By on October 18, 2021

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn 1970, Toyota introduced the world to a pair of cars based on a new platform: The Carina sedan and the Celica sports coupe. The Carina was sold in the United States for just the 1972-73 model years and disappeared without a trace, but its Mustang-resembling Celica sibling proved to be a big sales hit on this side of the Pacific. With their truck-appropriate four-cylinder R engines, though, those U.S.-market Celicas of the 1970s were slow and tended to sound like a Hilux groaning up a mountain pass in Waziristan with a load of 15 Red Army-battling mujahideen fighters. So, Toyota widened and lengthened the second-generation Celica, yanked out the truck mill, and dropped in a straight-six. Thus was the Celica XX born in 1978, and when it arrived on our shores in the following year, it had a new name: Celica Supra!

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars could keep up with the Datsun Zs and Chevy Camaros of the period (more or less), they looked cool, and they sold well. They sold especially well in California, which is where I found this beat-to-hell ’80 last summer.

The Celica resemblance was unmistakable, and so Toyota called these cars Celica Supras until 1986 (when the Celica went to a new front-wheel-drive platform and the Supra got a lot more evil-looking). At least the Celica Supra really was a member of the Celica family, so that name wasn’t as silly as the Corolla badges Toyota glued on the early Tercels.

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, 4M-E engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 2.6-liter 4M-E engine in this car could trace its ancestry back to the legendary 2000GT of a decade earlier (actually, the M engine was developed for the 1962 Toyopet Crown, but I thought I’d give the 2000GT a shout-out). In 1980, the U.S.-spec 4M-E made 116 horsepower and also went into the Cressida.

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, EFI badge - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsElectronic fuel injection was a big futuristic deal in 1980, so Toyota stuck these badges on cars so equipped.

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFive-speed manual transmissions were the choice of the real gone cats at the time, too, and this car has one. A four-speed Aisin automatic was available as well (for an extra 425 bucks, about $1,500 today), but most Celica Supra buyers craved three-pedal action.

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, sunroof - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf you wanted to be seriously cool in 1980, you needed a sunroof in your car. This one added $280 to the $9,568 MSRP (that’s about $990 on a $33,735 car when reckoned in 2021‘s bones or clams).

1980 Toyota Celica Supra in California junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBeing a Bay Area resident, this car isn’t rusty. However, the body is good and crinkled and the interior spent quite a few years getting alternately nuked by the summer sun and soaked by the winter rain, and nobody felt like rescuing it from its fate.


And now the drama begins again. Celica Double-X!


Want a sports car but don’t want to suffer?


Want a car that’s as fast as your open-wheeled track monster and as luxurious as your chauffeured Roller? Suspend some disbelief and buy a new Celica Supra!

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16 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Celica Supra...”


  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Gorgeous cars. The mk2 and mk3 Supra were my favorites. I really never see any survivors of those either, anymore, sadly.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A few quick points:

    I remember seeing a few Carinas when I was a kid (all two-doors). The only memorable thing about them were the waterfall taillights. The only first-gen Celica I would call “Mustang-resembling” is the Liftback, and then just the rear styling. The first Japanese Celica XX ad (magazine ad) I can recall depicted a woman’s legs sticking out of the side window.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    My older brother had one of those first generation Celicas with the push rod 4 banger rated at a mighty 97 HP. Being the irresponsible teenager that I was, one time when he lent it to me (probably so I could do free maintenance) I took it out to an area with some lovely tight twisty two-lanes. What a joke! Terminal understeer. Compared to the Datsun 510 Bluebird (my father’s) that I was used to abusing the Celica was pathetic.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    Nice machine! Too bad it has met its end … but I hope someone got years of utility and enjoyment out of it!

  • avatar
    redapple

    Wonderful cars. Futuristic spaceships compared to the big 3 garbage offered at the time. A half blind – half stupid person could see the superiority.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      Caddydaddy will agree that ChryCo and GM had sad states of affairs when it came to any sports cars for the 80 model year. ie: 80′ Vette Yikes! However, I’d put the FOMoCo’s Fox Body up to Toyota’s offering in 80′. There is a reason Fox body’s are a plenty almost everywhere and this Gen. Celica are about non-existent even in coastal CA. I’ll agree I saw many of these growing up in SoCal.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        This being an 1980 model the Toyota Celica Supra it was probably superior to the 1980 Ford Fox Platform Mustang was still very much peak malaise garbage (115hp 4.2L carb. Took two more years of development before the 1982 model Mustang GT 4spd stick to be become respectable for the time.

        Having nearly killing the Mustang with the Ford Pinto derived MustangII from 74’ thru 78’ chasing mass market sales success. Ford came out with the new 79’ Fox body and top of the line 5.0L 302ci V8 2brl carb engine making a whopping 139hp.

        It gets real ugly from here for 1980-81 model years
        Top engine available is the 4.2L 255ci V8 2brl carb engine.
        Max output 115-120hp

        For 1982 the 5.0L(H.O.) 302 V8 2brl carb V8 now making 20% more power 157hp returned along with the Mustang GT moniker. That power output (157hp) was only available if you selected the 4spd manual overdrive transmission.

        Even then the car was still not very fast, nor stylish and suffered from poor handling but it was a lot for the time matching Chevrolet’s Corvette as the fastest acceleration by a U.S. manufacturer @ 8.6sec 0-60mph for 1982.
        Camero made 165hp for 1982 with a 5.0L V8
        If buyers in 1982 selected the 3spd automatic transmission in the Mustang GT the top engine available was the pathetic 4.2L 255ci 2brl carb V8 making a net 120hp.

        Canada only for 1982 customers could select any of the the 4 available engines from Ford in the Mustang GT pkg.
        2.3L 4cyl 88hp
        3.3L 6cyl 91hp
        4.2L V8 120hp auto
        5.0L V8 157hp 4spd manual

        These cars were so bad our minds want to overlook them and automatically think of the later 1987-1993 Mustang with the 5.0L V8 with fuel injection and gt hi-flo heads making 225hp but that took 8yrs of development.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Toyota chose to do its 15th Anniversary Supra in 1997, thus effectively ignoring that this first generation ever existed.

    I always thought that was unfair and perplexing.. Maybe they weren’t as powerful as the Mark II-IV, but they were still very good cars for their time

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Caddydaddy will agree that ChryCo and GM had sad states of affairs when it came to any sports cars for the 80 model year. ie: 80′ Vette Yikes! However, I’d put the FOMoCo’s Fox Body up to Toyota’s offering in 80′. There is a reason Fox body’s are a plenty almost everywhere and this Gen. Celica are about non-existent even in coastal CA. I’ll agree I saw many of these growing up in SoCal.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    fell down the rabbit hole and ended up buying a 45 year old dealer plate frame. dunno if i should refinish the faded paintworks or not.

  • avatar
    Socrates77

    I miss my 1987 Supra with T-Top roof.

  • avatar
    Socrates77

    I miss my 1987 Supra with T-Top roof.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    Growing up in late 1970s and early 1980s West Germany, I remember how these were some of the first Toyotas that were imported into the country. I always found them to be spectacularly-looking cars.

    A nephew on my father’s side of the family in Moosburg had one of these in white with thin sporty red stripes (which he applied himself). It was a good-looking car which I always admired during family get-togethers. I believe they were called Celica Liftbacks in Germany. I do not know the model year of the car but through Google I believe I would pinpoint it as a 1979 model.

    In the early 1980s his father suddenly died and the nephew inherited his father’s 1955 Fiat 500 Topolino. Both the Celica and the 500 Topolino were lovingly cared for and regularly driven. They were parked in the same garage to protect them from the elements. The irony is that by the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Celica had rusted to bits and would not pass the TÜV while the 1955 Fiat essentially remained rust-free. The Celica is long gone (since the early 1990s), but the 1955 Fiat is still around today and is, amazingly, his daily driver (he works in the city where the 500cc 13-horsepower engine feels at home).

    I always found the survival of the Fiat ironic given Fiat’s reputation for building cars that quickly rusted.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Once knew a woman who went by Mo. She drove a Carina. Then that song came out.

  • avatar
    IJTET822

    My brother loved his Celica Supra, he actually had 3, two ’83 and one ’84. If anyone’s interested we’re selling his ’84, along with all the parts he saved from the ’83s. He was in the process of restoring it when he passed away.

  • avatar

    Never saw this Celica but I owned ’89 Carina II. There was nothing sporty about Carina. It was based on extended Corolla platform and felt challenged even during lane changes. It was positioned to compete with Passat, Mondeo and etc. 1.6L I4 made something like 110hp.

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