Home » There Must Have Been A Sale On Flat-Black Paint: 1979 Toyota Celica vs 1983 Toyota Supra

There Must Have Been A Sale On Flat-Black Paint: 1979 Toyota Celica vs 1983 Toyota Supra

Sbsd 8 31 2023
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Welcome to another edition of Shitbox Showdown! Today we’re looking at a pair of rear-wheel-drive Toyotas finished in the same, um, esthetic. But first, let’s check the results from yesterday’s Pontiacs:

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Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Bird is the word, today anyway. Six-cylinder or not, that Firebird does look like a better starting point, even with the nasty top. But if it were me, those aftermarket wheels would have to go. Someone will want them; you could probably sell them for half the price of the car, and buy some stock wheels and replace the top with the proceeds.

Now then: You don’t see too many all-primer cars anymore. It used to be common; I think a third of the cars in my high school parking lot, including mine, were finished in matte gray or black. Yeah, you told people you were “saving up for a paint job,” but you knew it was never going to happen. A trip to Maaco might as well have been a trip to the moon. Even Earl Scheib was too rich for our blood. But we made the best of it – I remember letting my artist friends draw all over the primer-gray hood of my old Scirocco. I can’t imagine what the guys at the junkyard thought of it, when its time finally came.

These two old Toyotas are a throwback in more ways than one, then. Both are nearly-extinct breeds, and both would have looked right at home in that parking lot in suburban Chicago all those years ago. Let’s check them out.

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1979 Toyota Celica GT Liftback – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Marysville, WA

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Great, according to the seller

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For all I know, this exact car could have been in my high school parking lot, actually. Celicas of this age were all over the place in the late ’80s, before they all rusted away or got thrashed to death. Here on the west coast, rust wasn’t a threat, and if any car is going to survive a good thrashing, it’s one of these. Still, they’re pretty rare these days, even out here.

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It must be said, however, that what we have here is most of a Celica. The interior is gutted, sporting a pair of Honda Prelude bucket seats and nothing else. Twenty years ago, you could have found interior parts for this car in any junkyard; nowadays I’m not so sure. But a remnant of industrial carpet is cheap, you can make door panels out of just about anything, and the Prelude seats don’t look too bad in there.

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It’s also missing the rear bumper, but it’s a big hideous slab of black rubber anyway, so no great loss. And of course, there is the aforementioned black primer finish, over what appears to have originally been brown. I think I would have preferred the brown, myself. Its original wheels are also gone, and it wears what look to be Nissan wheels, if I’m not mistaken. That fart-can muffler sticking out from under the rear is offensive in more ways than one, but that’s easy enough to remedy.

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Mechanically, it’s tip-top, or so says the seller. Toyota R series engines are known for durability and reliability, and this one is old enough to have the good double-row timing chain. Its original carb has been replaced with what I’m pretty sure is a Weber downdraft, a very common modification for these engines. The only mechanical shortcoming is worn-out shocks, and that’s easy to fix as well.

1983 Toyota Supra – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Auburn, WA

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Odometer reading: 200,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but brakes need work

The Toyota Supra started out as the Celica’s big brother, and the early ones were actually badged as “Celica Supra.” This second generation distanced itself from the Celica, but retained some familial resemblance. From the rear especially, it’s hard to tell Celicas and Supras of this age apart. Open the hood, or step on the gas, and the difference becomes clear: the Supra has that wonderful fuel-injected twin-cam inline six.

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The seller says this car’s engine runs great, and “most stuff works.” I guess on a forty-year-old car, that’s about the best you can ask for. They do say the brakes need to be bled, but brakes don’t just develop a need for bleeding; if the pedal is soft, that’s a sign that more work is needed. But brakes aren’t the end of the world – unless they fail right when you need them most, I suppose.

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Inside, it’s more intact than the Celica, but it’s badly faded. I think it used to be maroon inside, but the seats are sort of lavender and pink, and I don’t know what the hell is going on with the carpet. And what happened to the shift knob? That’s a five-dollar part in any junkyard, or twenty bucks for a generic one from Autozone. Nobody wants to drive a stick with no knob on the shifter. If you lost or ruined the original, put something on there.

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Supras of this generation so often have louvers on the rear window that it looks somehow wrong without them. The cool “SUPRA” lettering above the taillights is conspicuous in its absence as well, collateral damage from the flat-blackening. At least those fantastic wheels are still intact.

[Editor’s Note: Hold up. Can we talk about this guy for a minute here?

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Ss Guyinbg

What’s going on here? Where’s he going with that…what is that, exactly? It doesn’t seem like a car part – the end seems more purple than you’d expect and I think that’s some kind of foam padding/grip material in the middle? It also kinda looks like part of a Dyson vacuum, mostly because of that color. But that end also looks like it could bolt onto something? Oh wait– it’s a floor jack! 

Duh, of course it’s a floor jack. It continues off the photo! I have one like six feet away from me! The handle even has the padding in the same place, and mine is metallic blue, not that far off from that purple. Jeez, Jayjay, wake up. He’s just a dude at a junkyard, getting parts! Leave him alone!

He looks like he may be up to some kind of mischief, too. Is this moments before he swings around like a second hand and flings that jack off into the air? I can’t believe I didn’t see that as a jack at first. I’m gonna leave all this in, as a lesson to myself. – JT]

So there you have them: Two rear-wheel-drive Toyota sports cars from the days when New Wave was really new. Neither one is shiny, but are stickshifts, and both can be driven home. So just pick your flavor – you can have a cheap but hollowed-out Celica, or tackle a brake job on a Supra.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Matt Woods
Matt Woods
9 months ago

Voted for the Supra because I had to pick one. At least it’s just overpriced. That poor Celica has loved 100 lives in it’s 44 years. Typing that made it occur to me that the ’74 Corolla I had would have been 50 next year. Ugh…

Ricki
Ricki
9 months ago

That guy is clearly Bigfoot. Same gait and everything.

SRPC
SRPC
9 months ago

The real question is, why is flat black such a popular color in Western Washington? Here in Seattle I see all sorts of fancy cars with flat black vinyl wraps along with the obvious home grown rattle can paint jobs. Oh, and that guy with he jack? It was probably about 60 degrees out that day, and that’s why he’s shirtless.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
9 months ago

Supra for me. It doesn’t appear to be missing parts, has better performance and I like the style of that gen of Celica-Supra better over the previous gen of Celica.

Dixie Normous
Dixie Normous
9 months ago

“Earl Scheib”. lol Flashback!
The only reason anyone ever did this was to make the car one color, not the tri-quad marks of multi-colored Bondo coverings. (yeah, yeah, me too. poor teenagers had to teenage back in the day ya know)

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Dixie Normous

I painted my college car (’82 Trans Am Crossfire) in a two tone primer gray / primer black. It was epic.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
9 months ago

Who in God’s flaming hell voted for the celica,and why??

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

I kind of wonder how early 80’s EFI is to maintain, but I can say I am no fan of smog era carbs and all the vaccum lines and of course gummy gas issues. Neither of these thing smatter though straight six Supra is a better deal all day every day.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
9 months ago

As I was reading through the description of the Celica I found myself wondering how fucked up the Supra must be. As it turns out, not very. Easy win for the Supra.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
9 months ago

No brainer. Aside from the conditions of the cars, more or less this exact model of Supra was my dad’s first sports car, 40 years ago, when he turned 40 a week after my sister turned 16. She inherited the Mercury Montego he used as a commuter. He kept it for about 10 years, until he was driving it through an ice storm to get someone from the airport and it hit an ice patch, spinning in place in the lane but doing serious fender damage to all four corners. Replaced it with an AWD turbo Eclipse.

And yes, of course it had the rear window louvers. Oh, and an alarm system that involved a tubular pin lock mounted on the front fender, which I’m pretty sure got used about a dozen times.

DadBod
DadBod
9 months ago

Many moons ago, I bought a decent used VFR700 in red white and blue. Being a moron, I thought it would be cool to paint it flat black. After a few cans of Krylon I turned a sweet motorcycle into a worthless rolling turd.

Black Peter
Black Peter
9 months ago

This is my favorite Supra.. so duh..

Zorn Zornelius
Zorn Zornelius
9 months ago

I *love* that liftback Celica but the fartcan completely kills it for me. Yeah, easy and cheap enough to fix but what else happened to and IN that poor car? Bad juju those fartcans.

JumboG
JumboG
9 months ago

Having owned versions of each of these (an 81 Celica GT and a 85 Celica GT) I can tell you unequivocally that the newer version is far better vehicle. The older model I owned had issues with the door hinges wearing out and the seat back breaking (undoubtedly why there are Honda seats in it) even though it had less miles. Plus the FI 22RE (yeah, I know the Supra has a 6, but I’m talking the ones I had) got better mileage and power than the carbed 22R. Plus, it was just a nicer car all the way around.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
9 months ago

83 Celica Supra.

BTW: Sarahntuned on Youtube is giving away a meticulously cleaned up and tastefully modified one from 1982 very soon. Check out her build series on it! She’s super detailed and I find it very entertaining to watch her nerd out of small details.

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

I do like the old Celicas, but I had to focus to read the entire article before voting for the Supra. $3k is a good deal, and I hate reading a Showdown and immediately wondering how close I am to a car. If I lived in WA, I’d have a look at that Supra. If it’s decent mechanically, the cosmetic stuff is tolerable.

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
9 months ago

A no brainer ! Of course, I always check my brain at the door, but that’s another story! 6 cylinders versus 4. Fuel injection versus a carburetor. Mostly there interior, should be a blowout for the Supra…probably just needs a new master cylinder.. It Supracedes the Celica by a country mile!

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
9 months ago

The second gen Celica (first gen Supra) was the worst of the lot. It was all bloated styling and weight gain over the first gen sweetheart. The third gen fixed everything but the weak engine and the fourth gen was the best overall, IMO. The second gen was the only generation styled by the US design office.

The Supra fixed the only issue with the third gen by swapping in the six. They didn’t just look the same at the rear – they were the same car from the firewall back and with the Celica GTS, you even got the same wheels and tires as the Supra.

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