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Los Angeles Liftback: 1978 Toyota Celica GT

0323016 Barn Finds- 1978 Toyota Celica - 2

For you vintage Japanese car fans, and I know you’re out there, I give you this 1978 Toyota Celica Liftback GT in fantastic condition. It’s in Los Angeles, California and is listed on craigslist for a price of $3,199. Well, it’s in fantastic condition other than a couple of marks and it looks like the right side windshield wiper is out of adjustment. But, for $3,199 this is a good deal for an original car.

0323016 Barn Finds- 1978 Toyota Celica - 1

The Celica was made from 1970 through 2006, a fairly long run in the automotive world. You may have heard of the Toyota Corolla celebrating its 50th anniversary recently, the Celica was on its way to 40 years when they pulled the plug on it. Toyota Corp. hasn’t had a rear-drive “sporty” car in quite some time, other than the joint-venture car with Subaru, the Scion FR-S which, now that Scion is kaput, will become the Toyota 86. The owner of this car is a valet parking attendant and he says that he knows his manual transmissions and this car has a great one. He also says that it has NO rust and has original paint, wheels, seat, etc. These are rear-wheel-drive cars and this one has some good, usable space in the back especially with the rear seats folded down.

0323016 Barn Finds- 1978 Toyota Celica - 3

You can fit a decent amount of junk in this trunk, or, in this liftback. I can’t tell what those marks are in back of the rear wheel but the owner says that there is no rust on this car so maybe it’s just mud or chipped paint. There are no mud flaps here so that could explain either of those two scenarios. The owner says that “it has a few scratches here and there (nothing big or ugly) but overall its in pretty Decent shape considering the year.” I would agree, it looks really good for a 38-year old car.

0323016 Barn Finds- 1978 Toyota Celica - 4

The seats look perfect other than maybe needing a good cleaning. The seller says that the dash is crack-free, unlike a lot of cars out there, especially in sunny California. They also say that the gas pedal is “very responsive” and it handles well on the freeway and the gauges all work. I think that a black interior would be nice in this car but this one looks great.

0323016 Barn Finds- 1978 Toyota Celica - 5

Here is the famous Toyota 20R, 2.2L 4-cylinder that has given so many owners reliable if not super spirited performance. It’s a single-overhead-cam engine and has about 90 hp in California cars. The rest of us got about 96 hp; better, but still not great. The owner says that this car “is able to idle on Neutral as long as you’d like without Ever Overheating.” That’s a good thing, especially on a 5-lane freeway when it’s 100 degrees out and you’re moving at 0.01 mph, like in Los Angeles. This would be inexpensive entry for someone who wanted to jump into the JNC (Japanese Nostalgic Car) world. I would prefer a first-generation car for sure, but I wouldn’t kick this one out of the garage. Do you like these later Celicas or would you stick it out and look for a first-generation car?


  1. grant

    I had a 77 for a little while. Was basically a 7/8 scale Japanese knockoff of a 69 Mustang. Right down to the seat upholstery. This one is in nice shape for its age. Better than mine was. They arent fast but they are fun to drive.

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    • Mr. Ed Member

      Also had 77 Celica. Love the Mustang look and the 5-speed was fun to drive.

      Like 0
  2. Paul

    Japanese car fan here and lovin every picture of this beauty!!

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  3. jim s

    nice looking driver. how many miles on this car? interesting find.

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  4. RoughDiamond

    Had a ’76 Liftback in mint condition with the 5-speed and AC. Wish I had it back now. Engine was bullet proof. This looks like a great deal to me from what I can see.

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  5. DanaPointJohn

    In early 1980 my dad calls and tells me he just bought a car. With interest and excitement I ask him what make and model and he says a 1978 Toyota Celica Liftback that had been a Hertz rental. Immediately I am not thinking good thoughts that were soon to be realized when the engine blew-up. But, the 12 month/12,000 mile zero deductible Hertz warranty replaced the engine and that car ran for more than 200,000 miles before my dad gave the car to my niece in 1995. Great car that was fun to drive.

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  6. Bobsmyuncle

    Nice find!

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  7. Bret

    I had a love interest in college who drove one exactly like this. I had a 280Z and I used to tease her about her car. It seemed like a real chick car to me. She had a vanity plate that as I recall read “Catch Me”

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  8. sparkster

    I had a 78′ non hatchback model , bought it with 98,000 miles and put another 150,000 miles on it. To date it was the best damn car I have ever owned. My girlfriend later on bought a brand new 1985 Black Celica GTS. Now that car was fun.

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  9. grenade

    These cars with the Toyota V8 1UZ-FE stuffed into them ,make for some serious fun. Great car, good platform for big twin turbo V8 swap. Keep it in the family, pull a Lexus LS400 apart and stuff the motor in this little number. You’ll stomp most SBC vehicles.. :)

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  10. Paul R.

    These were excellent cars compared to the junk iron produced by the american manufactures. I never saw one that was actually worn out, just a few in the shop for a blown head gasket after the thermostat stuck closed and it overheated.

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  11. angliagt

    Surprised that it’s still for sale.Older Japanese cars are going up in value-
    (EVEN my B210!).I think that this would be great as an interesting dd.

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  12. juan

    I love this japanese cars, in the 80´s here in Argentina imports were Tax free so hundreds of these cars were sold, my father and a friend bought two brand new Celicas ST 1.6, I loved that cars, he used it for 600.000 kms and never had a problem (here routes and highways are REAL bad), i cried when he traded it, later in 2001 his friend traded his and tried to buy it but I´m 6.3 feet tall so I coudn´t use it, I cried again.

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  13. BMW/TUNDRA Guy

    I’m 6’4″ and once owned a 78 lift back. I absolutely ran the crap out of that car! I also absolutely changed the oil every three thousand (still do, don’t care what any manufacture says, even at a $100 a pop on my BMW) miles and had to do normal maint, but that car was INDESTRUCTABLE!!! I cannot say I miss the car but I really do miss the RELIABILITY of it!! I currently have 4 Four Toyota’s and one BMW. The BMW eats me alive in maint were as the Toyota’s, you need not lift a finger.
    Oh, the rims on that car are NOT original. The rt rear is, the rest, came off of a Supra.

    Like 0

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