Buying somebody else’s modified car is a roll of the dice. On the one hand, the odds are pretty good that corners have been cut, important steps skipped, and lower-quality parts used for the sake of a budget. On the other hand, some builds come from a well-known and respected professional shop, or from a perfectionist who spent so much time, attention and money that there’s almost nothing to nitpick.
At the end of the day, though, someone else’s build is done to someone else’s tastes and preferences, which never exactly match your own, no matter how nice it is. Such is the case with this spectacular restomodded, Honda-powered 1977 Toyota Celica. The car is hard to fault and easy to like, yet it sold for $64,050, not exactly chump change but surely far less than it cost to put together and another example of how hard it can be to gauge the restomod market.
Toyota introduced the Celica way back in 1970 (just a year after the 240Z) as a two-door, 2+2 coupe that offered driving fun and real-world practicality on a budget, sort of like a pony car in a more compact package. Indeed, the influence of American pony cars is obvious at first glance. The available hatchback version, dubbed the “Liftback” by Toyota, looks like a mini-Mach 1 Mustang. Proven passenger car mechanicals from the Toyota Carina kept costs down and reliability high, and the contemporary press praised it for being lively if not particularly fast.
Motor Trend called the Celica Liftback its Import Car of the Year in 1976, which speaks to the foundation of this build, but there is a lot less Celica underneath this ’77 coupe’s Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R Midnight Purple III paint than there used to be. Thoroughly and exquisitely reworked over years by the seller, who acquired it in 2010, it has a hefty list of mods to go through.
First is the work of art under the hood, a 2.2-liter F22C VTEC four and 6-speed manual from a Honda S2000, which has been fitted with Jenvey individual throttle bodies, J’s Racing tubular header, an a-Spec titanium muffler, and Koyo aluminum radiator. The instrument cluster and starter button also come from an S2000. Other additions include staggered-width custom-made 16-inch BBS RS wheels, Wilwood disc brakes, AccuAir suspension, polyurethane bushings, Addco sway bars, fiberglass bumpers, front and rear spoilers, fender flares, Bride bucket seats, Alcantara headliner and rear seats, NRG quick-release steering wheel, audio components from Kenwood, JL Audio and Audison, and the aforementioned Midnight Purple III paint. According to the seller in this video profiling the car, 98 percent of the bolts on the car are titanium, including the ones holding on the BBS wheels.
The seller bought the car in 2010, sight unseen out of Oklahoma. The S2000 swap had already been professionally done, but the rest of the car had serious rust so a complete teardown and rebuild to its current configuration took place from 2011-16. It still looks gorgeous, and the attention to detail is impressive, especially things like the fabricated rear bodywork and blended-in fender flares.
A $64K final price isn’t cheap, and it’s about 10 grand more than an absolutely perfect S2000 would sell for, but it’s also almost certainly less than the sum of the parts used to build it, to say nothing of the hours and hours of specialist labor. It’s also less than the $65,100 someone paid for a very clean but all-stock ’76 Celica Liftback model on Bring a Trailer two years ago.
The market for restomods is a tough one to figure out. Some cars sell for big prices, well into the six figure territory it cost to build them. Certain models—C2 Corvettes are a perfect example—have seen enough restomod builds to create a small, trackable market and generally understood pricing. Most others don’t, and it has us thinking ahead to ten or 20 years from now and how the market will treat older, used restomods that will have been around long enough to be classics in their own right. Regardless, in this case somebody got a badass, fast, very well-done Celica restomod for way less than it cost the seller to put it together, and that isn’t a bad way to buy a car.