Benny Rees’ sleek Celica

27th March 2017 — by Dave Cox



Benny Rees’ sleek Celica

27th March 2017 — by Dave Cox

“Sweet Mustang man…” a phrase Ben often hears when people approach his car.

You may guffaw but it is true, you can clearly see the American influences on this vehicle. The Japanese during this era were known for designing the vehicles using tracing paper and pictures of cars from all around the world. Just look at the “C” Pillars, the rear louvres and the vertical tail lights. All of which are styling cues taken from the Ford Mustang. It is no wonder that the RA28 Celica got the nickname “Japanese Mustang” and therefore you can forgive people’s mistakes.

Whatever it’s heritage, lineage or influences, I will remain eternally grateful that Toyota made this car. Walking up to it, you just can’t help but stop and smile. It’s proportions almost make it look cute, with no section of the car looking too big or small. Aesthetically it is very well balanced, you can’t really blame Benny for choosing this car.

After owning a few old cars and always being fascinated with Japanese car culture, I took a trip to Japan to see it all for myself firsthand. I went to a classic endurance race at Tsukuba Circuit and after that I knew I needed to have a slice of the action.”

“I scoured the internet for a Celica and finally found a recently restored example that was built by Racing Service H.D.O in Fukuyama. I had an inspection carried out and then it took 8 weeks at sea until it arrived in the UK.” 
You can check out the video of him picking it up here.

“Since having it road registered, I’ve updated the wheels and tyres from Watanabe Type A to Work Equip Spirit 11’s up front and Re-lipped Riverside R109 rears with Advan A048 semi slick tyres all round. It now sits on Driftworks Coilovers, breathes through open trumpets and a full custom stainless steel exhaust system, brand new suede headlining… there are lots of other period-correct 1970s modifications such as a layer of subtle glitter lacquer on the rear light panel and front headlight panel and a rear window louvre.”

“I have a half rear roll cage to go in and a Hippo racing bucket seat with TOM’S Harness flying over from Japan at the moment and a set of Riverside R101 to re-lip and go a tad wider in each corner than it currently sits. After that I just want to enjoy the car and use it as much as I can but just basically keep it alive and make sure I preserve it for many years to come as they are getting very thin on the ground now!”

“I get so many lovely comments, especially from people who either owned one back in the day, or know someone that used to own one, and have fond memories. I absolutely love looking at it, too. It’s normally tucked away in the garage or I’m driving it, but when I take it out and park it up I just love to sit and look at it!”

“I also love the fact it looks as though it has been plucked straight from 1970’s Japan with all my period correct modifications, and that’s the way I want it to stay.”

I for one really appreciate Benny’s last statement. Overfenders are becoming more and more common place, this is a refreshing example of how to keep things simple. I have nothing against different modification styles but if I was to choose, it would be the OEM+ route. I think the wheel and tyre combo is perfect, the ride height is ideal and the distinct lack of any over the top bolt on extras is very appealing.

I can attribute some of this hyperbol to the fact that I have never knowingly been this close to a Celica 2000GT, so my excitement might have got the better of me. However, even a week after shooting this car, it still makes me smile.

The exterior of the car screamed ’70s but the interior, although looking a little dated was pretty impressive. Boasting air conditioning and electric windows, there is an impressive amount of mod-cons on a car of this age.

Benny has also spent some time putting his own stamp on things, like the addition of a Nardi steering wheel, flowery gear stick and Japanese characters. That Japanese character is called “Daruma” it is the nick name of the car. What you are supposed to do is colour in one eye, then write your life goals on the back of it. Once you have achieved your goals, you colour in the other eye. It is supposed to keep you focused on what you want to achieve in life. I think it is a nice touch.

Some of these details spread to the outside, the subtle red vinyl that has been placed on the front splitter adds a nice little touch breaking up the solid cream exterior.

Another refreshing fact is that this car still runs it’s original 2.0litre twin-cam engine making around 130bhp. Not huge figure but following him down the road, it has some poke. Sounds pretty good through the custom exhaust too.

Ultimately, Ben just wants to keep and enjoy this car for the foreseeable future and who wouldn’t. When something looks as good as this, it is worth cherishing.

Words & Pictures: Dave Cox (Shooting Dave)

Spec List

1976 Toyota Celica GT2000 Liftback JDM Import
Chassis code RA28 2.0 8v TwinCam Engine
Open Trumpets/Velocity Stacks
Driftworks Coilovers
Work Equip Spirit 11 Front wheels
Riverside R109 with Pine Engineering Lips Rear
RAYS Engineering Wheel nuts
Yokohama Advan A048 Tyres
Halogen Headlight Conversion
Rear Window Louvre
Front and Rear Spoilers
Glitter Lacquered headlight and rear light panels
Refurbished Badges
Stainless Steel Custom Exhaust System
Nardi Wooden Steering Wheel
Suichuuka Gearknob
Carmate convex rear view mirror


Dave Cox