$1,500 Ragtop: 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser

Spring is almost here, even though we’re supposed to get almost a foot of snow again this week. Sigh. This 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser gives me hope that winter will soon be over with. It’s posted on Craigslist, and also here on the CL archive, in Salem, Virginia. The seller is asking $1,500 for this project ragtop. Thanks to Ian C. for chasing down this Sunchaser!

A conversion firm called the Griffith Company made the Sunchaser convertible. It was one of several companies providing custom convertible conversions. It was a fairly novel concept of being both a targa and a convertible. The baskethandle remaining roof section isn’t my personal favorite look for a droptop but several other companies, cars, and even trucks (was the PT Cruiser a car or a truck?) had them.

The seller of this Sunchaser has a pretty good sense of humor. He says “I recently got married and it has to go LOL!” They “bought this car thinking I would restore it. I got it running two years ago and drove it briefly to and from work. It has new tires and a new battery.”

The top needs to be replaced, luckily they’re available. The seller has “a little over 2500.00$ in it so it’s a deal.” With possible bodywork, a new top, paint, and who knows what the interior looks like since there aren’t any photos, it may or may not be a deal. Oh yeah, there are no engine photos and it “is not running at the moment. It’s been sitting for two years.” So, then there’s that. But these are pretty rare and certainly unusual cars. Is this ragtop worth a gamble?


  1. CanuckCarGuy

    The targa look works for some cars, in my opinion…this Sunchaser and the Lancia Zagato come to mind; the PT Cruiser on the other hand, looks like a six quart basket.

    • Sam

      YES CanuckCarGuy!! Exactly! A PT Cruiser looks just like a basket. I’ve always thought so. It made me laugh out loud to read your comment that included my very same thoughts!

  2. Rick

    Would like to see it with the doors closed. They had a tendency to flex due to the roof being removed. All I’ve seen that they did to strengthen the body was to connect the subframes. Later convertibles were made stronger at the factory and the roofs were removed in the US.

  3. Pookie Jamie Pawlicki

    I would consider $800 to buy it. These things are prone to bad oil pan gaskets. I had an 81 coupe and loved it!!!

  4. Sparkster

    Didn’t see interior pics nor engine pics ? ? ? Too bad it’s an automatic

  5. PeterPiper

    Porsche faced the same situation. They sell more Cayenne and Macan”s than 911 & Cayman”s. But because of that, Porsche can keep making 911″s and like. If MINI sells lots of Countryman”s which allows them to keep making F56″s and the Convertible (& JCW”s of both) I”m good with that. I feel that the Clubman (at least in the US) isn”t going to sell for various reasons & should possible be discontinued. Also not sure about the 5-door (F55) Hardtop. The F55 may be the between”er for those that don”t want the F56 nor the Countryman, but want 4 doors (5 door hatch).

    • DJ McMackie

      How we get fromCelica to porsche and mini’s? Could we stay on topic of this make and model? I think the style of this Celica is ugly as sin. Just doesn’t look good at any angle. The plus side. Glass headlights. No need to get a sanding and polish kit. On the other hand, crush it and make pots and pans out of this. Some designer did to much coke, thinking this thing looked “nice”. Hows that for going off comment PeterPiper?

  6. Gay Seattle Car Nut

    I used to see a few of these Celica Sunchasers back in the day. I regret that I’ve never known anyone who owned one, for it would’ve been fun to ride in on sunny Summer days.

    Like 1
  7. Sam

    I can’t help but think Morgan Fairchild drove one of these in the tv show Flamingo Road. I’d have watched her read the phone book…but something about the Sunchaser made me think of her. Thanks! :)

  8. Gay Car Nut

    I find the 1980-81 Toyota Celica more attractive than the 1978-79 Celica.

  9. Puri

    Honda NSX isn’t selling and the S2000 was an inexpensive convertible. People would be upset if Honda did that to the S2000 secsesor.

  10. Sunchaser Mike

    I found my Sunchaser in 2013 and have been restoring it on and off since. You will have to put alot into it if you want to get alot out of it. Kiss your next five years of tax returns goodbye. I have about 7k in mine right now and it will cost another 7 or 8k to complete. A numbers matching chaser sold last year at Mecum last year for 10500 up from the previous record of 6800. They are slowly appreciating. Dont expect to make money on it but it will be a great experience. Theres nothing like getting those looks and thumbs up at every stoplight. Most of the mechanical parts are still in production but suspension stuff is getting hard to find. The offroaders will be your friends since the car is similar to a 4runner or pickup of the same vintage. There is a guy named Larry who goes by the handle Luvblonz in the forums he has five of these and a collection of hard to find spares. Lcengineering will get you most of the mechanicals as well as performance parts. Convertible top guys still makes the back top replacements. Stick with the three window for better rear visibility. Top seals are no longer in production so expect leaks. Soffseal sells similar stuff so you will be able to get it at least decent to drive but it will still wet you on rainy days. Check for floorpan rust in the floor under the roll bar and the front part of the rear wheel arches. Fix that first. Enjoy the restoration journey. The reactions you get and the people you meet will make up for any day you spent throwing wrenches. I met a former sunchaser owner who told me “at the age of 55 I have only two regrets in my life. Never get married and never sell your Sunchaser.” Fortunately for my wife I only took half of his advice.

    Like 3
    • Larry

      Sunchaser Mike, are you (and your Sunchaser) on the Sunchaser page on facebook?


      Please contact me and let me know your Sunchaser info at least, year, GT or ST and the number on the glove box,

      lots of info and help there, plus some parts have be repo’d (weathestripping)
      so swing by

      Like 2
  11. Pjc

    Who’s got one for sale? Ffld county CT looking – hit me up

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