Curbside Classics: 1982 – 1985 Toyota Celica Coupe And Liftback – Rice-fed Mustangs

It’s 10:03 PM, and there’s still a hint of daylight outside. It’s not exactly a good time to start a CC after a long day trying to hang a door that refused to die, some wrenching on the latest addition to the fleet (stay tuned), and a sunset dinner hike to the summit of Mt. Pisgah. But if I don’t start showing more of the cars I keep shooting, I’m going to die with 4.7 million cars in my files that will never have seen the light of LCD. Like this matched set of Celicas; time to tell your bed-time story.

Let’s do a walk-by of them both, and see what comes to mind. This third generation of Celica has taken a long time for me to come to terms with. I was quite disappointed when it appeared, a rather jolting all-new look that was a total departure from its handsome predecessor.

I consider the gen2 Celica (1977 – 1981) one of the finest design of its era, and one of the more successful Japanese-car designs ever. It’s amazingly clean, pure, and timeless, and that’s not something that one could say about many cars that originated from the depths of the Great Brougham Epoch. Why? Well, the gen2 Celica was the first Toyota designed at Calty, Toyota’s then brand-new Southern California design studio. A bunch of young surfers designed it, dude! That was a big step for Toyota, and a very good one indeed. They had acknowledged how huge and important the NA market had become for them. I’ve never gotten tired of it, and it makes me feel young to see one; like a pretty girl on the beach in 1977, that’s never aged.

Well, no one will accuse the gen3 Celica of being a svelte California beach girl in a bikini. Or not looking dated. Yes, the design for this was done in Japan, as if that wasn’t blatantly obvious. It’s a generalization, but the Japanese tended to like lots surface details, edges, wedges and ledges. The gen3 bristles with visual interest, except that it is a bit tiring, unlike the gen2.


But nevertheless, I’ve come to appreciate this car’s chunky and tapered profile.

This applies to the inside as well as the outside. Busy, busy. The gen2’s interior was as relatively classy and serene as its exterior, but edginess was the new thing in Tokyo. Fast and Furious; not laid back.

Nowhere does the gen3 Celica betray its origins more obviously than the tail, especially the tail-lights.

The Liftback presented itself substantially differently from the Coupe, a precedent that was first set when the gen1 Liftback appeared, and would continue for a couple more Celica generations. Obviously, this body style was shared with the Supra from the cowl back, so there is that too. It certainly comes off a bit less chunky than the Coupe. And it does invite the boy racers.

In Japan and other countries, Celicas came with a host of engine choices, from 1587 cc to a 1.8 L Turbo, and naturally-aspirated two-liters. But in dull old America, the torquey 2.4 L 22R was the only engine offered, fuel injected beginning with the 1983 MY. A stalwart if unexciting mill; the Japanese equivalent of the Mustang 5.0.

Needless to say, old Celicas have a similar appeal to young guys to mess with, just like the Mustang. A rice-fed pony.

Rather surprisingly, this one doesn’t sport the Supra’s louvered “Lambo” rear window cover. This angle works better than the profile, where that nick in the roof is a bit jarring.

The Liftback doesn’t have the “geisha” taillights. But either way, these are old-school Toyotas: simple, rugged, and still appealing to the younger drivers. Obviously. And why not? They have a style that’s unique, and a far cry from what’s available today at your Toyota dealer. Oops, almost forgot about the FR-S. It is 10:58, and I’m done, more ways than one. Your turn.