1st Generation Liftback: 1972 Toyota Celica

Long considered Japan’s version of the Mustang, the 1972 Toyota Celica featured here is said to be a dry, rust-free survivor. Originally from Arizona and now located in Maryland, the Celica presents well and is in stock condition, with just over 100,000 original miles. There is a reserve and it remains unmet; find the Celica here on eBay with just over three days left in the auction. 

The first generation Celica was perhaps one of the more formidable attempts by Toyota to convince the general public that it was a serious company. Showing up with a svelte coupe body sporting a bullish nose, the Japanese did try to deliver a tough appearance that could match the Mustang’s reputation for being the go-to brute in America’s sports car stable. That being said, the Toyota took the Mustang’s recipe of sharing its platform with a sedan and improving it with attractive coupe bodywork.

Whether the marketing ploy succeeded in convincing potential Mustang shoppers to visit their local Toyota dealer instead is debatable, but the Celica at least offered respectable performance when equipped with a manual transmission, like this one. The interior presents well, with an uncracked dash, original steering wheel and shift knob, untorn bucket seats and that sweet OEM clock in the center console. The seller says the Toyota runs and drives well, but notes the fuel gauge is inop and the passenger side mirror is missing.

The engine bay is interesting, as it may hide a few secrets: anyone else notice the corresponding blue paint on the shock mounts and the overspray on the hood weatherstripping along the cowel? This is not the end of the world, but it may indicate a repaint occurred at some point – or, perhaps, there was just sloppy masking done by the factory. Either way, this Celica is in great condition with a running motor and overall decent cosmetics. With bidding over $7K, the reserve will hopefully be met soon.

Fast Finds


  1. Mike H. Mike H

    It’s not a liftback, it’s the standard coupe.

  2. Howard A Member

    Wow!!! My favorite Celica. I liked it because, it was small, yet sporty looking. Not like most of the “econobox” models coming out of Japan. I never liked where they went from here. I remember, a lot of single women drove these, just like the original Mustang ( those Asian’s are sharp) They rusted faster than most, and to see one like this is truly amazing. This is what most looked like in my neighborhood

    • Mike H. Mike H

      Hey Howard!

      This is my favourite Celica style also, and I’ve seen a handful of them pop up on the West Coast over the last year for surprisingly good money, but none quite as clean as this one. I’d prefer to see it in the GT trim, but this one is VERY complete and correct, so I’m not one to complain.

      I’ve been in negotiations with my wife since I first saw this one on Friday morning. I’m trying to bring it home, but she’s surprisingly not thrilled at the idea.

      I still have a little time. . .

      • Howard A Member

        Excellent, another BF’s success story!!!

  3. Todd Fitch Staff

    Great lines. My first car was a ’73 Mercury Capri, Ford of Germany’s version of a mini-Mustang, and you can tell this Celica is from the same era. I like this 1st-gen better than the later more Americanized Celicas. Thanks Jeff! Also the instrument layout is very similar to my Dad’s 2001 Jaguar XJ8 — classic!

  4. Luke Fitzgerald

    Outstanding cars – not fast, but that’s not the point – Toyota 86 of the early 70s

  5. jimjim

    I’m surprised this car has no rear seat belts. I would have thought by this point they’d be mandatory?

    • Jake Langer

      They did have em and were on all of the celicas from 71 on.

  6. P Wentzell

    I bought a GT this model year, this color, from a friend in 1985, for $250.00, I put about that much in repairs and tires. The air blew cold, the clock and all the gauges worked. I used it as a commuter, and it was a blast to drive!

  7. RichS

    Dang, I think that shifter has a longer throw than my old F150 did.

  8. sparkster

    Looks to have air conditioning, I remember these having polished ” Mag : wheels back in the 70’s. Somebody on Barn Finds let me know if these came with five speeds.

    • Neil

      Not sure, but I bought a ’74 new, and it had a 5 speed, and for some reason, I was thinking it was the first year for that 5 speed ? Mine had gotten rid of that giraffe length shifter. Mine was short and very precise. Factory air on mine. Loved the car. Gold / half vinyl top in green. Very pretty combo, sounds odd typing it though. The ’74 had the feature that you had to have the seatbelt engaged to start the car. A mechanic, got pissed, so disabled that feature while working on it. When I mentioned it to him, he apologized and offered to reconnect it. I declined.

  9. sparkster

    Air conditioning BLOWS COLD in the ebay ad. My favorite words

  10. Joe Cat

    Nice looking. In some ways it reminds me of an early 70’s challenger. Note some paint overspray here and there and perhaps bodywork on very front tip of driver’s side fender. Other than that I would enjoy driving this car. So far price looks ok at 7K. Thanks Jeff for finding this one.

  11. al8apex

    “cowel” is really spelled cowl

  12. jtnc

    @sparkster: The 5-speed version became available in approx. Nov. 1973 on the 1974 Celica GT (as opposed to the ST). I know this because I bought a new 1973 ST 4-speed in Oct. and later regretted not waiting about a month longer for the 5-speed. Much later I converted the car to a 5-speed and shortened the ridiculously long shifter. A great car overall, but after about 25 years in our family rust really got to the rockers and doors. I sold it to a nice guy from PA who was going to restore it himself, he knew how to do bodywork. The interior looked almost as good when I sold it as it did in 1973. @jimjim: Mine definitely had rear seat belts.

  13. Datsuntech

    Come on Barnfind, this is obviously not a liftback… The liftback version is what everyone considers a mini Mustang. This, on the other hand is a coupe. In my opinion nothing like a Mustang, but more like a mini Camaro. The Japanese were smart, build two cars on the same platform that catered to both sides of the pony car lovers.

    Like 1
  14. Rustytech Member

    Toyota would not have gotten overspray on the rubber as it would not have been installed till after paint was done, this was obviously painted at some point, hopefully it was not wrecked. They were a very dependable car, and sorta fun to drive, but on these early ones with the long shifter 4 speed they were a little awkward to shift.

  15. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Like….a respectable product from overseas….then and now.

  16. John C Cargill

    I bought a 73 in 83 for a commuter beater. The car was amazingly capable, easy to work on and fun to drive. I kept it for years. The only consistent problem was the choke. I finally gave up on it when I put it up in the air to replace the clutch at 150k and the first bolt on the trans cross member I put a socket on, fell out in a shower of rust. With no assurance it would go back together I was forced to sell it for parts.

  17. Jeremy Holmes

    Love this car. I had so many of these growing up. You beat the heck out of them and they would just keep going, the perfect car for a teenager

  18. DG

    These are my favorite of the RWD Celicas, prefer the GT to the ST obviously. Either body style, coupe or hatchback, looks great.

  19. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking 1st gen Toyota Celica. The only thing I disagree with is where the headline said “Liftback”. Didn’t the liftback model Celica come later, say 1974 or 1975? And that was usually reserved to the GT model Celica. The car in this article is the Celica ST. There’s nothing wrong with the Celica ST model. It’s just that most people were expecting a Celica GT Liftback, and they got an ST coupe.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.