Classic Celica: 1973 Toyota Celica ST

Most lovers of vintage Japanese vehicles, or any vintage vehicles, dream about finding a car like this: all-original, just sitting there in seemingly decent and complete condition. This 1973 Toyota Celica ST is in Elizabeth, New Jersey and it’s on eBay with no reserve and a current bid price of just over $1,500. Along with loads of other people, I consider the first-generation Celicas as being classics. this example looks like it could be brought back from the doldrums without breaking the bank.

This car sure looks good to me, but I know that there are troubles lurking; we all know that. It appears to just have a few little rust areas and some surface rust on just about every metal part, but, surprisingly, the body looks solid on this car. Those scud missle-like bumper projections have to go! Keep them, though, someone may want them for their restoration project.

The ST was positioned between the base LT and the top-trim GT. The GT is the one to find, but it would be 1974 before they became available in the US. Any first-generation Celica is a worthy car to restore. Japan models were the ET/LT/ST/GT/GTV and if you can find a GTV, do not stop in your quest to get the money to buy it on the spot. Of course it’ll be right-hand drive, but who cares. The Celica was a much-needed sporty addition to the stoic Toyota line.

Gold and brown – classic 1970s colors. The seats appear to be in good condition other than a bit of fraying on the driver’s seat. And, arrrrg.. it has the first-time-available optional automatic! Just when I was starting to get so excited. It can always be converted to a manual transmission, of course, and as luck would have it, the seller says that it “also comes with a 5spd transmission swap from another 73 Celica, I have pedals, trans, master cylinder, lines, clutch,etc.” They also say that this car has 64,000 miles on it, which is amazing. I drive 3/4 of that total every year so for a 44-year old car to only have 64,000 miles on it is pretty cool. They also say that there’s a new dash in the car, although is it black instead of brown? An un-cracked black dash is better than a cracked brown one in my world, just so the original gauges were transferred over; the vinyl can always be dyed.

There’s a fair amount of surface rust under the ol’ bonnet. I’d want to remove this engine and spruce things up in there, this car deserves to be restored back to factory spec, even with an automatic.  This car “runs and drives”, so that’s a very good thing. This is Toyota’s 18R-C 2.0L inline-four with 97 hp. Most collectors of any car, Japanese, American, German, British, etc., want the smallest bumpers possible, these would be the pre-1975 Celicas. If I didn’t have too many irons in the fire already and this was a 5-speed car, it would be tempting. Have any of you owned a first-gen Celica?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    If I was to buy one vintage Asian car, this would be it. I thought these original Celica’s were the best design, and never cared where they went from here. These were popular, but they didn’t last long, 2 maybe 3 winters tops, and fenders began falling off. For a personal sporty car that got 3 times the gas mileage from what we were used to, it was a win-win. You just don’t see these like this. Super find!

    • Tony S

      Me too!

  2. Derek

    I had a 1600 (1976-ish) one – high cam, short pushrods and twin carbs. Fast car for its time.

  3. Dave Member

    The 18RC is a good enough engine, but are known for, and happened to me, timing chain ka-boom. Cool car.

    Like 1
  4. Tony S

    Great find! If it was a stick I would be all over this! LOVE the side badges.

  5. Rustytech Member

    My brother had the hatchback version with the 5speed. It wasn’t overtly fast compared to the US muscle cars but would out drive them on winding roads anytime. Unfortunately as with most early Japanese cars it was eaten by the tin worm within five years. There was a reason they would only finance them for 48 months! With this being in New Jersey I’d look it over closely before considering any bid.

  6. Paul

    Refreshingly different

  7. Neil

    I had a ’74 Celica GT. Very nice little car, but prone to rust. In ‘ 74 none of the US auto makers had anything to rival it. It was also a 5 speed manual, and even had factory A/C. It was originally ordered by the owner of the dealership, but when I looked, they only had his car on the showroom floor they were so new to the market. I factory ordered one, the same as the owners. A day later they called me and said the owner would relinquish his, if I’d leave it on the floor until the incoming shipment came in. I kept it until the Celica GTS came out in ’82. I liked it better than the Supra, which came out the same year, but a little later.

  8. vic

    Greetings! Not owned; but still own. 1972. Bought it new. I was a junior in high school. Almost 45 years later, still have it. :o) Original price was $2847.00.

    Like 4
    • Stuart

      I have the exact same car. Except was rear ended and needs some rear left repair:(

      It’s a keeper. However, if you want to sell to a good home, call me!

  9. sparkster

    My old girlfriend bought a new black 1985 Celica GTS hatchback. What a blast to drive. I still wish she owned it.

  10. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Like….just not sure this is a upper east coast car….looking for rust….like under the hood ? Think this maybe spent life some where else….some buddy will like this also and have fun with it !

  11. Tom

    Love these cars…make mine a GT 5spd pls!

  12. jtnc

    Bought a 73 Celica ST new (but with a manual, never an automatic!). Loved it. Drove it about 7 years and sold it to my brother who sold it to my other brother who sold it back to me to use as a third car! Converted it from 4-speed to 5-speed. Stayed in family into the late 90’s, about half the time in North Carolina and half in New Jersey. Eventually rust got to the rocker panels. Interior still looked great after 25 years Sold it to someone in PA who wanted to restore it. Wish I had it back (but without the rust).

  13. Jason

    Lovely looking car. I’ve always loved this generation Toyota Celica. My favourite has always been the later model, with the 20R engine.

  14. Joe Backer

    My father had one. Five speed too. I really like to bid on this. Just to know what it was like to drive one.

    • Mark

      I had one. Good mileage, but had a really clunky transmission, (5 speed). Same clunky Toyota 5 speed in a later Corolla.

      • Another Mark

        I had a ’72. Yep good mileage and a very clunky 5 speed transmission. During the gas crunch, I put clear plexiglas over the headlights and in different places on the front with duct tape. Got even better gas mileage. But again, boy that transmission.

  15. 408interceptor

    I prefer the 77 model, somebody on youtube put a 350 small block in one. This Star Wars special edition might be the rarest first gen Celica ever made.

  16. Adrian

    I have have one for sale 1977 Toyota celica Gt located in manteca ca call me at 209.612.2060adrian title clean and ready !

  17. JimmyJ

    I had a 74 bright red second car I ever owned everything broke but I think it’s cuz I beat the s##t out of it still think it’s one of the best looking Japanese cars would love to have another one. Stick shift of course
    Being born and raised mopar am I the only one who thinks it looks like a mini 70 cuda?

    Like 2
  18. Doug Towsley

    These were super popular back in the day and everywhere… Tons of young ladies drove these from teens to early 30 somethings. Was the car to have. Huge nostalgia drives their popularity now.

  19. Bruce Fischer

    My 1st girl friend had one .It was blue with a white vinal top. Stick shift with A.C. very sporty car .Loved it. Bruce.

  20. John C Cargill

    Back in the 80s I had one as a daily driver. Rough but reliable. Carb was a problem, choke issues. So I put in a manual choke. Mine was the same color with a black vinyl top and black int. of course a black dash. I finally had to get rid of it when I went to replace the clutch and put a socket on the trans crossmember bolts. and the bolt came out along with a shower of rust, there would have been nothing to bolt it back into. Sorry to see it go. 4 speed, wanted a fifth but the car wasn’t worth converting. It started all through a rough winter even at 25 below F.

  21. Keith

    This has been for sale on my local CL for quite awhile now, at $5000. Kind of odd that it was bid up to $4550 on Ebay (the previous time it was listed) and the seller didn’t just drop the reserve to that and let it sell. Now he has it on Ebay with a BIN of $5000. Should’ve taken the $4550 and called it good.

  22. TD

    I’ve been in that position…setting the reserve high at first, then finding out Ebay will not let you lower the reserve in the last 24 hrs I believe…

  23. Brian Tuttle

    I had a red GT, 5 speed. It was a fun car until rust took a toll on it. Looking back, I should have done what some other Vermonters do, buy a beater with a heater and stored the Celica.

  24. Doug Bradley

    Yes, I thought they looked like a mini mopar as well when I bought a brand new 73 Celica. White with black vinyl roof black interior. Reading the previous posts brought back all those memories of the same problems, the straw that broke the camels back was when I placed a jack in the proper position to change front left tire and jack went through the floor. This was at three yrs old. In spite of the problems I still have fond memories of that car but I never bought another Toyota.

    Like 1
  25. Daryl

    Bought a brand new 1973 Celica ST. Wish I had it now. Loved to enter it in Road Rallyes. Military assignment to Japan was cancelled, but car had already shipped. The car came back in 6 months, then I was assigned to Europe. Sold it with 213,00 miles on it.

    Like 1
  26. Mike

    I bought a GT when they first came out, same color. The cylinder head cracked after 20k miles but the dealer replaced under warranty. Put another 40k trouble free miles on it and traded it for a ‘77 lift back GT. Loved them both.

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