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Saturday, May 30, 2015

This 1980 Toyota TX22 is a Coachbuilt Rarity: Your Ride



When is an ‘80s Toyota Celica… not just an ‘80s Celica. Answer: when it’s one of these. Meet the 1980 Toyota Celica TX22 Sport – the targa-topped Toyota hatchback you never knew existed but now desperately want. 
Its story begins with the Griffith Company, an aftermarket car conversion firm, which between 1979 and 1981 took brand new Celicas from the Toyota factory and, well… chopped their tops. Three different models made the ‘cut’ – the Sunchaser, Legato, and TX22 – all in low volumes, and Toyota enthusiast Larry F. was lucky enough (and determined enough) to snag one of them.

Exact production numbers are hazy, but Larry’s TX22 is one of 25 to 50 built in total, and is believed to be the last one still running and driving in the US. A rare car indeed. We caught up with Larry, and here’s what he had to say about the Celica.


How did you first come across the Celica?

 I searched eBay, wanted ads on craigslist, and looked through forums for almost eight years in order to find one. Finally, a gentleman contacted me saying his aunt had given him this car, as she could not drive it anymore. Him being a Porsche fan, he didn’t exactly want to keep the car, so when he found my ad, he sold it to me. It was a genuine little old lady, one-owner car.

Have you had to replace or modify anything over the years?

 Luckily I have restored or replaced very little to get it back to as-delivered condition from Toyota. It needed almost nothing when I got it, apart from a good detailing. The only accessories I’ve added are the extremely rare side louvers and rear louvers. The car came with a high-end stereo system with a cassette. I’m going to swap it out for a working factory 8-track player soon.


What does it feel like to drive?

 It takes me back to the ‘80s when I had a 1980 Supra. It’s still a fine driving car – tight, brakes great, handles really well for 35 years old – and it gets as many, if not more, looks and thumbs up as my 1969 Camaro ever did!

It’s also surprisingly peppy. As far as the drivetrain and specs go, they are the same as the regular Celica GT with 90 plus horsepower, five-speed gearbox, and A/C. Nothing spectacular by any stretch, but the fact that the automatic version of these got 35 mpg highway is really impressive though.


Just how rare is the TX22 Sport?

 Back in the day, Griffith made three variations of the Celica. Most are familiar with the Sunchaser, a targa-top version of the Celica Sport coupe, and the Legato, which was a targa-top Celica Supra. I have tried to find build counts, but the numbers are all over the place even from people that worked for Griffith. I believe total of 5,000 to 10,000 Sunchasers were made and about 1,000 Legatos.

As for the TX22, which is the Celica hatchback targa-top, I was told “not many” were built. The conversion added $3,000 to the price of an $8,000 car. I am sure people just bought a Supra instead – it’s a big price for just going topless. Over the years I’ve found 15 TX22s worldwide but I have only ever seen two in person – and I own both. My other one is a one-of-one United States Grand Prix TX22 Sport edition.