Heavenly RA42 – 1978 Toyota Celica GT Liftback

Here’s a car from the “wow, that still exists?” files. Many low and middle specification Japanese cars only lasted as long as their bodies, or in low-moisture/salt states, as long as their drivetrains would go on. And while the drivetrains kept going, the paint faded, the upholstery tore, and the interior plastics decayed, the dashboards forming their own miniature Hayward, San Andreas, and Cascade faults – hit that railroad crossing fast enough and the whole thing might come apart! Inexplicably, lone automatic examples of these cars seem to pop up every so often, just waiting for someone to pick them up, polish them, and photograph them with good lighting and a high-resolution camera before flipping at an exorbitant price through an online auction. Here’s a prime candidate for that treatment – this 1978 Toyota Celica GT Liftback for sale for $4000 in Longview, WA.

1978 Toyota Celica GT left front

Okay, so the price is already on the higher side to be turned into instant profit. But even if you don’t (or won’t) do an immediate flip to try out your own version of the “old car plus armor-all equals profit” equation, it’s not very often you’ll get the chance to experience a nearly-new version of a late 1970s everyman’s car for this little money. And Toyota’s 2.2-liter 20R engine will go forever, as evidenced by the seller’s first Celica, which went 204K miles. The feature car is said to currently have under 44,000 miles, though it only has a 5-digit odometer. Note the misaligned passenger-side headlight surround, though there’s no visible evidence of body damage – perhaps it’s just a broken bit of plastic.

1978 Toyota Celica GT right rear

Said to be the seller’s son’s car, it’s now been replaced by a newer car. And honestly, anything newer will be faster, since this one is throttled by a 3-speed automatic. But your slow speed will allow passers-by to admire the brushed aluminum b-pillar, sporty contrasting deep-dish-look grey steel wheels, immaculate paint and park-bench bumpers. There’s definitely something amazing about seeing an older, usually-beaten older car in such good condition, and you’d no doubt end up talking to many folks at gas stations who remember their own.

1978 Toyota Celica GT interior

This closer-up shot of the interior shows just how clean the car is. Why was a radio with no cassette deck ever a good option? If you’re going after a true orphan, find a USGP or 10th Anniversary version, both of which offered a AM/FM tuner, separate cassette deck, and separate equalizer as their most prominent options. There is possibly some damage around the seat hinge, but everything else looks nearly new.

1978 Toyota Celica GT engine

The engine looks similarly clean, supporting the low mileage claim. What happens to the air intake if you drive through a puddle or fill the wheel wells with snow – does that restrict the engine’s air flow? Said to be ready to jump in and drive, this is a usable classic, particularly if you have an manual-phobe in your family.


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2 Responses to “Heavenly RA42 – 1978 Toyota Celica GT Liftback”

  1. pickles Says:

    One of the cleanest Japanese designs ever. So pure. The side mirrors are super cool. Dig it.

  2. Nate Jasper Says:

    Picked one up just like this the other day. My first rear wheel drive car! It’s a ton of fun to drive. Good article btw. Very accurate 🙂

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