Never This Nice: 1987 Toyota Celica GT-S

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Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to future Japanese classics. The German and American models that plastered the bedroom walls of adolescents now entering their mid-life stage are quickly rising in value, from the iconic BMW 3-Series to the Camaros and Mustangs of the same era. However, I haven’t seen a noticeable uptick yet with the Asian makes and models despite an abundance of interesting and sporting cars that emerged in the late 80s. This 1987 Toyota Celica GT-S here on eBay is one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, and worth watching for a final sale price.

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Now, this isn’t going to be an exciting, race to the finish-type auction – the seller has a Buy-It-Now of $4,100, which seems perfectly fair for the high-quality condition. The bodywork remains impressively clean and free of rust. The car is only with its second owner from new, and was with the original owner up until 1995. Although it was used for daily duties in California and Oregon, its spent the recent past relaxing in a garage in Montana. The seller’s husband is a mechanic and has managed the upkeep of the Celica.

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This generation Celica was celebrated for its handling and overall chassis dynamics. Other competitors, including my bucket list Subaru XT6, were criticized for lacking the responsiveness of the Celica, and this was before the highly-desirable Turbo All-Trac entered the picture. Although this GT-S is a great looking car and likely an excellent driver, the All-Trac is its turbocharged, all-wheel drive pumped-up sibling that’s rare as hens teeth to find in anything but absolutely trashed condition. This car’s interior looks practically new, a good sign that it has had loving owners from the start.

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The standard-issue DOHC 2.0L engine produced 135 b.h.p. routed through a 5-speed manual transmission. The GT-S package added rear disc brakes and 5-lug wheels, which certainly opened up the aftermarket options if you’re looking to swap out the standard rollers. So, when will the Japanese classics of the 80s start to appreciate – and why are they slow to catch up to their European siblings? I could talk about the lack of soul so many Euro-fans tend to point to, but it doesn’t resolve the fact that these are cheap to live with and decent handlers right out of the box. What gives?


Auctions Ending Soon


  1. 68 custom

    Toyotas of this generation are near bullet proof, this car would make a great driver!

    Like 3
  2. Blueprint

    I owned a 1986 GT 3-door in the same color as this one from ’89 to ’95, and sold it with 206,000 km and hardly any rust (I stored it winters) . Fantastic sport coupe with a very low center of gravity. Seeing those pop ups at the end of the hood gave you the feeling of driving something special. So many memories, would buy it on the spot if it was on the East Coast!

    Like 2
  3. Blueprint

    Oh and I have this exact same car in 1:25 scale – a high quality Tamiya model kit I built while I owned my GT…

    Like 1
    • Mike

      I have the same one. One of the many I still haven’t got to.

      Like 0
  4. Bobsmyuncle

    The market for Japanese is HOT, but it’s still a decade behind this, give it time.

    Like 0
  5. Mike

    Not as classic as the 1st or 3rd gen but if I had $4K burning a hole in my pocket I’d have already clicked the “Buy it now” button.

    Like 0
  6. Alan (Michigan)

    206K miles…

    Not impossible for it to be in good and usable condition, particularly if properly maintained. I wish that the photos were higher resolution. Is it just me, or does there appear to be a body color difference in the driver’s side view?

    Questions for cars with this many miles are: Clutch? Cam belt? Ball Joints? Axle shafts? Differential noise? Wheel bearings? etc…..

    Like 1
  7. jaygryph

    I’ve noticed an uptick in prices on the 72 – 28 Toyota 2wd pickups. There’s a Thai company stamping out reproduction plastic pieces for them now.

    Great, since I have a bunch of the trucks and parts for that era. I think those are going to appreciate pretty well since the middle of the country hasn’t seen those in quite some time, decades even. Picking up cars from the west coast where it’s dry and shipping them back east might be worth peoples time. I’m seeing $500 trucks going for two or three times that back east. Really nice ones are getting pretty respectable money.

    Like 0
  8. Vintageant

    Can somebody explain the Buy It Now choice? Why not an auction with a reserve at the Buy It Now price. Never understand it. What am I missing?

    Like 0
  9. jtnc

    I bought a new ’86 Celica GTS almost identical to this, but with leather interior which to me was much nicer than the velour-ish cloth that Toyota used at the time (as seen on this car). The handling dynamics of the GTS were amazing. I was a little reluctant about the change to FWD, but the handling was superior to the RWD ’82 Celica GT I traded and the FWD ’81 Jetta I had before that. I had the ’86 GTS for four years and I think it had one repair, the antenna motor. I decided I needed four doors and traded for a Sterling 827! The Sterling had many fine characteristics but I had more problems with it in the first four months than in four years with the Celica. To me, this gen Celica now looks slightly “blobby”; I think the more razor edge design of the 82 – 85 model has aged better.

    Like 0
    • The BamaNutt

      I had a 1987 Celica ST. Just a “plain Jane” and add the other options for this model myself. It drove with a feeling of power beyond the little 4 cylinder. She would take on a set of S-curves that was on my way home from work. I could hold the wheel at a perfect degree and she would seem like she was glued to the road while going around 60-65 MPH and keep me in my lane with absolutely no problem. She was also so quiet while driving with no car sounds of any kind except for the 1200 watt CD Stereo system giving you the feeling of being at a concert with the pounding thud of the Kick drum would feel like you were being punched in the chest but not an uncomfortable punch, just the feeling of the percussion hitting you. I lost it in a divorce in ’89 so I can’t attest to it beyond 1990.

      Like 3
  10. Michael D.

    I’ve owned many, many collector cars. You name it. Ferrari, Lambo, Alfa, Jag, Rolls, Cadillacs (about 10), Buick, Nash, BMW, Porsche,Corvettes, Mini, MG, and I could go on. As I’ve aged…now almost 62, I have paired the collection down for many reasons. First, It’s a lot, even with the money, to keep more than a dozen cars running. Second, the fun runs out pretty fast after you’ve owned these and have to tinker with each one almost every time you take one out. So, in short…..I’m down to two. My ’57 T-Bird which has (along with most of the Caddies) been a great reliable classic which I’ve owned about 15 years now. The other is my 2004 NSX. Great to drive, and it’s a Honda! Translation: it never breaks. I’ve been looking at old Celica’s for the past year, and they are tough to come by. At least nice one’s are. And then the nice one’s are automatics, and I hate that. Looking for a 1970-72, but not much out there. I don’t like restoring cars, just like putting the key in and driving. Not spending tons of cash and time (which I have less of) on projects. I buy them mint, or purchase someone else’s time and grief when it’s finished. I’ve also been buying old Japanese bikes 1960-1970. The fun to some guys is putting them together, and its a hobby where they finish a project, sell at a loss usually, and do it again. No more for me. I buy the best I can find, and drive them. I really think these Japanese cars are the way to go. They won’t be in the shop all the time, and they are good looking IMO. I like old Datsun 510’s and early Z’s too. I think Having more than one American or Euro car at a time is too much. They can be a real pain in the ass…..why beat yourself up? The Jap cars are cheaper to buy, and maintain, and are great to drive, and that’s what the hobby is really about, not (to me now) having them sit in the garage, waiting for parts, etc. Not knocking the other cars because like I said, I’ve owned them, but I just don’t have the time or patience anymore. Drive baby, and that’s what the Japanese cars do, while not breaking the bank either.

    Like 2
  11. Todd Barrett

    If you set a reserve price and it doesn’t sell you still have to pay fees. Whereas if you start the auction at your price or by it now and it doesn’t sell you don’t have eBay feed.

    Like 0
  12. Tom Driscoll

    As to your question, “will the Japanese cars appreciate?”, look no further than the 90’s Toyota Supra Turbo which routinely brings $50k+ even with automatic and over 100k, or the Twin Turbo Nissan 300ZX which isn’t far behind…wish I had the forethought to pick them up 10 yrs ago!

    Like 0
  13. Tysen Mietus

    this is such a cool car. I just got a mk4 celica but it is pretty rusty and old, still a fun car and for only $600 for a gts it is a fun car

    Like 0

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