We do requests on Eighties Cars, whether or not they are definitive ones. A friend of mine mentioned his 1981 Celica in one of the forums I frequent, and that was enough inspiration for me.
“The Ultimate Toyota.”
1981 was the final model year for the second-generation Toyota Celica, which had debuted in 1978. Despite this, there were some significant changes, including a new engine.
The Celica’s new engine for 1981 was the 22R 97 bhp 2.4 liter/144 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor. Paired with a five-speed manual transmission, fuel economy was an impressive 25 city/37 highway by the standards of the day (22/34 by today’s standards). Choosing the optional four-speed automatic transmission dropped ratings slightly to 25 city/35 highway (22/32 by 2018 standards). With a curb weight of a little over 2,400 pounds, 0-60 times were in the mid nine-second range—respectable for 1981.
The Celica Sport Coupe was available in ST and GT trim levels. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the Celica ST ($6,699 or about $19,900 in today’s dollars) included electronic ignition, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/70R14 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats, “cut pile wall-to-wall carpeting,” and an FM radio were included.
Moving up to the GT ($7,429 or about $22,100 in 2018 dollars) added features such as tungsten halogen high beams, styled steel wheels, dual outside mirrors, a dressed-up instrument panel and console, a locking gas cap, and an AM/FM/MPX stereo with four speakers.
Optional equipment included air conditioning, a sunroof, and power steering. Aluminum alloy wheels, a rear window defogger, and cruise control were GT only options.
Celicas of this generation sometimes come up for sale in Hemmings Motor News and eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this post in July 2021. In August 2020, Bring a Trailer sold a Silver 1981 Celica GT with gray plaid bucket seats for $5,700.
Updated July 2021. In June 2020, Autopolis published a typically thoughtful post on the second-generation Celicas.