Wheelwell
San Francisco, CA
Posted 130 days ago

This rare All-Trac Celica is built for fast cornering

Inspired by Gran Turismo, Josh dreamed of getting an All-Trac. When he finally got one, he put it to work at AutoX events. Read more about his story below!

Q: Tell us the story behind your ride. What made you pick this particular one? Where did you find it? A: It was 1998, I was 18 and was just living on my own. I had an '85 RWD Celica that I enjoyed sliding around the back roads of East Tennessee. I had a roommate that had a PS1 and a new game called Gran Turismo. Because of that game, I learned about all sorts of cars I never heard of. One of them is the Toyota Celica GT-Four. I figured if my old 100hp Celica was this much fun, this AWD rally legend must be even better. Considering the numbers that were imported and cost, I was having a hard time finding one. One day, one popped up on Autotrader. It looked brand new and had 68k on it. After an in-depth discussion with the owner I jumped on a plane and headed to Michigan to take a gamble. The car looked brand new, and the next day we took our trek back to Tennessee and we have been together ever since.

Q: Describe the modifications you've made. Where did you start, what’s the most recent mod and what motivated it? A: Most of my mods are focused on making the car handle better. I love to drive, and I wanted this car to perform well for my enjoyment, and hold up to more popular modern cars in autocross. Growing up in TN, we have an endless supply of curvy roads at my disposal including the Tail of the Dragon. I wanted to set the car up to be most enjoyable on the turns. I started hanging out with people who actually raced their cars, and I learned from them that many mods people do to their cars ended up ruining the handling. It led me to do more research about the types of parts I use, as well as what exactly needs to be done to get the most out of it. I've gone through the trouble of measuring bumpsteer, unsprung weight and the geometry so the parts are made do the job they are supposed to. While I still think there is black magic that separates me from the real race engineers setting up the suspension, I feel I know enough now to improve the handling of my car. For a basic overview, the car has poly all around, with caster adjustment as well custom valved Feal 441 coilovers. I have also added a rear sway bar, chassis bracing and a rear LSD. There are a few other important parts currently in development as time and budget become more available. From a power aspect, I choose to keep things simple. I think there are better options when it comes to engines in cars, but I wanted decent power and daily reliability. I don't have time to work on cars all the time, so I stuck with a next gen of the same engine which is plenty capable power wise. I suspect I am running around 275hp or so at this time. The MR2 community found the same setup and more boost makes for decent power increase, so once I have a chance to upgrade my clutch, I will look at adjusting things to a level that I feel is good balance between fun and reliability. As is, the power levels are fine for autocross, I just need to adjust the gearing some more.

Q: Of all the mods you’ve made, which do you think offers the biggest bang for the buck? A: Tires. Simply put, I went from a 205/50/15 all season tire, to 255/40/17 Rivals. By increasing the contact patch, as well as the stickier compound – it does so much for the car in relation to cost of the other parts. Next in line would be a Whiteline rear sway bar. That single part made the car feel pretty much like a stock bugeye WRX. That was also one of my very first mods.

Q: How did you go about selecting the specific parts for this build? Any installation tips to share? A: When I first started modding I just bought famous brand name parts. Sometimes they worked well, sometimes they didn't fit my needs. I learned "best parts" for my car were really about finding my car’s purpose and finding parts that suit that. There is usually not an off the shelf part that suits all performance needs. A giant turbo that gets me 500whp isn't likely going to do well for me driving style on a tight autocross course. I like more midrange power, so I am not going to go after peak power. Some parts will just not suit me. An off the shelf suspension isn't likely going to be valved exactly how I want for the specific setup I desire. I want a car I can also enjoy on the street, so I don't need super high spring rates and overly stiff suspension. I want to lower my car, but not slam it so low that it ruins my geometry and increases bumpsteer. So the biggest lesson I can pass on is research. Figure out your cars goal, and find parts that suit that. Then seek data. Don't listen to everyone who has an opinion about what works on your car. Part performance can be measured, and knowing that goes a long way. This is especially important when your car is rare, and the few that have actually race data on them are big teams that don't like to share. Also, if you plan on owning an All-Trac, expect to provide the car with a blood sacrifice. They are a pain to work on and if you give up easy or don't like getting cut up and bruised when you work on cars, I would suggest something else.

Q: What are you planning next? A: I am planning on working on an extended ball joint and offset bracket that will add more caster. I am hoping that with this I can lower the car another 15-20mm and correct any bumpsteer issues. In the end, I am hoping for the advantage of the slightly lower CG, minimal bumpsteer, and improved turn in. What’s been the biggest challenge with this build? The biggest challenge would have to be parts availability. When you consider the production numbers, you have a somewhat limited set of parts for options. Luckily the engine being shared with the MR2 has made the engine performance side pretty easy, but when it comes to suspension or exterior mods, you have to look more into custom and high dollar items. The average tuner isn't going to be able to throw $4,500 at KW or $10k at TTE for building suspension. So you have to be creative, and patient.

Check out Josh's Celica All-Trac on Wheelwell here: https://wheelwell.com/josh-coldiron/1k1w/1992-toyota-celica?s=rides&si=2

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