Toyotafest Spotlight: JZ-powered Celica drag racers

Two of the biggest head turners at this year’s Toyotafest were a pair of seriously mean drag racers built on a daruma Celica chassis. Both were caged, tubbed, and running mills from the legendary Toyota JZ family. 

Before we get to the technical details, let’s first admire how beautifully Cary Miller’s 1972 Celica sits, thanks to a 3/4 back-halved rear. Those are 195/50-15s on 5.5-inch-wide Centerlines in the front and massive 325/50-15s on 12-inch-wide Centerlines on the rear.

Pop the hood and you’ll find a Supra 1JZ straight-six with a turbo the size of a watermelon. It’s 72mm, to be exact, and though they haven’t dyno’ed the car Cary says it’s estimated to put out something north of 800 horsepower.

Power is pushed through a TH350 transmission and a Toyota 8-inch truck 4.10 locked diff. The steering box has been replaced with rack and pinion steering as well, and just for kicks Cary converted the car to RHD.

We first saw Cary’s car at Toyotafest years ago. Back then it had the guts but was covered in a coat of mottled primer. Now a coat of deep, deep gloss black paint has completely transformed the car. Best of all, it’s all all street-legal and smog-exempt.

Parked beside him was Karey McGee’s 1971 Celica powered by a 2JZ-GTE. It’s been dyno’ed at 450 horsepower to the wheels on E85 and low boost, fed through a Toyota R154 transmission and Ford 9-inch diff mounted on a tubbed 4-link rear. The wheels are 15×3-inch-wide Welds in the front and 12-inchers in the rear.

A lot of drag cars tend to look a little rough, built for purpose rather than style. Cary and Karey’s Celicas, however, are the rare examples that hit all the marks in both form and function. It doesn’t hurt that the Celica was one of the best-looking designs of the era to begin with. Together, the scene looks like the staging of an epic drag race.

Our Toyotafest 2017 coverage continues, but in the meantime check out Part 01 — New DigsPart 02 — Celebrating the all-conquering Land Cruiser, and Part 03 — Fun to Drive, as well as a spotlight on Richard Pope’s 1977 Celica.

You can also revisit Toyotafest 2016 (Part 01, 0203, and 04), Toyotafest 2015 (Part 01, 02, and 03), Toyotafest 2014 (Part 01020304), Toyotafest 2013 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2012 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2011 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04, 05), and Toyotafest 2010 (Part 01, 0203).



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12 Responses to Toyotafest Spotlight: JZ-powered Celica drag racers

  1. Cesariojpn says:

    The fat tyres in back kill it. It’s looks ridiculously off and destroys the body flow underneath.

  2. Randy says:

    Not really my style, but WOW! Nicely done and low-key! At first glance, one may not even notice how modded they are. Equally nice is that they did NOT just cram in a Chevy 350, but kept the engine Japanese.

    IF I were to make ANY change to either of them, it would be to raise the black one just a bit, for street use.

    I couldn’t own one of these; I’d be dead within a week of finishing the driveline.

  3. Rick Moore says:

    I used to work with Cary when I was a teenager. He was a mechanic at a Toyota dealer in Fairfield. He had a Celica back then with an 18RG…I wonder if this is the same one? If so, dang! I wish I would have held on to mine that long. 🙁

    • Cary Miller says:

      Hey Rick
      No it’s not the same one I actually sold that one….wish I didn’t. This one is about 18 years with me so far. It’s very streetable as it sits. It’s a little better than the old car.

      Thanks for the write up JNC pics look great. Glad I was able to be a part of the show.

      • Rick Moore says:

        Awesome. I was the kid with the red ’72 GT. Don’t know if you remember. I sold it a year or so after leaving that job and have been kicking myself ever since.

        • Cary Miller says:

          Yup I sure do. Ya there has been a couple I wish were still mine but I like this one. My Kids are fighting over it even. So I am building one for the Boy soon and we shall see what the girl wants later.

          • MikeRL411 says:

            If you have a jewel, hang on to it! My son has been after my 1967 Datsun RL411 since he was 15 years old. He will eventually get it [I will not be buried in it] but then he will be the second owner. That’s got to have some bragging rights!

  4. John says:

    Not the same Celica but one he acquired almost 20 years ago.

    This is a work of art and love. A long, long journey that covers every inch of the car. What you cannot see is that every bolt, every part, every hinge has been given the same care as the rest of the car. It really is brand new. It was an honor even being associated with it.

    • Cary Miller says:

      Hi John
      Thanks for that. Yours is next!!!
      He is right everything on this car has been touched and modified or upgraded somehow. So many things to even list. Heck I see things still and go oh ya we did that. For as extreme as it is its still retains a stock appearance in a lot of ways.

  5. J.A.C.K says:

    Any idea the times both these cars run? They are filthy! I love them

  6. Mark Newton-John says:

    A locked differential? Is that even driveable?
    A nice car, indeed, but not a serious drag car, since all the extra bits like an interior and headlights simply add dead weight.

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