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Toyota Celica (1970-1977)

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toyota Celica 1970-1977

Toyota Celica (1970-1977)

Fast Facts

  • Books: Toyota Celica & Supra by Brian
    Long. ISBN 978-1-904788-13-3
  • Clubs: Celica-Club,
    Toyota Owners’ Club,
  • Websites: Bob Clark, Bristol 0117 935 3736
    Romans Toyota, Bath
    01225 486222 (Geoff Andrews)
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    Toyota’s original Celica helped to improve European attitudes towards Japanese manufacturers and, like the earlier Datsun 240Z, establish the affordable/fast/reliable template for generations of Japanese spor ts cars to come. The Celica offered a list of standard features that made European competitors, like the Capri 2000GT, Manta 1.6S and Firenza 2000SL, seem positively basic in comparison. There are two basic models to choose from; two-door Coupé and three-door Liftback. The UK got three versions of each – although other levels of trim were available elsewhere. The Coupé came in 1600ST, twin cam 1600GT and 2000ST automatic trim while the Mach 1 Mustang-a-like Liftback arrived early in ‘76 as either a 2000ST or twin-cam 2000GT. The third Liftback variant was essentially a luxury 2000GT featuring air con and a radio cassette. It’s now a question of buying whatever you can find in good condition, but as these are now some of the most collectable Japanese classics around, there are some well-restored examples out there if you look hard enough.

    What to look for

    Corrosion is the key issue here. Japanese cars were almost as rust prone as 1970s Alfas, Lancias and Fiats. Made from poorquality recycled European steel, some cars had advanced corrosion when they first rolled off the boat from Japan. Major rot spots include the wheelarches, tops of the front wings, inner arches and the bottom of the doors. It’s impossible to get original wings and front valances while front bumpers are extremely scarce. Even pattern parts can prove elusive. It’s better news mechanically however, as Celicas are very tough in this regard. However, if a car has done a huge mileage or has been abused, all is not lost as mechanical spares are reasonably available; especially single-cam engines which were used in numerous other applications. The 1600ST and GT plus the 2000GT used a cast iron block mated to an alloy head, so using the wrong anti-freeze can be disastrous as sludge builds up leading to hot spots and, ultimately, head gasket failure. Alloy crossfl ow heads with their hardened valve seats means unleaded fuel causes no problems, although the 2-litre ST has a cast-iron head, so it can’t be run on unleaded unless converted.

    Values

    Prices start at £1000 for an MOT’d car requiring much TLC, while a show stopper can go up to £9000 if it’s a GT or £5000 for an ST. If you’ve got a budget of around half these fi gures you can bag yourself a good, usable classic. But first-generation Celicas are now hard to fi nd; your best bet is to join the Toyota Enthusiasts’ Club, then keep an eye on their magazine classifieds (and ours of course-ed). With a limited number of these cars left and many of them in club members’ hands, the Toyota EC will often be able to verify their history.

    Driving one

    Despite having MacPherson struts up front and a live rear axle located by four links and a Panhard rod, the Celica was considered dynamically poor with a tendency to understeer dreadfully once the relatively high cornering speeds had been breached – a situation not helped by the vague recirculating ball steering. In late 1975, the Celica’s wheelbase was lengthened by 2.7in which improved – but didn’t cure – this handling malady.

    However, the Celica was praised for its light and precise controls. The gearbox and clutch are particularly easy to use and while the engines are smooth they get increasingly thrashy at high revs, albeit offering eager performance with surprisingly good fuel economy.

    The single-cam, single-carb 2000ST is slower and thirstier than the 1600ST Coupé though, and while the 2000GT offers stronger performance, it’s a softer car set up for relaxed grand touring. With its longer stroke engine, it’s also less keen to rev than the 1588cc units. With the 1600GT quicker yet more economical than the 1600ST, it’s the pick of the bunch. 

    Evolution

    12/70

    First generation Celica goes on sale in Japan.

    5/71

    1600ST two-door coupé introduced to Britain qith 86bhp. Initially available as a four-speeder only, it’s known as the TA22.

    12/71

    Five-speed gearbox now optional

    6/74

    1600ST gets bigger brakes and a sealed cooling system. The wheelarches are more flared while the seats are now cloth and PVC.

    9/74

    1600GT with 2T-G twin-cam 100bhp engine introduced, using ST bottom end and still designated TA22. Standard features include a fi ve-speed gearbox, LSD, twin carbs

    9/75

    Wheelbase increased from 7ft 11.5in to 8ft
    2.2in. Celicas now designated TA23 and get
    new outer panels – but look almost identical.

    1/76

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