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.
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!
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