Rare 1981 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser

The Sunchaser was a limited run conversion of a 1979-81 Toyota Celica coupe into a Targa-style convertible with a removable roof. The work was outsourced by Toyota and it’s estimated that about 2,000 of these transformations took place. This Sunchaser is from the third and final year of production and has had quite a bit of mechanical work done to it in recent years. The interior and top are remaining for the next owner to complete. Located east of Portland, Oregon, this somewhat rare car is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $8,000 OBO.

In order to convert the Celica into a Sunchaser, Toyota hired The Griffith Company to do the work. It started by cutting the roof off a Celica GT or ST immediately behind the windshield to the edge of the B-Pillar to accommodate a Targa-style replacement, and also removal of the roof from behind the B-Pillar to the trunk to work in a collapsible convertible rear section. When the job was completed, all that remained of the original roof was a roll bar. Each converted Celica should have a sticker inside the glove compartment signifying the work and the production number. In the case of the seller’s car, it was # 1087. In addition, a badge saying Sunchaser was placed on the outside of each B-Pillar.

This ’81 Sunchaser is offered for sale by its third owner. Because of its model year, it comes with the more desirable 22R engine, which was a two-valve, SOHC 2.4-liter inline-4 that produced 97 hp at 4,800 rpm. Rather than a 5-speed manual, this car has an automatic transmission with overdrive. We’re told the car runs great at 87,000 miles and the seller rebuilt the motor about five years ago, having only added about 1,500 miles since then.

More recent work on the car doesn’t stop there. Suspension components are new as are the brakes and carburetor. It also has new seals and wheels from a 1985 Supra model. The Toyota’s silver paint was reapplied about five years, so the body looks to be in good shape. Unfinished business seems to pertain to the interior (driver’s seat and carpet are worn) and the convertible top needs redoing. There are several aftermarket companies that can take care of the top, but if you ever damage the Targa portion itself; you’re going to have a major problem on your hands.

The seller regrets having to sell this car, but he has a 1977 Celica in his possession that needs work and he’d rather focus his resources on that project instead. He admits to being eager to sell and is willing to drive some distance to meet the buyer and hand over the car with a clean title. I haven’t seen one of these Sunchasers in years and – because they’re from Toyota – they’re probably a lot of fun to drive.


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  1. Bigcat Member

    I like these cars but IMHO, based on other results $5,000 is all the money for a automatic needing all this one needs

    Like 6
  2. Carl Bookbinder

    I just want to make sure that you understand that I have discontinued any membership as of 4/7/21& do not want to be charged again. Thank you!

    Like 5
    • Curt Lemay

      Interesting comment, who or what is it directed at? If it is a cancelation of your membership, may I ask why? I have started to see value in this site and am considering joining myself. Any input you have would be appreciated. Thank you.

      Like 2
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        I can’t comment about Carl’s experience, but as an active member for a couple of years now (free for several years before that), I see a lot of value here.

        I am a daily visitor, enjoy the content, and feel okay with a minimal monetary contribution to something I enjoy.

        Like 2
  3. easy money

    I had one about a year ago and had a blast driving it for a few months before I saw the underside…nothing left!! Sold some parts and sent the rest to the crusher…

  4. emeltz Member

    I had one in college with a manual trans, fun car and I liked the styling and Toyota reliability but the Targa roof around the weatherstripping leaked like a sieve!

  5. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    That’s neat. I never saw a convertible like that. I’d have to have the 5 speed but someone will buy it.

    • Howard Kerr

      In my experience, the 5 speed was not a popular “option” on this model. I have 1 or 2 and nearly always they are equipped with an automatic transmission.
      My sister owned a 81 Celica coupe that I drove a few times. It may have been the automatic transmission, but it seemed to be a bit of a ho-hum driver.
      Don’t get me wrong, they are/were nice looking and nicely put together, but as exciting as vanilla pudding.

  6. chrlsful@aol.com Member

    8K? not out in the boonies of OR. Is “willing to bring it to U” but is this just for a ‘ck out’? or only once purchased? Also seems not finished in restore wrk?
    Hummm, “fund my current project” is usually after I finish AND get some good use…

  7. ramblergarage

    The same company made a Sundancer for AMC from the Concord and Eagle. Even more rare, only about 200 were made.

    Like 1

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