Toyota latest homologation special is still causing a stir – now the old one is, too
By Matt Bird / Monday, 3 October 2022 / Loading comments
Rallying might not seem quite as important now as it once did, but a bit of history was made over the weekend by Toyota. Its Finnish driver Kalle Rovanpera became drivers’ champ; no big deal, you might think, given how many rally stars have originated from Scandinavia (though he is the first Finn since Marcos Gronholm). However, Rovanpera’s triumph is notable for his age: he became WRC champ aged just 22 years and one day old. The record previously belonged to Colin McRae and had stood for almost 30 years, the Scot clinching that iconic title in 1995 at the age of 27. Given drivers like Loeb were still winning WRC title into their late 30s, it looks like Rovanpera could have one heck of a career ahead of him.
Furthermore, though various Covid crises put paid to Toyota’s hope for directly competing with a homologated GR Yaris, the win will surely do the reputation of its hot hatch hero no harm at all. Even almost two years after launch, nothing can quite spark up car conversation like the Yaris; the GR Corolla brought it back into the fold recently, and now there’s a memorable WRC victory as well. Just when it seemed like we’d moved on a bit…
Before GR-Four, though, there was GT-Four. While the Yaris did prompt a little more interest in the old Celicas (the GT-Four badge ran through three generations, from 1986-1999), it arguably still lacks the enthusiast kudos of both contemporary Toyotas and rivals. The excitement around an immaculate 90s’ Supra would only be surpassed by that for a similarly pristine Evo or Impreza. Yet the GT-Four never hit those heady heights – if only Brian had a 10-second Celica in Fast & Furious. What might have been…
It certainly had plenty going for it as a cult hero, right down to the oh-so-90s three-spoke wheels. The GT Four was the first Japanese turbocharged, all-wheel drive car to enter the WRC; the ST165 generation first appeared in 1988, winning its first rally in 1989. The later ST185 was Toyota’s most successful rally car in history, and the ST205 – as this Celica is – boasted the infamous illegal turbo restrictors that saw Toyota banned from the WRC for a year. Yet the car was good enough to win the 1996 European Rally Championship. So there’s performance, history and infamy in a WRC career, but still little love it seems.
The price must have paid its part. In 1994 a Celica GT-Four would have cost £10k more than an Impreza Turbo and £5,000 more than even an Escort Cossie. Talk about a tough sell. Even the most ardent fans would have struggled to spend 50 per cent more than the Impreza on another Japanese rally rocket with similar performance. Still, it means those cars that come up for sale now are very, very rare indeed – even the Cossie is 10 a penny by the standards of the GT-Four.
This one isn’t a UK car, but rather a flawless example from Japan. It’s covered only 15,000 miles since 1995, and they could have been sat on a dyno given the condition. There are seemingly no signs of wear anywhere, from the engine bay to the bootlid. The GT-Four has just been imported and is said to come with stacks of history and without a single modification. This remains to the specification intended by Toyota when it left the factory all those years ago. Pretty remarkable, really.
Now, while values of the GT-Four haven’t skyrocketed like certain competition cars, they have been climbing. We welcomed it into the PH Heroes hall of fame almost a decade ago, when good ones could be bought for less than £10k. Pre-Covid a modified (but seemingly nice) example was comfortably under £20k. This one is a fair bit more, the selling dealer asking £45,000. However, this does look like an unrepeatable opportunity now given the Celica’s age and rarity. And imagine what the equivalent Impreza might cost. It’s not even that much more than it costs to skip the queue for a pre-owned Yaris, either…
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