FOR a long time, 1970s Japanese coupes were derided, slinking along in the shadow of Aussie two-door classics such as Toranas and Falcon hardtops and stacked three-deep in wreckers’ yards after the P-platers had crashed them. Not anymore, as this lovely RA28 Toyota Celica proves. Not only has its chintzy, tinselly 70s-era styling finally come of age, but this one has plenty of poke and reliability, too.
It’s the handiwork of Glenn Archer, who drove the Celica from Canberra for a Drag Challenge ‘holiday’ with his partner Sarah. “It’s my first Drag Challenge,” Glenn said. “I’ve only been to the drags a couple of times before – once at Sydney and once at the Toyota Nationals at Mildura. The car had done a PB of 10.7 at 134mph with E85 and 19psi of boost, but without a cage and supporting mods it was easier and cheaper to slow the car down and just have fun for Drag Challenge - this time."
It’s powered by what Glenn – and other Toyota nuts – refer to as a 1.5J six-cylinder (a 1J head on a 2J bottom end – Google it!). He built the donk himself with an Australian-delivery 3.0-litre Supra bottom end under a head tihat came from a Japanese-wrecker 1J six-cylinder engine, which Glenn had installed and tinkered with since he bought the shed-find Celica five years ago in Melbourne.
All that running gear had been in Glenn’s previous car, an earlier-model RA23 Celica coupe. “It was a little old lady car I heard about,” he said of the fastback model. “I flew down, bought it, changed the fluids and drove it home. I really wanted a Mustang-style Celica.”
Adding punch to the package is the Garrett GT35/82R turbo mounted on a stout steam-pipe manifold that Glenn built himself. “I did all the fab work on the car except for the diff housing,” he said, referencing the cut-down ex-VP Commodore diff. Between it and the Haltech-injected and E85-burning engine is a modified Toyota A340 auto trans from the same Soarer the first engine came from. Helping with the work was good mate Ken McCauley.
Most of what you see inside and outside the car is standard, but Glenn has slid in a Sparco seat and RPM harness and keeps his eye on conditions with a set of Speedhut gauges in the original binnacle. “I drive it as often as I can,” he said, pointing out that his brisk Celica has now travelled more than 25,000km in its present configuration.
On the first day of DC the Celica ran a best of 11.77, and on Day Two’s eighth-mile at Mildura, backed it up with a 7.6, smooth as silk. Here's Glenn's account of how the rest of the week panned out:
"The car went great," says Glenn. It towed my little box trailer along perfectly with a little tool box and some spare tyres - just in case! My biggest drama of the whole week was my headliner sagged on to my head and with no air conditioning, it was almost like driving a shitty old Commodore [laughs]. We'll have air next year for sure."