Toyota Celica Supra 1978-1981
Today's little post is just a follow up to Anthony Cagle's superb coverage of the 1970s Celica. In fact, this report is just a shadow of the last generation Celica featured in his post.
My admiration for this car began one day, as a 21-year-old, when I saw an ad for the first Toyota Celica Supra. The glossy presentation literally blew me away. Here, for the first time in my automotive history, was a small car available with all the refinements of any larger machine. It had power windows and door locks, a tilting steering wheel, a luxurious, plush interior, cruise control, a snazzy console, multi-adjustable bucket seats, and even a sunroof.
That ad showed a dash featuring an amazing array of seven gauges (Including the clock), a large sum of instruments not easily found on any other car of its time, nor even today. An industry-leading AM/FM 4-speaker radio was there, as was (dare I say it?) an 8-Track tape player. In 1979, leather seats and automatic climate control was offered, again, unheard of in a small car on these shores.
Replacing the Celica's 2.2 litre I-4 with the 2.5-litre SOHC straight 6 under the hood, Toyota had to stretch the car's front end by 5.1 inches (The 1981 Model 2759 cc 5M-E is shown here). A welcome by-product of that surgery added much welcomed leg room for you taller Americans. And the extra wheelbase undoubtedly made the ride smoother and the handling... much better.
Your transmission choices were either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic, both with overdrives. That got the car going; to stop the car, the Supra had disc brakes everywhere. To turn it, you had McPherson struts up front, a 4-link rear suspension with coil springs and a lateral track bar, and stabilizer bars were on the front and the back.
It was obvious then that Toyota was trying hard to build a great small car. And compared to the other offerings of the time, I think they succeeded. You just got more bang for your buck with these cars, their dependability was unrivalled, and it's no wonder the Japanese took over the American small car market, then moved on to other things.
One element about Japanese cars of this vintage that does bug me, however, was their badges. It seems they plastered things like "5 Speed," corporate names, and "Overdrive" way too much on them. To me, these badges seemed to serve as miniature, subliminal advertisements more than auto nomenclature. Even the Supra's splash guards had "Celica" on them. And to some extent, this continues today.
And as we all know, the Supra grew into something altogether different than its origin. It fed on itself, became bloated and expensive, then paid the ultimate price for its gluttony... it died.
That kind of thinking seems to be unique in the car world, and that's why I like this first Supra so much. Probably not enough to go look for one, but they do evoke a very pleasant memory.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Image Credits: The Supra collage image is from Hooniverse.com. The Supra engine bay photo was found at CarDomain.com. The two-page Supra ad came from AdClassix.com. The Supra rear image is from JapaneseNostalgicCar.com.