1970 Toyota Celica 1600GT

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Years of production: 1970-1977
Host: GT4 & GT5

Country of Origin: Japan
Class: Sport Compact
Type: 2-door coupe

Price as Tested: $8,364 (GT4 Historic Lot)

Length: 163.9" // Width: 63.0" // Height: 61.6"
Wheelbase: 85.5"
Overhang: @5 feet 8 inches
Track: 50.4" [F] 50.6" [R]
Ground Clearance: 6.1"
Construction: unit steel
Weight: 2,072 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 57.4 / 42.6
Steering: unassisted recirculating ball
Turns lock 2 lock: 3.500
Turn Radius: @ 34 feet 2 inches
Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive
Tires: 6.45H x 13
F. Suspension: MacPherson strut , coils, lwr. wishbones, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: live axle, trailing arms, coils, "TLB?"
Brakes: disc / drum

Engine: 1.6 liter DOHC inline 4
Aspiration: normal
Fuel System: 2-single barrel carbs
Valves per Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 3.35 x 2.76"
Compression: 9.8:1
Final BHP: 114 @ 6,400 rpms
Fnl Torque:
105 @ 5,200 rpms
Idle Speed: 1,000 rpms
Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: 7,500
Credits per HP: $73.37
Pounds per HP: 18.17
Hp per Liter: 71.8

Transmission: 5-speed manual

0-60 mph: 11.200 seconds
0-100mph: 29.950 seconds
400 M: 18.124 @ 80 mph
1 KM:
32.756 @ 104 mph
100-zero mph: 4.32 seconds
Test Track: 3:00.959
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 3,250

Top Speed at Redline
1st: 31 mph
2nd: 54 mph
3rd: 80 mph
4th: 111 mph
5th: 130.0 mph @ 7,050 rpm


-------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY--------------

Ever get something right the first time? I mean really nail it? Beginner's luck...that sort of thing? Perhaps you were new at playing darts or Poker or billiards, yet you slaughtered your buddies. Or maybe an intuition of an idea later proved to be one hell of a reality once you had the project done. McDonalds started this way. So did a million other inventions, medicines, and ideas that we now take for granted.

Well in a lot of ways, this is how I feel about the 1st generation Toyota Celica, a sleeper of a used car found only in GT4. I doubt it'll make a re-appearance in GT5 (edit: oops!), so please...let's enjoy it for all it's worth. And I'll blow some of the surprise this review holds in store for you readers; for this is a car that (surprisingly) has LOTS of worth.

When I was a kid in the '70s, the Celica (like many Japanese models) gained in popularity. Its "smiley-face" bumper, sporty stance, and a variety of paint schemes and option packages meant lots of turned heads, and ultimately lots of sales. To see one in the game reinforces a few memories for me, since it seems everywhere I went as a kid, I would often see a Celica parked or zooming by, and I'd imagine myself behind the wheel (insert sappy music here).

Toyota's Celica was meant to follow their 2000GT sports car, which I've also reviewed for this site. According to and various other websites, the Celica was meant to be a "more affordable" alternative to the 2000GT, which was (for whatever reason) not exported as heavily as the Celica.

Early on, there were five major levels of Celica-dom: the ET, LT, ST, GT, and GTV. In America, we got the LT, ST, and GT only. Apparently, the ET was the cheapest, most basic model. The LT and ST were upgrades with various additionals that I don't feel like typing as I dont wanna get too far off-topic. The GT (found in GT4 and the focus of this review) was meant to be Toyota's sportiest export, yet Japan also got the GTV, which was stripped lighter and geared for more performance; kind of the way a modern Mitsubishi Evo RS is lighter, cruder, yet faster than a GSR.

But whatever model one bought, the 1970 Celica was essentially the first of a long line of success... a brand-new model with a stroke of beginner's luck in sales, popularity, and some racing, too. Nissan's Skyline (for instance) muddled for several years before becoming something to fear as a performance vehicle; whereas the Celica started off with a sporty bent. And besides all the hype I've just laid on you, I must add it's just awesome to race a 1600GT--one of the original Celicas. In the same way it was charmingly unexpected to find a first-gen RX-7 in GT2.

In GT games, almost every generation of Celica and Supra has now been represented ... with the somewhat goofy A40 (2nd generation, 1978-1981) the only exception. Not that it's missed. So I've done lots of driving in my Celica 1600 GT. Started with the Sunday Cup, took it to the FR Challenge, and finally wound up doing all four 1000 Miles events. Plenty of scenarios to get this review off to a good start, eh?

-------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------------

 I'm gonna get ahead of myself again here, but this is one of those cars that possesses sports car-like qualities you wouldn't expect.

The 1600GT (like a Miata or a Honda S2000) is all handling at first. What I mean is...this is one car that you can push and push thru those corners, and it simply takes all you can dish out with few complaints. But as I said, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's discuss one of the worst bits!

The engine. Or rather....its lack of power. Ugh.

Nowadays, a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder might mean low performance, or it might not. Back in the '70s, the answer was usually spelled N O T. Japan may be king of the small-motor now, but back then they were just figuring things out. Turbos were about 10 years ahead in the future. Fuel injection was one of the first bonuses in small engines (performance-wise as well as for fuel-economy), but in 1970, carburetors were still the norm--generally inefficient and difficult to tweak power from unless you've got a lot of displacement.

That's the worst part. You go into that corner...everything's rosy. As I said we can push this early Celica much harder than we'd think. But leave that corner...mash the gas...well let's just say you can push this car but it won't push back! This is truer in GT4 than it is in GT5, though. In the latter game, the Celica does exhibit some more playful behavior. But it still remains ultimately a slowpoke.

Aftermarket parts are available, of course. We can buy 3 natural-tuning kits and 2 turbos to get this car rolling in some higher-paced GT4 events, but the lack of torque ...the feeling you're not getting that "kick", always remains. GT5 includes three NA kits and three turbos (among an assortment of other new parts), but power never becomes stellar.  

For instance, we can tweak 206 hp at 6,400 rpms with a Stage 2 turbo system at best in GT4. The torque? just 172 foot-pounds are available. This is unfortunately as good as it gets...the Stage 3 natural tuning won't go any further.

Overall, the 1970 Toyota Celica 1600GT gets smoked by later Celicas and Supras, as we can see; but within its low-power domain amongst other low-powered vehicles, you can certainly still "pwn" some weaker Ai.  


--------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-----------------

Now the good part.

You can push. You can shove. You can fling this lightweight into corners as hard as you dare (even on N2 tires, surprisingly) and it accepts. It smiles. It asks for more.

Some time ago, I wrote a review about the last (7th) generation of Celica, a front-drive model produced from 1999 into the new millenium, and how hard you could push this version, too. So I find myself honestly shocked again and again at how tossable the earliest Celica has proved itself to be! Not what I expected.

Understeer is minimal. When it (rarely) shows up, a tap of brakes or a momentary release of throttle kills any understeer. Dead. As in GONE. Oversteer? What oversteer?!? THIS is not a trait to fear, or even THINK about...I mean you really have to screw with tire combinations and settings to get genuine issues with oversteer. Once adding some power, you'll start to see some fishtailing and wheelspin; but these negatives can also be easily tuned-out with a differential. It helps that the Celica 1600GT hasn't got much power to screw up its handling prowess, of course.

Even when fully-tuned, this car mostly behaves itself unless you brake way late and stuff. Unwanted slides are easily correctable 95% of the time with a simple flick of countersteer. Maneuverability in this car always rates an "A" in my simply does what it's been told with no backtalk or whining.

If there's an area where this Celica hasn't got the upper-hand, I'd have to say it is not strong in the "fun" department. No drifting (or even a hint of playful power over-steer) allowed. Like the Datsun 510/Nissan Skyline GTR from the early '70s, this Celica has a stronger preference towards understeer than it does towards oversteer; and therefore drifting in this car is something we must seek it not something it will just offer, if you know what I mean. Mostly, it simply hasn't got the torque to get sideways under power (at first, anyways), although once some engine parts are added and crappy tires are shoed, the 1600GT does start to display some action here. But it never gets as fun as it seems it should. That's GT4, though. :-( 

Still, there are many other rear-drive cars that drift more readily....

...but that's it. That's my major handling complaint.
Overall? This car gifts us with a great, easygoing drive the way a Camaro gifts us with lots of natural power. Strong GT players won't have to "help" this car thru those turns much. Good job guys.

So yeah, I was wrong earlier. The Celica 1600 GT does appear in this game...along with several hundred other autos I thought would not make the switch to Next Gen. I, of course, have no problem with this.  

So in this game, all the rules are changed. The rules that defined what a 1970 Toyota Celica 1600GT was in GT4 have now been thankfully re-written. Gone is the safely-driving, slightly understeering car of GT4. In GT5, the Celica in fact handles and drives just like any of America's early "pony cars" have been described as. Just think "low-powered '65 Mustang", and you're starting to get the idea. The Celica is now a fun, fun car that we can still push, but now such pushing often has different results.  

The late, minimalistic understeer of GT4 is still with us, but in GT5, we now have oversteer! We now have alternate cornering choices, most of which bring meaning to the word "enthusiastic" when we think of enthusiasts.

Car snobs (and those who hate them) often think of themselves as enthusiasts, for instance. What exactly does this word mean? What are its connotations? To get some idea, start by taking the '70 Celica around Tsukuba, or Suzuka East, or any track really. Put some of GT5's new "comfort" rated tires on. Now, you're starting to get the idea. You may not all-a-sudden become an enthusiast yourself, but let's just say you might get a picture of from where this snob-related word has its roots.  

Getting the '70 Celica into a turn a little too hot, cranking its steering now results in some delicious sideways action! Plant the fuel, and by golly, it's actually drifting! :-D Even when power is young and stock, we can actually enjoy this car more fully, instead of merely rejoicing in how safe it was in GT4. Many boundaries surprisingly get pushed aside comparing this car from GT4 to GT5.  

The Celica also has a habit of bouncing a lot, even at tracks where it doesn't seem as if there are any bumps. Like at Tsukuba. Not over the rumble strips, but over the smoother tarmac sections. Notice how the Celica feels somewhat giddy as it's being driven. As if even the smallest bumps are being amplified! This seems to be a results of the car's highish 6 inch ground clearance and light weight. There's a live axle in the rear also, which tends to buck and skip out of tight areas a bit once power is raised. Very pony car-ish.

There's a lot of control assumed here, however. Yes, it's possible to get the car sideways, make all its tires burn hot red on the indicators, but it's also just as possible to end this behavior when the time is appropriate. One can make their drifts or power-slides short and sweet, or long and magnificent.

"But what about its other habits on the tracks?" some might ask. "Is this car as civil as it was in GT4? Or is it now just a drifting demon?" Well the answer is yes....and no.

Yes, it can be just as civil as it was, assuming the driver tunes and drives it to be so. Use those non-ABS brakes early, steer inwards with care, and the Celica does reward with a bit of easy lift-off throttle. Mid-corner, this one is still all about grip and safety, if that's what master desires. Exits can also still be quite safe with minimal (if any) misbehavior. All of this is still a given, and can actually be enhanced further thru proper tuning (limited-slip device, lowered suspensions, etc.). 'Cause see, that's another given. There's a lot of tuning potential here, much more than in GT4. One can tune this car to be more civil, if that's desired. One can also train themselves not to get too over-eager with corners.

But let's be honest! It's somewhat difficult to stay consistently safe in this car. It wants to play, which becomes quickly obvious after just a few sideways shunts which happen with ease. The Celica 1600GT spent all that time (years) being forced to be the nice weakling in GT4. Well now in GT5, the car is still weak, but its attitude is anything but.     



1). For all those suffering from ADD, read the first few paragraphs of the "Handling" section again. Superb maneuverability. Graceful weight transferance thru corners (despite what appears to be a high center of gravity that will screw everything up). All in all, we've got the driving characteristics of an early 3-series BMW for the price of ...a Toyota!

2). Add oversteer, playful instability at times, and the ability to truely get sideways and drift to the above for GT5 '70 Celicas. 

3). Ponycar-ish 1970, the all-new Celicas sported better looks than some of our "musclecars". Lots of color schemes to keep us from getting bored.

4). Lightweight at 2,072 pounds.

5). Priced to please (GT4). The mileage you'll add, the races you'll win, the money you'll make from this $8,000-ish mobile far exceed its value. GT5's Celicas have gone in price, but are still very affordable.  

6). 5-speed gearbox in an era of 3 and 4-speeds.

7). Decent brakes. Even without additional help from the controller, these brakes allow plenty of stopping-power, leaving the rest of that turn available for the shredding.


1). Low power. Even lower torque. Even with full upgrades, we'll never forget this is a 1.6 liter engine.

2). Poor acceleration. 18+ quarters at first, even when landing the clutch perfectly.

3). Silly '70s aerodynamics. Even when fully powered, the Celica rarely break 150 mph in racing situations.

4). Notice how 5th gear is closely spaced to 4th? When near-stock, this won't matter. But eventually you'll need a full-custom transmission.

5). GT4: Like the latest "new millenium" Celicas, you may find that this car handles a bit too well. As you go to explore some drift capabilities, the 1600GT won't wanna play at first; despite its light-weight rear-drive layout.

6). Power upgrades add about 100 horses at the most. The expensive Stage 3 NA tune boasts less power than the Stage 2 turbo. Although there is plenty of racing a 1600GT can tackle, ultimately I found myself wishing for more.
Originally Published: October 22, 2007

Re-edited for GT5 content: January 26, 2011