Today, August 24, is the birthday of a car that is pretty unique in the annals of automotive history. It’s the day the fifth-generation Toyota Celica Convertible was introduced, a car that most observers don’t think of as being particularly noteworthy. However, this humble Celica has the distinction of being the first factory convertible equipped with 4-wheel steering.
Four-wheel-steering as we know it was invented by Nissan on the R31 Skyline as early as 1985, but it soon spread across the Japanese auto industry like a cold virus at daycare. The Celica was the first Toyota to come with dual-mode 4WS, which allowed the driver to select two different rear wheel angles, one for standard driving and one for sporty driving. Sadly, this feature was offered only in Japan and never made it to US-market Celicas.
Instead, we got the Celica convertible, which emerged from the factory as coupes before being sent to ASC to get their tops chopped. Though executed by third parties, these conversions were still sold through the dealer network alongside coupes with the same warranty and can be considered official. Toyota, unlike Nissan or Mitsubishi, sent Celica Convertibles back across the Pacific and sold them through their dealers in Japan.
As a result, Japanese customers could buy a Toyota Celica 4WS Convertible. These cars, chassis code ST183, were powered by a naturally aspirated 3S-GE making 162 horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque. An additional Celica 4WS Convertible Type G trim level added luxury options like leather seats.
The only other car we can think of from that era which offered both a convertible version and 4WS was the S13 Nissan Silvia. Like the US market 240SX was converted by ASC. Unlike the Celica, the Japanese Silvia convertibles were converted by Autech and are completely different animals. However, as far as we can tell the Autech Silvia convertible was never offered with Nissan’s 4WS system, HICAS.
Nowadays four-wheel steering is commonplace on high-end sports cars, including convertibles like the Porsche 911 and Lamborghini Aventador. If anyone has the gall to not take your Celica Convertible seriously, you can tell them that it pioneered 4WS droptops.