For 1976, output was 96 hp -- not much compared with today's sporty cars, but then neither is the Celica's weight, at about 2500 pounds. Still, acceleration is leisurely, and the car doesn't isolate you from the engine's machinations. There's an honest, mechanical movement to the gearshift, which is rather tall, and the clutch is very easy to modulate -- just the thing for all those young drivers still getting the hang of a stick shift. The thin-rimmed steering wheel is leather-wrapped (or is that vinyl?), and you have to tug it pretty hard, as there's no power assist; efforts are manageable once you're under way, but parking takes some muscle. Apparently, we were stronger back then, too.
The Celica can be modified, of course, for increased performance, but much of the car's charm comes from seeing it the way it looked back in the day. "The people who like these cars are the ones who remember them from high school," says Sullivan. "And the kids -- kids dig 'em." So it is now as it was then: the Celica is a car for the young -- and also those who remember their youth.
ENGINE: 2.2L SOHC I-4, 96 hp, 120 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed manual 3-speed automatic
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Live axle, coil springs
BRAKES F/R: Discs/drums
WEIGHT: 2500 lb (est.)
YEARS PRODUCED: 1976-1977
NUMBER SOLD: 264,152 (U.S.-market Celicas in 1976 and '77; GT Liftback figures unavailable)
ORIGINAL PRICE: $4499 (1976)
VALUE TODAY: $2000-$10,000
The Celica GT Liftback was a fun, sporty car that appealed to young buyers in the mid-'70s, and if you were one, the car's scarcity today makes it a powerful time machine. Celica mechanicals are simple and durable, but the bodies are rust-prone and sheetmetal parts are not available. Neither are many other parts besides basic mechanical items (many of which are common to other Toyotas), so it's especially important to buy a car in the best possible condition. A GT Liftback that has been kept original is preferable to one that's suffered a lot of questionable modifications.