Junkyard Find: 1980 Toyota Celica Supra

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

In 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!

These 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.

The 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.

Electronic fuel injection was a big futuristic deal in 1980, so Toyota stuck these badges on cars so equipped.

Five-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.

If 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).

Being 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!

For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • IJTET822 IJTET822 on Oct 19, 2021

    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.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 19, 2021

    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.

  • 3-On-The-Tree To say your people are total monsters is an unfair statement. You can judge the Japanese government but to say the citizens are culpable or responsible is wrong. That’s like saying every Caucasian person in the U.S is responsible for slavery or the civil rights era of violence and discrimination against African Americans and are benefiting from it. That’s 79 years ago, the average Japanese citizen born during WWII has nothing to do with what happened. Even my Japanese grandmother who was living in Yokohama whose home was firebombed was just trying to survive with 3 kids and a husband fighting in the war. Just like every war the citizens suffer, I saw it in Iraq. You can’t judge the people from the misdeeds of their government, my mom was born after the war, you really think she is responsible for what happened?
  • Irvingklaws Was a must have for my wife's new car. After years of windshield mounts, trying to keep the sun off the phone, wires running across the dash, etc...it's been a welcome upgrade. Don't have it in my current (old) car, just a stock stereo with the aforementioned windshield phone mount and wires...which is fine enough for me. But if I upgrade the radio with an aftermarket unit, the first thing I'm looking for, after separate volume and tuning KNOBS, is Carplay. Note, I've yet to find an aftermarket head unit meeting these basic qualifications. The infotainment in my '17 GTI had both of these and was near perfect, I'd be happy with that unit in any car.
  • Haze3 Near must have... car guy make car, software guy make software THAT I CAN USE EVERYWHERE and not just on some specific brand of truck/car/suv.
  • Wolfwagen If there is no Rust or rot this would be a good buy when MB craftsmanship and engineering meant something. While I prefer the 500 or 560 for the larger engine, this is good
  • Wolfwagen Tim, Now you should ask the B&B who we want to succeed and why. You could limit it to EV or non- North American MFGs.