Monday, November 29, 2010

1981 Toyota Celica Sunchaser

I remember seeing one of these in 1981. It was in a Toyota showroom in Albany, NY. That was the only time I ever saw one "in the flesh".

The convertible conversion was done by the Griffith Company. The Griffith Company was owned by Jack Griffith. That's the same Jack Griffith who dropped Ford V8s into TVR Granturas and created the pretty spectacular TVR Griffith in the 1960s.

The Sunchaser was created with the blessings of Toyota and sold through Toyota dealerships with a full factory warranty. Built for roughly 3 years, there were, depending on the source, somewhere between 2000 and 3000 built in total.

The conversion was similar to a number of convertibles of the day (i.e Baur BMW). The roof immediately behind the windshield to the edge of the B-Pillar was removed and a removable fiberglass targa top was installed in its place. The B-Pillar and a section of the roof was left in place and a fold-down vinyl top covered the rear portion of the interior. The undercarriage was also heavily modified. When introduced, the Sunchaser was praised by testers for its structural rigidity.

This Sunchaser is in remarkable condition. The body looks great. My only complaint is the graphics going down the side, but those could be original and are definitely period correct, so I guess they should be left on.

The interior is one of the nicest I've seen in any old Celica. It even appears to still have the factory AM/FM radio.

There are similar styled convertibles available; the Lancia Beta Zagato, the above mentioned grey market Baur BMWs, the Jaguar Cabriolet, etc. All, in their own way, are great cars with better "names" than Toyota. None, however, have the legendary dependability and easy, inexpensive parts availability like the Celica has. There's a lot to be said for that.

The bottom line is, this is a classy, very rare, handbuilt convertible that you could drive everyday if you wanted to.

Located in Cumming, GA, click here to see the eBay listing.

A big thanks to JaCG reader, Russ, for sending me the link to this car!


Blair Russell said...

As what has happened many times before on this site, I've learned about a new car. I haven't heard of a Sunchaser before but it looks pretty nice, even (especially?) with those graphics on the side.

Maxichamp said...

Someone in 15 years is going to make a killing reproducing decals/stickers for classic 80s car restorations.

Bill said...

The decal reproduction process is already easy and amazingly inexpensive. Almost any good "vinyl graphics" type sign shop can do these. A few miles from me a gentleman is restoring an auto-trans equiped Sunchaser in the opposite colour scheme to this one. Both that I have seen have some version of this graphic.

Anonymous said...

It's rare for sure, but I wouldn't go so far to call it "classy."

OK, if the Miami Vice speedboat graphics should be left on the sides because they are "period correct," what about the chrome luggage rack on the trunk?

As is the case with most of the JACG car entries, I felt compelled to look it up. Most of the cars I saw lacked the body side graphics, and looked far classier for it.

The targa top seems OK, but the rear vinyl roof / window section seems a bit off to me. In the end this car reminds me of the Sapporo featured a while back.

In snooping around the internets, I found an alternative made by the same company, The AMC Eagle Sundancer. Look it up!

Thanks to JACG, I've finally found a true alternative to the 911 C4 cabriolet I always dreamed about.

Jon said...

Hey, that Anonymous guy above keeps on stealing my comments word for word.

upwithwings said...

Hey, I have one of these cars! All original, great shape! Anyone interested? Email me at:

Anonymous said...

i have the real deal, the lancia zagato, this is not a grey market, or aftermarket conversion.

Larry said...

Thanks for ALL the great comments on MY car! I just bought this exact car at the end of 2011, (5 years after these pics were taken) and the car is still in excellent shape. But not quite as nice as these show, but I hope to have it BACK in shape by the start of spring. I think the killing will be for reproduction weatherstripping for ALL the 1st and 2nd Gen Celicas! See ya on the road!