The Toyota Celica GT4 is a bit of a hidden gem these days. Built to tear up stages in the World Rally Championship and introduced as an ST165 version in 1986, it offered all-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine before the likes of Subaru and Mitsubishi got in on the act.
Modern Style of Classic Toyota Celica (GT-Four)
However, by the ST205’s launch in 1995, WRC competition was fierce. In fact, it was so desperate that Toyota’s rally team was caught competing with an out-of-spec air restrictor, ending its works career with just one win to its name. That’s a shame, because as the first car to use anti-lag to keep the turbo spinning off-throttle, it paved the way for many famous rallying machines.
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 223lb [email protected]
Maximum speed: 152mph
Fuel consumption: 28-35mpg
Transmission: 4WD, five-spd manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
One of the most expensive things to fix on a GT4 is that clever ‘Superstrut’ front suspension. The main bit known to fail is called the ‘figure eight’ camber control link, which joins the damper to the lower front suspension arm. Check for forward and backward movement of the wheel with the car stationary to indicate wear on this part, but also listen for knocking from the front over bumps and under braking. Worn parts are usually replaced as a job lot (upper and lower arms plus figure eight), and it’s this plus labour time which pushes the cost up so high. There should be no knocking from the rear of the car either, and if there is, it’s likely to be the rear differential mount.
Make sure it isn’t pumping blue smoke out of the exhaust, which could indicate turbo selas (or worse), or white smoke which might mean coolant is finding its way into the cylinders. Both could mean expensive repairs, and could be as a result of poor modifications earlier in the car’s life. A damp passenger footwell indicates an expensive heater matrix repair bill impending. Ensure the clutch has been replaced or is in good condition, because replacement is an engine-out job and a day’s work in professional mechanical labour.
An all-wheel drive car is fantastic for the winter but in the GT4’s case beware of rust – UK-supplied cars suffer from corrosion caused by the salt our gritting lorries spread. If you’re looking at an import, check it’s been undersealed to prevent expensive repairs. You can tell by looking under the sills and wheel arches for rough-looking black paint.
The Toyota Celica GT4 ST205 is an accessible and reliable performance car that’s as proficient in mid-winter as it is on a trackday. Finding a cared-for example should leave you with relatively low service and maintenance costs too, and sniffing out a WRC example gets you into a genuine piece of rallying history.
As you might expect for a car built for the worst that snow, forest and gravel stages can throw at it, handling was very important to Toyota. The GT4 featured a sophisticated ‘Superstrut’ front suspension system which was also well ahead of its time, the car turning in eagerly with responsive steering. It bit hard, too, a permanent 50/50 torque-split all-wheel drive system meaning prodigius traction on the exit of corners.
The clever money is on a WRC version – if you can find one – which was built specifically for rally homologation and thus featured interesting add-ons: an anti-lag valve and facilities for water injection, just like the proper rally cars.
But even a ‘normal’ GT4 is a fantastic performer. The turbocharged third-generation 3S-GTE engine is a particular highlight, using oil-squirters under the pistons and a charge-cooler in place of an air-toair intercooler for reliability. This lump was also found in the import-onyly MR2 Turbo, but earned notoriety when used in motorsport applications, including Group C sportscar racing.