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No Reserve: 1977 Toyota Celica GT

The first and second-generation Toyota Celicas remain among the most coveted Japanese sports cars made that mere commoners can afford. While I’m sure you could get into a tedious debate between owners of both generations about which one is better, there’s little doubt of a dedicated following for these early two doors. This example is a surprisingly nice 1977 GT in stock condition with no mention of rust or any evidence that it exists. Originally from California, the Celica is now located in Michigan and listed here on eBay with bidding over $6,000 and no reserve.

I was shocked a few months ago when we pulled a Celica of this vintage out of my friend’s property in Georgia in fairly rough shape, and still found a buyer with relative ease. That individual actually hoofed it straight down from Massachusetts to bring the car home, which needed a full restoration. The interesting aspect of the Celica’s appeal to enthusiasts is how wide-ranging it is, and not just to American consumers. These cars have a large following both overseas and in South America, granting them almost universal appeal among import enthusiasts. The body on this car looks to be quite straight, though the seller does mention the presence of dings and dents.

Dings and dents are really the least of your concerns, with rust being the primary enemy of Toyotas of this vintage staying in road-going shape. The sensitive sheet metal doesn’t hold up to years of exposure, outdoors or in, and especially in places where it snows. They do have a higher survivability rate on the West Coast but are often snatched up quickly when the little old lady puts it up for sale. The cockpit in this example remains quite nice, with untorn bucket seats, original steering wheel and shift knob, uncracked dash, clean carpets, and some sort of a period-correct radio. And yes, the air conditioning works.

The engines in these were more truck-like than anything else, so the driving experience is less about the performance and more focused on the pleasure gleaned from piloting a light, tossable, rear-wheel-drive coupe that wasn’t a Mustang II. Plus, it was just a good-looking car in a sea of econoboxes that the Big 3 were rushing to create to plug holes in their lineups. You can see why the Celica of this vintage was a threat to small car sales, as it set a high watermark for build quality and style that domestic compacts couldn’t match. The Celica looks like a nice driver with many new parts, including shocks, tires, battery, radiator, and a two-barrel Weber carburetor.


  1. alphasud Member

    A while back I was reading about this generation of Celica and how Toyota copied from the Mustang. It wasn’t apparent to me at first but I see it now. I don’t know why it’s always a let down when I see the engine in either this car or the truck and the factory carb has been tossed in favor of a Weber. It must be because people didn’t understand how they worked because the ones I drove with the factory one ran good.

    Like 2
    • Doug from MD.

      I agree completely about the carb never had problem with the stock carb set up on these. I do like the look of the weber set up over stock personally. These cars were so reliable you could almost weld the hoods shut. But not recommended. Lol.

      Like 10
      • Fred Zeppelin

        See the Celica GT Liftback, very Mustang inspired. Also beware that CA won’t allow that Weber, with their CARB tyranny

    • Howebrad460 Member

      Having rebuilt one of these carbs on the 20R on my 79 SR5 pickup, they are not for the faint of heart. Very, very sophisticated and complicated carb with many, many small parts; miss even one, and it won’t run right.

      The Weber’s on the other hand are pretty much plug and play and less expensive to swap on than to take the time and considerable effort to get the original carb back together.

      Like 3
      • JoeNYWF64

        I wonder if a ’60s rochester monojet could be fitted with an adaper – most reliable carb on the planet – friend bought rebuilt one 30 years ago from Strauss on sale for $35! – still no problems/hesistation, even when engine is stone cold.
        Good to change tiny in carb $1.50 filter every 6k miles – takes less than 5 min with 2 wrenches.

        Like 1
  2. JoeNYWF64

    This seems to have more room inside than a modern mustang or camaro!
    Many attractive single young girls drove 1 of these back then – nowadays they all look at the phone & few have a license. The lack of a modern sub $20k 2 door is not helping matters.

    Like 3
    • jerry z

      I agree that there is plenty of room for a tall driver. I had a ’75 and ’76 Celica and I’m 6 foot tall. Back seat room, not so much!

      Like 3
  3. 4spdBernie 4spdBernie

    Hardly a professional carb swap; that ol’ 20R has got to be sprayin’ oil every where, take a look at that breather and pcv valve setup, lol.

    Like 2

    There is genuine interest in these early Toyota’s today. The under 40 professional crowd love them and pay up. Prices are on the rise. Agree on the carb. I would prefer the OEM unit.

    Like 3
  5. David

    My first Toyota was a 1968 Corona fastback. I bought it used but in good shape. The selling point was a factory in-dash 8-track tape player and 4-speed. How cool! Blue with a white landau vinyl roof.

    Like 2
  6. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking Celica. I’ve always loved this generation.

    Like 2
  7. Jay

    As a previous owner of a first gen (’77) Celica GT Liftback, I’d delete “and second-” in the first line and agree with it wholeheartedly. I think the second-gen Celicas starting in 1978 were hideous bloated things.

    I had to have my OEM carb rebuilt after racing (and beating) a fox-body Mustang), but I certainly liked the look of it better on the 20R.

    Mine was a California car (when I was a California kid). I bought it at 70K miles and drove it across the country to college in Maryland (and back) four times, finally selling it in Baltimore in 1990 at 168K miles. I could feel it starting to rust, however, as soon as I got east of Dallas, Texas.

  8. Ort

    I had a 76. I just might buy this for $6K. Brings back my youth.

    Like 1
  9. Steve

    When I was 18 I purchased a brand new 77 GT Liftback 5sp in blue with a black interior. I added the OEM window louvres on the back hatch and mud flaps. What an awesome car to have fun with. Wasn’t all that powerful, but was very tossable in the corners and a blast to drive in snow. Unfortunately it only lasted about 18 months before a young person who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel attempted to drive through the car at high speed while I had parked it outside a bowling alley. It couldn’t survive the hit from the massive rear bumper of a 67 Monaco reversing at high speed.

    Like 2
  10. D McCarty

    They are great cars, I have a 74 which I swapped a Buick v6 Turbo Grand National engine. A real sleeper

    Like 3
  11. Angel M Gonzalez

    I love the earlier ones with the chrome bumpers.. Swap out those ugly black ones for chrome and you have a winner..JMO.

    Like 1
  12. Paul

    I had a ’78 back in about 1982. Easiest car I ever owned. Front brakes 30 minutes. Fuel filter a pair of pliers took the spring clamps off on the firewall. Great car.

    Like 1
  13. Michael Gold

    This was the first car I bought same color. I PAYED $500.00 in 1986 wow I cant believe how much thay get now,

  14. Rod Plapp

    I started selling Toyota’s in 1976 and the first three were Celica GT Hatchbacks..Our dealer used to put horrible aftermarket padded vinyl tops and basket rims on them to boost the profit margin before they came up with dealer markup stickers.Absolutely true about rust in the 70’s cars.

    Like 1
  15. Pleease

    In 1978 I bought a 1974 Celica ST – dark green, white interior – and kept it until about 1986-7. If I ran across a nice restored one, my wife/chief financial officer (my girlfriend in 1977!) would likely be interested too – we both loved that Celica!

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