Survivor Notchback: 1979 Toyota Celica

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There’s been much written about the newest Toyota Supra after its official public debut a few days ago, reminding us that Toyota occasionally built cars that elevated your heart rate. While the first-generation Supra and Celica cars weren’t necessarily 1/4 mile bandits, they were quite pretty and at least built with sporting pretensions. Find this early notchback coupe here on eBay with a $3,500 Buy-It-Now and located in California. 

The preserved, period colors and California blue plates are indications of a long-term stay in a hospitable climate, a must-have if you want a Japanese coupe of this era to survive. The notchback body is hard to find across any generation of the Celica, particularly when combined with the more elusive second-generation platform that this car represents. The seller says the Celica just passed California’s tough smog tests and runs and drives well.

Now, that statement is very subjective, but at least on these pages, I tend to see the first-generation Celica far more than this second iteration. And man, does it look good: what looks like original paint; nice shutlines; polished trim with good luster; and a well-preserved interior. The only downer? An automatic transmission sits in the console, but also likely helped keep this Celica on the right side of being a gently used driver.

The 20R motor isn’t exotic – in fact, it’s practically a farm apparatus compared to what’s under the hood of the new Supra – but it will be reliable for years to come. Ownership costs are cheap, too, and parts are plentiful, which makes owning a Celica like this a far more attractive proposition. The seller doesn’t mention any recent maintenance, so some preventative work will likely be required. Which generation Celica is your favorite?

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  1. EuromotoMember

    I think there was one of these on the lawn up in Pebble Beach this last Summer. Reminds me of dad’s Maserati Mexico that he bought when we were living in Italy. I learned to drive stick in that car; Cecilia the au pair taught me how. She taught me a lot of things, come to think of it…Oh, wait…wrong website. Sorry, I must be a little BATty.

    Like 8
    • Joe

      I read that as Celica the au pair …

      Like 10
  2. HoA Howard AMember

    I’d say by looking at the motor, this has 140K on it. Should be no big deterrent , although, oil around oil cap indicates a rebuild is in the near future. These are my favorite Celicas, but this one is a bit tired. 140K is not really a lot of miles for a 40 year old car and they rusted to pieces up north, so it’s a treat to see one at all. Price is right, just be prepared to work on it.
    And another thing, I wouldn’t be so quick to say the automatic is a downer. After a recent ankle injury, I found it was impossible to push in a clutch, and rendered my vehicle useless,,for weeks. While a manual trans may be more fun, for some, they generally have a history of abuse, just because fewer and fewer people drive sticks, and the ones that do, tend to kill them. I also wonder about parts. Parts for older Asian cars are not plentiful. I have a friend who waited months for a vintage Datsun strut, and paid dearly for it, so you might want to think about that before buying these.

    Like 9
  3. Shawn Fox Firth

    I remember these they were everywhere when I was in high school , I say LS swap it …

    Like 2
  4. Miguel

    I saw leave it alone and drive it as is. There is a certain charm to these cars even with the automatic.

    Like 8
  5. PVDave

    A rare car, but also historically significant- This was the first car designed at CALTY (Toyota’s US design group located in Newport Beach, CA).

    Like 5
  6. Chris In Australia

    Two door appliance, or a Corona in a party frock.

    Like 1

    I had a white ’79 GT hatchback, sunroof, row you’re own tranny…oh man I loved it. Destroyed by a old fellow who told the officer on the scene that he forgot to take his meds and didn’t see me!! Guy turned in front of me and I tboned him

    Like 3
  8. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking 79 Celica ST. It’s nice to see something completely original. My parents had a 1978 Celica GT when I was a boy. I didn’t find it as attractive as the Celica Supra, nor did I find it as attractive as the 1980-81 Celica, with its updated grille. But it’s not a bad car. I’d buy one if I didn’t already have a car.

    Like 1
  9. Hollywood Collier

    I think the phrase the a/c works….but needs a charge…was the most used phrase on car sites. I now believe it has been replaced by….put an LS in it. WOW

    Like 2
  10. GeorgeMember

    I think this is an important car. It marked a new esthetic from Toyota with a cleaner look, devoid of plastic chrome grilles and scoops. Looks great, even today.

    Like 3
  11. ROTAG999

    Be nicer it it was a GT with 5 speed the dash on these are flimsy cheap for a Jap car. Motor and under hood looks like it could use work like it’s owner neglected routine service. But do like it and harder to find in decent shape these days.

    Like 1
  12. Stillrunners

    Can we get a like button ?

    Like 1
  13. 433jeff

    Dependable cheap to run car,not many computer issues with this car, plus you save money on sensors. Im a big fan of the cars before the newer better technology.

    Like 1
  14. Jake Langer

    Soooo under valued and appreciated. This is a total investment opportunity. If you know anything about restoration and preservation than you know the interior and soft bits are the hardest to restore and source if missing. It’s also a well known fact that this chasis supports easy upgrades from other highly prized Toyota platforms such as the 1st gen Toyota Supra and the AE86 Corolla GTS. I speak not only from an owner stand point if the model but as a restorer of the old Toyota models.

    Like 1
  15. Bakyrdhero

    I like everything about this one. Nice and clean vintage Toyota

    Like 0
  16. mark houseman

    My wife and I had this exact car, color and everything, back in the mid ’80’s. Great car.

    Like 0

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