This ’77 Celica was $64K for someone else’s build

Bring a Trailer/Wob

Buying somebody else’s modified car is a roll of the dice. On the one hand, the odds are pretty good that corners have been cut, important steps skipped, and lower-quality parts used for the sake of a budget. On the other hand, some builds come from a well-known and respected professional shop, or from a perfectionist who spent so much time, attention, and money that there’s almost nothing to nitpick.

At the end of the day, though, someone else’s build is done to someone else’s tastes and preferences, which never exactly match your own, no matter how nice it is. Such is the case with this spectacularly restomodded, Honda-powered 1977 Toyota Celica. The car is hard to fault and easy to like, yet it sold for $64,050, not exactly chump change but surely far less than it cost to put together and another example of how hard it can be to gauge the restomod market.

Toyota introduced the Celica way back in 1970 (just a year after the 240Z) as a two-door, 2+2 coupe that offered driving fun and real-world practicality on a budget, sort of like a pony car in a more compact package. Indeed, the influence of American pony cars is obvious at first glance. The available hatchback version, dubbed the “Liftback” by Toyota, looks like a mini–Mach 1 Mustang. Proven passenger-car mechanicals from the Toyota Carina kept costs down and reliability high, and the contemporary press praised the Celica for being lively if not particularly fast.

Motor Trend called the Celica Liftback its Import Car of the Year in 1976, which speaks to the foundation of this build, but there is a lot less Celica underneath this ’77 coupe’s Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R Midnight Purple III paint than there used to be. Thoroughly and exquisitely reworked over years by the seller, who acquired it in 2010, it has a hefty list of mods to go through.

Custom S2K Celica side
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First is the work of art under the hood, a 2.2-liter F22C VTEC four and six-speed manual from a Honda S2000, which has been fitted with Jenvey individual throttle bodies, J’s Racing tubular header, an a-Spec titanium muffler, and a Koyo aluminum radiator. The instrument cluster and starter button also come from an S2000.

Other additions include staggered-width custom-made 16-inch BBS RS wheels, Wilwood disc brakes, AccuAir suspension, polyurethane bushings, Addco swaybars, fiberglass bumpers, front and rear spoilers, fender flares, Bride bucket seats, Alcantara headliner and rear seats, NRG quick-release steering wheel, audio components from Kenwood, JL Audio, and Audison, and the aforementioned Midnight Purple III paint. According to the seller in this video profiling the car, 98 percent of the bolts on the car are titanium, including the ones holding on the BBS wheels.

Custom S2K Celica interior
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The seller bought the car in 2010, sight unseen, out of Oklahoma. The S2000 swap had already been professionally done, but the rest of the car had serious rust so a complete teardown and rebuild to its current configuration took place from 2011–16. It still looks gorgeous, and the attention to detail is impressive, especially things like the fabricated rear bodywork and blended-in fender flares.

A $64K final price isn’t exactly cheap, and it’s about 10 grand more than an absolutely perfect S2000 would sell for, but it’s also almost certainly less than the sum of the parts used to build it, to say nothing of the hours and hours of specialist labor. It’s also less than the $65,100 someone paid for a very clean but all-stock ’76 Celica Liftback model on Bring a Trailer two years ago.

The market for restomods is a tough one to figure out. Some cars sell for big prices, well into the six-figure territory it cost to build them. Certain models—C2 Corvettes are a perfect example—have seen enough restomod builds to create a small, trackable market and generally understood pricing. Most others don’t, and it has us thinking ahead to ten or 20 years from now and how the market will treat older, used restomods that will have been around long enough to be classics in their own right. Regardless, in this case somebody got a badass, fast, very well-done Celica restomod for way less than it cost the seller to put the vehicle together, and that isn’t a bad way to buy a car.

Custom S2K Celica rear
Bring a Trailer/Wob




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    The hatchback version of the 77 Celica is one of those cars that got away for me. It is also one of those cars that minted my less than stellar impression of Toyota quality. This was a car that came to me at a time when it was just a cheap old car, and I had it many years. I loved the car aesthetically although it was seriously lacking in the number of squirrels under the hood. I have always wanted another one… but not for a whole lot of money. I replaced the drivetrain three times in that car during my time with it. The first time was in part to get rid of the slush box automatic and install a 5 speed. This raised the top speed from an embarrassing 83 mph (with a tail wind and a bit of a downhill grade) to north of trips. That engine eventually suffered the fate that most of the motors would suffer… low oil pressure. The other fatal flaw would be that the transmission would no longer hold 5thwhich would tend to hasten the demise of the motor. The issue that ended that car was just overwhelming rust, including massive holes in the strut towers. It does not surprise me that the body needed serious reconditioning and the factory drivetrain was not retained.

    The notchback does not hold the aesthetic appeal of the hatchback, and I would not have put this much effort into a notchback.

    I always thought these cars were a prime example of the Japanese “copying” American designs. You’re correct that it bears a resemblance to the Mach-1 Mustang, but it also bears resemblance to a 70-74 Cuda. A Camaro enthusiast might see 68 Camaro in it, too. Regardless, this is an AMAZING build and I feel for the builder because it appears they lost a ton of money building it. I wonder if there is any kind of documentary of the build, out in cyber-space?

    You’re looking for Sarah-N-Tuned on youtube. It’s not this car but she is restoring a Celica and is incredibly anal about every inch of the car being touched and given attention. Her style of humor is attitude is probably not what the average Hagerty reader is into but hey, it’s someone doing just what you described.

    There is a lot I like about this car but at the same time I would not have put the money into doing it. Hopefully it will be enjoyed.

    Had a 76 back when it was new. A really nice car. Put lots of miles on it and never had any problems. Also they were very reasonably priced. Have looked for one since but yes rust seems to have taken many Japanese cars of that era

    My sister had a ’74 notchback for many years. “Lewis the Wonder Car”.

    The car here is an abomination. Ridiculous tires/wheels. And a Honda powerplant. At the very least, someone with some taste would put a Toyota powerplant in it.

    I loved my time behind the wheels of my 72, 77,@1980 Celicas and if I had the money I would have bought that baby

    I have a 77 GT Fastback, completely restored with a 20R TRD oversize pistons, balanced with Jenvey throttle bodies. Insured with Hagerty at less than half what this sold for, I may need to re-evaluate my declared value after seeing the sale price of this one and the other mentioned in the article. Hagerty needs to bring more articles like this regarding the older gen Japanese models, not easy to find articles regarding these cars.

    This 77 Celica looks darn near like a clay pic copy of the 1969 Shelby Mustang and AMC AMX front end. The rear end is very similar too. Definetly agree with Mach1 and all others above. It also looks like a very nice Restomod for a very good price.

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