Crapwagon Outtake: 1990 Toyota Celica All-Trac

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

In the pre-Playstation days of the early ’90s, most Yanks knew nothing of the glory of an AWD turbocharged powerslide on gravel. I was lucky, as my dad installed a C-band satellite and we watched all kinds of oddball motorsport from around the globe. I especially loved watching Carlos Sainz and his Castrol-liveried Celica ripping up stages.

The homologation special has been around nearly as long as road cars have been built into racers. Nearly every OEM that went racing built street cars that aped the racers, in an effort to make certain parts kosher for the track or stage. Sadly, many of those meant for rally never made it here to the States, as there were few such enthusiasts here.

The ST185 Celica All-Trac (GT-Four elsewhere) was Toyota USA’s offering in this range. 200 turbocharged horses through all four wheels was quite unusual for the time, though the pride of Normal, Illinois would soon prove the formula could be a sales success for Mitsubishi and Chrysler. This car has nearly 180k on the odometer, which is quite high even for a Toyota. There could be a bit of rot, too. But there were so few of these imported, I’m thinking clean All-Tracs have some collector value. If not, for $5k, thrash it at a rallycross.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
4 of 25 comments
  • Heavy handle Heavy handle on Jun 05, 2015

    A buddy worked at a Toyota dealership at the time. His impression is that it was disappointingly slow and heavy. The 323GTX (remember those?) was much more fun.

  • Athos Nobile Athos Nobile on Jun 05, 2015

    This car still looks beautiful and has aged pretty well (not so much the interior). It seemed at that time that they could do no wrong style wise: 3rd gen Camry, 93 Corolla, F&F Supra, LS400, SC400 even the Tercel looked decent. Sadly, nowadays it would be probably smoked by a 4-cyl Camry. They still command good money here, where IIRC some of the Carlos Sainz editions can still be found. Normal FWD cars can be had for little money. In any case, if I owned one of these I'd check for condition/availability on transfer case, rear struts, rear wheel bearings, tail shaft spares and probably a swap for a newer (and more powerful) 3SGTE engine (from a Caldina, like the MR2 guys are doing). I remember 2 years ago seeing a guy DD'ng one of these slightly lowered with some big black wheels. Brought me a smile every morning.

  • Manbridge Manbridge on Jun 06, 2015

    Wait.. what? Crapwagon status bestowed on my first real car bought with hard earned lawn mowing money? Bought first one (1990 model) in Dallas in 1997 for around $7500. Red like above. Put 70K miles on it and sold it for $5500. Nothing failed but it was heavy and understeered like Bruce Jenner. Picked up a black 93 in 2002 for $10K after some forum idiot told the seller he was way under on price. After seller reneged on agreed price I STILL ponied up the extra money because of first Alltrac experience. Feeling a bit sullied by this I kept the sellers cell phone number and called him once a year just to see how long I could keep him on the phone. For ten years. The 93 was, no make that IS since I still have it, well put together and DMS vehicles seem shabby. I woke it up some with straight exhaust and manual boost controller but I like them close to OE and never went with the big wheel or wing business. Most important change was a huge rear adjustable sway bar that de-Jennered it. Can't sell it because we got engaged in it and I want my daughter to drive it. Currently at 89K miles... Forums for these went to crap years ago..

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jun 08, 2015

    I think I'd prefer this in white with white alloys, which usually looks good on late 80s and early 90s stuff. Like that prior crapwagon the Piazza.