Sunday, May 3, 2015

5k: Fun In The Sun: 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser Convertible

The 2nd generation Celica was great little rear-drive coupe from the makers of our favorite appliances, Toyota.  It was built in Japan from 1978 to 1981 as a 2 door coupe or 3 door liftback, but the US dealers demanded a convertible version. The Griffith Company hacked off the roof and installed a targa-style top with folding rear convertible back to roughly 2000 examples to make the Sunchaser.  Find this 1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser Convertible offered for $3,900 CAD ($3,208 USD) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada via  Tip from JJ.

The Sunchaser versions started out as coupes (ST or GT) and were sold through the US Toyota dealers with a complete warranty.  Good luck finding a new targa top if it is missing or damaged because they are made from pure grade 100% automotive unobtanium.  

Power in this Celica comes from a Toyota 22R 2.4 liter 4-banger that pushes out 96 horsepower into a 4-speed automatic (the pre '81 cars had a 3-speed, but the slushbox picked up an extra gear in '81).

See another rare classic for cheap?


  1. Neat car, but that is the saddest looking rear top section I have ever seen! It looks like something big sat on it! Looks much better when it is down!

  2. These were...okay cars. Tough as a silicone teat, built the way Toyotas used to be built, but not all that sporty.

    If I had to have one, based on memorable long-past carnal experience, it'd be a hatchback. And certainly not one of these half-roofed things.

    Back in the day a sizable aftermarket developed around the idea of cutting holes in cars, whether it was the little crappy pop-up sunroofs, or full-on squeaky convertibles, or rattly T-tops, or things like this. I wouldn't touch any of 'em with a ten-foot pole.

    1. You musta been there, cause that is a perfect description of what was going on. People desparately wished that Toyota had a convertible version and this was available for the truly desperate among them. The fitment was what you see before you. 34 years later, a new generation gets to see what we had to put up with.

  3. Think of it as a more reliable Lancia Beta Spider or a 911 soft-window Targa at an entry-level price and it starts to make sense. They're all so similar that you'd have a hard time noticing the difference behind the wheel. I know what I'd choose. But seriously, it's a unique version of a rarely seen Celica and it's got the indestructible 22R motivation. At around $3K, that's a win.

    1. It's truly odd. My twenties were pretty much absorbed by girls who owned various generations of Celica.

      There are details of Celica upholstery, Celica footwell design, Celica headliner material, hell, even '85 Celica oil pan and front suspension configuration (yes, really) that you will remember until the lid closes on your box because of a specific couple minutes of your life.

  4. love 'em or hate 'em, they are an oddity
    bit of shameless plug, i have an eagle 4wd version that i have not imported into canada yet, still in storage in michigan waiting for me to have time again (shipper was slow) so.....have it for sale for now
    i think i got the link here (old luddite that i am)
    1982 eagle sundancer for sale gord

  5. This car, and others like it, are historical artifacts of a nearly-forgotten period of automotive history when there was a governmental movement to ban convertibles as "unsafe in a rollover accident". American factory convertible production STOPPED with the 1976 Cadillac ElDorado, and did not resume until 'ban' crisis passed in the mid-80s. There is a reason for that rather ungainly roof: form follows function! That is a built in roll bar.... designed to address the concerns about safety in a rollover. The BMW Baurs are another example of the same, or similar, design. They have not achieved Collector status yet, but their limited numbers and unique, historical design features---which tell a story of that period of automotive history---- may someday start to draw that kind of attention.

  6. Well, what do you know? This car is for sale two blocks from where I grew up, and by coincidence I was back in the old neighbourhood yesterday. Unfortunately, I had not checked DT before I left home, otherwise I would have dropped by just to take a look.

    Certainly an unusual model, and all the more so up here in Canada. Also impressive is that it is 34 years old, still wearing original paint, and has only 60.000 miles (100,000 km). Except for the autobox, it could be a nice entry into the oddball car hobby.


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