Welcome to Member Rides, the weekly feature where we throw the keys to an Autopian Member so they can show off their favorite “ride.” This week, we’re super-stoked to have our new friend Holly Birge gracing the site with her extremely nice 1985 Celica GT, complete with a 5-speed manual. What a wonderful, quintessentially ’80s machine! Here’s Holly:
Greetings fellow Autopians and welcome to my “garage.” I put “garage” in quotes because I live in a condo, so it’s more like “extra parking space I rent from my neighbor.” I am a certified car nut and have been since pre-school. My Dad and I would spend Sunday afternoons wandering around the car lots back in the days when car lots were closed on Sundays.
Japanese cars were everywhere when I was growing up Florida in the ’70s and ’80s, which is why I think I love them so. I remember my parents’ unreliable GM cars and being so jealous of my neighbors who had Toyotas and Datsuns and Hondas that never broke down, and my high school parking lot was full of Celicas.
I now live in Victoria BC on Vancouver Island, home to a climate that preserves old cars and also has some fantastic, twisty two-lane driving roads. When I started looking for my first collector car, I had my sights set on a ‘76 or ‘77 Celica liftback. I think those cars were really ahead of their time, and I even requested one as the subject of my birthday drawing, as included with my Autopian membership—thanks Torch! [Glad you liked it, Holly, it was fun to draw! -JT]
But I soon discovered that a good, low-to-no rust example of a first-gen Celica was just out of my budget. And then, in my endless obsession with YouTube car channels, I came across the beauty that I own today on the Motormouth Canada channel (thank you Zack!): a 1985 Celica GT 5-speed, the last of the rear-wheel-drive Celicas. [That’s Holly’s car in the video below! -PV] The video stated that the car was going on Bring A Trailer, but when I talked to the dealer who had the car it became clear that it was going to be more work than he wanted to put into it to get it suitable for BaT. He named a price, I said yes, and the rest is history.
The car was in good shape overall with only 69,000 kilometers (42,874 miles) on it when I bought it. A lot of things were original but just kind of worn out, and it had been given a bad paint job. But I knew it was all easily fixable, and the most important thing is that the engine cranked over every time, and it drove and shifted like it just wanted to be driven. The best part is its originality. Everything from the stereo to the floor mats is exactly what it rolled off the assembly line with—heck, even the power antenna is original and still works! Also, not gonna lie, that interior is as amazing in person as it is in photos. I love it so much. (Side note for anyone who has a RA 6x Celica with loose door mirror glass: it can be fixed. YouTube is your friend.)
Through a Twitter acquaintance, I learned the story of my car. I had posted a photo right after I purchased it, and I got a message from a friend in Vancouver. She knew that car! It had belonged to a friend of hers who lived in West Vancouver. He babied it, always kept it garaged and rarely drove it in the rain. Sadly, he was hospitalized at one point and the car went into storage. It was only after he passed away in 2020 that his estate sold the car. I hope he would be pleased that it belongs to someone who loves it as much as he did.
Nearly two years later, my Celica GT has had her paint redone back to the correct factory color, and the mechanicals are refreshed with new brake lines, control arm bushings, muffler, and a few other little things. I’ve been battling a drive shaft issue that causes her to vibrate on deceleration, but the problem has been diagnosed and she’s going to a driveline shop to finally address it and improve the drivability at highway speed. She’s been in a couple of car shows and gotten a ton of attention—lots of “I haven’t seen one of these in 20 years” comments.
Someone who knows I daily-drive a Mk 7.5 GTI asked me which car I liked better. The GTI wins for daily use overall, but I will say that the handling in my Celica is far superior and wow is the driver’s seat comfortable. A perfect day for me is taking her out on a quiet back road and just cruising.
Thank you all for letting me share my story with my Celica. I’m not a wrencher, so I am also grateful that Victoria BC has such a close knit and vibrant collector car community—I don’t know what I would do without my mechanic. I hope to see some of you at a local car show in the future. Keep an eye out for the middle-aged lady who loves to geek out about her 1985 Celica.
P.S. If any of y’all know where I can find a working OEM stereo with the cassette deck, hit me up—I want to add one of those Bluetooth cassette adapters.
P.P.S. Save the Manuals!
Thanks so much for sharing your Celica with us, Holly!
Remember, readers, the opportunity to be selected for Member Rides is included at every Autopian membership level. Why not join today? The standard “Vinyl” membership is just ten bucks a month—you probably blow four times that each month on coffees or sausage biscuits or Hot Wheels. Come on, you know we’re right. Become a Member!
Already a Member and would like to be considered for Member Rides? Just check your email for the link to the Member survey where you can tell us about your car—or your fleet!
Great to hear from you Holly! What a cool car.
Thanks heaps Autopian for doing this.I think you’ll get a ton of good stories
Wow. This is fantastic. Extra points for being a five speed manual as most of these time capsules end up being automatics.
Those wheels are sick
I had an ’83 way back. It was lowered and since I had an overheating issue I would coast as much as I could. On the freeways this car would coast like you would not believe, it appeared to have some good aero. Like the author stated this car could handle well. Also the rear hatch was huge, I fit a pair 10″s and 12″s in a huge box back there, ah the good times. But the best part was the 22RE engine, definitely one of the all time bests.
That engine is truly bulletproof. I understand when the car was pulled from storage all they had to do was drop in a fresh battery and it started right up.
Amazing story, amazing car. Thanks for sharing, Holly!
This is a fabulous story about an excellent car! Thank you for sharing, Holly. May you have all the miles of accident free driving fun!
I have this vision of Autopians meeting somewhere with their cars and just going for a tour. Like meeting at the Lane in Nashville and then driving over the course of a week by say the Corvette museum in KY, Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg in Auburn, IN, Studebaker In South Bend, IN or similar attractions.
Dude, my Renault 4 will go anywhere on land, but I don’t think it’ll cross an ocean.
But holy shit I just added an entry to my millionaire bucket list: taking the Quatrelle on a container ship across the Atlantic (mental note: search “travelling in container ship”) and doing the slowest official Cannonball run.
That sounds like heaven!
I had a version of this many years ago! One of the many cars from my past that I wish I had kept. Mine was brown/black two tone with the GT-S trim. I think I even had those same BFG white letter tires!
Great car, glad she has a found a home where she is loved!
Very nice. I had a red 85 GT hatch with the same wheels. I bought it with over 200k miles on it. Drove it for a few years, but it started rusting in the hatch area. People were impressed with mine because it could chirp the tires shifting into 3rd gear.
Jeez, what a great looking Celica! I’d consider myself lucky to find one like that but with two or three times the mileage on the odo. So glad it’s owned by a person who appreciates it. 🙂
My favorite Celica generation. I looked at one around 2001 just before I bought my ’88 200SX. Wedge cars unite!
That’s a beaut Clark! I especially liked the Negative offset wheels. Only maybe the Conquest TSI with a body kit had perhaps more attractive stock mags in 1985.
Amazing! Great car, great story!
Oh man all the feels. This thing is amazing. I had an 83, paid $300 for it with 236k miles, while I was going through a divorce (after discovering my un-faithful wife) and after getting laid off from my first after college “real” job. I guess its true, cars can carry you through life’s Journy’s…
This is awesome!
I always loved these back in my youth, and brother even had a nice red Celica. The detail that always stuck out to me is the little kick out on the rear fenders just to make the reflectors visible to the rear. It’s just neat little frivolous thing, but it’s so emblematic of the era, and it gives it so much style.
That’s a fantastic little detail in a really awesome design. Love these wedge Celicas. Even the notchback coupé looks great.