The Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo: Toyota Has Rally Roots?

Think Toyota is a car company with no soul? Welcome to the club. Hate Prius drivers? Welcome to the club. But don't hate so quickly. Like your dad, Toyota was cool in the late 80s and it made a cool car called the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo.

The maker of the Corolla actually has a soul

I’m shocked too. Who would have thought the Toyota could have possibly built a car that competed in a World Rally Cross (WRC) event.  Not only did the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo compete in the WRC, it dominated. In 1992, 1993 and 1994 it took home the WRC Driver’s Championship and the  Driver’s Championship in 1993 and 1994. The reason you drive a Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution today is because of Toyota’s non-stop winning in the WRC in the 90s.

A Toyota getting air? Not possible.

From 1988-1993 the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo (known as the GT-4 in Japan) was sold in the United States.  During that time period Toyota produced three generations of the Celica All-Trac Turbo.  There was the boxy one: ST165, the championship winning one: ST185 and the most beautiful one: the ST205.

The Celica All-Trac Turbo Had A Special Sauce

A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a special all-wheel-drive system is Toyota’s Big Mac’s special sauce. Toyota started with a legendary engine known as the 3S-GTE to enthusiast nerds.   A DOHC 16-valve in-line four cylinder engine was at the heart of the Celica All-Trac Turbo.  And its special secret was Toyota’s CT26b twin-entry turbocharger. It produced 180 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and 200-hp and 200 lb-ft of torque on later models.

Try this in your Corolla

It also had a unique feature -the center locking differential. Those three words changed the game for Toyota’s all-wheel-drive system known in the US as “All-Trac.”  Later, the center locking differential was swapped for a viscous-coupling limited-slip.  

Why Won’t Toyota Build The Celica All-Trac Turbo Again

Toyota tried to appease enthusiasts around the world by building the Toyota 86.  Depending on who you are talking to – it was the god’s gift to enthusiasts or the worst car ever.  Sales for the Toyota 86 started off strong but have been not as strong recently.  The Toyota Celica All-Trac turbo had the same sad story.  Sales in the late 80s were strong but by 1994 Toyota could only sell a couple hundred cars a year!

And that’s why enthusiasts can’t have nice things.  Car manufacturers makes us great cars but we don’t buy them.  Toyota is unlikely to make another all-wheel-drive turbocharged rally car again as long as the Camry is the number one selling car in America.  And it sells well because it’s reliable and boring. The Celica All-Trac Turbo is not boring and might break down on you when you leave the parking lot.

Beauty. Desire. Essence. Toyota.

And that’s why if you have the opportunity today to buy a Celica All-Trac Turbo you must!  Buy one for all those people who drive Corollas and don’t know what the Scandinavian flick is. Get one for all the Camry drivers that don’t use blinkers.  Do it for the Prius drivers that suck.  Please just go out and buy one.  Restore one.  And drive one. Please.

  • Good to see a shout-out to the GT-Four / Celica All-Trac Turbo. It was the first time that a Japanese manufacturer entered WRC and won and put Japanese AWD Turbo rally cars on the map and as you said, paved the way for Subaru and Mitsubishi to enter as well. And not to be forgotten, Toyota also gave us the Supra and the MR2. Those were good times… -From a ’92 ST185 Celica All-Trac Turbo owner

    • Mikey

      Thanks for the comment Mike! I’m such a huge fan of the Celica All-Trac Turbo and it is definitely a future classic! Love that you own a 92′ All-Trac Turbo! How do you like it and how long have you owned it? They are so rare nowadays that I never seen any on the streets!

      • Thanks! I have also never see another one on the road “in the wild” (i.e. not an AllTrac/Celica meet) in the ~14 years I’ve owned it. I also had a ’88 ST165 for a short while, but this one is a keeper for me. My website/blog is down, but there are few videos of me/my car on YouTube: Interview that my friend Josh did of me and my car: https://youtu.be/tx_NocMmxB0 and an autox video of the AllTrac: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTi9uQvdeV4 (a few more on my channel). 🙂