For Celica fans 1986 is known as the year when the beloved sports coupe was transformed from rear- to a front-wheel-drive. Despite its softening, Toyota was still hell-bent on scoring sales with an aggressive racing program. At the time there was no bigger US race series than IMSA touring cars, so three GTO-class Celicas were created to challenge the likes of the Mazda RX-7, Porsche 911 and Chevy Corvette. They were rear-drive, turbocharged, and produced as much as 600hp. And now you can own one.
Built by Kent Racing and Indy legend Dan Gurney, the semi-tube-framed chassis shared nothing in common with production Celicas. The driven wheels were on opposite ends and the race engine was a twin-spark turbocharged 4T-GT with a rear-mounted transaxle. Although capable of churning out 600hp at 8,000 rpm, at its current IMSA-restricted spec it’s producing “only” 458hp.
The only thing on the car that is even remotely similar to the production Celica is the shape of the aero body designed by Hiro Fujimori. With bulging fenders and a huge spoiler, it sliced enough wind to reach a top speed of 195 mph. Naturally, it wore Toyota’s old school red-orange-yellow-on-white race livery.
Toyota’s partnership with All-American Racing began in 1983. By then, the team founded by Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby had already seen success at any racing series Americans cared about — NASCAR, Formula 1, SCCA Trans-Am and the Indianapolis 500.
The 1986 season saw the team rack up some points, but it was mostly an opportunity to iron out the details. The 1987 season was when the GTO (Grand Touring Over 2.5L) Celicas really shined, snatching the overall championships from Ford in a nail-biting final race that driver Chris Cord won by less than a car length.
The car was campaigned for one more season before GTP prototypes became the hot ticket and Toyota moved on to campaigning the Eagle MkIII. This particular car was then sold by Toyota to Cord, who is, incidentally, the grandson of the founder of Cord Automobile.
Now it’s coming up for sale at RM Auctions‘ Arizona event starting January 16. The car comes with a load of spares, including an extra engine, three air dams, a front and rear clip, an additional set of wheels, and five sets of tires. The expected selling price is $100,000 to $150,000.
Following on RM’s success with the 2000GT, it seems that Toyotas are high on the auction house’s list of collectible cars these days. It will be an interesting year to see if prices on landmark Japanese cars continues to rise. See the lot here.
I need a bigger bank account.
(For this and an IMSA 280ZX).
wow my dream as st162 fan is this right here just wow thanks for posting…
oh jeez. i must be crazy because i feel $150k is reasonable for this plus the spares package. the ultimate dream would be rolling up to jccs in this and a Toyota stadium truck in the same livery.
i would make a mold for the body and get to work building a street-legal copy for commuting purposes with a 3S-GTE under the hood and pull this out for any vintage racing events i could qualify for.
Built by “Kent Racing”? I think it was built in house by AAR, who may have picked up some people from Kent Racing at the time, after they wound down from building IMSA RX7s and then Merkurs.
My understanding is that Kent racing built the original chassis, and AAR took over the project.
It would be great to get that “in the record”. Much of what Kent Racing accomplished is not really written down or archived anywhere.
“The expected selling price is $100,000 to $150,000.”
Isn’t that what they said about the 2000GT?
$150k is more than reasonable for this piece of racing history! I feel Toyota should buy it back for one of its collections. Seeing this makes me wonder about the IMSA RX-7 racers. Given the RX-7’s success in IMSA racing, what happened to all the race cars? Mazda has the green factory car in Irvine, but there was also a red/orange one that I never see nor hear about. What about the ones ran by private teams? Racing Beat had their own race car, where is it now? Hopefully they’re not lost or destroyed.
The Racing Beat car is out there, I think it has shown up at a few vintage events (I saw it for sale in their old Anaheim shop in 1981 for $50k). Kent Racing sold off their RX7s from their LA shop (2 cars plus lots of spares) as a package deal, asking $150k in the mid 1980s. Last I heard, Tom Kendall’s family still owns the Downing/Baldwin/Kendall 4 time IMSA champion car. AFAIK, only a few were converted to SCCA racers or other things, which was a typical fate for retired pro race cars.
Interesting. I guess it makes sense to sell off retired race cars, unless you have a spare museum.
There were 3 IMSA SA22Cs, the third having purplish stripes. The rumor is that the red car is languishing somewhere in the north in need of a restoration.
I totally didn’t know about the purple one! I heard Mazda has an annual *allowance* to restore their old race cars. Maybe someday they’ll get to the red one.
Some of Racing Beat’s race cars are in Puerto Rico living another life racing. Racing Beat Team time to time go to Puerto Rico to service and maintain them. Currently several World Challenge Race Cars also in Puerto Rico reliving their race history.