1977 Toyota Celica 1600 ST Coupe
This car was fairly typical of Japanese cars of the time. It drove smooth as silk, but also seemed to have a body made out of it. It felt fragile and it rusted as you looked at it. The under-body was full of holes and rot, the seats were so thin and lacking in padding that it was almost impossible to stay comfortable on longer journeys.
It was though, mechanically speaking, bullet proof. It never ever went wrong, or failed to start and with styling cues taken from many different American cars, it just looked great!
The fake walnut dashboard had more dials than you could shake a stick at, with cool green backlighting and selecting any of its 5 gears with the real wood gearlever was like slicing butter with a hot knife. The car was so light that along with its love- ly worm and roller steering, its engine was more than enough for some serious fun to be had, as it leaned around corners and slid on its skinny tyres.
My one had a vinyl roof fitted, which I believe was there to cover a weld line, the result of having ended up in a ditch, not long before I bought it. The backlights had a nasty habit of blowing fuses, due no doubt to the lack of non rusty metal where the earth wires were once attached to the bodywork. It was red, with twin headlamps, a blacked out egg crate grill and had alloy wheels and a Colonel Bogey air horn, like the Dukes of Hazzard. That was where the similarities ended though. I drove that car a lot of miles, going up to North Wales a few times at night, once having to stop and persuade my 4 passengers to get out, as the clutch was slip- ping, trying to climb up a steep mountain road.
My car eventually found another ditch to fight with, a few weeks after I sold it and ended its 11 year life in a scrap yard, as more holes than metal.
Facts and Figures – Toyota Celica 1600ST
Just over a million 1st generation, TA23 Celicas were made between 1970 and 1977, winning imported car of the year in 1976. The 1600ST had a 2TB engine, averaging 28mpg, with twin downdraft carburetors making 105bhp, front wishbone suspen- sion and coil sprung independent rears.
1976 MK1 VW Golf 1.6 LS.
This was my first car. My dad bought it for me through a friend in the trade and I loved it. I’d had motorbikes before that, which were great, but I wanted a car real bad.
The Golf was pea green with an orange velour interior, no headrests, a mushroom shaped gear knob and was 13 years old when I got my hands on it, 2 weeks after passing my test.
At that time the Golf GTI was the car to have, and this was not one of those, but being a 1600 it was almost as fast. It had been owned from new by an old lady so was a 1 owner car, but it seemed that she may have been somewhat overweight, as the springs in the driver’s seat were gone.
Less than a month after buying it, I set off right across France for an adventure, to pick my little sister up from a town in the county of Gers, called Condom – Yes, it was funny even then. Being too young to be worried, I travelled using maps and notes, stopping to wait out a snowstorm in the mountains, without getting lost once, which is more than you can say for Sat-Nav! Mind you, I had spent hours onmy notes, listing every road, town and village. It went faultlessly, but a few weeks after returning the alternator went, on a night trip returning home from Colchester.
I managed to get a set of Storm alloys from my dad’s friend, who was trading in his Scirocco, but never got GTI seats, which I always lusted after – any seats would have been better than the ones in it. I always wanted it re-sprayed in silver, but made do with spraying the sills with silver Hammerite, which was the latest thing back then and looked very cool, or so I thought.
It was easy and fun to drive, with good acceleration, handling and a little bark from the exhaust. German build quality meant that all the switches and electrics worked and that was the only car that I ever owned and never lifted the bonnet on, as I didn’t yet know one end of a spark plug from the other.
It was eventually passed on to my sister as her first car and she kept it for years, until it finally gave up the ghost.
Facts and Figures – Golf 1600 LS
6.8 million MK 1 Golfs were produced between 1974 and 84. Styled by Giugiaro, who was also responsible for the Alfasud and the Lotus Esprit, it was voted car of the year 3 times in various motoring magazines. The 1.6 LS had a 75ps engine, 4 speed gearbox and independent Macpherson Strut front suspension.