized Carina used the same single-carburetor 2T-C engine as the Corolla 1600, now rated at 88 hp (66 kW) SAE net, along with the T40 four-speed gearbox. The Carina got generally good reviews in the U.S., but buyers didn’t see the point and the model was dropped around the time the T100 Corona debuted for 1974. (The Carina remained available in Japan and some other markets through the end of the century.)

1973 Toyota Celica 1600ST hardtop (TA22L) front seats © 2011 Lino Manuel Araújo Pinheiro (with permission)

The first-generation Celica’s well-designed reclining bucket seats were one of its stronger points, at least in the better-trimmed models. Front seat travel was not abundant for really tall drivers, however, a common shortcoming (literally) of contemporary Japanese cars. (Photo © 2011 Lino Manuel Araújo Pinheiro; used with permission)


Add a Comment
  1. As ever, once a subject is covered by Aaron it becomes the primary go-to source. I’m surrounded by Celicas here in oz, and even then have never noticed the minute changes in these first gens that are explained so completely within this article. That spacer below the grille and turning lights on US examples is an absolute disgrace.

    Superb Aaron!

    1. Thanks, Don. Yeah, the bumper filler is aesthetically egregious. I’m not all that fond of the second-generation Celica, but if had one advantage over the first-gen car, it was that the 5 mph bumpers were integrated into the design rather being hastily tacked on.

  2. Aaron;

    Once again – well worth the wait. I remember being in the Navy in the early ’70s and my fellow sailors were saving their meager pay to buy a Celica. I already had a “competitor”: A 1971 Mazda RX-2. The body was basically a Dodge Colt with different trimwork. It even said “Body by Mitsubishi” on the door sills. If I hadn’t had that Mazda , I would have definitely wanted a Celica. Thanks for the hard work – you and James May should be collaborators!

    1. Thanks!

      I don’t think the Mazda RX-2/Capella was related to the Colt Galant. They do look similar, especially in profile, but that’s not uncommon for mass-market sedans in the same category. (The Capella and Galant were direct competitors in Japan.) Their dimensions aren’t the same and the Capella was mechanically quite a bit different even if you exclude the rotary engine; the early Capella had a five-link rear suspension while the Galant had Hotchkiss drive, for instance.

      1. Entirely different, unrelated cars. The Galant was made by Mitsubishi, the Capella by Toyo Kogyo.

  3. The four-door Carinas shown don’t have American or Canadian license plates, but I think North America got the Carina only in two-door form.

    1. I believe that’s right, although it’s hard to say for sure since the Carina was such a short-lived footnote in North America. In Japan, there were two- and four-door sedans from the start, followed in 1971 by a two-door hardtop. My assumption is that British and European markets generally got only the four-door sedan and we got only the two-door, probably in a vain attempt to differentiate the Carina from the Corona.

      1. Europe had 2 and 4 doors Carina sedans. I can’t remember seeing a coupe though.

        1. I’m not sure the hardtop was exported, at least not during the ’70s. Given Toyota’s fairly limited European market penetration, the Carina hardtop would have competed with the Celica in a way that wouldn’t have made much commercial sense. It was pretty clearly intended for the home market, since the rival Colt Galant had a hardtop and Toyota stores didn’t have anything else very sporty to sell. And of course Toyopet dealers had a Corona hardtop, which I imagine was the real point.

          I would be very interested to hear from someone who lived in Japan and was of car-buying age and means in the ’70s or ’80s as to how the different sales channels — and their thinly disguised variants, in particular, like the Corolla and Sprinter — were perceived by buyers. I understand the business rationale, but consumer perception is harder to judge, coming as I do from a very different national perspective.

  4. Another outstanding job. I was transported back to my teen years (I got my driver’s license in 1975) and remembered being alternately in love with the Celica and the Scirocco, which I was pleased to see make a cameo appearance on your excellent piece.

  5. Excellent article. Just a quick reply in regards to the 18R-E EFI engine. Cars so fitted were actually not a separate trim grade. In the case of the Hardtop models, this engine was available in either LT or ST trim lines. In Liftback models, this was only possible in ST trim (LT trim was not introduced for the liftback until 1976, by which time the 18R-E had been dropped from the engine lineup).

    1. Could I ask for your source(s) on that? I have been wrestling with this particular point because the only 1974 or 1975 JDM brochure I was able to find is specific to the GT and doesn’t list the EFI at all. I did, however, find a brochure for the updated Carina hardtop introduced January 1974, which lists the 2000EFI as a separate mode, and the price list in World Cars 1975 (presumably taken from Toyota sources, since their JDM price lists usually match up exactly with Toyota’s Tokyo figures) indicates the same for the Celica. Brian Long notes the introduction of the 18R-E engine, but not anything about associated trim levels.

      What you’re describing certainly sounds plausible, since that’s essentially what Toyota with the second-generation 1800ST, which came in both carbureted and injected (ST-EFI) forms. If you have a 1974 or 1975 JDM brochure that spells this out, I’ll certainly bow to that; this came down to a gap in the information I was able to find.

      Looking at this again led me to make one other significant correction in the text: When the 2000GT first appeared in April 1973, it appears that it was exclusive to the Liftback through the end of the year. A 2000GT hardtop became available later, but on double-checking the initial press release and the brochures, it looks like it didn’t come along until the facelifted hardtop in January 1974. (The carbureted 18R was available in hardtops from April 1973, so I’m assuming Toyota was looking to emphasize the Liftback’s performance bona fides by letting it have the bigger twin-cam to itself for a while.) I’ve amended the text to so indicate.

      1. No problem at all; I have both the 1974 and 1975 full Celica line JDM brochures I could send photos of to back up that fact. I also can confirm you are correct regarding the 2000GT to be Liftback only originally for 1973.

        1. Ahh, okay, thanks! I’m not being argumentative, mind, just envious — I tried to find full-line 1974 or 1975 brochures without any success. Are the EFI versions described as 2000ST-EFI, the way Toyota did with the A40 cars? Also, do the brochures list a different chassis code for EFI cars? (RA26, perhaps, since that’s the only number skipped out of the A20–A29 sequence?)

          1. To be honest, the hardest JDM Celica brochures to find for my collection were the full model line 1974 and 1975 years, so no doubt I feel your frustration (and the 1975 catalog has AMAZING photos to boot). No distinction is made in either brochure for the EFI models other than being listed as an option for the above subseries mentioned on their corresponding page within an engine/transmission graph. Further details of the engine are listed under the powertrain pages. The 18R-G models listed have the chassis code RA21-ME for the Hardtops and RA25-ME for the Liftback.

          2. Thanks! I would be very interested in seeing those, or at least just the specs/options charts. In the meantime, I’ve amended the text. Regarding the chassis codes, the “M” signifies the five-speed, which as far as I can tell was mandatory with the 18R-E, and the “E” presumably signifies “EFI.” (A “Z” in that position indicated a dual-carburetor engine, a “Q” indicated DOHC, so a 2000GT Liftback was RA25-MQ.)

          3. Regarding the EFI, one possibility that occurs to me is that both of these accounts may be correct. The 18R-E became available in January 1974 and the earlier of your brochures is from November of that year, so it’s conceivable that Toyota initially introduced the EFI as a distinct grade, as they had with the Carina, and then decided some months after launch to extend it to the LT hardtop as well, at which point listing it as an option for LT and ST grades would have made more sense.

            My impression is that the EFI engine wasn’t terribly popular among Japanese Celica buyers. The price lists I have indicate that it was almost as expensive as a 1600GT, but it didn’t have the racy image of the twin-cam/dual-carb cars. If you just wanted a cruiser with more torque than the 1.6-liter cars, the carbureted 18R was cheaper and less complicated — and was available with automatic, which the EFI wasn’t. So, Toyota might have tried to introduce a cheaper version after launch in an effort to pep up sales.

            That’s completely speculative, but it seems plausible. (If we had a January 1974 full-line brochure, we’d have a better idea, but you know the old saying about how you could always have won the war with that one weapon you didn’t have…!)

          4. Send me an email address and I can shoot photos of the catalogs via i-phone for you no problem tonight. Ive got the 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 full lineup catalogs (plus nearly every single one after that except 1980 thru the run of the series, if you are interested in something specific.

  6. Yesterday, March 7, 2017, was the 79th birthday of retired professional race car driver, Janet Guthrie. Back in the 1970s (more than 40 years ago) she drove a first generation Celica in SCCA races and spoke very highly of the car saying that it was the equal of the much more expensive Alfa Romeo Giulia GTV in terms of handling and performance.

    1. The first-generation Celica could be made to handle (and the long-wheelbase cars weren’t bad for the era) with some work, assuming race rules would permit it. People interested in a more in-depth examination of what does and doesn’t work with the short-wheelbase cars, so far as handling goes, should look for an article by Don Sherman in the November 1974 issue of Car and Driver, which tested a variety of common strategies for improving the Celica’s handling to see which did and did not work. (Spoiler alert: many did not.)

  7. Interesting, I always thought Celica taillight design cues aped those of early Mustangs, but looking at that 2000 GT rear shots, it would seem that today’s Mustangs borrow from the 2000 GT’s.

    Somehow if you stare at them bumper and below look like old mustang, and above look like new mustang.

    1. True. The three-light taillight design for 1976 really pushed the Mustang resemblance, though — I have to wonder why they did that.

  8. Another great article! Thanks for transporting me back to 1975 and my first ever new car. I remember it as a sporty and stylish car for the time, and a big step up from what I has been driving. Probably my biggest automotive mistake was trading it in on a Triumph Spitfire that was as big a headache as the Celica was reliable.

    1. Thanks, Frank! I appreciate the kind words.

  9. After scanning My JDM catalog collection again today, I’d like to point out the color keyed elastometer bumpers were actually an option on all Japanese trim lines up to at least February 1972 (per catalog 30105-4702). The option appears to have been changed to ST/GT hardops only by March 1973 (catalog 141016-4803), and was gone completely by November 1974 (catalog 141048-4911).

    1. Interesting — at launch, both the earliest JDM brochure and the initial press release indicate that the elastomer bumper option was available only on the ST and GT. The ’72 models added certain option/model/powertrain combinations that hadn’t been available at launch, so it appears they expanded availability and then rolled it back in 1973. The elastomer covers were gone by January 1974, so far as I can tell, and I’ve found no indication that they were offered on the Liftback at all. All this suggests to me that take-up for the option was not very good and that Toyota finally decided it wasn’t worth the hassles.

  10. I own a 1974 Celica RA25 2 litre EFI liftback can anyone tell me if this motor will run on unleaded fuel I have been told many JDM cars did in the 1970’s

    1. That’s a good question. Toyota advertised the injected 18R-E as a regular-fuel engine (although at 9.1:1, its compression ratio was a little higher than most of Toyota’s ’70s regular-fuel engines), so I wouldn’t assume unleaded fuel would be a concern so far as octane rating goes. However, I’m not a mechanic, so I’d advise that you seek out a 1974 or 1975 JDM owner’s manual (or shop manual) for the Celica, Carina, or Corona, which all offered the 18R-E in identical specification, to see if there are any specific caveats about unleaded or low-lead fuel.

  11. Hats off to an excellent new article by Aaron. It’s always worth the wait. I wish more writers would take the same care as Aaron towards any subject they cover, and be as tolerant and kind to everyone who comments. Please, keep up the great work.

  12. I own a 1st gen. orange 1977 Toyota Celica GT Hardtop Coupe. I was researching pricing to sell it, because I just bought a new car that is more practical for my lifestyle (unfortunately). I’ve owned my Celica for 18 years now and have driven it hundreds of thousands of miles. It was my first and only car until now. It’s been my constant companion for half of my life. Reliable, solid, and soooo much fun to drive!

    I first took it to college and it got me from my hometown of Seattle 225 miles south to Oregon and back regularly. It’s been my daily commuter car to work. I’ve even taken it car camping. My favorite thing is when I find the rare open road in Seattle on a balmy summer night at just the right time, and the perfect feeling of bliss I get as I accelerate, drop it into fourth, and the wind blows through my hair as I listen to the crackly old school radio blasting. Driving it is like entering a portal to the past when things were simpler, and it’s like a time capsule of my youth.

    I still love my Celica so much and selling it is particularly difficult for me. I know, people say it’s just a car but I have so many amazing memories of my youth wrapped up in this piece of metal and glass and vinyl.

    So when I came across this site I got all nostalgic and started reading through this article. As I scrolled by the first picture of the orange 1977 Celica I thought to myself, “Wow, what a nice looking Celica. I wonder where it’s located (since there aren’t many of them left in good condition). It looks really similar to mine.” Then imagine my surprise and delight as I scrolled past the other two photos of the same car, recognized my bumper sticker (I know, bad idea, but I was 18) and the surroundings as my neighborhood! It looks like my Celica because it is! Thanks for making me smile. I think I’ll cry when I sell it (hopefully to someone who will restore it and love it as much as I do!)

  13. I bought a new 1974 Celica GT 5-speed in San Diego. It was yellow with white stripes and tan interior. The fit and finish on that car was excellent. It was a great car for long distance trips and got about 28 mpg cruising at 70 mph. Only drawback was it could have used another 30 hp and in the hottest places we drove it A/C would have been nice. We liked to camp so we sold it and got a 1977 Corolla 5-speed station wagon, another great Toyota. The new 2020 hybrid Corolla is available in other countries as a station wagon (they call it a Touring Sports), but Toyota wants North Americans in an SUV, so they won’t sell it here. As your article mentions in detail, other parts of the world get more variety in their Toyotas. When we bought our Made in Japan Celica who would have guessed that in 2018-19 most models for USA would be built in North America.
    I enjoy your articles.

    1. The trade-off with first-generation Celicas is that the engines that had 20 more horsepower had no more torque (and sometimes less), so for real-world driving it was a bit of a wash. The second-generation car addressed that with the Celica XX/Celica Supra, with a six-cylinder engine, but that cut pretty heavily into the fuel economy that made the four-cylinder Celica so appealing to a lot of ’70s buyers.

      I’m not at all a fan of the trend to mostly SUV lineups for North America — I think the manufacturers that go that way are going to regret it sooner or later, and some may not survive the mistake — but I suppose it is fair to say that American buyers have been rejecting non-SUV wagons for at least 25 years now. If memory serves, the last Corolla wagon Toyota sold here was in the E100 generation in the mid-nineties, and it was not a hot ticket even then.

  14. Dear author , who was the designer of the celica ta22 series .

    1. You know, I was unable to find out in any of the English-language material. (A couple of the Japanese references may have said, but I’m not good at reading Japanese names in kanji.)

  15. In Canada I owned a red 1972 18RC RA21 Celica. You needed both numbers to get parts because of the difference in Japan and North America when it came to model year designation. Mine was the earlier 1972 model so it didn’t have the rubber bumper pads and the fuel filler location moved. I put on wider tires with white spoke wheels, put on headers (a header) painted it chocolate brown with white accents and a mat black hood. I also removed the front grill and replaced all the light with the new (then) rectangular Vega style light and the added fog/driving light between them so that the whole grill area was lights. I wanted to add a turbo but that was $1100 without fittings and for a 17 year old then that was a bit much. I bought it before they were known and went to buy one for my girlfriend 4 years after I bought mine and they wanted twice what I had paid for the same car 4 years later. My eldest son just announced that he may paint his Subaru BRZ, (which also counts as a Toyota GT-86 according to him) the same colours. Now that I have time and a bit more money I wish that I still had it.

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