The credit goes to the 1964 Ford Mustang. Like the Chevrolet Camaro, the Pontiac Firebird, the AMC Javelin, the Dodge Challenger and the second-gen Plymouth Barracuda, Ford’s pony car was the inspiration for every last one of these machines to come to market…mainly because the company president nearly had a medical event upon the Mustang’s launch and sales figures. And that wasn’t limited to the U.S. market, either. In Japan, Toyota took notice and went to work on a car more or less designed specifically for the American market. They took the Carina sedan and turned it into a coupe while pretty much eyeballing the Mustang’s overall dimensions and in late 1970, dropped the Celica. There’s no denying the American influence on the first-generation Celicas…they have classic musclecar styling cues all over. But you got a 20R four-banger and your choice of transmissions (an automatic, a four-speed or a five-speed) in a light car that at it’s heaviest was just over a ton in weight.
Hunting eBay, I located this neat little two-door coupe version with the 2.2L 20R and five-speed combination. It’s not perfect, but that’s nothing to be bothered over. Other than some period modifications, like the sweet Jensen cassette deck with the Audiovox equalizer and the window louvers, this is a used and drivable example that’s wearing it’s age pretty well, considering how quickly these things would rust. We’d freshen up the interior some and clean up the wheels, but modify it? Nah.
These cars used to be written off as throwaway toys, something you got for the kid to learn on before you got them a real car. But a four-cylinder, five-speed little sport coupe hardtop with this kind of styling? Compare it to a Corolla, or a Prius, or a Mirage of recent years…all day, every day, we would roll this Celica without a care in the world.