Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Petaluma Street Sighting - 1981 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser

Some of you may be old enough to remember that from 1977 until the early 1980s, it wasn't really possible to buy a new convertible in the United States. I'm not that old, but I do research.
I guess late in the disco era, with hairy men in tight jeans going nuts for T-tops and car thieves slicing up ragtops, nobody wanted convertibles anymore. Then came the '80s and apparently someone decided it was time to offer convertibles again, but not right away. If you wanted a convertible you could always contract a coachbuilder to chop the roof off your coupe and turn it into a ragtop. That's what led to stopgap quasi-verts like this 1981 Toyota Celica GT Sunchaser.

Built by the Griffith company with the full blessing of Toyota, the Sunchaser is an unusual specimen. Instead of a full folding convertible top framework with fabric covering, the Sunchaser features a removable targa roof section and an unconventional ribbed fabric and plastic rear window that snaps into place. With both the rear window and targa section removed, the remaining bit of B-pillar and roof structure creates a "basket handle" roll bar that keeps the body from collapsing into itself.
The Sunchaser is quite rare, with only about 2000 built between 1979 and '81. This being an '81 model, it may be one of the last produced. Each Sunchaser has an individually numbered dashboard plaque. It was parked in a neighborhood watch area (you know, the kind where paranoid neighbors call the cops if they see you doing "suspicious" activity such as walking around taking pictures), so I didn't spend too much time loitering around it and didn't peek inside.
Condition isn't too bad for a street-parked car of this vintage in a hot, dry climate. I bet that a good wash and wax would bring out whatever shine remains in the Bright Red paint. Looks like the front valance has had a few dates with a parking stop and it could stand being straightened. It also needs a new chrome grille surround. Overall though, the body is remarkably straight for a 29-year-old Toyota. Normally I wouldn't bother with this generation of Celica, but a Sunchaser is the exception to my rule.

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