Today I used my 1996 Toyota Celica GT-Four to pick up my Christmas Tree….this may not seem like the most gripping headline but hear me out!
This car, for the first time is now considered a classic (by my insurance company that is) but rarely gets the use/attention it deserves from me! I originally bought the car back in 2015 for a staggeringly low £750, that’s not a typo either lol. I even got a years MOT with that too, the catch? It was painfully faded, it had 122,000 miles on it, the rear diff was leaking oil, the clutch was a little high (a job no-one wants to undertake) and the radio didn’t work but come on….a genuine 240bhp rally car for the road for under £800….I was made up!
For the first 13 months I used it as a daily, racking up an impressive 19 thousand miles…..since then It’s driven me around demanding b-roads that surround the Lake District, across Europe tackling Swiss mountain passes such as Gotthard, Grimsel & Furka and last year it took me to Le Mans and back! It’s safe to say during my ownership over the last few years we’ve racked up some impressive road trips and experiences! To say this car has grown on me is an understatement, it all dates back to a 9 year old me sat playing Sega Rally Championship at my local Arcade, what car would I always want to pick? You got it! That uber-cool green and red liveried up white Celica GT-Four and that’s when I decided it was the car for me.
Yes the Subaru & Evo’s of the day stole the headlines with win after win in their respective rally’s but for me the understated nature of the Celica made it more of an attraction it was always the plucky under dog. Sadly the fact Toyota Team Europe got a fair old rap on the knuckles for somewhat “cheating” by means of a clever turbo restriction bypass (well worth a google by the way) and the fact that this car cost new in 1996 a WHOPPING thirty two thousand pounds….yep! 32 grand! Christ in the 90’s you could buy most of Spain for that much! It’s safe to say it wasn’t the consumer success Toyota had hoped for.
That said mine is a pretty honest example it has 147,000 miles on the clock currently and it’s a UK spec, so has been on pothole riddled roads and salted motorways from day zero but you know what? Sit it next to a Ford Escort Cosworth from the same year that has lived a similar life and I would put good money (probably not £32,000 to be fair) but still at least a fiver that I reckon the ol’Celica would be in a better state than the Ford.
In conclusion it turns out today that the best van/christmas tree collection vehicle ever, is a 90’s Jap 4wd rally car with questionable (faded) salmon paint.
Words & Pictures By Nick Simmo