Celica: 50 years of history, 7 generations of just epic.
Today marks the 50th birthday of the Celica and in order to celebrate this, here’s an article which talks about the entire history of the Celica!
Written by: Rahil Hashmi
To put it simply, the Celica is an icon. Even if you don’t know a thing about cars, you know about the Celica. Today, the Celica turned 50 and I tried to figure out a way of celebrating this. I pondered for hours on end until I realised: the only thing that can truly convey the importance of the Celica is the Celia which is why I’m going to give you all a bit of a history lesson...
It’s 1970- the Boeing 747 just made its first successful commercial flight but the same can’t be said for Apollo 13...
But Boeing and NASA were not the only ones that wanted to fly. You see, there was this car company called Toyota and three years prior, they released the most gorgeous car to have come out of Japan: the 2000GT.
Image credit: Supercars.net
It was Japan’s first supercar and my oh my, was it a good start. With its swooping lines tied together with its simple design, it is no surprise to see that the 2000GT is worth millions today.
Toyota realised that they had wooed people across the globe with the 2000GT and they knew that if they released another sporty car which is why, at the 1970 Tokyo Motor Show, they did. The original Celica was based on the EX-1 which was a concept that Toyota had unveiled back in ‘69 and the result was absolutely revolutionary. For the first time in history, not only had someone produced something to compete with the Mustang, someone had actually managed to trump it.
Like the Mustang, the Celica was supposed to be something to help paint a better picture of the brand; not something that would be bought by hundreds of thousands of people. You could purchase two different versions of the Celica: the LT and the ST- the ST was more powerful than the LT as it had 1.6L a 2T-B engine which had two down fraught twin barrel carburettors which transalted to 105hp which is why it was more expensive but this didn’t really matter as people didn’t buy Celicas purely because of the power, no. They bought them because they were and still are special.
The Celica landed in North America in 1971 in the form of a 1.9 litre 8R variant.
1974 then saw the addition of the Celica GT- this was the most expensive and the best Celica at the time. The GT got underbody spoilers, electric windows, air conditioning, a new front grill along with a sea of other features that were nothing short of mind-boggling at the time!
Image credit: The Daily Drive
With all of these cool new things, the Celica was crowned “Import Car of the Year” in 1974, 1976 and 1977 by Motor Trend.
After Toyota had seen the success of the 1st generation Celica, it would have been stupid for them to have not made a 2nd one.
Image credit: SpeedDoctor.net
Production began in late 1977 and deliveries started the next year. Although the car ended up sticking up with the same trim level system (ST and GT), all Celicas were now powered by an all-new 2.2L engine and, once again, it was a success. It offered performance, luxury and style- all for a good price. The second generation Celica went on to follow the footsteps of its older brother by winning the Motor Trend “Import Car of the Year” in 1978.
Toyota then wanted to offer the thrills of the Celica to people that wanted a bit more practicality which is why they announced a four-door version in 1980. Named the Celica Camry, the car was just a Carina with Celica design. Toyota realised that this wasn’t working which is why they’d decided to just let the Camry become its own model roughly two years later.
Yet again, Toyota were successful with the Celica so they decided to, well, you know what I’m going to say.
Image credit: Curbside Classic
The third generation went into production back into ‘82 and the changes were drastic. Gone was the signature slanted rear- instead, the Celica had now adopted a shape similar to others cars of its class at the time. Originally, they were powered by 2.4L engines but then in late 1982, the first ever turbocharged edition was released. Dubbed the GT-T, it had a 1.8L 3T-GTE engine and, also because of its lightweight body and sublime handling, the Celica’s destiny consisted of three words: World Rally Championship.
Image credit: Rally Group B Shrine
In order to meet the FISA Regulation for Group B cars, 200 units of the car had to be made so Toyota developed another Celica as a base for the rally car- it was the GT-TS.
Fun fact: whilst many of the other manufacturers used AWD cars, the Celica had all of its 380 horsepowers going to the rear wheels.
Like the third generation, the fourth generation was not at all similar to its predecessor but this wasn’t a bad thing.
I say this because, when it was released in 1986, the car had an all-new body, FWD system, 2.0L engine and independent suspension- this made the Celica a properly good car to drive.
The STs and GTs had 116hp which may seem good but it was nothing in comparison to the GT-Four. It had a turbocharged engine which pushed out 190hp and, for the first time with a Celica, this power went to all four wheels. Originally, the GT-Four was built exclusively for the Japanese market but then it was exported in 1988- customers in the US could finally experience the best ever Celica.
Oh, and don’t think that the Celica stopped rally-racing because it didn’t. The ST165 GT-Four appeared for the first time at the WRC in the 1988 Tour de Corse and it went on to finish in 6th position. The 4th gen Celica then got its first WRC victory in the 1989 Australian Rally!
Image credit: SnapLap
In my opinion, although generations 2-4 were good, they are nowhere near as iconic as the fifth generation that landed in 1989. Gone were the jagged edges of generation 4 because now the Celica had chosen to adopt a much sleeker a curvier shape.
Image credit: Test Drive Junkie
Moreover, luxury features that were only seen on high-end cars were now available on the Celica. This included anti-lock brakes, leather interiors, 10-speaker sound systems, power-operated seats and you could even get your car with a sunroof.
And don’t begin to think that the Celica turned into some sort of limousine that drove around like an elephant because it didn’t. The fifth generation now had a 200hp turbocharged engine which made it the most powerful road-going Celica that Toyota had ever made.
In 1990, two more variants were added to the lineup: the GT-Four A and the Convertible- the Celica Convertible of 1990 is easily my favourite Celica.
Image credit: Consumer Guide Auto
The sixth generation may not be the best Celica but it is certainly the most reconisable one.
At the start of gen 6 production in ‘94, you could only purchase the Celica in two variants: the ST and GT... if you were in the USA because if you lived in Japan, Australia, Europe or Britain, you could get the All-Trac and GT-Four Celica. Both of these produced between 240-250hp. The final version of the GT-Four included never-seen-before features for the Celica such an aluminium bonnet and Super Strut Suspension.
Toyota ended up entering the GT-Four in the WRC but they only ended up competing for one year as they were banned after the Celica ended up winning a race as they weren’t complying with the turbocharger regulations.
Image credit: SnapLap
In 1995, Toyota decided to bring back the Celica Convertible and the following year, buyers were given the option to purchase side skirts to improve the car’s overall aerodynamic effiency.
Toyota then looked at their lineup in 1998 and realised that they needed to simplify it which is why all Celicas sold from 1998 in North America were GT models.
In 1999, Toyota revealed their next concept car and it was called the XYR- this was the concept for the seventh and final generation of the Celica.
Image credit: Supercars.net
In 2000, production began. The Celica was now apart of Toyota Project Genesis and no, it wasn’t supposed to start a war with robots. It was actually an effort to get more young people driving Toyotas.
Image credit: Autoblog
The most powerful variant came in 2002 but the it only had 180hp and it was at that moment we all realised the Celica’s time had come to an end... well I didn’t know because I was born in 2006 but whatever.
July 2004- this is the date where Toyota announced that the legendary story that was the Celica was coming to an end. The last Celica left the production line on April 21, 2006. Not only did this mark the end of the Celica but it marked the end of the Japanese sports car.
It’s been 14 years since the end of the Celica and today actually marks the 50th anniversary of the car.