Fantasy Friday – Toyota Celica (Mustang) Liftback

This week’s Fantasy Friday entry was inspired by a car I saw on the road in Hobart earlier this week (see above).

Early model Japanese sports cars are rarely going to approach the value of their European counterparts but there is a fierce little community dedicated to the preservation of these cars and their work is gaining in appreciation. Values are gaining ground, too. You can easily fork out over $40,000 for some early Japanese sports cars that would have been sold for scrap 10 years ago.

The 1st generation Toyota Celica Liftback is not one of those $40,000+ cars (yet) but the good ones do command five figures and ….. well …. they look the business, don’t they?

The Ford Mustang inspired a lot of design knock-offs (even Aston Martin made a Mustang-inspired muscle car) and the Mustang treatment on the Celica worked a treat. They’re much rarer than this generation’s hardtop coupe, too, which gives the Liftback a nice additional layer of desirability.

The Liftback looked a little bit staid on the showroom floor but you can see the potential.



Owners tend to go with some bigger, wider wheels and a lowered stance and the transformation is instantaneous. The car I photographed on the road has it. The cars I spotted on this Facebook group dedicated to the model have it as well.

From the mild…..


…. to the meaty…..

Meaty Celica

….to the downright muscular:

Muscular Celica

You might feel tempted to pooh-pooh the modified versions of this car but they sit OK with me. These, along with American muscle cars, are some of the first models to really inspire the home the tuner/stylist. They were relatively cheap and much more reliable than most of their contemporaries from the time. That translated to them being accessible, drivable and popular. Give that combination to a cashed-up, creative tuner community and what you get might lack some pedigree, but has plenty of conviction. They took their modifications pretty well, too.

Power wasn’t outstanding but was OK for the time. Celicas have always been powered by 4cyl engines, though some early Supras badged as a Celica XX had a fuel injected six – I owned one all through university! The best of the 4 cylinder models from this first liftback era had a twin-cam Yamaha head, good for nearly 140hp.

Perhaps the enduring attraction of these early Celicas, apart from their 70’s retro look, is the fact that they’re rear-wheel-drive. The model changed to front-wheel-drive in the mid 1980’s and Celicas went from being regarded as cheap sports cars to something more akin to a hairdresser’s car. Teenagers from the 80’s who are now hairy-chested men with a bit of spare cash often like the idea of getting something nostalgic. This is automotive nostalgia that’s authentic, relatively rare and affordable.


There are quite a few older Celicas on the market right now but most of them are the hardtop coupe. There are very few of these ‘Mustang’ liftback coupes for sale.

The regular hardtop coupes go between around $8,000 and $15,000. There’s only one decent looking Mustang liftback that I could find and it was for sale for $11,000. It looks tidy enough but I’ve seen better (purple wheels? Seriously?), including the very clean looking red one that passed me in traffic here in Hobart earlier in the week.

I understand that this won’t be a fantasy car for most visitors to this site. There IS a huge market out there for older Japanese sports cars, however. Older Mazdas and Datsuns are also sought after and some of the prices these former throwaway cars are eye-openers, to say the least.

UPDATE: I’ve been given some links to Celica stories from Hemmings, all of which make for great reading if the Celica takes your fancy. There are some great photos associated with them, too, much better than the photos I’ve gathered here.

1971-77 Toyota Celica – Feature article on Celica in general.

Take Five – Feature article: yellow GT Coupe.

1971-1975 Toyota Celica – Buyer’s Guide

Oh, What a Feeling – Feature article on liftback coupe

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  1. A friend bought the standard version in the 60’s. The dealer didn’t know exactly how to pronounce it. (So.Calif.) The rest of us wondered why he bought it. I was driving a Volvo 122S and a MG TD at the time and I was similarly ostracized. Like: “Why didn’t you buy a Chevy wagon?” and “I bought a Toyota Crown and look how big it is.” The only other exotic cars in our lot (about 100 cars) were a Datsun and a Renault Dauphine, an 1800, a Jag 150 and a Saab 95 wagon. The latter (2-stroke) engendered the most hilarity. The owner made a 80-mile round trip commute daily.

  2. I quite like the way they look. I know a guy in Sydney who’s keen to chuck a tuned B204 in one of these – that’d be an interesting and fun little RWD number! Too bad they’re not as cheap as they were (both old Celica’s and spare Saab engines).

    Definitely prefer the 240Z though.

  3. Simmons V4 wheels. The most beautiful wheel one can put on a car. Any car. Transforms a car on so many levels. So long as they are not purple! Never seen that before.

  4. Reminds me of when the son of the owner of one of the local Toyota dealerships showed up to school in his brand new 1976 Celica GT Liftback. He was the envy of his classmates until another school chum showed up in his dad’s 1936 Cord 810.

  5. A good friend had one of these while we were in high school. I was amazed at some of the features — it had a little display that has messages about the car. His was stuck on “BRAKE LININGS WORN” because a brake technician didn’t bother to replace the little sensor connector after having done the brake job. High-tech for 1977.

  6. Ahh yes, the 3/4 scale Mustang Mach I! My older brother had one of these—I think a 1977—-that he bought new. As I recall, it was a fun car to drive, nicely finished interior, reliable too. And the styling was literally classic. Toyota should consider bringing back this nostalgia. I think they’d sell enough of these to make it worthwhile for them. The Celica Liftback that replaced this one wasn’t nearly as appealing.