The rally may not seem as important now as it once was, but a bit of history was made this weekend by Toyota. His Finnish driver Kalle Rovanpera became driversโ€™ champion; no big deal, you might think, given how many rally stars hail from Scandinavia (despite being the first Finn since Marcos Gronholm). However, Rovanperaโ€™s triumph is remarkable for his age: he became WRC champion at just 22 years and a day. The record previously belonged to Colin McRae and stood for almost 30 years, with the Scotsman winning the iconic title in 1995 at the age of 27. Considering drivers like Loeb were still winning the WRC title well into his late thirties, it looks like Rovanpera could have one hell of a career ahead of him.

Plus, although various Covid crises have ended Toyotaโ€™s hopes of directly competing with a homologated GR Yaris, victory will surely do no harm to the reputation of its hot hatchback hero. Even nearly two years after its launch, nothing can quite spark an automotive conversation quite like the Yaris; the GR Corolla brought it back into the fold recently, and now there is also a memorable WRC victory. Just when it looked like we had made some headwayโ€ฆ

Before GR-Four, however, there was GT-Four. While the Yaris has garnered slightly more interest from older Celicas (the GT-Four badge passed through three generations, from 1986 to 1999), it arguably still lacks the enthusiastic accolades of contemporary Toyotas and its rivals. The excitement around a pristine โ€™90s Supra would only be surpassed by that of an equally pristine Evo or Impreza. Yet the GT-Four never reached such intoxicating heights โ€“ if only Brian had a 10-second Celica in Fast & Furious. What could have beenโ€ฆ

He certainly had a lot to do as a cult hero, right down to the three-spoke wheels of the 90s. The GT Four was the first turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Japanese car to enter the WRC; the ST165 generation first appeared in 1988, winning its first rally in 1989. The last ST185 was Toyotaโ€™s most successful rally car in history, and the ST205 โ€“ like this Celica is โ€“ boasted the infamous illegal turbo restrictors which saw Toyota banned from the WRC for a year. Still, the car was good enough to win the European Rally Championship in 1996. So thereโ€™s performance, history and infamy to a WRC career, but still little love seems- he.

The price must have paid its share. In 1994, a Celica GT-Four would have cost ยฃ10,000 more than an Impreza Turbo and ยฃ5,000 more than an Escort Cossie. Talk about a hard sell. Even the most ardent fans would have been hard-pressed to spend 50% more than the Impreza on another similarly performing Japanese rally rocket. Still, that means those cars that are going on sale now are very, very rare indeed โ€“ even the Cossie costs 10 a penny by GT-Four standards.

This is not a British car, but rather a perfect example from Japan. Itโ€™s only done 15,000 miles since 1995, and they could have been sitting on a dyno given the condition. There are apparently no signs of wear anywhere, from the engine compartment to the trunk lid. The GT-Four was just imported and is said to come with stacks of history and without a single modification. This remains in line with the specifications Toyota intended when it left the factory all those years ago. Quite remarkable, really.

Now, while the GT-Fourโ€™s values โ€‹โ€‹havenโ€™t skyrocketed like some competition cars, they have. We welcomed him into the PH Heroes hall of fame nearly a decade ago, when vouchers could be had for less than ยฃ10,000. Pre-Covid, a modified (but apparently nice) example was comfortably under ยฃ20,000. This one is a little more expensive, with the selling dealer asking for ยฃ45,000. However, this looks like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity given the age and rarity of the Celica. And imagine what the equivalent Impreza might cost. Thatโ€™s not even much more than it costs to skip the line for a used Yaris eitherโ€ฆ


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