By on February 17, 2014

05 - 1978 Toyota Celica Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe first- and second-generation Toyota Celica was to my generation of freshly-minted California drivers (I got my license in 1982) what the early Ford Mustang was to those born a decade earlier: fairly inexpensive and sensible, but still sporty enough to make you feel cool. I drove a ’69 Corona four-door, possibly the uncoolest car a teenager could own at the time, which was to the Celica in 1982 as the six-cylinder Fairlane sedan was to the Mustang in 1972. These days, of course, all the rear-wheel-drive Celicas are considered worth having… unless they’re in rough condition, in which case they are worth little more than scrap value. Here’s an unrusty-but-still-battered ’78, done up in painfully-late-70s Crisis of Confidence Mustard Yellow, sitting in a Denver self-serve yard. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2013

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As America’s favorite pastime grapples with a cheating scandal involving its biggest stars, I can’t help but imagine motorsports devotees are looking on with jaded amusement. Cheating, along with exorbitant costs and tobacco sponsorships, is part and parcel of the fabric of motorsports, no matter the geographic location or formula. But few have cheated like Toyota. Who else has been accused of, or caught red-handed, at cheating in NASCAR, CART, Formula 1, and WRC? In each instance, Toyota’s machinations were always subtle and ingenious, nothing like Smokey Yunick’s 7/8th scale Chevelle or any of the famous “bending the rules” yarns. Take for example, the car you see above.

Group A cars were required to be fitted with a specific turbo restrictor that served to limit engine output. Toyota was able to engineer a special bypass valve that could not only defeat the restrictor without creating any evidence of tampering, but was designed to conceal itself when FIA technicians dismantled the turbocharger for inspection. Max Mosley himself called it “…the most sophisticated and ingenious device either I or the FIA’s technical experts have seen for a long-time.” By bypassing the restrictor, Toyota could get as much as 25 percent more airflow into the turbocharger, allowing the GT-Four to put down as much as 350 horsepower in a field where cars were limited to 300 horsepower. According to Toyota’s own specs, my friend Rob’s GT-Four puts down about 255 horsepower, but it sure feels like there might be a bypass valve in there somewhere.

(Read More…)

By on March 23, 2012

During my last trip to California, I found this ’80 Celica coupe and this ’81 Celica liftback side-by-side at an Oakland self-service yard. A few rows away was another Celica. Apparently the old 22R-powered Celicas aren’t worth enough to keep on the street. (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2012

We saw a fairly solid junked ’80 Celica coupe yesterday, and a good example of its liftback sibling was located in the same California self-service wrecking yard. It’s like a history lesson in Sporty Malaise Era Commuter Cars With Truck Engines! (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2012

The Malaise Era Celica sold very well in the United States as a fuel-efficient-yet-reasonably-sporty commuter vehicle. They were very reliable (by the not-very-high standards of the time), cheap, and easy to repair. Even so, nearly all of them are gone now, save for a few survivors that hung on long enough to stay out of the junkyards until the second decade of the 21st century. Here’s an ’80 that I found at a Northern California self-serve yard last week. (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2011


As is typical for races at MSR Houston, the mechanical carnage has been quite extreme. We saw sheared axles, blown head gaskets, thrown rods, and a Jetta with its engine dragging on the pavement (the last one is a first in my experience). Still, some cars haven’t broken, and the battle for the win on laps has been cutthroat; meanwhile, the battle for the Index of Effluency— LeMons racing’s top prize, which goes to the team that accomplishes the most with the worst car— seems to have settled into your classic Tercel-versus-Camaro-versus-W110 slugfest. (Read More…)

By on December 29, 2010


Remember window louvers? They were sort of terrible, yet it’s still interesting to see them on a quasi-sporty Malaise Era car. This Celica ST’s louvers will soon be ground up and digested by The Crusher. (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2010

Today’s Curbside Classic is a precautionary tale; a lesson in how difficult it is to predict the future, and how humbling it can be to bet on the wrong pony (car). (Read More…)

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