I’ll admit to being a little distracted when Bryan Adamson walks up to me at the recent NEC Restoration show, as the Celica Club, for owners and enthusiasts of Toyota’s long-running line of sports coupes, has an attention-grabbing ST165 GT-Four in Group N spec on its stand.
But it doesn’t take long for Adamson to hook my attention with his own car, parked immediately alongside – because there aren’t many “A60” generation Celica convertibles in the world. And Adamson’s own car is one of only three of its type.
Perhaps though a little background on the model itself, which might be the most overlooked of all Celica generations. The first Celica, launched in 1970, was a classic Seventies sports coupé with more than a hint of Mustang to its design, as Japanese brands like Toyota made headway into the important US market.
That was followed up in 1977 by a more European-looking car, and then in 1981 by the sharper, wedgier model you see here. But when that was replaced in 1985 by the T160-generation car, the Celica lineage really took off. This new front-wheel drive model was more sophisticated, and in GT-Four form, became a winning rally car too.
By the time the curvy fifth and four-eyed sixth generations rolled around the car was an established player in the coupé market, and the Celica ended its days with the 1999-2006 seventh-gen car, a sharply-styled and sharp-handling device that served as Toyota’s last sporty coupé until the GT86 arrived in 2012.
But back to the third-generation car, the last with rear-wheel drive and the first with pop-up headlights. It was primarily sold in liftback and notchback coupé forms, but in the US, got a convertible too, with more than 4000 built in 1984 and 1985 by the American Sunroof Company (ASC) in California.
The UK though was left with just the coupés, until a company called Avon came along. But far from ASC’s 4000-plus, Avon ultimately built just three – one in white, one in blue, and another, this car, in red. And Adamson’s red car is the one in the original press photos, and the only one still known to be roadworthy.
“I went to a car show in my liftback Celica in 1999” explains Adamson, “and there was a guy there from Scotland who said, ‘I’ve got a convertible version’…
“Well, my response to that was, ‘they don’t do a convertible version!’. So we spent the next hour looking at photos and discussing the car, and at some point I asked him whether I could buy it. But it was a long-term keeper for him.”
That all changed when Adamson spotted the car on eBay around 15 years ago, and got involved in a bidding match with another Celica enthusiast. While he lost out at the time, he got in touch to ask for first dibs if the buyer were to ever sell it – and three years later, in 2012, the seller called up Adamson and a deal was done.
A Toyota enthusiast with four cars from the brand in the current fleet – including an MR2, a 2001 Corolla VVTi, and another Celica – the Avon is now a work-in-progress. There are no carpets inside at the moment, as Adamson works on a few interior elements, and it’s a little rough around the edges in places, but it’s also very usable.
“It’s been largely parked up during Covid, but I do go shopping in it, and on drives out. We’ve got other cars, but this is the one that gives me the most joy.”
As well as rear-wheel drive, this era of Celica used a simple, single-cam 2-litre, carburetted four-cylinder. So how does it feel to drive? “It’s a wallowy, draughty sort of car… but I drove all the way from Norfolk yesterday with the hood down. The hood does go up, and it’s in good condition. But if you’re in a convertible, you’ve got to have it down! My phrase is, ‘It’s cool to be cold…'”
Adamson’s long-term plan is to continue working on the car and bring it to a kind of “well looked-after” standard of appearance, rather than something concours, not least because that will ensure he can still drive it without worrying about imperfections.
This generation of Celica might be overlooked – I nearly overlooked it myself – but as the single, red, Avon convertible in the country one thing is for sure: overlooked or not, it’ll be easy to identify when you see it.
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