I was maybe four years old when I had cut my face while pretend-shaving in the bathroom along with my dad. This had been our thing. He would leave the plastic cap on a disposable razor he would give me and help me lather up my face. I’d then scrape off the shaving cream in motions that mimicked his, and voila! I loved “shaving” with Dad. Always one to try to do things correctly, one day I noticed him remove the plastic cover from his own razor. I did the same and promptly gashed a line near the corner of my mouth. The scar is still very visible, but I smile when I think of its origin and as a souvenir of one of my earliest bonding activities with my father.
It was a monumental event for me to start noticing little wisps of facial hair sprouting on my upper lip when I was in the eighth grade. “I’m becoming a man!”, I thought to myself as I examined my face in the mirror in the mornings before heading to middle school. I had waited years to “need” to shave, and that moment was nigh. Yet, I protected those sparse hairs like my allowance money and didn’t think of shaving for months afterward. Here was finally some publicly displayable evidence of manliness from me, on my person, and no one was going to take that away. I finally caved and shaved toward the end of the school year, when I was confirmed in the Lutheran church and needed to look nice for my parents’ open house and pictures.
Both confirmation and my newfound need to shave were significant rites of passage for me during a very awkward stage of adolescence, one from which I felt I would transform effectively later in my teenage years from an ugly duckling into something of a swan with healthily budding self-esteem. By the time I was a high school senior, I had turned into someone I had grown to like many things about. I had a measure of confidence and was developing a social skill set that had been mostly foreign to me up to that point, which would serve me well in years to come. This introvert was on his way to navigating existence in environments over which I would have only so much control in the future.
The first thing I noticed when I came across this ’84 (or ’85, as I could find no unquestionable identifiers) Celica GT-S convertible was how much its front grille resembles a disposable razor cartridge. Literally. If some boutique shaving company had third-generation “Celica” razors for sale, I’d be seriously tempted to buy some for the novelty factor if the price wasn’t ridiculous. The original grille of the new-for-’82 models was also a little razor-like, but on the ’84 refresh, the Gillette look was in full effect.
The third-generation of Toyota’s four-seat sportster could be described as its post-adolescent phase. Gone was the charming, rounded, and wholly likeable look of the California-designed second-generation cars. While the previous Celica looked like it had enjoyed its milk and cookies every day after school, the ’82 arrived looking chiseled after a regimen of regular fitness training. In place of the previous model’s pleasant, car-next-door aura was an athletic profile that reminded me more than a little bit of a scaled-down J-body Chrysler Cordoba or Dodge Mirada. (Please squint along with me just a little bit.) The pillarless greenhouse of this Celica convertible looks similar enough to that of the landau roof-equipped 1980 – ’83 Cordoba hardtop without a C-pillar window, at least as I had pictured both cars in my head.
The 1979 – ’81 Griffith Sunchaser convertible had been based on the Celica notchback and had a lift-off, targa-style roof and a soft, folding rear section. The Sunchaser had been on my want-list when I was a teenager after my family had moved moved to southwest Florida after my high school graduation. My chances of finding one of those were pretty slim, as only about 2,000 or so were built, and only so many of them would have survived in the decade or so up to when I was looking for one. Unlike the Sunchaser, the 1984 and ’85 Celica GT-S convertible had a conventional top that folded out of sight. Toyota had contracted with American Sunroof Company (ASC) to engineer the new Celica convertible’s modifications, and had also purpose-built an expensive ($5 million), expansive (46,000 square feet) facility in Rancho Dominguez, California to assemble them.
There were no upgrades to the powertrain of the new convertible, which used the same 116-horsepower, 2.4 liter 22R-E four-cylinder engine as the Celica GT-S notchback and liftback. Weighing about 3,000 with all of the required modifications and reinforcements, the GT-S convertible could do 0-60 miles per hour in the mid-eleven second range with its five-speed manual transmission. The $17,700 ($52,000 in 2023) price of the convertible was over half again as much as the GT-S coupe, which was a high price to pay for top-down motoring versus having a Celica with a sunroof and the windows down.
As much as I like this Celica, there’s zero question that if I absolutely needed a fast, sporty, four-place convertible back in ’84, I would have gone straight to Ford and picked up a 5.0-liter V8-equipped, 175-horsepower Mustang GT for just thirteen large ($38,300 today). I know nothing of economies of scale, but it seems to me that Toyota needed to recoup part of their investment in that California factory, and part of that strategy was tacked onto the bottom line of the GT-S convertible. Only 200 (or 250, depending on the source) convertibles were built for ’84, with another 4,500 produced for ’85 before the front-drive, fourth-generation cars arrived for ’86, which again included a very attractive convertible.
These wedge-look Celicas were the last before the aesthetic pendulum started swinging in a more rounded direction with the next generation. I’m more drawn to styling that’s a combination of lines and curves, so from a visual standpoint, the second- and fourth-generation Celicas look best to me. Much as humans mature and generally get a bit rounder and softer as we age, there was never another Celica after our featured car that looked quite this chiseled, as if one could cut one’s finger while tracing one of its lines or running it along the edges of that razor cartridge-like grille. Here’s hoping this one gets the proper rear window, and love, it deserves.
Roscoe Village, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, June 17, 2023.