Classic Toyotas have been quietly gaining recognition in the international vintage collector market. A good example is the first-generation Celica. This car was based on the EX1, a beautifully curvaceous concept car touted by Toyota as the “Car of the Future” and unveiled at the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show. The following year, Toyota entered the sports coupe market with the Celica.
Styled with the classic long-hood-short-deck proportions, sexy Coke-bottle curves, and 2+2 seating, the Celica competed with the likes of the Opel Manta, the Ford Capri, and the Mazda RX-2, to name a few. The name “Celica” was derived from the Latin term “coelica” which means “heavenly” or “celestial.” At the time, Toyota used space-themed terms to name its cars. Think Corolla and Corona.
Filipinos recognize that the Toyota Celica is a special car. This is demonstrated by the relatively high used-market price. In the ’70s, local racing legends Dante Silverio and Pocholo Ramirez raced a pair of factory-prepared Celicas with race numbers 49 (Silverio) and 88 (Ramirez). These were very successful and probably the reason why the model gets special recognition among Filipino enthusiasts today.
This particular Celica was brought in by the Silverio family, the then owners of Delta Motors, the local importer and manufacturer of Toyota at the time. This absolutely stunning example is presently owned by Alex Claudio of Route 66 garage. Alex is a car aficionado of the highest caliber and he first saw this car being driven by Ricky Silverio when it first came into the country in the ’70s. He had drooled over the car back then and vowed to get one in the future. Little did he know he would eventually get that very same car. Throughout the car’s life it was loaded with various racing parts from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) because the local TRD shop at the time was also a Silverio enterprise.
For this shoot, Ricky Silverio and Alex Claudio met for the first time. The car has been meticulously cared for all its life and has never been neglected. During the shoot, Ricky and his cousin Jojo Silverio, tell us that the underbody spoiler was made by Jojo. It was inspired by the rear underbody spoiler that mid-’80s Porsche 944s had. It was done to hide the spare wheel.
Ricky sets the record straight about this much-talked-about ride and tells us the TRD parts were fitted by factory-trained Filipino TRD technicians .What is special about the car, says Ricky, are not the performance modifications, but rather, that it was ordered by Delta Motors to determine the viability of importing and selling Celicas in the Philippine market. It’s an original left-hand-drive car equipped with the twin-cam 2TG engines that weren’t available in the US market. But it had lights that were meant for the USDM market. Thus, it is a strange mix of OEM parts very peculiar unto itself. Ricky confesses that if the car were still his he’d bring it back to stock configuration.
Only recently have Japanese cars been recognized as collectible. Even though the Celica is an equal to any of its contemporaries from Europe, and with racing history to boot, the vintage collector-car market never really paid much attention to it. This is because of the mistaken perception that Japanese cars lack prestige and heritage. Most of these cars have languished unloved and uncared for.
Fortunately, this mindset is now being relegated to the dustbin of history and Japanese classics are being recognized for their intrinsic value. Experts in Celicas in the US estimate a restored stock first-generation Celica at $12,000 (P600,000), more if it is fitted with a period correct twin-cam engine. Finally, it gets proper recognition.
NOTE: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' March 2016 issue.