1997 toyota celica

So I had my celica for awhile now and really wanted to add some modifications to help the performance. Im by no means a mechanic, but id love some ideas for some things that I could possibly do myself to make the car faster and handle better. From my research so far I found that in the most simple terms its important to know that if you add power to the engine you need to make sure the power can be transferred to the drivetrain and that the chassis can be able to support it. The part i’m not exactly sure is how much power each extra part adds and where to start. Im looking forward to what advise you guys have.

Faster and better handling cars are not those from that era, but newer. They are designed from the get-go for more power, low emissions, better handling and braking and safety… best thing for a nice 1997 Celica is to take good care of it and enjoy, not try to make it into something it is not.

Focus on the handle better part. Springs, shocks and strut, stabilizer bars and poly bushings. Then wheels and tires. Then brakes. Easier than engine work and should be done first. Given this is a 22 year old car, replace all the worn parts in the driveline and then consider a complete engine rebuild since trying to make more power from a worn engine is a waste of time.

Given the amount of money all this costs, you might just save up for a better, faster car instead of modding the Celica.


I would more impressed by a1997 Celica that looks as stock and new as possible. Yes, to decent suspension parts but engine modifications on this will not even justify the expense .

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Thanks for the feedback! I know it does not really make sense money wise, but for some reason i’m pretty into the car and I think its a lot of fun to drive. From your experience if I were to do these changes would I notice a significant change?

Check out the magazine Toyota Tuner, that’s a good place to start. There’s a fellow nearby to me to “tunes” 1980’s era Corollas as a hobby. His basic method – besides cosmetics – is to installs a more powerful engine, replace the automatic w/a manual transmission , replacing many of the suspension parts with performance parts, and lowering the suspension a little.

A change in handling, a resounding Yes! Performance tires on larger wheels will look good ad hndle great BUT springs and shock at least need to be done to make it work or the tires will over-power the rest.

As far as performance, you don’t say but I believe his is a non-turbo engine. And it is fuel injected. That limits performance increases from almost every angle. Turbo cars can increase the boost very easily for big gains. N-A motors can’t.

You can free up the exhaust with a new performance catalytic convertor, free flow muffler and bigger exhaust pipes but you’ll barely feel any difference. It will sound better, but just a cat-back system will do that. Freer flowing intake and headers will be severely limited by the tune in the ECU and may make less power.

George’s comment about bigger engine swap is a great thought. If you have a 1.8 engine, a later model 2.2 or 2.4 may slide in.

Since I mentioned the ECU, electronics age and die. You are right there in that window where the ECU may become a “brick” in a few years. Just an FYI.

Thanks again! So I should’ve put it before, but its a 2.2L 5 speed manual. I’m thinking that i’m going to start with the handling and do exactly what you said change suspension and add polyurethane bushings. In regards to the stabilizer bars would you recommend a strut bar or a tower brace or both?

Also with the ECU is there anyway to change the settings or replace it to be able to sense the change in air intake and gas?

Well i’m glad to hear i’m not the only one! Thanks the advise, ill definitely look into the magazine!

One thing to consider is wheel weight. This article was an eye-opener for me when I was thinking about mods to my 1999 Civic EX 5-speed. I kept the stock steel wheels and have been skeptical of alloy wheels/low profile tires ever since:


Consider signing up at one of the Celica forums. You can google for celica forums, there are several. Here is one example.


You will meet real enthusiasts who have tried just about everything you can think of and some you would never think of and they aren’t afraid of sharing the results, good or bad.

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@shanonia makes a good point on the problems with weight that larger wheels plus lower profile tires create. What tire size do you have? Factory alloy wheels? You could improve both handling and acceleration by switching to high performance tires on lightweight alloy wheels the same size as you have now. Check out tire rack, they’d have both.

Here’s a good article that tested the performance trade offs with tire/wheel sizes:

Same here. I have a second generation Celica (1979 model) and agree, it’s better to replace bushing,shocks, etc, and “renew” as many old worn out parts as possible. Thanks George_San_Jose1!

I haven’t done any mods in the 40 years I’ve had this car, unless one can consider changing the headlights
to halogen types

Thats perfect, thanks for the link!

@texases Interesting read! Right now I have 15" and I think ill look for new performance tires and lightweight alloys in the same size now, thanks guys.

Do you have the original Toyota-supplied wheels? Are they alloy or steel?

Yeah they’re the original alloy 15x7

I would weigh them and have that in mind when considering new wheels/tires. Lots can go wrong if the new wheels are not the same offset, hole diameter, etc., etc., and extra wheel weight sucks power and compromises the suppleness of the suspension.

Yep, definitely weigh them. Often stock alloys are pretty heavy, more of a fashion statement. But not always.

Those alloys are almost certainly quite a bit heavier than the steel wheels that Toyota also put on some 1997 Celicas. If it can be done, it’ll be costly to find alloys that can outdo the performance advantages of the steel wheels. Fashion advantage, if any, is in the eye of the beholder.