Quick, slick and sexy – Toyota’s Celica is 50 year old and simply the best selling Asian sports coupé ever produced.
Rewind half a century when Steve McGarrett was leading the Hawaii Five-O chase and Columbo was still running his newly acquired Peugeot 403 rag-top in, and you’ll more than likely remember the trendy looking Toyota Celica hitting the streets.
Seven generations and an impressive 4.1 million units later, the mighty Celica remains a firm favourite among Japanese automotive purists.
First Of Many
The first TA22 lived up to its Spanish derived ‘heavenly’ or ‘unearthly’ translation for Celica in spades, as the tenacious 4-seater proved elegance and beauty could easily be achieved without conventional B-pillars and with fully retractable side windows.
Classic rear-wheel-drive, independent suspension and a well-designed chassis coupled with a punchy high-revving 4-cylinder engine were the essential ingredients in an extraordinary mix of unrestricted everyday suitability and the agility of a thoroughbred racer – 50 years ago. Although presented in the fall of 1970 to coincide with the start of Toyota Germany, it was 12 months before German buyers could get their hands on the first Celica.
So, how do you make a sports coupé even more desirable? The simple answer was to give the newly debuting 1972 Toyota Celica GT two overhead camshafts, a pair of thirsty carburettors and in the process make light work of some German V6 and English V8 racers.
The facelifted Celica (TA23) introduced in 1976 was even more spirited and available in the ‘avant-garde’ Celica Liftback, developed as a sporty multi-use vehicle in response to demand from outdoor-oriented customers.
It could also be ordered with an optional 2.0-litre top-of-the-range engine and the iconic type code Toyota 2000GT as a reference to the first and now legendary Japanese super sports car of the same name from 1965. Similar design and styling continued as the Celica TA40, introduced in 1978, joined the Jap car ranks.
The third Celica (TA60) made its debut in 1981 with the first Japanese large-scale series 16-valve engine under wedge-shaped coupé contours. Anyone who wanted an even more powerful Gran Turismo could buy the top model Celica Supra 2.8i with 125 kW / 170 hp six-cylinder in Germany.
Here Comes The Sun
Now, for the first time, there was also a convertible conversion built by Griffith (USA) or Tropic (Germany) and marketed through various Toyota dealerships as the Celica ‘Sunchaser’.
The fourth Celica (T160) marked the change to modern front-wheel drive in 1985. Alternatively, there was also the first Celica GT-Four, which had permanent all-wheel drive and sovereignly catapulted Toyota to WRC victories on rally tracks and Carlos Sainz to the throne of the 1990 world rally champion.
Thus, the Celica crowned his rally career in 1972 started under Ove Andersson, then Achim Warmbold secured the German championship in 1980 and gave the Celica Twin Cam Turbo, which releases 272 kW / 370 PS, the reputation of a “King of Africa”, because the reliable Toyota was considered to be almost unbeatable on dust and mud.
This winning streak was increased again by the fifth Celica (T180), which from 1992 to 1994 won the then unbelievable number of three WRC drivers ‘titles and two titles in the manufacturers’ championship.
The sixth Celica (T200), presented in 1993, was even more curvaceous and at the same time lighter and laid foundations for the seventh Celica (T230) from 1999.
The amazing and full Toyota assemblage carefully brings together the 17 illustrious classics of the Celica dynasty, from the early Celica ST (TA22) to the powerful Celica Supra. In addition, Germany’s largest Toyota collection presents almost 60 other models from the company’s history.
The diverse milestone Celica collection can be seen in full at the Toyota Collection in Cologne, Germany.