By on February 5, 2018

1986 Toyota Celica in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
After producing rear-wheel-drive Celicas for 15 years, Toyota went to a front-wheel-drive Celica platform for the 1986 model year, while the rear-wheel-drive Supra got bigger, more powerful, and more Camaro-like. These Celicas were quick enough to be fun and made long commutes affordable, but they never attracted much of a devoted following. This means that when one wears out, chances are that it ends up getting scrapped.

Here’s a first-year fourth-generation Celica that I spotted in a Denver-area self-service yard last month.

1986 Toyota Celica in Colorado wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This Celica a very straight body and not much rust. The interior is faded and missing some parts, but looks to have been nice enough on the day it entered this junkyard. With only 110,939 miles on the clock, this car has fewer miles than a lot of the eight-year-old Kias around it in the IMPORTS section.

1986 Toyota Celica in Colorado wrecking yard, wheel - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
While I have photographed many earlier junkyard Celicas (including this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’81, and this ’83), today’s ’86 is the first front-wheel-drive Celica in the Junkyard Finds series.


For 1986, the Celica GT got the SOHC 2.0-liter 2S-E four-cylinder engine, rated at 97 horsepower. The GT-S version had a DOHC 3S engine making 135 horses.

1986 Toyota Celica in Colorado wrecking yard, HVAC controls - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This one has air conditioning and a climate-control panel that’s more 1980s than A-Ha.

1986 Toyota Celica in Colorado wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The liftback version was more popular than the coupe; the convertible was available starting in the 1987 model year, but not many were sold.


“At night, boy do I look good!”


The GT-Four version, which had all-wheel-drive and 190 horsepower, could be purchased only in Japan.

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25 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Toyota Celica GT Coupe...”


  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Wow that was an ugly car even for 1986.

    • 0 avatar
      jeanbaptiste

      I remember this being the consensus back then.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        I was a young one back then but I really like the ST165 hatchback coupe.

        I know FWD personal coupes arent so crash hot but this was the 80’s when the 3S-GE 2.0 DOHC 16v seemed like rocket science and that hatch body and the 5 spd manual seemed ‘exciting’.

        Of course we never got the 4wd twin turbo model here but we saw them being raced in rally.

        Toyota wanted to broaden the base by releasing a coupe like the above but with a narrow head four and a 4 spd auto. This isnt so great but in 1986 young folks dreamed of a $20,000 coupe w/ air con and all the mods of the day (ie. central locking? elec windows?)

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I liked the mid-90s Supra. I should have bought one.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I traded an 86 200SX with about 85,000 miles in for an 89 Celica.
    Dumbest car move I ever made.
    The 200SX was horrible in the snow – so I wanted something with front-wheel drive.
    The Celica was good in the snow – but it turned out to be the most uncomfortable car I ever owned.
    The 15 minute test-drive was not enough to reveal to me how bad this car’s seats were on longer drives.
    No support for my legs – just terrible.
    I held on to it for 8 months – then traded it in on a dealer-demo 89 Beretta GT.
    Which was WAY more comfortable – but far less reliable.
    Live and learn.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      But boy did you look good!

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      I had a similar experience.

      My 86 VW GTI had about 105k on in in 1993, and I wanted a ‘newer’ car for long trips.

      I found a 91 BMW 318i sedan, with the 1.8 liter 24V motor, had 35k miles on it, another 1.5 years and 15k on the factory warranty. AND it was at Lexus dealer in Raleigh NC, car looked and drove like new. Great test drive!

      A pal took me to pick it up a few days later. Got it! 65 miles later, at home in Goldsboro NC, I discovered that the seat (the 4-dr had ‘base’ cloth or vinyl, not “Sport” seats like the 2dr 318is) was terrible (for me–not back support), and the lack of cruise made it worse on long trips.

      Still, it was a great car! I did take several long trips in it, and it was great for quick triple-digit blasts.

      Live and learn

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    “For 1986, the Celica GT got the SOHC 2.0-liter 2S-E four-cylinder engine, rated at 97 horsepower. The GT-S version had a DOHC 3S engine making 135 horses.”

    We’ve come a long way, power wise. But I bet these still felt pretty fast – for the era – due to the low weight (2600 pounds-ish?)

    • 0 avatar
      Saarinen

      I had the 1986 GTS coupe’, it was definitely quick for it’s day. Extremely reliable as well, only a timing belt and alternator for 125,000 miles of service.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      According to zeroto60times, the ’86 Celica GT-S could do 0-60 in 8.5 seconds. So yes, the Celica was quick for its day. That’s actually pretty decent today, though not for a sporty car.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Smoothly attractive styling. Honda should put one of these in their design center as inspiration.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The modern day version of this is (was) the Scion TC.

    The GT-S liftback/hatchback was the version you wanted. The GT-Four in Castrol Rally trim was star of many video games. Since it has pop-up headlights it automatically gets a thumbs up in my book. These were popular rides in my high school days, along with the Civic (which I had) plus a few confused kids who got stuck with a Mazda 323 instead. However the cool kids had pony cars or lower mini-trucks (Mazda B2200) back in the mids 80s.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    The alltrac would return the next generation , made of the same unobtanium as a Renault R5 depicted a few days ago. I’ve actually seen a mint 90s Alltrac, driven by an elderly gentleman.It was mint. I test drove an 87 Hatchback GTS with my brother, it was much louder than the FX16 Corolla , and didn’t have the sweet bolstered seats in contrast grey/black.He ended up with the FX16

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Had the 1987 version of this Celica which was really the same car. Bad news with it, lots of clunks & clanks, constantly pinging engine, A/C compressor that would shut off for no reason and then resume operation, deceased throw-out bearing at 40,000 miles, terminated first gear synchronizer at 50,000 miles, traded out at about 55,000 miles, not replaced with a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      22_RE_Speedwagon

      Same here – 1987 with 3S-FE. Eventually (110K?) the engine just quit one day cruising at 70 mph on the highway, stranding me in rural New Jersey.

      Meanwhile, my ’85 with the 22-RE soldiered on at least until 2010 (last time I ran a carfax on the VIN).

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 1986 the Corolla AE-86 was still RWD, like a previous generation Celica. The GT-S version had the higher performance 16v motor with rear wheel discs. A fair number of people preferred these.

    • 0 avatar
      Spinnetti

      Not a single shared part between the AE-86 Corolla (really the AE-88 in the USA) and the ST-161 Celica. Truly apples and oranges… (had both at the same time, and had the AE-86 for 25 years)

  • avatar
    Super555

    I love those commercials! I read an article where a former Lotus Formula One and test driver said that the front-wheel-drive Celica was actually quicker on every type of surface than the rear wheel drive version that Toyota sold with the same wheelbase and tires they couldn’t believe it. It was one of the cases that was used for the front wheel drive Elan Roadster.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    The starter and alternator sure look easy to replace!

  • avatar
    Spinnetti

    Interesting factoid IIRC… This 2S-FE is another fork truck motor like the original Celica had. I had the great misfortune of having one of these cars. As a die-hard Toyota guy, I’ve had a ton of them.. well, technically many tons of them and this was the worst one of them all. Horrible engine, not enough wheel travel, poor handling. Ick. If it had the 3S-GE it would be forgiven, but not with this motor!

    PS, Hi Phil! Hope to have the LS back in Lemons this year….

  • avatar
    Bostonjoe

    No love here for the 4th Gen Celica? I’ve owned a 1989 GT convertible for the last 15 years that has been fun to drive. It’s better than this 1986 (has 140 HP), and the convertible lines are still pretty ’80s sleek. Absolutely love the car.


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