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Rising Sun: 1980 Toyota Celica Sunchaser

1980 Celica Sunchaser

One of the best ways to feel a connection to a car outside of driving it is to own it in miniature. For those of you who collected them before you could drive one, you might remember the Tomy brand out of Japan. Fittingly, they offered several variations of the original Celica and Supra models, which included the Sunchaser. To this day, I still consider the quasi-convertible design one of the more memorable ones out there, with a targa-style roof bar in between a removable roof panel and soft, folding rear-glass section. Thanks to Jim S for sending along this garage find example of a Celica that needs a rescue mission to chase the sun once again. Find it here on eBay or in Pennsylvania.

Celica Droptop

Back to the Tomy toy car: if it weren’t for that small-scale model, I might not have known this car ever existed. I’ve yet to see one in real life, which is unusual for a Japanese model of any kind made in the last 40 years. But in some ways, the design is not unlike that of the ill-fated Subaru SVX with its window-inside-a-window design that left potential buyers polarized by the complicated and unnecessary feature. While I see beauty in the engineering of this targa/convertible design, it’s possible the typical American car buyer didn’t understand why it wasn’t one or the other when it first debuted on the market. In my mind, it offers the best of both worlds!

Celica Sunchaser Interior

Of course, despite the name, this particular Celica hasn’t caught any rays in quite a while. It’s got some cosmetic issues, and the targa roof panel has definitely seen better days. I wonder on cars like this just how difficult it is to find the unique bits, such as the convertible roof or replacement targa panels. While the rear plastic widow doesn’t appear to be torn, it could be cloudy under all that dust, necessitating replacement. At least it’s all there and can provide a template if needed. And while sheepskin seat covers are fortunately a thing of the past, they can do a good job of preserving leather and vinyl surfaces; hopefully, that’s the case here.

1980 Toyota Sunchaser

I hate to see cars destined for weekend travel and other fun driving experiences saddled with an automatic. I’m not sure how difficult it would be to attempt a transmission-swap, but it would certainly elevate the driving experience. Since underneath the unusual roof design is a mass-produced Japanese car with the un-killable 22R motor, I’m sure it’s possible to raid some parts bins for the necessary swap pieces. But before that happens, this 1980 Celica Sunchaser needs to be freed from its garage dwelling to ensure that top goes down at least one more time. What would you do? Does this rare convertible need another shot at the sun?


  1. Don Sicura

    I think it’s time for the sun to set on this thing…………lol

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  2. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Shame it’s an automatic…although at least, being a RWD Toyota, it will be a fairly reliable one. I remember one fairly new one of these when I was in college…it was bright yellow and driven by a guy who never seemed to lack female company…

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  3. John A

    Kool car! Crap writing

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    • Tim H

      I like the story way better then the car. I still have some matchbox cars from my childhood. But this car does not look good with the top up.

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      • Jeff Lavery Staff

        Tim, in some cases, the Matchbox cars may even look better than the real thing!

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  4. Leon

    Wow. My last sighting was 1986. A high school classmate drove one.

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  5. tom999p

    There’s one of those in Colorado. I wonder how many of those were made, 200?

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  6. davew833

    I loved the Tomy pocket cars! I wish I still had mine.

    The only thing complicated about the SVX window was going through a drive-thru with one. I’ve had a number of SVXs and the window was a great way to get ventilation without full-force wind blowing in directly on you.

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    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Dave, great point. I actually love the SVX and would like to buy one to do a manual swap with someday. Like most things Japanese, there is usually a method to the madness. ;-)

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  7. Leon

    Did anyone else ever notice the tomica Tomy scale diecast cars seemed to have better ‘wheel suspension” than the Hotwheels ?

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    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Oh yeah. You could actually make the Tomy cars “squat”! Of course, as a young’n, I likely compressed their tiny suspensions too far…

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  8. JThor

    Notice the string from the sholder belt loop to the targa panel. I think there may be a problem keeping the targa panel on the car.

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  9. cliffyc

    Woah!, The Subaru SVX!, place I worked the lady opposite owned one of these,they are quite rare here in Englandshire. It sat neglected for about 3 years slowly weathering,think it was scrapped. The rarity and costly parts did for it. I reason,(had a a Subaru Legacy myself and parts are crazy expensive, as not many pattern copies around). In my opinion this is one car that always looks better in a solid colour (color!),than metellic paint. Don’t think Toyota sold the Sunchaser model here in any great numbers (found ONE on ebay,that’s all),so parts could be fun to find!. Before everybody comments yes,we do have sunshine here in the UK!….., but you sometimes do have to chase it!!!.

    Like 0

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