A first car is like a first love– it’s seared into your memory. When you think of your first car what do you see? Smell? Hear? Touch? It might have been something plain, or something with a bit of pizzazz. It might have taken you to key moments in your life, be it a first job, a first date, a High School or a College, or even a graduation. It might have been smoked in, and as a result smelled funny, it might have smelled like aftershave, or puke, or air fresheners.
Some people’s first car ends up sadly in that great junkyard in the sky, others are sold off and lost. Some still have their first cars, and count themselves lucky or unlucky depending on what that model is.
My high school had a lot of high-dollar machinery in its parking lot. The “Cool,” kids drove Muscle cars, Tuner Cars, and one real rich kid even had a Lamborghini.
My first car which I still own and routinely drive is a 1991 GT Celica convertible, which is my first car from when I was 16. It’s basically a member of the family. Though rebuilt a few times, it is a survivor car for the most part. The car is sort of an underdog by comparison to the muscle cars that some peers of mine had back in high school, as it only has 4 cylinders. I loved that it was an underdog car, because, just like the cartoon Under Dog, it saved my ass more than once.
Now, back in 1991 my first car was one of the most expensive Celica’s that could be purchased with one notable exception…
The exception had all-wheel drive, and a turbo; it also had four cylinders, and a whole lot of Rally Racing Pedigree. When you say the words “rally car,” in today’s world most people would guess you were speaking of a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, or Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, or a Lancia Delta Integrale, or even an Audi Quattro. However combine the names Toyota, and All Trac, and Turbo and you might see the direction where this article is headed.
The All-Trac Turbo Celica was officially exported to the U.S. from 1988-1989 in the Celica’s fourth generation body style, and from 1990-1993 in its fifth generation body style.
The All-Trac Turbo for the mass public had 190-200 horsepower depending on the year it was produced.
The All-Trac Turbo Celica was created for the World Rally Championship because its regulations dictated that, to be eligible to compete, a manufacturer must build road-going versions of the vehicle in sufficient numbers. Such vehicles are referred to as “homologation special vehicles.”
The Celica’s racing pedigree for the All-Trac Turbo models:
The 1986-1993 Celica’s won the following notable Road Rally Races:
➢ A 1986-1989 Celica All Trac Turbo, won 13 WRC series. Carlos Sainz won the 1990 WRC Driver’s Title.
➢ A 1986-1989 All-Trac Turbo also won the 1989 and 1990 British Rally Championship, and 1990 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
➢ A 1990-1993 All-Trac Turbo, won 16 full WRC series, and 3 overall winners in the W2L series. The WRC Driver’s Titles were awarded to Carlos Sainz in 1992, Juha Kankkunen in 1993, and Didier Auriol in 1994. WRC Manufacturer’s Titles in 1993 and 1994.
As of May 2012 at least one model of the 1990 Celica All-Trac Turbo resides at Toyota’s Museum in Torrance California under florescent lights gleaming in Super Toyota White. I recently visited their museum and took a picture of that very car, which represents the successes in Toyota’s rally racing history, and bears a striking resemblance to my first car.
The story of my first car begins in 1992 when my father took delivery of a similar vehicle to the one described above; it was a used 1991 Toyota Celica GT convertible. I was only four years old when we bought it, but my first sight of the car, gleaming in Super Toyota White with a black Convertible top, is seared in my memory. I named it “Whitie” after the predominant color of the car that night; it wasn’t until years later that I realized that name had other meanings.
In the blink of an eye I began learning to drive myself, and I chose “Whitie” as my first car. I drove it every day for five years. Then one summer day the engine broke down and a “mechanic” told us it would cost more to repair the car than it was worth.
My father sold the car on an online auction website for $2,025. The day the car went away I remember seeing the money on the counter and feeling an awful sinking feeling inside, like we had sold a part of my soul.
A mechanic from the St. Louis area purchased the car, and one week later he got it running again. About four years passed as I went away to college. Even though I believed that “Whitie” was in the great junkyard in the sky, I still dreamed of driving the car again even though I knew it was gone. “Whitie,” then and now, has a special place in my heart.
However sometimes life comes full circle when you least expect it.
On my twenty-third birthday, with all of my family, and friends gathered in our driveway, I could not believe my eyes when I saw my uncle turning the corner of our street driving “Whitie” home. Everyone I knew expected me to have an emotional outburst upon seeing it, but I was too shocked to do so and sometimes emotions run deeper than can be expressed by tears.
A person’s first car represents freedom in the form of driving excitement. It is cars like these that took us to prom, to our first jobs, and on our first dates. To some it might sound like a dull driving experience to tool around in a car almost as old as yourself, but being behind the wheel of your first car for some is the experience of a lifetime.
So while my first car might not have been a Celica All-Trac Turbo, it was and is still a Celica, a proud nameplate with a great deal of history, and a vehicle I proudly drive to this day. And, I hope to be boldly doing so for many decades to come. We’d like to hear what your first car was so please leave a comment on whatever vehicle you boldly drove when you were 16, if it is something special we might cover it in a following post.