The final 4 cars in our list all come from Japan, which is unsurprising considering the Japanese were so persistent in their efforts to dominate international motorsport during the 80s and 90s, in order to cement their reputation in the history books. The Celica GT-Four represents one of Japan’s finest efforts, and is Toyota’s most successful rally car and their most successful international motorsport competitor. The Celica has become world renowned for its performance on the rally stage, along with its other Japanese competitors such as the Subaru WRX and Lancer Evolution.

In this article we focus on the Group A homologation cars in particular, as we believe these versions of the cars are the most likely to become future classics. The GT-Four was produced from 1986 through to 1999, and during that period appeared in three separate forms: the ST165, ST185 and ST205. Each version of the GT-Four has its merits as a future classic, and as a result we thought it best to include all three generations of the GT-Four in the 4th place on our list, as they fit perfectly within our criterion for consideration.

 

Reasons for selection in top 10:

The elements contributing to the inclusion of the Celica in our list are shared with those in the top 3, and placing the Celica in 4th place was a difficult decision. The Celica has a brilliant reputation in world rally, has a cult status among enthusiasts, was produced in relatively low numbers (particularly the ST205), and the cars are all well known for their unique and advanced styling. Each of these factors are explained below to demonstrate why these cars are a great choice as a future classic car investment.

 

1. Motorsport Success:

The Celica entered the rally world against formidable competition, including the single most successful Group A rally car of all time, the Lancia Delta. The Celica represented a milestone in world rally, as for the first time in history, a Japanese 4WD car was used in the championship. The introduction of the ST165 GT-Four marked a new beginning of rally success for Japanese makes, and although the ST165 did not win a rally championship, it did win a driver’s title, was on the podium for championships and collected a large number of significant rally victories.

A lot was learned from the ST165’s success, and Toyota’s next generation ST185 Celica would prove to be Toyota’s most successful competition sports car ever, claiming a driver’s championship, two manufacturers World Rally Championships (WRC), and famously holding the title of the first car without a Scandinavian driver to win the great lakes rally in Finland, a feat achieved by the famous Spaniard Carlos Sainz. As the ST185’s run came to an end, the world was expecting a lot from the ST205 replacement model, and they would not be disappointed by the car’s incredible performance. Unfortunately, however, Toyota’s ST205 was banned from the WRC for 12 months due to the use of an illegal air restrictor on the turbocharger. Sadly, this led Toyota to abandon its manufacturer efforts in world rally with the Celica, and when they came back to WRC with a factory team, they did so with the WRC Corolla. Despite the ban, the ST205 also achieved considerable success at the events in which it did compete, including many privateer team rally wins. Many recognise the potential that this car had.

Together, the Celicas have achieved more than 30 WRC victories, which is an extremely impressive number in such a competitive environment, which included the Ford Escort Cosworth, Lancia Delta, Mitsubishi Evolution and Subaru WRX. Also of significance is that this motorsport success was during the age of ‘Group A’ rally. To qualify for Group A, manufacturers had to sell a minimum number of cars on the road in the form of Group A editions, which were effectively a road-going version of the rally car (i.e. the running gear of a rally car with the comforts of a road car). These Group A cars represent the ultimate collector, as they so closely reflect the vehicle which achieved motorsport success, and were generally built in very low numbers. Unfortunately, rallying today does not operate the same way at the top level, and the Ford Fiesta RS you see on the street represents almost nothing of the car that operates on the rally track. It is easier to draw a direct link from a Group A edition Celica to its rallying roots.

Some of the impressive rally statistics on each of the Celicas are given below:

 

ST165:

  • First victory was at rally Australia of 1989.
  • Won 13 rallies during its career.
  • Was the first Japanese car to use 4WD in the WRC.
  • Won the 1989 and 1990 British Rally Championship.
  • Won the 1990 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
  • Carlos Sainz won the 1990 WRC Driver's Title.

 

ST185:

  • Won 4 events in its 1992 debut year.
  • Won 16 full WRC series races (including a Monte Carlo Rally victory in 1993).
  • 3 times overall winner in the W2L series.
  • Won the 1995 European Rally Championship.
  • Won 3 WRC Driver's Titles with Carlos Sainz in 1992, Juha Kankkunen in 1993, and Didier Auriol in 1994.
  • Won WRC Manufacturer's Titles in 1993 and 1994.
  • Won 1997 Rally of Malaysia.
  • Toyota’s most successful rally car ever.

 

ST205:

  • 1 WRC series victory in 1995 (Note: during the Championship, Toyota was caught using the illegal restrictors and was banned. At the time, driver Juha Kankkuknen had been in contention for the drivers’ title).
  • 2 times overall winner in the W2L series.
  • Won the 1996 European Rally Championship.
  • If Toyota was not banned, this car might have stopped the domination of Subaru and Mitsubishi in later years.

Very few other cars have achieved what the Celica has done in rally. The car will always be remembered as one of the rally greats of the late 80s and early 90s, and this heritage undoubtedly should ensure the car is one to focus on as a future collectible.

 

2. Low production numbers:

Not all of the Celica GT-Fours had particularly low production numbers, but by modern standards, the numbers are not all that high. Globally, approximately 26,000 GT-Four ST165s were built, and roughly the same number of ST185s. Due to the large production numbers in both of these generations, collectors are better off looking at the Homologated Group A cars, such as the ST185 RC (usually known as the Carlos Sainz Special edition GT-Four). Less than 5,000 Homologated cars were produced in the ST185 version, and these versions can be picked up at very reasonable prices today.

Slightly more expensive, but far more rare are the ST205 WRC cars. Only 2,500 original homologation cars were produced to allow Toyota to enter the WRC, and very limited numbers were delivered to specific markets (such as Australia, who only received 77 cars, all individually numbered and authenticated). Although Toyota continued to produce later versions of the GT-Four ST205, the original homologation cars will be the ones to watch in future, especially the ones factory delivered to export markets.

The production numbers of these cars in Group A special edition form is a major factor in their consideration as a future classic, and the ability to draw such a close link between the road car and its rallying counterpart, as mentioned previously, provides an extra level of thoroughbred lineage. The low numbers of these Group A versions is again another factor which makes the Celica so desirable, and should keep values on the rise in the longer term.

 

3. Design / aesthetics and performance:

Although the ST165 is not a particularly breathtaking design, most would argue that it is a great looking car for the late 1980s. From a design perspective, the ST185 and ST205 really changed the game, with the ST185 seen in particular as a fashion statement of the time, being known as the ‘Super Round’ shape. The ST185 Celica summed up a design trend sweeping the sports car industry, and was one of the most curvaceous designs available alongside other vehicles of the era such as the Mazda RX7. The ST205 (known by some as the ‘bug eye’) occasionally draws criticism. However, the car’s bold, curvaceous and modern presence have actually made it retain design relevance today. The way the A, B and C pillar of the ST205 join the body are far ahead of its time, as is the overall aerodynamic shape. When you see the ST205 rally, you can tell it was designed for the rally track, giving a great sense of balance and precision.

In terms of on-road performance, the GT-Four is an extremely attractive package which continues to draw enthusiasts. Throughout the three generations, Toyota used the continuously improved 2L turbocharged 4WD driveline to achieve an excellent combination of power and handling. In ST205’s final form, Toyota had refined the engine to produce 255BHP, launching the car from 0 - 100kph in about 5.5 seconds. This performance in a road-going car, combined with an excellent motorsport link will keep attracting people to the GT-Four for a long time to come. Rally performance with the practicality of an everyday driver is what a lot of people are looking for, and knowing it is becoming a classic, makes it a pretty great car to have.

 

4. Cult Status:

For those who grew up in the 90s or later, the Celica was always a motorsport reference, and always appeared in the rallying context of video games. Most famously, the ST205 of Sega World Rally dressed in the Castrol colours (as still seen in arcades today), was always a favourite choice. Other appearances of all versions of the Celica in video games such as Gran Tourismo, and other rally based games, has made the car synonymous with motorsport. The awareness of this car among younger generations again should ensure that the Celica is remembered for some time to come, and this adds some goodwill to the car’s achievements, success, and potentially its future collectable status and value.

 

Why is the Celica GT-Four in position 4?

Placing the Celica in position 4 was extremely difficult. These cars have such an amazing motorsport history, are well known, and look great. However, for some reason, they just don’t seem to have the impact that the WRX, Evo and GTR have had from a street credit perspective, despite being just as deserving.

Perhaps one issue holding the Celica back in comparison to the three cars ahead of it, is the confusion that surrounds the model. There were a large number of GT-Fours produced, but not such a large number of Group A / RC special editions. It is therefore possible that many people overestimate the number of Group A cars out there, and thereby assume the cars should attract a lower value due to oversupply. In many markets this has not been helped by aftermarket imports which have flooded ports, and the quality of the stock has been less than desirable given the tendency for people to modify the cars to extreme levels.

With such a competitive field, and with influence from a bit of online research on people’s opinions, position 4 in the top 10 is the best we could give the Celica, noting that the competitors surrounding it in the top 5 are only ever so slightly separated.

 

Conclusion:

In reality, the Celica is as worthy of any of the top 5 positions in terms of what it has achieved in motorsport. However, the Celica’s reputation for some reason has not been established to the same extent as the Evo, WRX and GTR, being the main reason it does not sit any higher. In terms of which one to get, our picks would have to be either the Carlos Sainz limited edition group A GT-Four, or the ST205 Group A delivered GT-Four cars of which there were only 2,500 produced. In terms of the ST165, any Group A car with low mileage, an original engine and in excellent original condition is probably the best you can do. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be particular special editions of the ST165 to focus on, based on our research, but if you know of any, please comment below.

We hope you have found this article interesting. We only have 3 more cars to go in the top 10, and will be publishing articles on these over the next month or so. We encourage you to comment and share the article if you think people would find this interesting. Our next article on car number 3 looks at the WRX STI Versions 5 and 6. For updates on our website (including new articles and new features soon available), please like us on Facebook. To see our original article on our top 10 affordble future classic cars, click here.