CELICA

History of Toyota sports cars (part 3)

With a name that means ‘Celestial’ or ‘Heavenly’ in Spanish, the minute the Celica turned a wheel in 1970, it was destined to be a star. The Celica was designed to provide drivers with a greater feeling of freedom, combining a practical interior within a sporty and affordable package.

Celestial Celica

Although comfort and ease-of-driving was a priority, the Celica still had to respond in the corners for the real enthusiasts. Thankfully, its independent front and four-link rear suspension setups didn’t disappoint in the tight and twisting turns.

The fourth-generation Celica of 1985 represented a marked change by adopting a new front-wheel drive configuration (replacing the previous rear-wheel drive). Particularly of note was the 1986 release of the GT-Four model, which came equipped with full-time four-wheel drive and potent 185PS DOHC engine – the most powerful 2-litre engine in Japan – and the perfect basis for Toyota’s attack on the World Rally Championship (WRC) title.

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The team didn’t have to wait long for success. Carlos Sainz clinched the drivers’ title in 1990 (the first for a Japanese manufacturer) and took second place in the manufacturers’ championship. In 1992, a new WRC homologated ‘special’ was made called the GT-Four RC (Rally Competition). It went on to seal the WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ title in 1993 and 1994 with Juha Kankkunen and then Didier Auriol, respectively.

Unbeknown to those who witnessed the covers come off, the seventh-generation model of 1999 would be the final interpretation of the Celica. After 35 years, seven distinct generations, numerous motorsport victories and over four million sales, the final page of the Celica story was turned. Thankfully, the memories of the brightest stars take a lifetime to fade…

Published: 24 October 2016

Information correct at time of publication.

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