Car Spotlight>>the World’s Best Celica?

The world’s best? That’s a lofty title to give to any car, let alone a popular model like the Toyota Celica.

I stumbled across this RA21 “Daruma” Celica at last month’s GTCC race and I have to say it’s one of the most impressive privately owned cars I’ve ever seen. Considering what my job is, that’s saying a lot. Let’s take a look at this machine and see if you agree with my bold claim.

It’s cool to see any vintage car being used at the circuit, and at first glance I assumed this was a typical weekend track toy. You know the type – a set of side draft carbs, suspension, wheels, and a few other tidbits. The kind of car that’s built more for nostalgic kicks than for fast lap times.

But as I looked over the Celica more closely, I began to pick up hints that this was a slightly more serious machine.

When I glanced in the cockpit and saw this, I knew something was off. It’s not often you see laptop computer mated up to a kyusha like this. What was going on?

A bit later I swung by the Celica’s pit stall again and was able to chat with the owner a bit. This is when I found out just how special this car is.

Under the hood is a built version of the Toyota Works 152E twin cam race motor – an engine that dates back to the days of Toyota’s TOSCO division, which went on to become TRD. You expect to see one of these rare race motors in a museum or under the hood of a historic race car, not being punished on the track like this. Awesome.

In its current setup I was told the motor produces about 350ps. Decent numbers for a naturally aspirated four cylinder with roots that go back to the early ’70s, no? Sure, you could swap in a 3SGTE or another modern powerplant to get the same power, but it wouldn’t be as interesting, nor would it have the same historical significance. What’s even more impressive is that much like the other cars in the GTCC series, the Celica is a pure privateer machine.

The exotic powerplant is really just the start though. The rest of the car is thoroughly built to match. The transmission? A Hewland six-speed sequential. You can also see the full cage and some of the other high tech race equipment in the cockpit.

The trunk space meanwhile is dominated by an ATL fuel cell.

Yes, it even has air jacks. By this point my mind was completely blown.

Naturally, the owner has a few sets of wheels which can be equipped. On this day the Advan A050s were mounted on a beautiful set of 15″ Panasport Racing G7C8s.

During the February GTCC race the Celica finished fourth overall in the NA Hyper class, with a best lap time of 1:04.968. This is a time that’s sure to improve considering this was essentially a shakedown run for the updated 2012 setup.

One of things I like most about this car is despite all the high tech race goodies it retains the beautiful factory lines of the Daruma Celica – all coated in Toyota’s classic Moss Green paint. As you probably noticed, it doesn’t even have overfenders.

Best Celica in the world? That’s up for you guys to decide.

After experiencing this masterpeice in person, it may very well have my vote.

-Mike Garrett

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Nice Celica, definitely one of the best!


that's a hella of a spotlight


That is one amazing car.




God damn she's a fine machine


It's nice yes...but the "best" in the world is a really bold statment...I must disagree with you on this speedhunters


Beautiful! I remember when I was a grade schooler my uncle had a black one with slot mags--it was the coolest!

btw, that pic of the quarter panel with the air jack has major orange peel in the paint :p


Are the suspension part of the package?


dear lord...


Wow!! Never knew that car was so special!


this is awesome! love to see old rides retrofitted with new tech. someone do a spotlight on the garage yawata r31 plzzz!


really nice !!!!


impressive numbers on that motor


I have to agree. I am a fan of the Daruma Celica. And I still have dreams about that TRD 152E! This is the best Celica in the world! Its one thing to have that engine in an old school car but its completely insane that its actually used on the track! Plus the details of the build is just simply awesome! Nice find Speedhunters! Keep up the good work!


Not only the best Celica in the world, but the most interesting machine in a while.


I totally agree with Mike Garret! Because it's my first love, I strive to get one my own since i was 6. Now i got one, though it's not as grand as this one but yeahh! I got one..!


definitely a car that is serious business, great privateer effort. Better then my own personal project for sure.


This is absolutely brutal. 350ps on a car this light is definitely nothing to laugh at!


Im just plain speechless. This is totally amusing!


this example is the complete package..when you start looking at it in-depth you realise the owner is not playing, i would love to know what kind of 1/4mile times it can put down - Thanks


i like what this guys has done under the bonnet - 'wicked privateering'.

[via NuggetG60YorkshireUK's compuer]


wow, i agree with you mike! this is amazing! for sure one of THE BEST celicas.


Awesome Celica! Thanks to you, I have some new ideas for mine :)




Best "privateer" perhaps. Best Celica would have to the works ST185 rally car.


Fonzy's is better.


Celica! The world is yours!! Take IT!!


You are kidding with that engine!! Ewerything is possible there :)


Wow 350ps from an NA 4cyl? Any more information on this engine or similar NA engines that produce this kind of power? (nothing over 2L capacity).


Vote Daruma 2012. Its got my vote




He needs a bigger wing... and one on the hood... and some Scion badges...

Luvs it, luvs it, luvs it.


Is this thing covered on you tube :)?


@richeffect, thats not the paint peeling, its called a reflection.


Rad. I'm feelin this


152e? yeah best celica ever. amazing. i wanna hear it


pretty cool if you would ask me! that engine bay, well, is very nostalgic...


I think this motor is a 2.2 L Toyota 152E engine. Still don't truly believe the 350 ps number. 310 ps, maybe, as that was approximately how much the IMSA 152E's made. Aside from J's Racing's 2.2 Liter F22C motor with ITB's and maybe some touring cars like the JACCS Accord, I can't think of any other engine in this class that makes that kind of power. The Accord makes over 300 hp but uses a restrictor and is rules regulated to 8500 rpm and 12.0:1 compression ratio. I doubt that 350 ps figure, but I truly believe this engine and car are incredible. I'd kill to own it.


Truly an amazing classic! This is one of those cars that makes me realize how much better things were back in the day, and also gives me more respect for those who build these cars. I definitely aspire to have something like this one day, and maybe one day organize a racing series like that here in the US? We will see :)


Man, he knows how to build a proper machine. I wonder how he got his hands on that 152E...


looks like the 70-71 torino


That engine is incredible. I would guess its an IMSA 2.2 Liter engine? I haven't heard any other anecdotes about a 152E at that hp level. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I would believe it has 350 ps. I really cannot think of any 2 or 2.2 Liter 4 cylinder engine that makes that much power (Maybe J's Racing's S2000?).


Mind Blown


You have covered before another cool Toyota from Australia....but I see now that this has to be on of the best out there....Impressive!


As a fellow automotive journalist who shoots A LOT of cars almost just as much as you, I will have to agree with you, Mike, that this is the best Celica I've ever seen. Great find! Thanks for investigating further and showing it to the world!


awesome car is awesome


That's pretty damn impressive!


nice article, being a 1st gen celica(RA/TA) fan, I must admit this one is amazing, from setup to the engine alone is a rare beautiful piece, I have seen a pair of this 182E's for sale on the net.

great post Mike!


OOOmyGOD! Badass!


"the motor produces about 350ps" It probably make some power, but that much? Only if it takes 12000rpm.

Otherwise, it is a neat litte car.


Bar-none my favorite Celica, shes got my vote.


Mother of toyota!

yep i think you're right Mike definiately the best celica i've ever seen


Wow thats like the best of both worlds, old and new, together in harmony. You dont see that too often, I have to admire the builder and owner for such good work. Incredible motor, thats some 4cyl n/a oooomph right there!


Thank you Speedhunters again for bringing to light some of the coolest cars in the world. Love the retro. So freaking awesome.


Mother. Of God.


Amazing feature! Video is a must in this case! Great job guys Keep em coming!


Possibly the best thing i've ever seen on Speedhunters. What a find!!!


Pretty high power output for a four banger. Only n/a four cylinders producing that kind of power that I have heard of were the BMW m3 touring car's 2,5 liter s14 and the equivalent Mercedes of the time. Of course you have to be quite sceptical about any claimed power figure because in motorsport the manufacturers always understate and tuners overstate their outputs. There is also quite a lot of different standards for horsepower, which are actually all outdated. The most common standards for horsepower were SAE gross/net (USA), DIN (Germany), JIS (Japan). SAE gross and JIS figures were measured without any accessories and usually fitted with non OEM manifolds, so the figures were much bigger than in reality.

Anyways it's a nice Celica, but the best Celica must be the group 4 rally car driven by the best driver of all time, Hannu Mikkola.


Thanks for all the comments guys. Glad you guys enjoyed the car as much as I do.

If you can see the owner's blog here -

It's all in Japanese but it gives an idea of the kind of work that's gone into the car. Last year's engine setup put out 327ps, so I don't have much reason to doubt he could get an extra 20ps with some additional work.



It might be..

Even if not, thats a hell of a car!


Js racing is tuning street motors the 152e was built as a race motor and benefits from items such as a dry sump oil system, blueprinted race spec internals. the Brown racing engines that were modified for reverse operation in the BTCC accords were again race tuned street engines with limits in place not race tuned race engines.

Even this motor has some updates on the original 330ps version.


350 squeezing probably but that is one sick motor. Good luck finding one. Overall great build. I love it with no flares and stanced out nocely with banana 3 pieces!


would get my vote!!


Make it the Fastback RA version and yes.. id say it was the best.


nota ra21...... awkward......


Holy shit! Best Celica I have ever seen by a long long long long way! So perfect!


Would be nicer it it was turbocharged


Second that Not an RA21 Its an ra23. but it has an early dash panel with the switches vs on the stalk like 76-77 models.


It probably started out as a JDM model TA22 from 1974-1975. Let's just call it... Awesome.


350hp/ps is the upper limit of a 2XXX cc L4 engine, but to totally uncommon it BTCC/F2 etc race cars. which, as someone has mentioned are production based engines.

race engines arent nearly as compromised when it comes to valve angle/port design and deck height/achievable rod ratio etc.


Old Celicas are just so pretty, and this one can confirm what I'm saying !

For sure on of the best TA22 I've ever seen.


Insane! What an impressive Celica.




absolutely! A greddy or HKS turbo will look nice in that engine bay


I created this shirt from an old Celica brochure for classic dragon lovers such as myself:
we also have a tosco shirt made from images from a tosco brochure for the celica:
Just thought I'd share :)


@RickNice noooooo! Classics should be N/A! Plus, with a rare motor like that I imagine a snail would be a bit much of a risk


Fonzy's car definitely set the bar, but both cars ooze cool in their own right. The FonzMobile has things this one doesn't and vice-versa. Isn't Fonzes Moss Green, too?


this is a very impressive Celica the best in the world is a bold statement 
Here is in my opinion is the best Celica ive ever seen and yes it is privately owned


CraigWilkins  woah, that's a Lexus UR powerplant?
I mean, it's a wicked sweet car.  But I personally really like vintage "true to the time" aesthetics of the one pictured above.
but don't mind me, I'd probably just swap in a JZ motor if I had one


pfft that shit doesn't even have the action package body kit