When he was in high school in the mid-1980s, John Garza bought a used 1977 Toyota Celica. By the turn of the century, however, the car had rusted to the point that Garza obtained a replacement. But it would be a decade before Garza got around to that car, which he gave a resto-mod treatment that earned best of show honors last year at ClassicCar.com‘s inaugural Future Classics Car Show.
Garza has made a few updates to his car since that victory and will display it again January 16 at the second Future Classic show in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The project began when Garza decided it finally was time to begin tearing his car down so he could paint it.
“But then I decided to swap engines and that became my resto-mod project,” he explained.
Garza knew he didn’t want a car that felt cheap or was overly done up, so he created what he called the “Celica for grownups” – a Supra in its own right from an era without a comparable equivalent.
Garza said everything on the car was replaced or rebuilt. Many of the changes he made were inspired by the Toyota Supra, including a leather-lined interior, power steering, power four-wheel disc brakes, and great stereo.
However, the most Supra-inspired component of the car lies under the hood.
Imported from Japan after just 50,000 miles, a 3.0-liter 2JZ-GE inline six-cylinder Toyota engine appears as if it were stock despite being installed in a space designed for two fewer cylinders. Garza was able to do the installation without extending the car’s nose, relocating the firewall or doing any other extensive fabrication work.
The result was a boost from 95 horsepower in the stock Celica four-cylinder to 227 with the inline six, which is hooked to a 5-speed manual transmission from a Lexus IS300 while the rear end came from a 1981 Supra with limited slip differential.
The car’s underbody is coated with Rhino liner and Dynamat also was used throughout to keep the car’s interior as quiet as possible while also helping keep it cool, despite summer temperatures in Arizona.
The interior features leather and microsuede as a replacement for the factory vinyl on the seats. Those materials also were used as trim on the car’s wool carpeting. The console also was leather-wrapped. Speed Hut Revolution-series gauges are used to monitor the car’s various systems.
The Celica’s body is adorned in Lexus Glacier Frost Mica Pearl White paint and has Celica dragon rockers painted on.
Exterior highlights include early Celica “smile” bumpers, re-chromed trim. A GT badge was added to the grille.
According to Garza, the build took 3 1/2 years and he is enjoys being able to show the car as much as he can, “because I’m bored out of my mind without a true project car to work on now.”
The car has been featured in several articles and earned third place in the Celica class at the Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California, and was given “best modified” honors along with second place in the Celica class at ToyotaFest.
Since the inaugural Future Classics Car Show, Garza has made a few updates, including adjustable control arms and a quieter exhaust. He plans to show the car at the second annual Future Classics Car Show, to be held the evening of January 16 at the Scottsdale Quarter.