1 Nov 1971
Toyota’s take on the 1968 Ford Capri concept debuted in Japan in December 1970 – a year before Australia – as the Celica.
It was named after Sarina the dragon-riding witch (hence the dragon logo) and based on the sub-Corona Carina small car.
Despite its sporty pretensions, the Celica’s steering, handling and ride qualities were disappointingly mundane, but at least the reliability trade-off helped.
Performance was sprightly enough though thanks to a lively 76kW 1.6-litre carburettor four-cylinder engine (called 2T) mated to either a five-speed manual or three-speed auto gearbox.
With sassy styling, comfy 2+2 seating, a practical boot and generous equipment levels, the Celica’s sales star soared.
In 1975 the TA23-series Celica replaced it. Although visually virtually identical, it featured a slightly longer wheelbase (visible between the front wheels and doors), a new nose, wider chassis and improved front suspension.
Toyota sold 2036 of this model from 1971 to 1976.