I was looking through ebay and was trying out my regular search phrases. Usually I would search for things like, “Project car, “Unfinished project”, “Race car”, or “Rally car”. You’d be surprised but some of the most incredible cars pop up from these searches. One result was this 77 celica, it was cheap and I thought it looked cool, so I bid on it thinking that I wouldn’t win the auction. The next day, site unseen and with no knowledge of 1st gen Celicas at all, I won the auction.
The car had a 3 speed auto, half the front end was missing, no windows, no exhaust, the body was coated in primer and rust, it hadn’t moved for 12 years. But somehow it actually drove off the tow truck, up the street and into my garage.
After inspecting the car my heart sank. This car was well past its best days. The signs of years of neglect and dodgy repairs were obvious. I quickly decided it was never going to be a showpiece. Instead I set out to create a cheap and cheerful weekender.
Mechanical parts for early Toyotas are easy to find. A 5 speed manual popped up on ebay, with the extras needed to convert the car from an auto. The extras included the speedo cable, pedal box, slave and master cylinder. It took one day to take out the auto and put the manual in. You can get a lot of brand new mechanical parts from overseas as well. Just check out ebay and search worldwide.
Trim components weren’t so easy to find though. They’re really only available locally and nowadays scrap cars which still have some good parts on them, are simply crushed because it gets the car yard a quicker buck. Chrome being the most difficult item to get a hold of. Whatever Chrome bits I managed to find were a blessing, but for everything else I did my best to restore whatever chrome was available.
With the help of my dad we painted the car MX5 red with polar white accents. Although it requires a bit of extra work to shine, I used acrylic paint because of its low toxicity when compared to 2 Pack or Enamel. A set of old 7inch wide Hotwire mags were added to complete the retro styling.
I put the car back together and set about getting a roadworthy. You can buy a maximum – 30 day registration slip for any unregistered vehicle from Vic-Roads. This allows you to drive the car without plates for the sole purpose of getting a roadworthy. i.e. you must be on on your way to or from a mechanic. If you are pulled over while getting groceries or heading to the movies you are in massive strife. Using the 30 day registration, I managed to get the car on Club plates and she was back on the road after what ended up being a 13 year hiatus.
Without a doubt, I think that car enthusiasts are the main reason we still have these classics on the road today. Throughout this project i’ve relied on many enthusiasts to help find parts or to recommend solutions to any number of problems inherent with restoring a car like this. But when a classic car finds itself back onto the road, it isn’t really the end of the story.