The Toyota Celica used to be a power house. It has gone through all the styles of pre-modern car design and actually gave birth to the renowned Toyota Supra, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
What Is The Toyota Celica?
Deriving its name from the Latin word “coelica”, which translates into "heavenly" or "celestial", the Celica is a compact car with sports pretensions produced in Japan from 1970 to 2006. In the JDM, the Celica was sold exclusively through the Toyota Corolla Store network of dealerships.
Throughout its years of production, the Celica saw a wide range of four cylinder engines, of which none were spectacular in any way, and although the Celica has somewhat of a reputation as a solid, dependable mode of transport, it never achieved the fame, recognition, and popularity of other notable Toyota model ranges, such as the MR2.
Amid a myriad design changes, facelifts, minor upgrades, and cosmetic alterations from its inception in 1970, the most significant change occurred in 1985, when the rear wheel drive set-up was abandoned in favor of the more economical-to-produce front wheel drive configuration. In the American market though, the first three iterations of the Celica was powered exclusively by a range of Toyota’s R-series engines.
Through a total of even generations, the Celica was forced through several dozen major design forks, one of which was the turbocharged, all-wheel drive GT-Four that was produced between 1986 to 1999. In the US market, this variant was known as the All-Trac Turbo, but contrary to the usual Toyota practice of branding cars differently in different markets, the GT-Four retained its name in all other markets where it was sold, except for the Canadian market, where it was known as the Turbo 4WD.
Other major innovations included Variable Valve Timing in some models for the JDM in 1997, which became available on all models in all markets from 2000 onwards. One other notable example of major design changes involve abandoning a proven platform in favor of another, with the abandoned Toyota “A” platform becoming a production model in its own right- the Toyota Celica Supra, which later became known as the Toyota Supra.
Change for the Sake of Change?
From the first generation A20 & A35 Series (1970–1977), to the fourth, T160 Series (1985–1989), and later to the fifth generation (T180 Series (1989–1993), the Celica saw many, and radical design changes. In fact, it has been said that no other model range by Toyota has ever seen the ridiculous amount of changes that even collectively, did nothing to substantially improve the model in any of its iterations.
There are far too many differences between the first three generations and the fourth (and subsequent generations) to list them all here, so instead, we will look at a snapshot of the Toyota Celica during its fourth iteration.
The version of the Celica that appeared in 1985 sported front wheel drive, a rounded design that according to Toyota engineers added strength without adding weight, and an all-new range of 2.0 L four-cylinder engines. It was a different car from the previous generation altogether, since it was built on the Toyota “T” platform, which was shared with the Toyota Corona. However, the Corona Coupe offered four-wheel steering, which was not offered on the Celica, and likewise, the turbo engine in the Celica was not used in the Corona.
In October of 1986, Toyota released the flagship Celica model, the GT-Four (ST165) into the JDM, which sported full-time all wheel drive, an electronically controlled central locking differential, and a turbocharged variant of the 2.0 L, GT-S (3S-GTE) engine that produced a respectable 190 hp (142 kW). This car was however only introduced into the US market in 1988, where it was sold as the Celica All-trac Turbo.
For a short time the All-trac drive system also saw service on some Camry and Corolla models in the US, but sans the turbo charger. It was also fitted to both normally aspirated and supercharged Previa models.
By all accounts, the ST165 chassis was considered by many to be ahead of its time, and as a result, Toyota retained the stock suspension setup for the AWD GT-Four, which consisted of MacPherson struts with an anti-sway bar and strut tower brace in the front, and trailing links with twin lateral links per side, augmented by an anti-sway bar.
On its release, the ST165 GT-Four was immediately adopted as Toyota’s main rally car, and it made its World Rally debut in the 1988 Tour de Corse, which it completed in 6th place. Its first victory came in Cyprus in 1988 in a non-World Rally Championship event, which was followed by a World Rally Championship victory in 1989, in the Rally Australia event.
Even More Changes in Japan...
Some fourth generation Celica’s in Japan, such as the ST160, started life with 1S-iSU engines, while AT161 models were fitted with various 4A engines. However, in August of 1987 the 4A engine was withdrawn from production, while the 1S-iLU engine lasted a bit longer- until May of 1988, when it was replaced with the 4S-Fi engine, when the cars they were fitted to were coded as ST163’s. Below are some more engine changes.
In August of 1987, various variants of the 3S engine become available in the ST162.
At around the same time, 3S-GTE turbo engines became available in the all-wheel drive ST165 GT-Four.
In late 1987, a factory convertible, which was coded “ST162C” became available fitted with a twin cam 3S-FE engine.
No twin cam engines were fitted to the ST and SX trim levels, but the ZR trim level (including the convertible) were fitted with the economical twin cam 3S-FE twin cam. GT, and GT-R trim level cars were fitted with the sporty 3S-GELU twin cam engine. To further complicate things, the two-door notch-back coupe body style was not even sold as a Celica in Japan- it was sold as the Toyota Corona Coupé, albeit without the Celica’s retractable headlights.
In the Australian market, the ST trim level Celica ST162 was offered as a Coupe and a Liftback, fitted with the 3S-FE engine. A higher specification SX Liftback was also available, but this model sported the 3S-GE Twin cam engine. Standard equipment on the SX model included a rear spoiler and alloy wheels, which made it identical in appearance to the GT-S sold in the US market, and the GT-R of the JDM.
The Australian market also saw the “SX White Lightning” limited edition that boasted white bumpers, white wheels and cruise control, albeit on automatic models only. The edition also featured the same seats fitted to the ST165 GT-Four, but in all other respects it was identical to the more mundane SX.
In the American market...
Trim levels in the North American market were the ST coupe, in addition to the GT and GT-S variants that were available as coupes or lift backs, with the GT model available as a soft-top convertible. In 1988, two years after its release in Japan, the GT-Four became available in the US market, and all models featured a tachometer, oil pressure gauge, rear window defogger, and a volt meter that was replaced with a turbo boost gauge on turbo models.
ST Trim and Engine Changes:
In 1986, the T160 chassis, which was the most basic, was re-coded as the ST161 chassis that featured the SOHC 8-valve, 2.0 L 2S-E engine from the Camry that produced 97 hp (72 kW) at 4400 rpm, and 118 ft-lbs. of torque at 4000 rpm. However, this configuration barely lasted a year, when the 2S-E engine was replaced with all new DOHC 3S-FE engine that produced 115 hp (86 kW) at 5200 rpm and 124 ft-lbs. of torque at 4400 rpm. As a result, the ST161 chassis was re-coded as the ST 162 when it was released into the market in 1988.
In 1986, the ST variant T160 was the lightest of any T160 chassis at 2455 lbs. when fitted with a manual transmission, which was all that was available then. Automatic transmission only became available as an option in 1987 onwards, which brought the curb weight up to 2522 lbs.
Other features on the ST trim level included:
GT Trim and Engine Changes:
The GT variant started life sharing both the engine and chassis designation with the ST, but this was changed in short order in 1886 when the GT received the 3S-FE engine and ST 162 chassis code in 1987. The GT variants weighed in at 2515 lbs. for the coupe and 2546 lbs. for the for the coupe and lift back respectively.
The 4-speed A140L overdrive automatic transmission was available as an option, which brought the curb weight up to 2579 and 2610 lbs. respectively, while the convertible weighed in at a hefty 2700 lbs. for the manual and an even heftier 2760 lbs. for the automatic version.
Standard GT features included:
GT-S Trim and Engine Changes:
The GT-S, variant, with chassis code ST162, received a version of the DOHC 2.0 L 3S-GELC engine that was fitted with an oxygen sensor, EGR, and T-VIS along with a reprogrammed ECU which collectively, reduced its power output to 135 hp (101 kW) at 6000 rpm, and 125 ft-lbs of torque at 4800 rpm.
In the Canadian market, all GT-S models were fitted with the S53 5-speed manual transmission, while in the American market, the A140E electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission that featured a lock-up torque converter was available as an option.
Standard features on the GT-S included:
Turbo All-Trac: (TS165)
The GT-Four was called the Turbo All-Trac only in the American market. In Canada though, it was known as the Turbo 4WD, but in both cases, it was fitted with the DOHC turbo-charged, 3S-GTE 2.0L engine that featured T-VIS and a water-to-air intercooler. This version produced 190 hp (142 kW) at 6000 rpm and 190 ft-lbs of torque at 3200 rpm. The All-Trac only came with a 5-speed all wheel drive transmission that incorporated a viscous-coupling centre differential, which brought the all-up weight to a very hefty 3197 lbs.
Although the Turbo All-Trac in standard form was not officially sold in the North American market until 1988, an exception was made in 1987-1988 when only 77 special edition models were sold on the basis of “one-per-dealership” at Toyota’s 77 dealerships in California. The occasion was the celebration of Toyota's IMSA GTO championship win, and the 77 cars were an identical all-white with blue interiors, and the words "IMSA GTO CHAMPION" in small letters on the side moulding. To finish off the color scheme, all cars had a white stripe over the grille as well.
Standard features on the Turbo All-Trac included:
Due to the wider transmission tunnel to accommodate the centre driveshaft on the ST165 chassis, the GT-S, and some other trims that share the ST165 chassis do not have cup holders in the centre console.
Known 4th Generation Reliability Issues.
The first thing to bear in mind is that reliability largely depends on the model year, and the original engine fitted. However, it is almost impossible to find a bog-standard Celica these days, and reliability is now a function of the level of modification.
Nonetheless, in standard form, some fourth generation models suffered from blown turbos, but not much else in terms of mechanical reliability. Rust and corrosion is a different matter though, and a thorough inspection of the door sills, wheel arches, sunroof, rear hatch and suspension mounts must be made before purchasing any fourth generation model.
An additional problem was the fitment of aftermarket boost regulators. These devices offered a cheap way to gain performance, but too much boost has destroyed thousands of Celica engines. So if you come across a rare, unmolested example of a fourth generation turbocharged Celica, perform a very diligent check for leaks in the intercooler, cracks in the intake manifold, and the presence of oil anywhere in, on, and around the turbo housing. Also be sure to look for any type of fluid leak on the block and/or cylinder head.