Toyota Celica T160 4th Generation

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Toyota Celica

Toyota Celica T160

1985 - 1989
4 cyl. 3S-FE / 3S-GE
2.0 litre
see article
5 spd. man / 4 spd AT
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 star
Toyota Celica T160
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2

The Luxury Car Tax

The 4th generation front-wheel-drive Celica hit the Australian roads in 1985 – and represented a major step forward in performance and dynamics. But as much as the Celica had matured, Toyota did not want to desert the market for which their sports coupe had always appealed – and the young sports car buyer could still get behind the wheel of a shiny new version for just over A$20,000.

Things were about to change, however, and it was not the fault of Toyota. Rather, the blame lay squarely with the Ermenegildo Zegna wearing Treasurer (later Prime Minister) of the time, one Paul Keating, who decided to introduce a tax on luxury cars that would have pushed the price to somewhere near $32,000. A luxury tax on old clocks would have been much fairer – particularly given the aforesaid soon-to-be PM was keen on taxing older cars into extinction with the view that Australia would be far worse off if we were “all driving around in FJ Holdens”. Well – we at Unique Cars and Parts had news for him.

Downgrading the Celica

But back to future. And in 1986, in a first for the company, Toyota took the brave decision to downgrade the Celica so that it could come in under the luxury car tax. Many motor manufacturers lamented the price hikes, but Toyota actually did something about it. The strategy was to move the SX Celica upmarket by piling on a few goodies, partly to justify the inescapable price escalation. A lower-spec Celica, dubbed the ST, was to be a downmarket version minus some trim items, equipped with a less powerful engine, plus a choice of notchback body styling, rather than simply the liftback used on the then current SX models.

The SX Celica retained the brilliant 3S-GE twin cam engine. This was basically a blue-printed unit and was relatively expensive to build. With this in mind, Toyota engineers went back to the drawing board to find a viable alternative for the ST Celica. What they came up with was nothing to complain about. The then new 3S-FE engine used the same block and internals as the 3S-GE, but changes were made to the head and valve gear. It still used a twin cam arrangement, but was less expensive to produce.

The head had 16 valves, as did the 3S-GE, but the valves were much closer together, and were more upright. As a consequence, the head was much narrower, and even with the central spark plugs, looked more like a single cam unit. On the 3S-GE, both cams were driven via a toothed belt, but on the lower spec engine, only the inlet cam was belt driven. The exhaust cam was driven off the inlet cam, through a set of scissor gears.

Toyota Stick with Twin-Cam

The 3S-GE's variable induction system, which closed off half the inlet valves at low engine speeds to increase gas swirl, was also an omission on the 3S-FE. To cope with this, the fuel injection system was revised for the 3S-FE. To ensure even spray distribution to each cylinder, the injection nozzle was bi-directional. The 3S-FE was relatively down on power, at 86kW, but that output was developed 800 rpm lower than the 3S-GE, at 5,200rpm. Torque was barely affected, with 168Nm at 4,400 rpm, down from 173Nm at 4,800rpm.

At the time, many were left wondering why Toyota opted for another twin cam engine, when the logical solution would have been to simply use the Camry's SOHC engine. When asked the question directly by motoring journalists, the company's engineers claimed the single cam engine had just about reached the end of its practical development road. They were, and history would prove them correct, firm believers in the future of twin cam power and economy, and the intention was to use the 3S-FE as a base model engine in several models for many years to come.

Other mechanical changes between the two Celica models were less dramatic. The lower spec model had slightly smaller - although still vented - front discs, and got only drum rear brakes. The ST also got smaller, and thinner, 13 inch steel wheels, which were pretty ugly. The SX model moved upmarket with the addition of cosmetic and interior trim items not available on the ST. The SX came with a spoiler as standard (sales figures indicate most were ordered with the spoiler anyway). It also had a pinstripe, and a "2.0 Twin Cam 16" sticker on its flanks. Manual cars came with a leather gear knob and all SXs had a leather rimmed steering wheel. Power windows and door locks were included, and an AM/FM multiplex radio cassette unit with four speakers was standard.

Toyota 2 litre twin cam engine
The Toyota Engineers stuck with the twin-cam engine for their "downgraded" ST Celica powerplant. History has judged the decision a wise move.

To keep the ST down to its targeted 1986 sticker price of $26,000 the interior was a little more Spartan. The car missed out on cloth inserts on the door trim panels, and the cloth roof lining, and got vinyl instead. The rear seats missed out on pillows in the back rests, and loop pile carpet replaced the plusher stuff on the SX. It also had manual windows, door locks, and external mirrors, and only had a two speaker stereo system. And, much to the chagrin of many, spoilers were not available on the ST. As the cars depreciated to a point where the hoons could get hold of one, they invariably were molested with spoilers none-the-less.

Gearing was the only other change, with the SX retaining its short overall gearing to make best use of the 3S-GE's power band. The ST, particularly the automatic, was geared much higher. At 100 km/h in the auto ST, the engine was ticking away at about 2,500rpm. On the road there was little to distinguish the two models. Both had remarkable levels of poise, and cornering agility was impressive. The only time any of the cars felt a little suspect was when travelling down steep winding roads. By the standards of the day the Celica would never really put a foot wrong, however it would feel as though it was wallowing into the corners. As soon as the apex was reached though, the suspension would tighten up and car maintain its canted attitude. The wallowing was probably due to the progressive spring rates that were too soft initially. But all cars used the same spring and damper rates and the problem was only really evident on the atmo versions.

Light, not Sloppy

The steering was a nicely weighted power system and the gear change was one of the best then going. The shift was light without being sloppy and a high pivot point made for relatively short throws. Narrow gates and an extremely positive action all added up to a gearbox that was well worth using. The taller gearing of the ST meant the car would string out to reasonable speeds through the gears, although the short (for a twin cam) redline of 6,000 made this feature essential. The lower power output of the 3-FE motor was not really felt at around town speeds. It was never as willing as the higher spec engine at higher revs, and the top end speed suffered as a result. Despite this though, it was still a quick car, and was not embarrassed at the traffic lights. Performance wise, the manual ST would dispatch the 400m standing start in about 17.8 seconds, and run to 100km/h in an average of 11.3 seconds.

The interior trim of the SE was, as mentioned, less inviting than the fully cloth trimmed cabin of the SX. Passengers never felt too deprived though, as the seats retained full cloth facings, and the interior was nicely colour co-ordinated. The driver didn’t miss out on anything, with full instrumentation which was clear and easy to read. Passengers in the new SX were surrounded in the best luxury available in the 1980s. The only options were a sunroof (which was also available on the ST) contoured sports seats, and cruise control, neither of which were be available on the ST.

Price wise, the aforementioned 1986 sticker prices show that the ST coupe came in at $24,850 and the liftback an extra $1,000. This compared with a figure, including Paul Keating’s luxury car tax, of $31,740 for the SX liftback. For the extra $6,000 the buyer did get a much higher level of trim and appointments, but to be honest there was a fair wack of tax in the equation and the ST was much better value – and would leave enough money for you to add some bits and pieces to bring it (almost) up to SX levels. Sure, the performance was a little down, but neither of the Celica’s were out-and-out performance machines ... rather they had enough to provide an interesting sporty drive.

The Ultimate Celica

Toyota introduced the "ultimate Celica", the GT-Four (ST165) onto the Japanese market in October 1986. With full-time all-wheel drive, including an electronically controlled central locking differential, and a turbocharged version of the GT-S 2.0 L engine producing 190 hp (142 kW) (3S-GTE), it immediately took its place as the flagship of the Celica range, and became the official Toyota rally car for all years of production. The GT-Four, with a revised viscous coupling central locking differential, began export in 1987 (1988 US model year) and marketed in North America as the All-trac Turbo. It was rated at 190 bhp (142 kW; 193 PS) and 190 lb·ft (258 Nm).

The All-trac system was also offered for a limited time on the Camry, and Corolla in North America without the turbo, as well as the normally aspirated and supercharged Previa. The ST165 chassis design was quite acclaimed in its time. Toyota chose not to make any drastic suspension changes for the AWD GT-Four. The front suspension comprised MacPherson struts with an anti-sway-bar and strut tower brace, while the rear employed struts with a trailing link and twin lateral links per side plus an anti-sway-bar. The ST165 GT-Four made its World Rally debut in the 1988 Tour de Corse and finished 6th. The first victory came in 1988 Cyprus (non-WRC), and the first WRC victory in the 1989 Rally Australia.

Celica GT Liftback: 3S-GE 1998cc 147/132 08/85 to 10/89 - ST162
Celica GT Cabriolet: 3S-GE 1998cc 147/132 10/86 to 01/88 - ST162
Celica GT-Four: 3S-GTE 1998cc 182/184 10/87 to 11/89 - ST165
Toyota Celica T160 Series Gen 4

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Also see:

Toyota Celica Specifications
Kiichiro Toyoda
The Toyota Australia Story
Toyota Car Commercials
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