The Celica story in the UK started in 1971, following the announcement at the 1970 motorshow, the new range of cars were keenly anticipated. Like the 240Z, its primary market was the States, were it offered practical economic stylish motoring. Initially just offered in one bodystyle a hardtop 2 door notchback body, it helped bring the brand into the attention of the UK public. Road reviews were generally positive and the car presented itself as a viable Capri alternative. One engine block was initially available, a tuned version of the new generation of T Series OHV 1588cc engine shared with the Carina.
Only 2 trim levels, the GT and ST models were sold in the UK, the GT being the higher model, with a twin cam, limited slip differential, 5 speed gearbox and various interior improvements. Continous developments and light updates progressed into the mid 70’s, achieving just over 3,600 sales in its best year. It was joined by a more upmarket variant in 1976, which was a sign of the future development of the model, as a higher performance fastback coupe body. The styling of the car echoed that of the Mustang of the period that didn’t do any harm to the reputation of the brand. The lower wider design, was the start of another tangent to the Toyota range – eventually the 3 door Liftback (essentially a rakish hatchback) became the basis of the Celica Supra, which became a separate model in its own right. The new cars were again aimed towards American sellers, the specifications had parallels to the Crown spec, and featured air conditioning and a cassette stereo player. With the hike of equipment, came the increased engine size. The T series engines, where initially unique to the Carina and Celica range, while the next model in the pecking order, the Corona/MKII/Cressida all used the R Series engines, but the Celica liftback had the 2 litre R engine, which meant that the nose of the car had to be lengthened. It was available in trim levels, the GT and ST, the GT offering more kit on UK models. The design of the car was starting to appear dated towards the end of the 70’s, one of the disadvantages of contemporary styling is its ability to appear out of fashion quite quickly – something of a common trait of subsequent Celicas. Post 1975 cars were known as the RA23 (coupe) and RA28 (liftback) respectively.
The next generation of models arrived in late 1977, with imports coming into the UK in the following year. The TA40 series which actually designed in America, which illustrates the importance of the car in the States. The new series of cleaner more aerodynamic cars were mechanically similar to the previous model, and carried over the same engines but the revamp worked and in its first full year of UK imports it bettered the yearly sales of the previous generation. The body shells carried over, with the liftback adopting a more practical hatchback type body and a Toyota sanctioned ‘Sunchaser’ cabriolet version. The choices of specs and trims were typically bewildering and there was many changes between home and export models, but again just 2 trim levels, the ST and XT were offered in the UK. The Celica had now been joined by the Supra, which was a lengthen liftback body with a series of M type engines which went up to 2.8 litres, which allowed the car to compete against the Datsun 280Z. This first generation of Supra was not officially sold in the UK, but the next generation to supplement the 1982 did make it.
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