Throughout its life span the Celica has been powered by various four-cylinder engines. The most significant change occurred in August 1985, when the car's drive layout was changed from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive. During the first three generations, American market Celicas were powered by various versions of Toyota's R series engines. The four-wheel drive turbocharged model (designated All-trac in the United States or GT-Four elsewhere) was produced from 1986 to 1999. Variable Valve Timing came in late 1997 Japanese models, and became standard in all models from 2000 on. Through seven generations, the model has gone through many revisions and design forks, including the Toyota Celica Supra (later known as the Toyota Supra). The Celica was available as notchback and liftback coupes, as well as a convertible.
First generation / A20/35 Series (1970–1977)
The first generation Celica was released to the Japanese market in late 1970, and targeted to be a more affordable alternative to Toyota's sportscar, the 2000GT. The cars platform was shared with the Toyota Carina yet sold at a different dealership sales channel called Toyota Corolla Store . The Carina was sold at Toyota Store locations. Displayed at the October 1970 Tokyo Motor Show and marketed in December of the same year, the Celica was a personal car that emphasized styling and driving enjoyment. Japanese models were ET, LT, ST, GT, and GTV. For export markets, the Celica was offered in three different levels of trim; LT, ST and GT. The lower-end LT was equipped with the single carbureted four-cylinder 2T engine displacing 1,600 cc, while the ST came with a twin downdraft-carburetor 2T-B engine. The 2T-G that powered the high-end GT model was a DOHC 1,600 cc engine equipped with twin Mikuni-Solex Carburetors. At its introduction the Celica was only available as a pillarless hardtop notchback coupe. The SV-1 liftback was shown as a concept car at the 1971 Tokyo Motor Show. With slight modifications, this was introduced in Japan in April 1973 as the 2-litre RA25 and 1.600 L TA27 liftbacks. It was then exported to Europe in RHD form as the 1.6-litre liftback. After the October 1975 facelift, it was available in both RHD and LHD forms in other markets. The RV-1 wagon was also shown at the 1971 Tokyo Motor Show but it did not reach production. The Japanese GT models had various differences from the ET, LT and ST including the hood flutes, power windows, air conditioning, and specific GT trim, but shared a few things with the ST - a full-length centre console and oil pressure/ammeter gauges whilst the LT had warning lights for these functions. There was also the GTV version, which had the 2T-G engine, a slightly cut-down interior, and did not come standard with things like power windows, but they were optional.
The GTV has firmer suspension. The first generation Celicas can be further broken down into two distinctive models. The first of these was the original with slant nose (trapezoid-like shape front corner light). This is for Coupe model only, TA22, RA20, and RA21. These models were released from 1970 to 1975 and came equipped with the 2T, 2T-G 1.6-liter, or 18R 2.0-liter motor. They had a 95 inches (2,400 mm) wheelbase. The second series (98 in or 2,500 mm wheelbase) had a flat nose (square front corner light) and slightly longer wheelbase, and was known in Europe as the TA23. This facelift model appeared in Japan in 1974, but for export was the 1976 model year. The Japanese version had engines under 2.0 liters so as to conform to Japanese regulations concerning engine displacement size, thereby allowing buyers to avoid an additional tax for a larger engine.
The first Celica for North America, 1971 ST was powered by 1.9-liter 8R engine. The 1972-1974 models have 2.0-liter 18R-C engines. For 1975-77, the engine for the North American Celica is the 2.2-liter 20R. The Celica GT and LT models were introduced in the U.S. for the 1974 model year. The top-line GT included a 5-speed manual transmission, rocker panel GT stripes, and styled steel wheels with chrome trim rings. The LT was marketed as an economy model. Mid-1974 saw minor changes in the Celica's trim and badges. The automatic transmission became an option on North American ST and LT models starting in the 1973 model year. For 1975, the 1974 body was used, but body-color plastic fascia and sturdier chrome and black rubber bumpers, replaced the chrome bumpers used in the earlier cars (in accordance with US Federal bumper laws). Unfortunately the early 8R and 18R series engines proved to be less than durable, with early failures common. The 1974 18R-C engine's durability was improved somewhat, but the 20R introduced for 1975 proved to be a better engine in most respects.
The Liftback was introduced for Japanese market in April 1973, but not until 1976 for export models. Models for home market Liftback were 1600ST, 1600GT (TA27), 2000ST, and 2000GT (RA25 and RA28). The American Liftback is a GT (RA29) with a 2.2-liter 20R engine. All the Liftback models have flat noses. Although there is no "B" pillar in the Liftback, the rear windows do not roll down (as they do in the hardtop coupe). Although they looked the same, there were a few minor visible differences.
In October 1975, The entire Celica lineup was given a facelift, with a revised front bumper and grille arrangement. The new model codes for facelift hardtop coupe were RA23 for general worldwide market with 18R engine, or RA24 for the American spec with 20R engine. The Liftback were coded RA28 for worldwide or RA29 for US. Also available was the TA23, which was similar to the RA23, but with the 2T engine. The RA23 and RA28 had a more distinctive bulge in the bonnet, or hood, which was lacking in the TA22 or RA20 Coupe and in the TA27 and RA25 Liftback Celica. The TA22 Celica also had removable vents mounted in the bonnet, which the RA23 and RA28 lacked. The RA series also had an elongated nose to accommodate the larger engine. The door vents, fuel filler cap, and interior were also different between the TA and RA series.
For 1976-1977, the Liftback was released with the 18R-G Twincam engine (except US) with a Yamaha head and running gear. This engine produced significantly more power than the 18R-C. Peak power was about 100 kW (134 hp) at 6,000 rpm. In Australia, the Celica was first released in the 1.6 L 2T motor. The later 1975-1977 Celica was released with the 2.0 L 18R motor.
The Liftback was often called the "Japanese Mustang" or the "Mustang Celica" because of the styling similarities to the Ford Mustang pony car, including the triple bar tail lights that are a signature Mustang styling cue and the overall homages to the muscle-car era.
Second generation (A40, A50; 1977–1981)
The second generation Celica was released for 1978 model year (production began in late 1977), and was again available in both Coupe and Liftback forms. The Coupe was no longer a true hardtop; both Coupe and Liftback had frameless door glass but featured a thick "B" pillar. David Stollery was responsible for its design. From 1979 to 1981 the Griffith company in the US offered a Targa style convertible conversion to the Coupe. They were called the SunChaser and had a removable Targa top and a folding rear roof, much like the '67 Porsche 911 soft-window Targa. These were Toyota approved and sold through Toyota dealers. Over 2000 were produced.
In 1978 Toyota began production of the Mark I Toyota Supra in Japan, as the Toyota Celica XX. The year it debuted in the United States and Japan was in 1979. The U.S. Mark I (chassis code MA46) was originally equipped with a 110 hp (82 kW) 2.6 L (2563 cc) 12-valve SOHC inline-6 engine (4M-E). Simultaneously in 1979, the Japanese Mark I (chassis code MA45) was offered with a 110 hp (82 kW) 2.0 L 12-valve SOHC inline-6 engine (M-EU).
The second generation Celica can also be broken down into two series of release (known as Series A and Series B). These two Celicas were only distinguishable by appearance - both having the same engine capacity. Series A Celicas (1978–1979) were released with round headlights and chrome bumpers for lower grades. The higher grades such as GT and all US models have black rubber bumpers. The Series B Celica (1979–1981) was released with square headlights and black rubber bumpers and various other 'minor' differences.
Power for North American models was provided by a 2.2 L 20R engine for both ST and GT models. Japan and other markets had 1.6-, 1.8-, and 2.0-liter powerplants. This new generation offered more safety, power and fuel economy than previous models, and was awarded Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year" for 1978. Japanese models were ET, LT, ST, SE, XT, GT, and GTV. The GT and GTV have an 18R-G Twincam engine. In late 1978, the GTV was replaced by GT Rally.
The limited edition "US Grand Prix" GT Liftback was offered in 1980 due to Toyota's connection to the U.S. Grand Prix West in Long Beach, California. For 1981, the North American models were given a bigger engine, the 2.4-liter 22R from the 4Runner and Pickup. To celebrate the Celica 10th Anniversary, the GTA Coupe was released. This was basically a GT Coupe with 4-speed automatic transmission, Supra style interior, power windows, upgraded sound system and alloys. The GTA is distinguishable by the black/gold two tone paint and a "GTA 10th anniversary" plaque on the centre console
There were about 70 different variants of second generation Celica sold in Japan over the model's life time. At its pinnacle, Toyota retailed 49 versions at once.
Third generation / A60 Series (1981–1985)
August 1981 saw the introduction of the third generation Celica. The car was available in coupe, liftback and convertible forms, with many buyers preferring the liftback. Styling was changed considerably from previous models and power was provided by a 2.4 L 22-R or 22R-E engine in all North American models, while carbureted 2.0 L I4 engine (namely a 2S-C) was also used. The 2.4 L became the biggest engine offered in any Celica ever, except for the Supra model. Other engines for Japanese models were 1.6-liter 2T, 1.8-liter 3T and 1S, and 2.0-liter 18R-G. Trim levels are SV, ST, ST-EFI, SX, GT, and GT Rally. Two body styles were offered: coupe and liftback. Rack and Pinion steering was offered with this Celica.
Fuel injection became standard on all North American Celicas started from August 1982, therefore the 22R engine became 22R-EC. In August 1982, Toyota added the GT-S model to the North American market to re-inject the sports image that Celica had lost as it grew larger and heavier with each subsequent model. The GT-S included larger 14x7" wheels and 225/60HR14 tires, fender flares, independent rear suspension, a sports interior including special seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. Most of these came from the Supra. This made sense as the Supra was based on the Celica. From the windshield back, both cars were nearly identical when in liftback form. There were also optional rear louvers for the coupe and liftback. The upgraded GT-S wheels are coveted as replacements by many people who own first generation Celicas as they remained four-lug and looked sportier than first generation wheels while still providing the "classic Celica" look and feel. The wheels were also polished aluminium as opposed to the flat finish of the lower models
In September 1982, the first Celica turbo was launched in Japan. The GT-T had a 1.8-liter 3T-GTE engine. To meet the FISA regulation for Group B Rally Car to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC), 200 units Celica GT-TS were built. These were the basic car for Group B Celica Twincam Turbo (TA64) which were built and rallied by Toyota Team Europe (TTE). The production car had 180 PS engine, and with 320 bhp engine, the fully works rally car was the most powerful third generation Celica.
Facelift was given to the Celica in August 1983 for 1984 model year. The Celica received new nose with fully retractable headlights, restyled grille, and airdam. The rear combination lamps were also revised. The Japanese Celica 1600 GT got new 4A-GE engine, and the 1600 GT-R also powered by the same motor was introduced. Another new model was the turbocharged 1800 GT-TR.
The GT-S Convertible, built by American Specialty Cars (ASC) in California, released 200 units in 1984, and 4,248 units for the 1985 model year.
The Australian, European, Japanese, and general export model Celicas came with rear side vents, which are highly sought after by North American Celica enthusiasts.
In Europe, the Celica was offered as 1600ST with 2T engine, 2000XT (21R), and 2000GT (18R-G).
In Australia, Toyota decided initially to use the 21R-C in the dulled-down model Celica. As a result the car only turned out a mere 67 kW (90 hp). However, this was later replaced, firstly, by the far quicker 73 kW (98 hp) 2S-C motor and then by the injected 2.4-litre motor (22R-E) which provided 87 kW (118 PS; 117 hp). Later versions used IRS rear suspension, rather than the traditional live axle differential.