Less Than 70 Left? 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser

This rare 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser is purported to be one of less than 70 left, and the seller notes this example is a highly-optioned survivor. The Sunchaser gave Celica owners the thrill of having a targa-style roof with a soft-top rear window, which was certainly an acquired taste. The Celica Sunchaser is listed here on eBay with lots of recent updates and a smooth-running 22R engine paired to an automatic transmission.

The final product in terms of creating the Sunchaser isn’t exactly graceful, which may have limited interest when introduced along with a somewhat high price tag. The original owner of this car wasn’t turned off by the price, as they added numerous options like the automatic, A/C, cruise control, GT wheels, and passenger-side rear view mirror.

The seller notes the body benefits from a fresh paint job which included new pinstriping and a new rear vinyl convertible top. The interior is described as being original, with clean bucket seats that do exhibit some bagginess, and door panels that haven’t been cut up for larger speakers. The seller also notes the dash is uncracked and the original floormats remain with the car.

The 22R engine is far from exotic, but it will also long outlive the car that’s built around it. The seller doesn’t go into great detail about the Sunchaser’s mechanical history, but the engine is said to run sweetly with a transmission that shifts smoothly through all the gears. The Sunchaser is listed with a $9,500 Buy-It-Now and the option to submit a best offer. Is rarity worth $10K?


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  1. Miguel

    How do they know how many are left?

    There could be many of these tucked away in garages, which is what this site is based upon.

    Like 8
    • Steve R

      He “knows” how many are left because a “low” number makes his more valuable.

      Steve R

      Like 5
      • Larry

        Use the right word when you “quote”… because “knows” and “KNOWN” have 2 different meanings, I am the seller, and I also maintain/run the Sunchaser registry, and that is how many I have FOUND in almost 10 years… so there may be a 1000 more out there, but I KNOW of only 70 left to exist worldwide…. PLEASE if you know of any, send them to the registry http://www.facebook.com/groups/363475023775087/ I would love to add them to the total,

        Like 7
    • Larry

      Miquel, see my reply below, I do not “KNOW” how many are still in existance, I only said that is how many that is “known” (by the registry) to still exist, I have actually found “evidence” of almost 100, but 30 of those have been destroyed or parted out or rusted away, leaving 70 known to still exist… http://www.facebook.com/groups/363475023775087/ but the page is for owners only, thanks

      Like 1
  2. grant

    I know of at least two running and driving in Oregon.

    Like 1
  3. Kevin Barr Staff

    One of my closest friends has a beautiful blue Sunchaser with a manual transmission. Here it is with my Cressida.

    Like 9
  4. Skorzeny

    For the money, I would rather have the Volvo above. You can shove that automatic…

    Like 3
  5. steve

    I would like one in the $4k range please.

    Like 3
  6. Stangalang

    Like any other vehicle…its worth what someone will pay…I owned a white sun chaser years ago and wish I still had it..could not kill that drive train

    Like 1
  7. JoeNYWF64

    Terribly cheap & ugly looking mirrors that create blind spots from the inside. Toyota should have stuck with the DOOR SKIN mounted mirrors used on the ’78 – same car. They also would not have had to tool up shorter door glass! All of the above – dumb!
    Temp & oil gages should have numbers on them – even metric if they must – blah! lol
    I guess back then even Toyota had poor build quality? – uneven gaps, especially in trunk lid.
    Odd the front grill looks crooked – factory build quality or former accident?
    That’s a huge gas pedal i see there.

    Like 1
    • Kman

      I noticed the “owner” didn’t respond to you. Leaves a lot to be understood by the silence.

      • Larry

        I didn’t reply because I am not “Toyota”. I cannot apologize or defend a 40 year old design they created, and opinions are varied anyway… whats ugly to some, is beautiful to others…Temp and oil gauges need numbers?? really? how do you respond to that? that is just a preference, I didn’t design it… Some love the side mirrors, others like holes screwed into their fenders or doors, all opinions on what is better…. I like the no holes way myself… and as for the grille looking “crooked” its because of a shadow in the picture, that makes it look odd, as far as the trunk having gaps, it actually has new weatherstripping which make it sit a little higher… its almost 40 years old, you want perfect gaps, and a perfect car for less than $10K, good luck??? Most things I did to refresh, are usually not considered restoration, most cars 40 years old have a repaint, most have weatherstripping replaced, I guess replacing the tires is considered “restoration” too, changing the oil?? and gas pedal is stock, so maybe talk to Toyota about it being to huge for your foot… lol

        Like 2
      • JoeNYWF64

        My bad – i was under the impression this car’s body was all original.
        I am not surprised that repro weatherstripping from you know where does not fit like a glove. & from what you say, it appears that the mad switch to imports in the 70s & 80’s was not due to the build quality. I guess it was the better mpg – certainly not rust resistance, with imports rusting quite quickly too.
        I actually appreciate & applaud that large gas pedal!, considering the terribly small narrow uncomfortable one on the chevette i test drove that ALONE actually kept me from buying the car!
        I don’t know who started it, mounting ugly door mirrors where there should be glass, but since then, even cars that still did have mirrors mounted to the door SKINS(like 3000gt & corvette & modern camaro & challenger), have a dumb ugly triangular piece of plastic behind it waiting to fade where there should have been glass. It’s bad enough how ridiculously huge the windshield pillars are, but creating even more of a blind spot in front corners with today’s door mirrors is not a good idea! I almost wonder if they are in some cases causing drivers to not see pedestrians these days – with you know what result – almost daily now!
        Sit in a 1st gen camaro & then a new one & compare the view outward at the front 2 corners!
        Having numbers on a ’70s firebird’s gages told my friend eventually that the car started running a little too hot & something was amiss. The owner’s manual actually says exactly what temp the car is supposed to run at & exactly what the oil pressure is supposed to be! What are
        manufacturers trying to hide on other cars that dont have numbers on the temp & oil press gages? hmmh.

  8. Arthur

    The E-Bay listing didn’t say there were less than 70 left, it stated there were only 70 registered in the last 6 years on his FB page. I would hope that the writer would report this more accurately. The seller also has conflicting information by stating it was an unrestored original, but later states it had a repaint. He also states several items he replaced. I guess that is not a full restoration, but it certainly is a significant refreshing.

    Not all specialty car owners necessarily join a club/organization focused on their cars, so speculating on numbers of a car left based on a FB page is not a very accurate measurement of how many still exist.

    As for the car. I had a 1981 Celica ST 5 speed with a full convertible conversion by Grandeur and had lower production numbers than the Sunchaser. It was the same color as the one listed. It wasn’t very quick, but it was fun. It was in good shape, wore its original paint, and had 43,000 miles (it spent over 20 years in storage). I sold it for $5000 a couple years ago, so in my opinion I think the asking price is on the high side on this one.

    Like 1
  9. David Studley

    I had a 1980 yellow one, standard, leaked like a cive but it was a fun car to drive on a hot summer night blasting ” In the air tonight” by Phill Collins 🤣

    Like 1
  10. Larry

    I agree with a lot of what you say, 80’s design was iffy at best, but at least they were trying different things… unlike today where every make and model looks so close to each other its hard to tell who makes them.
    The car does have all original body panels as far as I know, no signs of ever being in a wreck, and the weatherstripping I had reproduced from the original (and I sell on ebay) or I used NOS from Toyota… The quality is still far above the Camaro’s and Mustangs (and other American Cars) of the same era, the only reason you see more of them is they made a blue bajillion of them compared to the Celicas. So finding a Sunchaser than is not rusted is rare, finding them cheaper is not a problem, (but good luck finding a better one) a decent repaint is $2000, fixing the a/c runs $1000 most times, new interiors are $3000, new top is $1000, add new tires, and fixing everything else that might be wrong can get costly…and you still not have as nice a car as this…. 5 years ago you could get a 280z for $3000, now they are mid $10K’s…
    The few I have found over the years were on craigslist, hemmings, ebay, etc, not just people that found me, I “borrowed” from another registry (with permission) and this is all I can find… if someone else can find more, go for it, prove me wrong, and of course there are some out there I dont have, but even if I missed 50%, that still is only about 100 running around….rare by any standard… Still a fun little car and always the only one at the car shows, lol!

    Like 1
  11. Stevieg

    These are cool little cars & I always wanted one. Sure, the targa band might be a little awkward, but at least the effort was there to make a convertible, and a safe one.
    I thank the seller for putting in the effort to not only preserve this one, but also for hosting the registry. He is helping a minor part of history be remembered in doing so. I wish he didn’t feel the need to be so defensive. The car is a nice car. Perfect? From what I see, no. Big deal. It is a car that will undoubtedly be reliable (Toyota products from that era were virtually indestructible, besides rust), economical & fun. Someone will buy it for what he wants to sell it for.
    I hope who ever buys it drives the heck outta it & enjoys it.
    As for build quality, let’s face it…no car from that era was a prize pig in that regard. But this car has been driven, maintained & undoubtedly tampered with for 40 years. The grill does look crooked to me too. I don’t believe it to be a lighting/shadow issue. So what? I’m not perfect either lol. If that is the big complaint, besides the positioning of the side view mirrors & the size of the throttle, off hand that is all pretty minor.
    I really wish the seller hadn’t come across as so defensive here. The way he snapped back at others comments didn’t really help his case. Sometimes when people say things ya don’t like, just ignore it. I need to remember that too sometimes lol.
    I, in the recent past, took offense to someone’s comments here on this website. Hindsite being what it is, I still believe it was a personal attack toward me, but I haven’t seen him on here too much since then, & I am still here.
    Maybe I just don’t have much of a life lol. I believe it is just because I enjoy this community.

    Like 3
    • Larry

      thanks for your post, (all of you) I do apologize if I sounded harsh, I too, took it as aimed at me, and like I said people all have opinions and are allowed to express them…. I try to post things on ebay with as accurate a description as I can … and being I spent way to many years collecting the very little data I have, its kinda insulting to be called out for sharing that info…I love these cars (I have 3 more Sunchasers in my collection, along with 4 other 80-81 Celicas) but I need to downsize a bit, as its hard to drive them all ;-) I might try to take another pic of the grill too, thanks, hahaha

      Like 2
  12. Stevieg

    Yeah Larry, do yourself a favor & get a better front end shot of that grill. If I were interested in purchasing it, I would question the grill being straight with that picture too.
    Good luck with the sale!

  13. Larry

    Mike, yes sir,
    I have all those in my registry,
    thanks anyway

    and Stevie, I will get a better nose pic, thanks

    Like 1

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