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.
I’ve always thought the R engine was way too truck-ish for a sporty car like the Celica; all low-end torque and industrial clattering noises. You can’t argue with its reliability, though.
Toyota couldn’t match Mitsubishi for spaceship-style interiors, but this setup looked pretty futuristic.
Every time I see one of these things, I am reminded of this shot from my (1984) high school yearbook. Since most of my classmates drove beater Colts and Pintos— if they drove at all— the kid with the new Celica was feeling pretty sharp.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Toyota Celica GT...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “I’ve always thought the R engine was way too truck-ish for a sporty car like the Celica; all low-end torque and industrial clattering noises”

    It is, but umpteen generations of Americans were trained by Detroit to expect engines to be like that.

    • 0 avatar

      Guess you never drove a nice small block Chevy…plenty of low end torque but industrial clattering noises? Hardly…

      Interesting to note that the liftgate is solid. Around here, those began to rot out in about three to five years…

  • avatar

    As a minor point, this engine is actually the 22RE (note the valve cover) which means it was fuel injected. While it is the same architecture, the 22R was a 96 horsepower, carbureted motor and found only in the Celica ST in ’83, that being the last year for the carburetor.

    As to the torque, you are right on. I owned this car, color & everything, from ’83 until ’93
    (one of my all time favorite cars) and the low-end was outstanding. I loaned it to a friend for a week and he thought it had a “6”; he was shocked when I told him it was a 105 net HP, 2.4 litre four.

    Every Toyota that I have owned since this one was a real “forget about it”. Very fond memories of this car.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’83 ST with the carb. It could only get away with the low power because it was so light (ST = no options = < 2200 lbs). For 1985 the 22RE was redesigned (different head and new block casting) which with changes to the EFI system got power up to 124 hp.

  • avatar

    I had an 83 Celica Supra. Great car and very reliable. The hatch was pretty rusty, but I hear that was common on those.

    • 0 avatar
      The Dark One

      I had one of the 83 Celica/Supra’s, the same blue paint but with a black liftgate. It started rusting around 1998, where the huge wing bolted to it at the top of the window. Other than that, I never had any problems whatsoever. Even crashed into a small tree that had fallen across the roadway. It didn’t do any damage to the car at all; the only reason I had to stop was to remove the log that was stuck between the metal towpoints below the bumper that sheared the tree intwo.

  • avatar

    I came very close to buying one of these before I purchased my old Scirocco for better gas mileage/commuter car. I had an ’89 Toyota pickup with the 22R and a 4-speed. It was a lot of fun. My friend had a ’91 with the 22RE and it was fairly quick for a little truck. I always assumed that the 22RE would be even more fun in a sporty little car…

  • avatar

    I’ve never owned a toyota, but for about 5 years I owned a set of the super cool 4 spoke wheels that this cars big brother, the celica supra, wore. I was always hoping to put them on a late 80s Cressida…but then the Cressidas caught on with the dorifto set…I finally sold the wheels after getting tired of tripping over them.

  • avatar

    As for the 22RE being fun in a coupe – I didn’t think so. Had an ’84 Celica GTS coupe – 4 wheel disc brakes, 4 wheel independent suspension, manual 5 speed, and when you stepped on the gas – nothing. Back then I called it a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”.

  • avatar

    The Liftback of this generation looked really good. The coupe on the other hand…….

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed… I loved the shape of this car! Which evolved into the Supra. Then I saw a Starion which was even more aggressive looking. After this body style the Celica turned into an ugly blob, then into an odd looking bug, then they sharped everything up so it was aggressive looking again only to kill it.

      • 0 avatar

        Same here! I love the 80’s fast-backs.

        I’d love to find a set of rear window louvers like the ones in the print ad linked above, for my ’11 tC. Extra sun-shading without darker tint, and more cargo-area privacy.

        Anyone know where you can get them?

  • avatar

    I had a brown ’82 notchback for 185,000 neglected-routine-maintenance miles. Amazingly tough vehicles. Loved the laid-back headlights that would stand up when turned on.

  • avatar

    Same formula as the 240SX, big, cheap to build truck engine in a sporty RWD coupe. The Japanese built very “American” cars sometimes. Yes, a 2.4L I-4 without balance shafts is rough. I had a Toyota pickup with that engine.

    Cars like this today get junked in California because of biennial emissions tests for post ’75 cars and the “cash for clunkers” programs that actually still exist here.

    • 0 avatar

      It is, while some counties in CA don’t require the “smog check” others do, and you can junk your car for at least $1000 if:

      It has at least 2 years worth of life in it.
      Runs and Drives
      Isn’t stripped apart

      Or as I say “Isn’t worth scrapping”.

      While not too many amazing cars have been junked from this program, and this program is cutting back emissions, I still think that its a waste.

      Want to save the Ozone? Go ahead, but even 2CVs aren’t worth scrapping if they still work.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed my 82 Celica GT from March through November 82 until it was destroyed in a head on collision with a Corolla. Fortunately, the insurance company gave me a check for the full amount of the car so I went out and bought a replacement 83 Celica GT in a different color. Always a fun car to drive but somewhat dangerous on slick pavement – the back end really liked to slide. When they first came out in early 82, they were a real head turner. I actually had women that wanted to go out with me because of the car.

  • avatar

    I love the AMC-style door latches. Are these the only Japanese cars to adopt that style? I wonder what the story was with that.

    I had the Nissan version of this, the 200SX, and that was a great car. Easy to lose the rear wheels on a curve in the rain, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Nope, Honda did a variation of that type of handle for a brief period in the early 1990’s, beginning with the 92 split tailgate Civics and even the Del-Sol had them too, though they inverted the handles to the opposite direction than what you see on these cars.

  • avatar

    Nice rust free chassis at least in the visible parts.

    GM LS swap anyone?

  • avatar

    the correct swap would be the 1UZ 4L V8:

    I have always wanted a Celica XX.

    • 0 avatar

      Come to New Zealand, you could pick one up for under US$2k… mine is low mileage and was only about US$4.5k no 1UZ going in there though, keeping it stock.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Loved them cars!

  • avatar

    I had two of them and hated, and I mean HATED the 22RE engine. The 22R was a great motor but the 22RE, I had both cars blow head gaskets multiple times on both cars and it was without warning. If I had one I would put a 4AGE plan in one instead.

  • avatar

    Don’t F with a sure thing. Toyota ruined the Celica line with FWD and weak 4 bangers not to mention the jelly bean body. The Supra line started good but Toyota got greedy and tried to take sales away from Porsche instead of Mustangs and 240SX’. The 300ZX, 3000GT and RX7 went down the same road. The Mustang line has outlived all of them because they keep to the original formula.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not so sure about that, the FWD Celicas were a sales success, the GT-Fours had far more success rallying then any other Toyota product. As a past owner of both the RWD and FWD Celicas I’d have to say the ST-162 was a pretty darned good package. More refined, better handling, better acceleration and speed than the RWD ones. I don’t think you could call a 3S-GE a “weak 4-banger” by any stretch of the imagination.

      • 0 avatar

        Sales success no doubt but so was the Corolla. I drove every Celica model in the late ’80 when I worked at the local Toyota dealer and it was a yawn fest at best.. The torque steer was amazing though. I would’ve bought a Corolla FX before any FWD Celica.

  • avatar

    I always liked these cars, this and the 240SX were great RWD cars of their day.

  • avatar

    The Celica GT-S (got to have the fender flares) and Supra were my favorite Japanese designs of the 1980s. Unfortunately the aero trend killed off origami-inspired styling. Maybe this is why I also liked the first-gen CTS? Different inspiration, similar result.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto. As a kid fell in love with a restored ’84 Celica at Linders in Worcester, Mass. My father steered me away when it revealed it was a salt water damage recovery/restore and despite getting the respected Linder’s treatment, likely a ticking time bomb.

      Still remember that car – and how absolutely great looking it was.

  • avatar

    My parent’s first brand new car was an ’84 Celica GT 5-speed. My mom learned how to drive stick in that car and they drove it all over San Francisco when they lived there in the late ’80s. They took it to Iowa when my dad was going to med school there and continued to drive it there. They sold it to my uncle and bought a used ’88 Camry when a certain someone came into their life and had trouble getting him into the backseat.

    I love the classic 3rd Gen Celica/ 2nd Gen Supra, you still see a good amount of them here in CA and many are starting to be restored and clean, original ones fetch good coin on eBay.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    We went up to Augusta today, and I saw a white Supra – this body style – for the first time in years, as we drove through Hollowell. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these Celicas in the wild – they pretty much all got driven until they dropped – usually from rust – up in this part of the world (the land that rust liked so well that it obtained citizenship). Great cars, just the same.

  • avatar

    My first wife (she died from cancer) loved the original Celica… I always wanted to buy a restored one, just to surprise her… but the youngsters like the late-model Toyota as tuner cars: cooler looking, and better motors. So, these early models tend to go to the crusher.

  • avatar

    I love these. I have the Supra edition myself, but I’d like to get the “little sister” too someday. Some MKII Supra guys would just love to get this rust free hatch.

  • avatar

    One reason coupe sales went down in past few decades is high insurance rates.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Never drove one but have ALWAYS loved this body style, especially in the fastback.

    The Supra with the black liftgate, especially in that red/brown color was what was once referred to as bitchin. :-)

  • avatar

    This series needs to be retired. It is depressing.

  • avatar

    Loved the styling on these and dreamed of having such a “cool car” in high school. In college I got my wish. Had an ’83 ST coupe (ST had the 96 hp carbed 22R) and a loaded ’85 GT-S Convertible (124 hp in ’85). The ’82-’84 models were pretty low on power (22R-E had a different head after ’84), but the ST models only weighed about what a 2nd generation Miata did.

    My convertible was purchased to replace the ’83 after it was stolen (~1996). After the ’83 was recovered I sold it to a brother who finally blew a head gasket at 230K. Traded in the convertible at ~200k after it developed a habbit of eating EFI computers. Still miss the GT-S seats.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a few of these over the years. The last one was a bit of a “Hot rod” during a headgasket change i decided that if i could get the compression up a little it might be more fun. After talking with a local guy who raced 22re’s I found that if you cut .030 off the head it’ll bump the CP up to around 10-1. Talk about a screamer. Couple that with a lightened flywheel and stage 3 race clutch kit. Really woke the old thing up.

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