Toyota Celica GT-Four: Future classic

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Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 'Carlos Sainz Limited Edition'

Toyota Celica GT-Four: Future classic
Future classic: Toyota Celica GT-Four


Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 ‘Carlos Sainz Limited Edition’

First seen on the rump of 1986’s ST165 Celica, the GT-Four (an acronym for ‘Grand Touring – Full-time On-Road Uniquely Responsive’) nameplate signified the pinnacle for Toyota’s sleek sports coupe. GT-Four was the latest in a long line of rally-inspired Celicas, the first of which appeared on the world rally stage in 1972, when future Toyota Team Europe boss, Ove Andersson, took a TA22 to ninth place on the RAC rally.

The global advent of Group A motorsport regulations led Toyota to create the all-wheel drive GT-Four for the mixed gravel, snow and tarmac of the World Rally Championship. The 1998cc turbo four-pot was good for 138kW, with drive split 50:50 front-to-rear. The ST165 was the only true challenger to Lancia’s WRC supremacy, taking Spain’s Carlos Sainz to the 1990 WRC driver’s title with four victories.

In 1989 the ST165 was replaced by the ST185, the first GT-Four to be available Down Under. A more responsive twin-entry turbocharger was fed by an air-to-air intercooler, a large central bonnet scoop addressing the previous model’s airflow issues. The 3S-GTE motor now developed 149kW at 6000rpm with 275Nm at 3200rpm in Australian specification. Drive was still split 50:50, but the five-speed manual driveline was further enhanced with viscous centre and Torsen rear differentials.

In road trim the ST185 weighed a hefty 1460kg, thanks to a high level of standard equipment and that complex drivetrain. Despite this it was still a quick car, able to run the benchmark zero to 400 metre distance in the low-15 second range.

In September, 1991, a facelift of the ST185 presented an opportunity for Toyota to produce an additional 5000 road cars which could then form the basis of their WRC effort.Confusingly, this model received several names, including ‘Rally Competition’ in Japan and ‘Group A Rallye’ for the 150 units allocated to Australia. Today, it’s the European title that is most commonly used, the ‘Carlos Sainz Limited Edition’, celebrating the driver who would again win the WRC Driver’s crown in 1992.

Air extraction was a focal point once more, the ‘Sainz’ utilising a lighter, more open front bar with a deeper bonnet vent and auxiliary bonnet scoop. A water-to-air intercooler was added along with a lighter exhaust system, with the five-speeder gaining stronger synchros (with a triple-cone setup on second, twin-cone on third) and a shorter-throw gear lever.

In case you forgot, there was also a commemorative plaque added to the centre console. Road cars generated 153kW at 6000rpm, with a ‘filled-in’ torque curve peaking at the same 275Nm.

Incredibly, despite limited release and a tangible link between road and rally cars, the Sainz isn’t particularly well-known to collectors, though there is a dedicated local fan base. As such, well-maintained, low-kilometre examples can be picked up for around $12,000 or much less if you don’t mind it scruffy. Grab one now before the secret gets out.




More reviews:

> Buyer's guide: Toyota Celica GT4/Group A Rallye (1991-1994) review here

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