How Many Are Left? 1981 Toyota Sunchaser

Today was a messy day in the Northeast, casting doubt that springtime is going to arrive in the near-term. So it goes without saying that when you’re heaving snow off the shovel with about three inches of water underneath, your mind doesn’t exactly wander to thoughts of top-down driving. However, when it’s a rare car like this 1981 Toyota Sunchaser here on craigslist, exceptions can be made. It’s pretty cheap, too, at just $2,200 or best offer. 

Custom convertibles were once a booming industry for aftermarket companies like Griffith, as other makes like Ford also dabbled with low-production drop tops. Toyota agreed to supply a car like this Celica for Griffith to work its magic on, which included cutting out the roof from the windshield to the B-pillar, and then doing further surgery from the B-pillar back to the trunk. The goal was to accommodate both a targa-style top over the cabin and a conventional convertible rear section. The remaining original roof serves as a roll hoop.

This car is far from perfect, but with so few made, beggars can’t be choosers. Frankly, the important stuff is there, including the original removable targa roof that appears to be in great shape. The seller says the body is in good shape for its age, but I still see some rust flaring up in places. It also appears to be sporting a set of wheels from an early 1980s Porsche 924 Turbo; I’d prefer the OEM Celica or Supra wheels. The Toyota does turn over but doesn’t start. Thankfully, someone drained the gas tank before it went into storage.

Inside, an aftermarket Momo steering wheel looks far sharper than the original. Somewhere along the line, an owner inserted a variety of aftermarket gauges in the dash for reasons unknown. We don’t have much else to go on for this particular Sunchaser, but we do know that its Toyota underpinnings make maintenance a breeze despite the low production volume for this custom convertible. If you do buy it, hold onto that targa roof panel like it was your first-born – they are impossible to find replacements of. Is this Sunchaser worth saving for summer?

Fast Finds


  1. Tenspeed

    I had a 1981 Celica with a 5 speed the same as this one. The 22R engine (or is it a 20R?) is only 105 horsepower or so, but it was fun with a manual. The mechanicals are bullet proof, so it should run well as long as it was maintained by its previous owners. This would be a neat car for some summer sun. I might have been interested in this one if I hadn’t recently bought a 135i convertible for a play toy.

  2. tiitouring02

    With the ever increasing popularity in vintage Japanese cars, this has to push someone’s buttons. Find a nice solid celica/supra of the same vintage as a parts donor, and you could really end up with something very rare and interesting. I’d start with putting the original dash back in…

  3. DrinkinGasoline

    I’ve only ever seen 2. I know less than zero about these but i do know the Celica GT’s were zippy little offerings. Years ago, a couple of friends… one had the Celica GT and the other, a Mustang II Cobra II in Hertz colors. The Celica made that poor Mustang look silly. I felt so bad for it . :(

  4. Don

    Worth restoring yes

  5. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I think for a Japanese car guy, this is a great buy (I’m not a Japanese car guy)

    I’m having a hard time figuring out what those two flap things are on the targa top, and also trying to figure out where the top was stored when driving it

  6. Doug

    This car has been posted for months on Craigslist here in Orlando. No takers.
    There’s another one of these that shows up occasionally here in Central FL. I believe it’s in better shape than this one.

  7. CowboyChris

    A friend of mine had one of these back when we were younger it was also a four or five speed or whatever he taught me how to drive a stick in that car but I tell you what the way he drove this thing this car was bullet proof, he would Redline his car all day long, this thing would have all the abuse you gave it it was just a all out fun car to drive

  8. chris Member

    I bought one of these almost new in 1984 when I was in the navy. I sold my e-type jag hardtop (yeah I know) because I wanted a dependable convertible. This was as close as I could get back then since e-types were just another old car and I couldn’t afford the upkeep. A fun car as I recall but I didn’t have it long when I came across a Triumph TR-250 to buy. (Yet another car I let go before they appreciated out of my price range and that now could help fund retirement now)



    Shave the bumpers…tasteful one inch lowering…modestly wider wheel wells with nice rims..paint & body…fresh interior.
    Worth a restomod.

  10. Beemoe

    I’m always amused when someone says “good condition for its age.” Which means exactly… nothing.

  11. HeadMaster1

    OK, that dash appears to be a flat panel with gauges that is overlaying the original dash…WTH? That and the rust issues make this a nightmare to return to stock……These had a carbureted 20r, a decent appliance type motor…I’d hold out for a 85 Celica Convertible done by ASC

  12. Tacoma Car Nut

    I seem to remember seeing one Sunchaser in person. I didn’t know how many were produced. The one I saw was much nicer than this, and although I didn’t get to see the interior, I believe the gauges were standard for the 1978-81 Celica.

  13. Brakeservo

    Hard to believe this was made by the same company that produced the Cobra stomping Griffith 200!

    • Nick Member

      Brakeservo, reach out to me. I have something for you. Nick at mrinvestor com

  14. Eric 10Cars

    Always thought this was a neat car. The venerable 22R engine and probably a 5 speed…a solid combination that should have little issue with getting it right. Not sure about this particular car’s fitness but it could be worth a tumble for a better price….like $1200.

  15. Cherokee6

    The 1981’s have the 22r in them.

    • Glenn

      What would the odds be that you have a Sunchaser AND a Piper Cherokee Six?

  16. robin forrest

    As Cherokee6 said: the 1981’s have the 22r. 79 and 80 had the 20r

  17. Brakeservo

    Ok , what motor does my U.S. spec 1974 Hilux have??

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