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Original California Car: 1978 Toyota Celica GT

061216 Barn Finds - 1978 Toyota Celica GT - 2

This well-preserved 1978 Toyota Celica GT is in Visalia, California and it’s been in California since new. It’s listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $5,500 and a current bid price of just over two hundred bucks! There are over six days left on the auction and this car should get close to the Buy It Now price, I would hope; it’s a ridiculously nice one.

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1978 was the first year of the second-generation Celica. I’m just thinking out loud here, but usually for me a first-generation car is the most desirable. If a person were grasping for straws, which I usually am, a first-year second-generation car would be the next in line as far as desirability and collectibility goes. Whew, I’m exhausted after all that thinkin’ and graspin’!

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This Celica is in superb condition, especially for an all-original car. My favorite photo in the eBay ad is this one, showing this beauty among a sea of madly-modified muscle machines. There is no question as to which car I’d be looking at in that crowd, this one. Modified muscle machines don’t do much for me; if they were original, that would be a different story. Even the trunk looks like new on this Celica.

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Yes, a 5-speed! Whenever I see a super nice, original vintage Japanese car like this I automatically (no pun intended) expect to see an automatic transmission. Manual cars were usually the ones that got modified and raced and ended up bent and abused; ones with automatics were driven by accountants and librarians. The “Gold Metallic” Celica seen here doesn’t have the flashiest paint or interior color scheme but it sure is in fantastic shape. the interior looks great with no splits in the dash, but there is a small seam separation in the driver’s seat. The seller mentions that “the rear vinyl quarters are coming unglued from their panels.” An upholstery shop should be able to fix both of those issues in no time.

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Guess which engine this is? (crickets).. Ok, it’s a 20R. The 20R was a 2.2L (2,189 cc) four-cylinder made between 1975 and 1980, the golden years for my coming of age, car-wise. That’s around the time that I got my driver’s license and cars from that era held the same fascination for me as a Mustang or Camaro did for folks who got their licenses in the mid-late-’60s. This being a California car, it would have had about 90 hp, down a bit from what the rest of us would have had, but not much, 5-7% maybe. I know that a lot of people aren’t fans of vintage Japanese vehicles and they probably think of them all being in junkyards by now. But, there are millions of us out there who love these things, and to find an all-original one in this great condition, with working AC, a 5-speed, no rust, etc., that’s a good day in my world. Are there any fans of these second-generation Celicas out there?


  1. Paul R


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  2. Rob

    My second car was a 1980 Celica. I loved that car. The only reason I sold it was because I entered the Army and went to Germany. I should have kept it and had my folks take care of it for me.

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    That’s a cool car. I don’t know what your deal is with modified cars Scotty? If everything was all the same life would be pretty boring. I can’t stand seeing Chevy motors in everything, at that point I walk away.

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  4. Tenspeed

    My second car was a 1979 Toyota Celica ST 5 speed coupe that I got from my brother (part of the deal was that I had to sell my 1972 GS 350 that was consuming all my money at the time). It was a wonderful car until it was totaled out from under me in 1983 when a woman nearly hit me head on. I then bought a 1981 Celica ST 5 speed coupe that was a great car too.

    I worked with someone that mud raced and he told me the 20R/22R motors were the best for building and you could get around 300 reliable horsepower out of them.

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  5. charlie Member

    Three great ways into the hobby on one page – Imperial, Pontiac Trojan, and this.

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  6. Moparman Elliott Member

    Wow! Remember when a set of chrome trim rings, a cap and chrome lugs nuts really dressed up a wheel without excess?? :-)

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  7. Mark 'cuda man

    Here’s a ’77 “Lift Back” that I just brought home. Was sitting in a pole barn for 20 years. Bought it from the original owners son. It’s completely original. Will try to get it back on the road and drive it daily.

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  8. Neil

    In ’74 I was driving a ’72 Nova 396 I bought new while I was in the Army. Well, the gas was killing me. When I looked at was available from US manufactures, I was pretty disappointed. Vega and Pinto. I got a ’74 Celica GT. Hands above the other offerings. A/C, and a 5 speed. Originally, there were none available, so they were going to do an add on at the dealership. After I ordered, I was sorry I went with the add on air. So, I get a call from them and they informed me the same car I ordered had come in…. with factory air. It was the dealers own personal car that he’d ordered, and he said I could have it as long as I left it on the show room floor for a week. He had another on the way. I drove the body into the ground and in ’82 I bought the newly released Celica GTS. I thought it looked waaaay cooler than the just released Supra. Of the 2 of them, I’d love to find a nice ’74, but the bodies just went to rust.

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    • Rodney Chastain

      neil sorry to be a buzz kill on the Nova but the best you could get in a 1972 was a 350ci small block they put the 396 in from 1968 till1970 for the last year! after that you only had a choice of the 4cylinder or the 250 6cylinder or the 307v8 and the 350 in either 2 or 4barrel carb no 396!

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  9. BMW/Tundra Guy

    I had one of these. In white, with the manual sunroof, and I added the Supra wide spoked alloy rims!!! It looked cool. Ran awesome! Had everything, P/S, A/C, and the sunroof!! INDESTRUCTABLE! Sadly the ole tin worm ate it alive!! Litterally, it was still running great but the body was falling in around itself!! Been a Toyota guy, with some dalliance in other brands, ever since!! Currently have four Toyota’s, one BMW convertible, and one Chevrolet. I would love another one but have no room, nor do I care for gold cars, of any make!

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  10. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    My younger sister had a 1980 gt coupe around 1989-90. Fabulous car. We taught my first wife to drive stick on it as it had just the sweetest trans and clutch. She sold ut to get a 1985 CRX that was maybe even more fun.

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    I bought a brand new 78 Celica gt coupe when i was 23 years old. I paid 5500 cdn and sold it three years later for 5600!! The Yen had risen in value and Japanese cars were being recognized for being really good! It was easily the best experience I’ve ever had and the car was so much fun. Mine was dark brown metallic. I want this car so bad!!

    Like 1

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