Pick of the Day: 1979 Toyota Celica Supra

 The Toyota Celica Supra is described as being in all-around good original condition
The Toyota Celica Supra is described as being in all-around good original condition

For too many years, conventional car-guy wisdom determined that Japanese cars would never rise to the level of collectability, and that the late 1970s and ’80s were wastelands of forgettable vehicles.

The Pick of the Day is yet another Japanese car from the era that challenges that mindset: a 1979 Toyota Celica Supra liftback that is a rare survivor of the disco days. And it could have a future as a bona fide classic car. Continue reading

Driven: 2015 Toyota Prius c hybrid

Styling of the subcompact Prius c is more expressive than that of the standard Prius | Bob Golfen photos
Styling of the subcompact Prius c is more expressive than that of the standard Prius | Bob Golfen photos

My favorite form of Toyota’s ubiquitous hybrid car, the Prius c is a subcompact hatchback that delivers sporty handling and a fun driving experience as well as a solid 50 miles per gallon.

For one thing, the styling is more expressive and appealing than the doorstop-shaped standard Prius. The car’s design goes a long way toward making the Prius c feel hipper and less generic. Going green doesn’t have to be humiliating. Continue reading

Driven: 2015 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium

The Toyota 4Runner retains its tough truck-frame construction | Bob Golfen photos
The Toyota 4Runner retains its tough truck-frame construction | Bob Golfen photos

Nearly every SUV these days is a crossover, recognition of the fact that while many people want to ride tall in the saddle and have lots of room for people and stuff, they also want a vehicle that drives like a passenger car. Thus, stylish wagons that look sort of like trucks but are built on the unibody underpinnings of cars. Continue reading

‘Fast and Furious’ 1993 Supra stunt car goes to auction

The custom 1993 Toyota Supra was driven in the movie by the late actor Paul Walker | Mecum Auctions
The custom 1993 Toyota Supra was driven in the movie by the late actor Paul Walker | Mecum Auctions

Fans of The Fast and The Furious movies can get in on the extreme action when the actual 1993 Toyota Supra stunt car used throughout the 2001 film comes to auction next month. Continue reading

It’s worth what? 5 classics you’d never guess are so valuable

Some classics wear their price tags on their sleeves. Look at a fuel-injected ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and it’s immediately apparent that it’s valuable merchandise. On the other hand, there are the sleepers of the classic car world, the cars that are worth a lot of money but it’s only obvious to those in-the-know. Your Accord-driving neighbor would, for example, never guess that the proceeds from a restored VW microbus could put his kid through college at a very good state school. Here are five you’d never suspect of being quite pricey:

1.Volkswagen “Samba” Microbus: There’s a simple rule of thumb with VW Microbuses: More windows equals more money. The 21- and 23-window versions of the venerable ’50s bus can bring money that would shock the hippies who ran them into the ground in the 1960s—around 70 grand for a nicely restored one. They’ve even been known to break $100,000 at the right auction.
2.Fiat Jolly: The Jolly was an open-top version of the classic Fiat 500 that was meant to be stowed onboard yachts and used as transport in places like Monaco and Positano. They have no doors, the seats are made of wicker and the tops are meant only to provide shade. Appallingly cute, the pint-sized Jolly can sell for upwards of $70,000.
3.Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser: The classic Jeep-like 1960-1984 Toyota Land Cruiser was one tough vehicle—so tough that they invited horrific abuse, which explains the dearth of clean examples. A nicely restored one sold at an auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., last January for $88,000. We’ve heard stories of $100,000-plus examples. In response to FJ40s getting so expensive, first-generation 4Runners are starting to increase in value. Don’t say we didn’t mention it.
4.Ford Bronco: The humble 1966-77 Ford Bronco was a product of the same team that brought us the classic 1964½ Mustang. Unlike the Mustang, which sat on Ford Falcon underpinnings, the first Bronco was a totally unique platform. The size and shape were just right, and collectors have latched onto them in droves. Totally stock, unrusted Broncos without cut fenders and flares are rare; it takes around $30,000 to get a nice one.
5.BMW Isetta: Prior to becoming known as the ultimate driving machine, BMW suffered from a case of bipolar disorder, selling the super-expensive V-8 507 roadster and the tiny egg-like Isetta microcar out of the same showrooms. It’s no shock that the gorgeous 507 roadster sells for a ton of money, but the fact that Isettas can pull more than $40,000 is surprising indeed.

Future classic: Toyota FJ40

This FJ40 brought $71,500 at Bonhams Arizona auction |Photos by Larry Edsall
This FJ40 brought $71,500 at Bonhams Arizona auction |Photos by Larry Edsall

When we decided to launch a weekly series entitled “Future Classics,” one of the first vehicles on our list was the Toyota FJ40.

However, while wandering through the tents, buildings and parking lots of vehicles being offered up for bids during Arizona Auction Week, we wondered if the FJ might not be a future classic but already a classic.

We counted 14 of them in the Barrett-Jackson catalog. There also were a couple at Russo and Steele, one at Silver (plus an FJ45 pickup version), and even Bonhams, RM and Gooding & Company each had one FJ cross its block.

But we still feel justified in calling the FJ40 a future classic.

For one thing, they have yet to be included in the Hagerty Price Guide of collectible cars, which lists only Toyota’s 2000GT, 1980 Celica Supra and the various and ensuing Supras (which became a separate model line) as classics.

On the other hand, the Kelley Blue Book Official Guide for Early Model Cars does include 1963-83 FJ40s, and notes that you can expect as much as $53,900 for one in excellent condition.

Prices at the Arizona auctions ranged from the very high teens to $101,750 for a 1977 FJ40 Land Cruiser at RM. The 1978 model at Bonhams brought $71,500. Typically, however, prices were in the $25,000 to $50,000 range.

1966 FJ40 at Russo and Steele
1966 FJ40 at Russo and Steele

Although they aren’t include in Hagerty’s price guide (something we figure will change with the next edition of that book), McKeel Hagerty will tell you that early SUVs and classic pickups are the up-and-coming collector vehicles, in part because they’re cool, in part because they’re versatile (you can still actually use them on a frequent basis), and in part because they’re still affordable.

OK, so they’re a little less affordable at classic car auctions, but you can find them at classic car dealerships, used car lots and being sold by private owners for less than $20,000.

The FJ40 traces its roots back to the original Jeeps that carried U.S. soldiers in World War II. When the U.S. military found itself fighting a few years later on the Korean peninsula, the Army hired Toyota to produce an updated version, one better suited to the rugged, hilly Korean topography.

That original BJ (B stood for the Toyota engine and J for Jeep) was succeeded by the FJ series, first an FJ20 and then the FJ40, which soon became the vehicle of choice for people around the world who had to deal with mountains, deserts, jungles and other extreme and unpaved environments.

Chevota? Toyota FJ40 with Chevy V8 engine
Chevota? Toyota FJ40 with Chevy V8 engine at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2014

 

Future classic: Toyota Supra

The third-generation Toyota Supra gained size and power. (Photo: Toyota)
The third-generation Toyota Supra gained size and power. (Photo: Toyota)

 

Everybody down to the youngest of gearheads knows about the fourth generation Toyota Supra, primarily because of its many appearances in popular video games as well as the “The Fast and the Furious” film series.

With its basket-handle rear spoiler and powerful twin-turbo inline-six engine, the final Supra model (made from 1993 to 1998) has long been subjected to overwrought sport-compact customization, for better or worse. The Supras that survive intact are likely assured a role as future classics on the world’s auction stages.

The original Celica Supra raised the bar for Toyota styling. (Photo: Toyota)
The original Celica Supra raised the bar for Toyota styling. (Photo: Toyota)

But what of the earlier models, the three generations of Supra built from 1979 through 1992? These are also pretty cool sports coupes, all powered by Toyota’s slick and torquey inline-six engine.

The first generation of Supra, now known as the Mark I and produced from 1979 through 1981, is particularly appealing because of its attractively detailed styling, one of the best mainstream production designs from the late 1970s.

Starting off as a slightly longer and upscale version of the Celica sports coupe – stretched to accommodate the inline 6 and named the Celica Supra – the first generation stepped up style and performance to compete with the highly successful 240Z from arch rival Datsun (now Nissan).

The Mark II Celica Supra was restyled with hideaway headlights. (Photo: Toyota)
The Mark II Celica Supra was restyled with hideaway headlights. (Photo: Toyota)

Horsepower from the 2.6-liter six seems paltry by today’s standards at 110, raised to 116 in its final production year, but Celica Supra Mark I was lightweight and still enjoys a reputation as a gutsy performer.

The second generation, or Mark II, was also a variation of the Celica. The styling is more streamlined and features the hideaway headlights that were so popular in those days. Toyota boasted that the suspension was tuned by Lotus, and power was raised with a 2.8-liter six producing 145 horsepower, moving up to 161 in its final 1986 model year.

The Mark III continued the styling trend set by the previous version, but it was now based on a new platform, and Celica was dropped from its name. There was also a major boost for the inline six in size and power, moving up to 3.0 liters and 230 horsepower. But the Mark III gained weight, hitting around 3,500 pounds, which somewhat dulled performance.

The final Supra could be powered by a 320-horsepower turbo six. (Photo: Toyota)
The final Supra could be powered by a 320-horsepower turbo six. (Photo: Toyota)

The exotic Mark IV raised Supra’s profile considerably, particularly with the twin-turbo six that boasted 320 horsepower in standard trim. The final Supra enjoyed a lengthy run from 1992-1998 (with Japanese home-market models continuing through 2002)

Toyota has already set a precedent for the collectability of Japanese sports cars, with the rare 2000GT of the 1960s now commanding prices in the high six figures. It’s the only vintage car series from the Land of the Rising Sun to regularly achieve those lofty results. It has also raised the respectability of its more-humble Asian brethren, including the Supra.