The Japanese Ferrari eater for less than $6000
Budget performance is a phrase lost to modern hot hatches. However, this tuned 1990 Toyota Celica proves the concept is still very much alive
Toyota’s fifth-generation Celica ST185 takes a bashing from sportscar purists. Derided for against-the-grain looks, sombre interior design and an unsympathetic ride, values have scraped the bottom of the pricing trough for well over a decade. Yet, these criticisms mute the vehicle's merit as the ST185 is no kerb cruiser; it's an out-and-out drivers car.
Safe, reliable and capable of steadfast road holding in the face of Mother Nature’s elements, the GT4-derived example has proven the go-to machine for speed enthusiasts on a budget.
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Driven into the ground and bestowed with lashings of mechanical exploitation on account of affordability, sourcing a loved example can prove difficult. Often injected with ill-advised tuning kits, the majority of advertised ST185 GT4s present the tenacity of a ticking financial bomb. However, a healthy specimen has appeared for sale here.
Boasting one owner over the last 16 years, this Celica has been tweaked to provide 311bhp, 90 horses more than standard. Tyres are new, while a Viper pager alarm has been fitted. Riding on rare OZ rally wheels that could benefit from some light recommissioning, the Toyota hosts an array of upgrades beneath the bonnet including a reconditioned Blitz K3T turbo with trail external wastegate, Blitz SUS air filter, tubular manifold, HKS dump valve and Emerald ECU with three switchable maps for outright torque.
The cylinder head and camshafts have been lifted from a later, more powerful model accompanied by JE forged pistons, ACL bearings and Eagle conrods. The original clutch was discarded in place of a racing unit and lightened flywheel.
Not enough? There’s also an FSE High Flow fuel pump and adjustable regulator. The gearbox has been upgraded with TRD quick shift and both front and rear brakes have been promoted to an ST205 set-up. KYB rear shock absorbers were installed some time ago for maximum stance and handling ability.
Any well-maintained Celica ST185 GT4 can crack 60mph from a standstill in little over 7 seconds, pushing onto 140mph with a wave of 132.5bhp per tonne. This tuned example far outweighs these figures claiming 196bhp per tonne and supercar-levels of acceleration.
Appearing in a somewhat understated fashion devoid of garish add-ons or stickers (Michelin bumper logos aside), you could give almost any period Ferrari a run for its money on the freeway. The best part? Currently for sale in the United Kingdom, the asking price is £4500 ($5700). Trumpeting supercar performance paired with Japanese reliability – this Toyota Celica is proof you can enjoy performance on a budget. Get a closer look at the Japanese Ferrari eater.
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