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1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

We Can Almost See Toyota's Engineers Cringing From The Sight Of A Honda Engine Seated In This Celica's Engine Bay

Little Puppet
Feb 1, 2008
Photographer: Scott Dukes
130_0802_01_z+toyota_celica+front_quarter_view Photo 1/16   |   1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

The true beginning of this story goes way, way, way-OK, not that far back, but back to the time when Datsun 510s and Mazda RX-3s were running around Los Angeles in the early '80s. Koichiro Kanda was fascinated by all the cool cars tearing up the boulevards in his area, dreaming of someday fixing up one of his own. At the time, he didn't have a lot of money and this only allowed for minor mods on hand-me-down cars.

Undeterred, his passion for performance grew. After graduating college and eventually taking a job in Japan, he continued to customize cars. One of his favorites was a track Miata he built to the hilt. The engine, chassis and suspension were completely tuned. However, this car and many others like it couldn't take the place of the dream cars of his childhood.

When the company transferred him back to the States, Koich decided he wanted to stay and went about finding a job locally in Silicon Valley. He was finally about to live his dream, albeit with a twist. One of his good friends, Andy Vang, had done an F20C swap into another classic car and was enjoying the benefits of having a nostalgic car mixed with the power and precision of new technology. The hook was set and they went about brainstorming the perfect chassis. Nothing less than the epitome of coolness would do. The '71-'72 Celica is one of the lightest, if not most beautiful, bodies of the old "R" chassis Celicas and Andy just happened to have a complete '71 on hand, which he provided for the project.

130_0802_02_z+toyota_celica+intercooler Photo 2/16   |   1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

"Make sure you have an exact vision of what and how you want it to be" was Koich's mantra during the build, and there was no doubt in his mind that the venerable F20C would be the heart. Its out-of-the-box performance, ease of tuning and aftermarket support were the main factors in his selecting this engine. Because Andy had done this type of swap before, the guesswork was limited. They were already aware that the S2000 instrument cluster would have to be integrated into the car, due to it controlling many of the engine's sensors, while an AEM EMS unit would provide precise mapping for tuning later. The factory 6-speed S2000 transmission was utilized while a custom driveshaft was mated to an AE86 LSD rear end because, as you can probably guess, Toyota's engineers probably weren't sitting around the water cooler in '71 and joking amongst themselves, "Hey, I bet someday, someone's gonna try and do a Honda engine swap with some newfangled VTEC technology. Let's make it easy for them!"

130_0802_03_z+toyota_celica+engine_bay Photo 3/16   |   1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

All this, while massaging the newly acquired chassis, fitting Wilwood front discs, fabbing the 10-point rollcage and locating the right retro-parts from Japan, like the perfect carbon-fiber hood from restored.jp. Keep in mind: one of the main factors in doing a build like this is that it will be twice as hard. "Resto-modding" requires 50-percent restoration (including rust removal, body panel repair, suspension, steering refurbishment, etc) and 50-percent customization. It's not a new car where parts can just be swapped out with no worries about chassis integrity or all your body bushings having to be replaced. After the body was smoothed over and parts like the tranny mount, engine mounts and custom console for the S2000 cluster were fabbed, they slid the freshened up Honda powerplant and wiring harness in.

130_0802_06_z+toyota_celica+s2000_guage Photo 4/16   |   1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

Another great friend, Andy Reyes, helped in gathering pieces and assembling major parts of the interior, including the carpet and Lexus IS 300 pedals. Along the way, HAP Recycling in Rancho Cordova supplied the miscellaneous S2000 parts needed to make it all work together. Six months later and $20K shorter resulted in this Honda Grand Prix White Celica. It's a balanced mix of old and new. Cut coils, Addco sway bar, 15" KONIG Rewind wheels and the Wink mirror are all part of the original So Cal flavor, while the F20C, Sparco seats, adjustable 4-link and camber plates from Techno Toy Tuning are all advances of the new school.

130_0802_11_z+toyota_celica+rear_view Photo 10/16   |   1971 Toyota Celica - Identity Crisis

When Koich let us know he was driving down to the 2007 Japanese Classic Car Show, we couldn't wait to see this car in person. Words can't describe the amount of detail that went into the build. The engine looks perfectly at home in the Toyota bay as does the new instrument cluster. Hopefully this won't be the last car we see coming from Koich, and we can't wait to see what comes out of his garage next.

Fast Facts
`71 Toyota Celica
Owner Koichiro Kanda

Home Town San Jose, CA

Daily Grind VP of business development at MotionDSP

Power est. 200hp

Under The Hood '01 F20C DOHC VTEC S2000 engine; AEM Dryflow air filter; AFCO radiator

Drivetrain '01 S2000 6-speed trans-mission; custom driveshaft; AE86 LSD rear end

Brains AEM EMS

Stiff Stuff Eibach front coils, rear cut coils; Tokico shocks; Addco front sway bar; Techno Toy Tuning custom AE86 control arms, tension control arms, adjustable 4-link and lateral bar, negative camber roll-center adjusters and camber plates; customized AE86 front strut bar

Stoppers Wilwood front disc brakes

Rollers 15-inch KONIG Rewind wheels; 195/50R15 Kumho Tires

Outside Honda Grand Prix White paint; shaved moldings and keyholes, re-shaped and re-chromed bumpers; TOSCO/TRD replica air dam; APC mirrors

Inside Sparco seats; custom door panels, trim panels and carpet; 10 point roll cage; custom steering wheel; Lexus IS 300 pedals; S2000 cluster integrated into dash; Honda Factory Performance shift knob; Wink mirror

Props Andy Vang who inspired and dropped everything to help me on this build; Andy Reyes, who jumped in to help BIG TIME; Bi Nguyen at HAP Recycling for all the S2000 related parts; Gabe Tyler at Techno Toy Tuning for providing all suspension components; Inata-san of Restored.jp for providing the carbon-fiber hood

By Little Puppet
1 Articles

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