Toyota’s Celica was one of the first steps in its intermittent relationship with sports cars. Although their history includes some prominent cars like the 2000GT and Sports 800, it must be hard for this manufacturer of automotive appliances to understand why people would want their cars to have more style, better handling, and more soul than the average family sedan. It’s the same as Frigidaire or Maytag trying to make a more engaging washing machine or refrigerator – their core virtue is reliability and getting the job done without requiring much attention. Making those things interesting would be like creating a phone that people would want to interact with all day long without ever putting it down. But sometimes a rogue engineer or marketer at Toyota gets their idea into production, and that’s how we got this 1972 Toyota Celica ST for sale for $4000 in San Mateo, CA.
Okay, so it’s based on the sensible shoes Carina sedan, but the Coke-bottle styling, elegant roofline (which is well-highlighted by the white vinyl top) and cues appropriated from American muscle cars made for a smart little coupe. Unfortunately, the handling didn’t live up to the design’s promise, in spite of fully independent suspension, but with the growing popularity of the Japanese classic car scene, upgrades are available.
This particular car looks like a decent basis for a rolling project – many survivors have been hopped up with modifications of dubious taste, typically involving coil-over suspension, oversized wheels, and modern paint colors. In its favor for rolling project status, it’s now running after spending 10 years sitting, and looks to be largely intact and complete. Pulling that white vinyl roof could be one of the first improvements, though you should assume the seller just got the car running, but didn’t do things like replace brake lines, hoses, fluids, and ignition bits, not to mention those raised-white-letter tires. Rust is quite likely too, so you’ll want to take care of that at the same time you attend to the front and rear impact damage – neither is very heavy, but you’ll have to fix/replace the bumpers, trunk lid, and probably more. That said, Celicas with their original 18R-C and 4-speed manual aren’t exactly growing on trees – is it good enough to start?