The Toyota Celica GT-4 might not have been the most perfect car in the world, it wasn’t particularly good looking, it got terrible mileage, and was a nightmare to daily – but it had character. You see, the Celica GT-4 wasn’t really produced for the average Joe to enjoy. Toyota manufactured this car for one single purpose. To become a full-on rally weapon. And there you have to say that Toyota did hit the hammer on the nail. Not only did the Celica GT-4 take many victories, but it was also the first-ever AWD Japanese-manufactured car to win a WRC.
As the Celica GT-4 had to follow the WRC Group A regulations, the Celica was required to have AWD, and a 2.0L Turbocharged I-4.
The first Celica GT-4 was the ST165 which was born in 1986. In 1989 the ST185 came to be and eventually in 1994, the last of the Celica GT-4 was born, the ST205.
The three different models kept the same hardware, although the latter versions were arguably more advanced, and powerful in most ways.
L4 DOHC Turbocharged
L4 DOHC Turbocharged
L4 DOHC Turbocharged
All versions of the Celica GT-4 were front-engine and utilized the Toyota All-Trac GT-Four AWD system.
As mentioned, the Celica GT-4 was simply manufactured in order for Toyota to enter the WRC. And the WRC regulations said that in order to enter the Group A World Rally Championship, the manufacturer had to produce at least 5,000 road-legal units. And so, the Toyota Celica GT-4 road car was born.
When it comes to rallying history, the Toyota Celica GT-4 was the most acknowledged Japanese branded car. Not only was it the first AWD Japanese Rally car to ever win a WRC, but it continues to win another five WRC championships, making it the most successful Japanese rally car in history.
A note for books though, is that the three different versions of the GT-4 varied quite substantially from one another when it came to its success.
The ST165 was the first Celica GT-4 rally car and was based upon the 3-door Celica Liftback. The rally version got increased power, raising the standard output from 185bhp to 265bhp. Advanced suspension, as well as a Xtrac six-speed manual transmission, were fitted.
The ST165 debuted its first race in Tour De Corse, in 1988. But unfortunately, did not see any major success with a 6th place, as well as another driven by Juha Kankkunen who got retired due to engine issues.
The ST165 saw its first success in the 1989 Australia Rally. Juha Kankkunen managed to finish in the first place and Eriksson in a close second. This victory was extremely important to Toyota as it proved they certainly had the tool to compete for the championship title.
The upcoming two WRC’s the Celica GT-4 ST165 continued seeing a lot of success. And drivers such as Carlos Sainz, and Juha Kankkunen saw several WRC Rally victories.
Finally, in 1992 the ST165 retired for its bigger brother, the ST185.
There were no major changes between the ST165 and ST185. Power was slightly increased to about 285bhp, suspension got some additional upgrades. There were also years of rally data from the previous-gen ST165, which allowed the engineers to properly set up the ST185 for maximum attack.
Juha Kankkunen continued showing everyone he knew how to drive a car properly, taking home his fourth WRC title with five wins. Didier Auriol, Toyota’s second car also took home a victory at Monte-Carlo.
Even if you have the world’s best drivers, it is almost impossible to take home a manufacturer’s World Rally Championship title if the car is mediocre. With the ST185, Toyota proved they’ve created a masterpiece of a vehicle as they took home the first Japanese manufacturer championship title in 1993.
Previous to this, Japanese manufacturers had not stood a chance against European brands such as Audi Quattro, Lancia, and Opel. But the Celica GT-4 proved to everyone that they were beatable. And so, Toyota, Subaru, and Mitsubishi continued to win the next consecutive titles between 1993 to 1999.
In 1995, the ST205 was launched. Now lighter, and with upgrades such as four-channel ABS, Super-Strut suspension, and increased power to about 300bhp. But perhaps most noteworthy of all, the ST205 was the first rally car to have fitted an anti-lag system (ALS). This was a technological breakthrough and was quickly adopted by other manufacturers.
With the technological upgrades made to the ST205 it showed great promise. The ST205 kept pace with the Subaru Impreza, driven by Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae, and they were easily headed for a podium.
At the seventh event of the season, disaster struck Toyota. They were caught using an illegal turbo restrictor and were consequently banned by the FIA for one year. The Celica GT-4 was done for. It took a few European Championship titles before finally retiring the Celica GT-4 in 1998.
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