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Toyota Celica GT4

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      22.10.2008 14:26
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      Why don't they make Celicas like this any more?

      You get to that stage where you just need more.

      I am a self confessed petrol head that craves horse power and acceleration.

      In my point of view top end speed is vanity. Sure, I would love to say my car can do 180mph, but where will I get to those sorts of speeds? To me, acceleration is far more exciting. I would prefer a car that tops out at 100mph but gets there in a couple of seconds.

      I got to the stage where I needed a turbo. My first choice was an MR2 but due to my job, and the need to carry three or four large pilot cases around the 2 seater was a no go.

      It was then I looked at the rally style cars. I looked at the Evos (I only like the 4 and onwards which were out of my price range), Imprezas (sounds amazing but very, very common) and the Fiat Coupes (FIAT.....nothing more to say)

      It was then that a work colleague suggested a Celica GT4. First thing I did was obtain an insurance quote - £789 TPFT. Not too bad considering the Impreza would have been over £1,200 and I needed a tracker on it.

      The GT4 comes in 3 models ranging from the ST165, ST185 and the ST205 - with the 165 being the oldest and the 205 the most recent.

      I decided on the ST205. Living in the back end of Norfolk means that any vehicle which is a little out of the ordinary involves a long drive to find an example. Luckily, there are a handful of importers that source cars from Japan and convert them.

      I went to see one of these importers, put down a deposit as a 'search' fee and then waited and waited and waited. 6 weeks later the container arrived with three GT4s.

      The one I purchased was a 1994 St205 in silver. It had 100,000KM on the clock and set me back £6,000. I was told by the importer that it produced 240BHP as standard and had a 0 - 60mph time of just over 6 seconds (the performance was meant to be on par with the Impreza). The work horse was the twin entry turbo engine found in the MR2.

      As soon as I drove it off the forecourt I knew I had made the right choice. The engine pulled like a freight train from the off.

      Before I knew it I was just over the speed limit on the Aylsham Road in Norwich city centre. This is definitely a licence losing car!

      Should you wish to 'tart' the ST205 up there are several after market accessories that can be fitted. Styling wise there are raising blocks to put under the spoiler, side skirts and splitters etc to make it look like a WRC car. There are numerous engine and performance mods that can increase the engine power to up to 400bhp!

      As it comes from the factory the GT4 is quite a subtle car. Don't get me wrong it looks mean and powerful with the bonnet vents and grills etc but it is not 'in your face'. That is what I really liked about the GT4.

      If you want a car that attracts drag races from traffic lights from both boy racers and middle aged men in their 'hot' family cars then get a GT4. It is car that looks as fast as your normal hot hatch but not the real monster it is. From the side you can't tell the difference between a GT4 and (it's a lot slower) GT equivalent - well unless the GT4 is tarted up.

      The spares for the GT4 are very, very expensive. Although I have never owned any other Toyotas so can't confirm this but I have been told that all Toyota spares are expensive. The upside is the reliability of Toyota engines - they are bullet proof. Mine NEVER let me down. Although this gives a bit of comfort there are items that require replacement - such as the cambelt.

      A cambelt change cost me £900(!) Apparently it was quite a large job. Since it was a grey import there were many places that would not touch it with a barge pole. Shame, but taking it to a specialist garage you know you are going to get a good job done instead of some cowboy bodging it together.

      If you are bothered about economy then a GT4 is not for you. I was lucky in that this car was my toy. I walked to work (except on very rare occasions) so it was parked up for most of the week. I managed to get around 20 mpg and mine was not modified in any way (except for a dump valve which does not affect economy). It is rubbish about if you drive a car sensibly the economy will increase. It never happened with the GT4.
      The GT4, although it can be described as a bit of a boat, handles like a go kart. The four wheel drive provides so much grip and traction it feels like it is on rails. It can be chucked around bends and roundabouts very easily.

      The handling and power makes the GT4 great for back road scratching. I always found the hedges and trees etc used to make me think I was in a rally and all of a sudden I used to get caught up in the moment and think I was Carlos Sainz! I think it is a car that makes you try and drive beyond your capabilities (it certainly did it to me) and I nearly paid the price on more than one occasion. When you have 220bhp (that is what mine actually produced) and a turbo to play with you do need to treat the car with a bit of respect.

      The interior of the GT4 (on the whole) is, well, naff. It is fully loaded with the electric (windows, sunroof, mirrors, aircon etc) which is good for a car that is now 14 years old, but it is very 'plasticey'. I suppose this is the same with all Jap cars of this age. However, a car like the GT4 is bought for the driving experience. If I wanted a nice interior then I would have gone for a BMW or something.

      On a positive note the dash had no squeaks or rattles anywhere. Considering there is 200bhp plus this is quite an achievement. It also comes with half bucket seats as standard.

      All in all the GT4 is a great car. They are quite rare, unlike their GT counterparts, which makes them something a bit different. If left alone, their understated shape and amazing power delivery can show a lot of more expensive cars up in drag races (I only ever experienced this on the Bruntingthorpe @Run what yer brung' days).

      If you are looking for a rally styled turbo car then I would definitely consider having a go in one of these - you won't be disappointed!

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