The Toyota Celica is a sports car manufactured and marketed by Toyota, a Japanese car manufacturer, from 1971 to 2006. Produced across seven generations, the Celica was powered by various four-cylinder engines, and body styles included convertibles, liftbacks, coupés, and notchback coupés. Like the Ford Mustang, the Celica concept was to create a sports car by attaching a coupe body to the chassis and mechanicals from a high-volume sedan, in this case, the Toyota Carina. However, some journalists thought it was based on the Corona due to some shared mechanical parts.
History of the Toyota Celica
First Generation Toyota Celica (A20, A30; 1970–1977)
Initially released overseas, the first-generation Celica came in an LT version (featuring a 2T carbureted four-cylinder engine) or an ST version (featuring the more powerful twin Solex-carburetor 2T-B engine). Toyota was already making changes less than four years later, as they quickly introduced their GT model, which featured a DOHC twin-Solex carburetor 1600 cc engine and a number of features, including tinted windows, air conditioning, and power windows (don't forget that this is the 1970s we're talking about). Soon they came out with the GTV (with the 2T-G engine), which was essentially a lower-end version of the GT.
When the Celica finally hit North America in 1971, the initial ST featured a 1.9L 8R engine, and these engines were soon increased to 2.0L 18R (1972-74) and 2.2L 20R (1975-77). The GT and LT models soon followed, and by 1977, Toyota had already produced one million units. The popularity led to the Celica receiving Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year" award in 1974, 1976, and 1977.
Second Generation Toyota Celica (A40, A50; 1977–1981)
By 1978, Toyota released their second-generation Celica, again available in either the ST or GT trims. Both models featured a 2.2L engine, and the brand made sure to improve the vehicle's "safety, power, and economy." The company also released a pair of series for the second-generation car to be categorized into. Series A had rounded headlights and chrome bumpers, while Series B featured square headlights and black rubber bumpers. The only other change the Celica underwent during its second generation was in 1980, when a four-door version was released. Called a Toyota Celica Camry (which was essentially a mashup of the two cars), the vehicle didn't last particularly long, as the Camry was eventually upgraded to its own specific entity.
Third Generation Toyota Celica (A60; 1981–1985)
The third generation came into production in 1982. Styling was changed considerably from previous models and power was now provided by 2.4L engines.
In September 1982, the first Celica turbo was launched in Japan. The GT-T has a 1.8L 3T-GTE engine. In order to meet the FISA Regulation for Group B Rally Car to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC), 200 units of Celica GT-TS were built. These were the basic car for Group B Celica Twincam Turbo (TA64) which was built and raced by Toyota Team Europe. In 1983, Toyota added the GT-S model to the Celica line to re-inject the sport's image that Celica had lost as it grew larger and heavier with each subsequent model. The GT-S included larger wheels and tires, fender flares, sports suspension, and a sports interior including special seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. Minor changes were given in late 1983 for 1984 model year, and distinguished by the redesigned front end, with fully-closed retractable headlights. Side vents, Hood, grille, tail lights,and bumpers were also new. The GT-R and GT-TR (turbo) were added to the Japanese line up. Fuel injection became standard on all North American Celica, therefore the 22R engine became 22R-E. The GT-S Convertible, built by American Sunroof Corporation in California, was released in 1984.
Fourth Generation Toyota Celica (T160; 1985–1989)
The fourth-generation Celica, released in 1986, featured the most changes to the car during its existence. A new 2.0L four-cylinder engine sat inside a revamped, rounded exterior. All of the cars offered front-wheel-drive and four-wheel independent suspension, and the ST and GT trims could produce around 116 horsepower (the GT-S could produce 135 horsepower on the same engine). The GT-Four (marketed as the All-Trac Turbo in the USA) was released in Japan in 1986. The turbocharged GT-S 2.0L engine could max out at 190 horsepower, and, as TopSpeed.com points out, the model quickly became Toyota’s choice for their rally car. Speaking of rally cars, the Celica truly made a name for itself in the motorsports community. The car first competed in a World Rally Championship in 1972, finishing ninth in the RAC Rally. Ten years later, the Celica got its first victory, winning the 1982 Rally of New Zealand. The Celica was dominant after that, winning six straight WRC events in Africa between 1983 and 1986.
Fifth Generation Toyota Celica (T180; 1989–1993)
The fifth generation was ushered in with the 1990 Toyota Celica. Similar to their other generations, Toyota looked to upgrade the car’s style and power. The All-Trac model quickly became the most expensive Celica yet, as the luxury car features a leather interior, a ten-speaker audio system, and a sunroof. Of course, the inclusion of a turbocharged engine that could produce 200 horsepower only helped the vehicle’s popularity.
Sixth Generation Toyota Celica (T200; 1993–1999)
The sixth-generation Celica was the longest lasting, spanning from 1994-1999. While the vehicle was only available in the ST (including a 1.8L 7A-FE engine) and GT (with its 2.2L 5S-FE engine) trims, potential buyers could opt for the “sports package.” Meanwhile in Japan, Toyota released the upgraded GT-Four, featuring a 3S-GTE engine that could produce around 250 horsepower. Toyota experimented with a new convertible version of the car, and the company later found ways to slightly upgrade the driving experience, like adding side skirts to improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
Seventh Generation Toyota Celica (T230; 1999–2006)
The seventh generation was the final hoorah for Celica, lasting from 2000 to 2006. Teaming up with Toyota Project Genesis, the brand was hoping to appeal to a younger generation. The result? The car was sharp and curvy, and the shorter length/longer wheelbase reduced both front and rear overhangs. The GT trim was still around, featuring a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine that was capable of reaching 140 horsepower. There was also the GT-S, which featured a more powerful 1.8L 4-cylinder engine that could produce around 180 horsepower. As rival companies attempted to compete with the Celica (like, for example, Honda’s release of the Acura RSX), Toyota added some slight upgrades during its final years in production. These changes focused mostly on the exterior, as the front bumper was revamped and the tail lights were revised.
In 2005, Toyota retailed the Toyota Celica with a starting MSRP of $17,670 for the base GT (Manual) Hatchback model, rising to its top-of-the-line GT-S (Auto) Hatchback at around $23,035.
- GT (Manual) Hatchback - $17,670 ($26,853 in 2023)
- GT (Auto) Hatchback - $18,470 ($28,068 in 2023)
- GT-S (Manual) Hatchback - $22,335 ($33,942 in 2023)
- GT-S (Auto) Hatchback - $23,035 ($35,006 in 2023)
Features of the Toyota Celica
From the outside, the Celica showed a restyled front fascia, which received a new bumper and a slim air intake. In addition, the hood was modified to fit the new upgrades while the headlights got new lenses. Moreover, on the sides, the front fenders, the door panels, and the rear quarter panels sported an ascending sculptured line that visually connected the front wheel wells to the rear ones. Finally, at the back, the taillights received a smoked look, and the blinkers didn't sport amber lenses anymore but red.
Inside, there was the same interior, with a three-spoke steering wheel and an instrument cluster where analog dials and an LCD shared the same area. Yet, the carmaker claimed that there were some improvements that made the car more focused on the driver. It still featured four seats, with a 50/50 split-folding rear bench where only children could sit.
Specs and Performance of the Toyota Celica
- 1.8 L 1ZZ-FE I4
- 1.8 L 2ZZ-GE I4
The Toyota Celica's 1.8L engine delivers 192 hp (141 kW) at 7,800 rpm and 133 lb-ft (180 Nm) of torque at 6,800 rpm. Toyota marketed the Celica as a front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicle, and it was available with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Toyota Celica accelerates from 0–60 mph (0–97 kph) in 7.4 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph (225 kph). Dimension-wise, the Toyota Celica measures 4,335 mm (170.7 in) long, 1,735 mm (68.3 in) wide, and 1,310 mm (51.4 in) high. Its wheelbase measures 2,600 mm (102.4 in) and has a curb weight of 2,403–2,601 lbs (1,090–1,180 kg).
The Toyota Celica first saw the light of day in 1970 and remained on the road for a remarkable 7 generations. Unfortunately, increased competition led to decreased sales until finally, in 2005 Toyota announced that its production would be discontinued within the US market - with April 2006 marked as the last time any new Celicas rolled off production lines.