Toyota Celica LB Turbo

A brief history of a forgotten racer

Many members of the male population made their first acquaintance with four-wheelers through scale models. While growing up, the game often grows into love, which is reinforced by high-octane magazines, shows, movies, as well as video games of racing and driving on the road to a real car. Big dreams start the small ones.

Among them was an unusual racing car, the inscription of TOYOTA CELICA was poured on the bottom of the plastic chassis.

Low, unrealistically wide, flowing lines, with numerous spoilers in dramatic red with yellow wheels, in the children's eyes it seemed like the carriage of some superhero. He instantly became a pet and favorite toy, always ready for a quick rush at the toddler's hand.

After a short "racing career" on carpets and furniture in which Celica earned some scratches in some places and lost a few stickers, the young boss, at the age of seven, became determined to keep all his toys. Little Red Toyota athlete spends his retirement days in a cabinet, originally packed, where his society consists of numerous miniatures ranging from 1:64 to 1:18, of which nearly 95% are in perfect condition, intact. Surrounded by famous real-world models, Red Celica still remained mystical, without any resemblance to coupes that could be seen on our streets.

It acted mostly as a figment of the exuberant imagination of designer toy maker Burago, who, enchanted by extreme tuning, spared no spoilers.

However, after a thorough search, Google proved the opposite. It turned out to be a wonderful miracle that the racing model that really existed was used as a role model for the showcase. but only a few texts and a couple of photographs from more than three decades ago testify to it. In the late 1970s, the Toyota Celica LB Turbo, a car of the full name, fought a fierce battle against the competition of sound names on European tracks. The question remains why is such an interesting car left behind in history?

And I will tell you why.

Toyota, in addition to flattering recognition of the world's most valuable automotive brand, boasts the fact that in the past 45 years it has participated in almost all the major competitions in the world: Formula 1, 24h Le Mans, WRC, Dakar Rally, Grand Am, Indy Car, and as of late, even at NASCAR.

A well-known story of Japanese persistence, effort and maximum dedication to the task and present here, and by unwritten rule, the journey to the stars was thorny.

The first steps in the sports car world were made by Toyota in the 1960s, with the launch of the first athlete and large coupe to make a notable run on the track. Both models, although produced in small batches, they made it clear to Western competitors that they could expect a serious threat from the land of the rising sun in the near future.

In 1970, with the advent of the Celica paradise model, that came true. An affordable sports car, of a pleasing design, was one of Toyota's major assets in penetrating markets outside Japan. With its two body variants: Coupe (with classic trunk) and Liftback (with slanted rear end), because of its great resemblance to the cult American, it is nicknamed the "Japanese Mustang".

In a very short time of popularity, it successfully found its place in the high-performance segment, and by 1976, the millionth copy was produced. In parallel with its expansion into the international market, Toyota decided in the early 70's to become more involved in the sport of motoring. Celica, with the Corolla sedan, began participating in the rally championships with numerous successes. However, an adequate opportunity was sought on which the coupe could compete in some of the most prestigious European indoor track competitions.

Based on the new FIA regulations for the '76 season, "Special Production Cars" are eligible to participate in the top Group 5. The specifications of the competition required that only the roof, bonnet and vehicle doors have to be unchanged from the production model, while the rest of the vehicles could be modified.

The width of the vehicle was limited by FIA regulations, but only addressed the dimensions of the street version. To enhance aerodynamics and driving performance, impressive bumper extensions, extended fenders and spoilers made of fiberglass have been added to the bodywork. Because they were only silhouetted to resemble their street versions, the cars of this competition were given the general name “Silhouette racing cars”. Beneath the ultra-lightweight bodywork were four-cylinder engines that backed up hundreds of horsepower with the help of turbochargers.

The centerpiece of Group 5 was the German Touring Car Championship - DRM (Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, the forerunner of today's DTM). The competition is divided into two groups:

Division 1- cars with a capacity ranging from 2L to 4L were eligible

Division 2 - which has cars with a working volume of up to 2L

This typically European competition was dominated by teams of German manufacturers, BMW and Porsche, as well as Cologne Ford, but that was not the reason that would prevent Toyota from competing with its Celica coupe.

Successes on the tracks of the old continent would give the company a reputation in the racing world and a big marketing step for upcoming models. The destinations for the Japanese company were Nürburgring, Hockenheim, Zolder, Avus… However, Toyota would not just walk into the "lions".

The plan was for the Group 5 car to be prepared by the renowned West German Schnitzer Motorsport. Their early racing successes with BMW models, knowledge of competition and European tracks would be key to success for the future Toyota-Deutschland team.

At the end of 1976, the "twins" were delivered to the Schnitzer workshop, two Sport Celica STs in liftback variants ready for radical racing treatment.

He expected the most striking part of the runner's metamorphosis from the outside, by tailoring a special competition suit. Body-kit by competition standards would enhance aerodynamics, and the entire body would be expanded by over half a meter.

Also, a rigorous "diet" ordered the removal of all the pathways of excess interior elements, giving way to protective cages and reinforcements. After extreme work under the hood, two copies of the Celica LB Turbo arrived in 1977.

The final fruit of Schnitzer's work was as spectacular on the outside as under the hood. The fiberglass body extensions gave the once-sweet little Toyota a very massive and raw look.

On the distinctly pointed front end were an imposing vacuum cleaner of impressive size and double round light groups covered with plexiglass. The sides of the vehicle were dominated by huge openings and the tail section was stabilized.

The attractive appearance was also supported by the wire BBS wheels, to which Dunlop tires were "worn." They are only the shape of the roof, a ventilation window behind the windows and taillights could tell the attentive observer that the popular "Mustang Celica" was hiding under the racing suit.

The front of the car was hiding a Toyota regular four-cylinder 18R-G 16-valve unit with fuel injection. Although taken from the batch version, the engine has been significantly modified. The volume was increased to 2,090 cc, which was a requirement for Celica to compete in DRM Division 1.

By installing the KKK turbocharger, the racing Toyota gained an impressive 560 horsepower, which ranked as the largest rival - the Porsche 935. The curb weight was only 860kg, with a top speed of over 300km / h making Celica Turbo one of the fastest cars of its times.

The young but promising Toyota-Deutschland team was supported by strong sponsors. In addition to the parent company Toyota, the patron of the team was the famous German manufacturer of optical equipment Rodenstock, whose many features will be on the car. The Celica LB Turbo twins, competitive and one spare, were completed in early 1977. However, their further refinements missed the first few rounds of DRM.

He made his German-Japanese race car debut on the Hockenheim track on July 30, 1977. Austrian Harald Ertl, driver of the Toyota-Deutschland team, finished 13th in qualifying. Cell LB was surprisingly fast and manageable, however, having to withdraw after the fourth round.

The next race, held at the Zolder motorway, Ertl started from a great seventh starting place, but unfortunately, the third lap also made him and Celica the final. However, optimism still has not disappeared. There is one more race left on the Nürburgring track, one of the most challenging for drivers and cars. In the last round of the '77 DRM Championship. With his spectacular ride, Ertl was able to master all the curves of the legendary runway and break even to fourth place, with his podium escaping. But Celica had another opportunity to show off.

The Group 5 competitors were also awaiting the non-championship ADAC Trophy race at the Zolder track, announced for October. In addition to competing with DRM, Toyota will also receive a number of new rivals, including the Ferrari 365 GTB / 4 Daytona.

After a dramatic 15 laps, Ertl managed to leave all competitors in his rearview mirror and win first place on the Zolder runway. The DRM young Toyota Toyota Celica LB Turbo has come to its first victory! The enthusiasm for the Toyota-Deutschland team has grown and preparations for the upcoming German competition season have begun.

They are twins for the season'78. years painted from the original dark blue to red, but the mechanics remained unchanged.

Mild aerodynamic changes were made by adding a front lip, and the rear end got a new spoiler. Motorist Harald Ertl remained on the Schnitzer team but switched to DRM Division 2 for the BMW 320 steering wheel. The Celica LB Turbo racing is entrusted to Rolf Stommelen, a German driver previously experienced in F1 and 24h LeMans. There was a new big challenge ahead of the team - private DRM teams will perform with the latest, final modification of Stuttgart's 935 long tail. The famous Porsche "Moby Dick", with 750 horsepower, was capable of speeds of over 360km / h.

Despite the high expectations of the Toyota-Deutschland team, there were failures in the tracks one after the other:

1st Zolder 1st Round - The cell pulls in the second round, engine failure

2. Nürburgring - withdrawal after four laps

3. Avus-skipped to prepare for the 1000km Nürburgring race

4. 1000km Nürburgring - Ertl / Strommelen duo wins 6th place at qualifying, but retires due to engine failure and water pump

5. Mainz Finthen - eighth place, behind seven Porsche 935's, including "Moby Dick"

6. Two rounds of competition skipped

7. Hockenheim - Celica retires after a seventh-round accident

8. Zolder 2. round - Celica quits in the first round

Due to disappointing results, it was decided that the team would not participate in the remaining two rounds of DRM, and Toyota's collaboration with Schnitzer Motorsport was suspended. After that season, the German constructors devoted themselves completely to BMW cars, which has brought them much greater successes, which are still lower today.

In 1979, a copy of Celica LB was imported into Japan by TOM'S (Tachi Oiwa Motor Sports), Toyota's official tuning company. The car was given a new chance by participating in the Fuji Super Silhouette Series competition in which JDM models would compete.

Nobuhide founder Tachi, riding Celica, managed to complete only one of the five rounds of the competition, which he even managed to win. The car was soon replaced by a new RA40 Celica designed by Dome and sold in 1981 by a Japanese-German racer.

The new owner, the Trust.Co racing team (known by the GReedy brand), has competed with Schnitzer Celica (painted white) in several competitions without significant results. Japanese motorists Kaoru Hoshino, and Tatsuhiko Kaneumi, followed several times in the top eight on Fuji and Tsukuba.

The aging Toyota was completely withdrawn from the competition when the Trust team acquired the all-new Porsche 956, and shortly after, in 1984, the entire Silhouette car racing series was discontinued.

Very little is known about the two LB Turbo Cells since that time, with the last twin encounter dating back to 1978. The contestant, who moved to Japan, was spotted in 2000 on a scrap heap there, in neglected condition, with faded Trust Team insignia.

We sincerely hope that someone will domesticate a car that once fought against European giants.

The fate of another sister is much better for comfort. Immediately after being excluded from DRM, it was purchased by a then-Toyota dealer for Germany. To this day it is in his possession, in an unrestored condition, as part of a collection of more than 70 classic Japanese-made models.

In order for the story to get a slightly happier ending and a historical injustice corrected, we will tell you a few more facts about the Japanese-German runner. Despite its failure on the tracks, due to its dramatic design, Celica LB Turbo gained great popularity among model and toy lovers. Tamiya Companies, Bburago and many others have produced replicas of 1:12, 1:18, 1:24 and 1:64 for many years. Their price is increasing, especially those from the period when the real model was active in racing.

The great legacy that Schnitzer Celica and other Silhouette racers have left to modern generations is embodied in the Bosozok style of car modification. Robust bumper kits, colossal fender extensions, oversized spoilers, and striking patterns are the epitome of Japanese enthusiasts for former Group 5 heroes.

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