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Should I replace my 1981 Toyota Celica?

I have a 1981 Toyota Celica liftback, 192,000 miles which I’ve had for twenty years. I’m the second owner and inherited it from my parents. I live in New York City, uptown Manhattan, and park it on the street. I drive it to work in New Jersey 20 miles round trip five days a week and a monthly trip 120 miles upstate to visit my parents. The engine runs very smooth, doesn’t doesn’t burn oil and the manual

transmission is in good shape. I get good mileage, 21 to 24 local, 28 -32 highway. I’ve put a lot of money into the car over the years replacing the suspension, carburator, radiator, water and fuel pump, brakes, alternator and ignition.The engine has never needed any work. Two mechanics who’ve worked on the car tell me that the chassis is rusting away and that it needs to be reinforced. They feel it isn’t worth it. The owner of the shop told me if I really like the car they could contract it out have reinforcing bars welded on to the chassis. However several car afficiados have told me it is worth while since old Toyota engines are indestructable.

Today I went to a Mazda dealer because I was interested in a Miata. The salesman thought it wasn’t practical for parking on the street or driving in snow. He suggested I have the reinforcement done as the engine will last, no one would steal my old car, no worries about damage to a new car, no car payments and lower insurance. It’s either that or a new Civic.

I enjoy driving this car and it suits my needs. It’s certainly not clean and shiny like a new car. The body has a lot of rust damage which I fixed myself amateurishly. but around here its one of a kind. Suggestions?

Having reinforcements welded in would strengthen the body/frame against breaking from rust, but it would also change the designed-in crumple zones. In short, you probably wouldn’t have any, which means if you get in a wreck your body, rather than the car, would absorb the impact. I wouldn’t do it.

I do agree with the salesman regarding the Miata - -not the driving in the snow part - I know lots of people who do that and have no problems. But parking a convertible on the street is just asking for a break in.

Were I in your shoes, I’d be looking for a used hardtop.

If the frame is rusted then it’s time to say goodbye to the Celica. Sell it to an auto recycler because you don’t want the vehicle to fall into the hands of someone who will use it as a daily driver.

The best car I ever owned was a 1976 Toyota Celica GT with a 5 speed. It was a nice looking little car with great gas mileage and was fun to drive with that 5 speed transmission.

The Celica gave you 20 years of service but it’s time to let it go. Reinforcing the frame is not a good idea at all for many reasons. Find a nice, newer model Corolla or similar vehicle and you will be far better off than hanging on to this Celica.

I don’t think I’d want to park a Miata on the street in uptown Manhatten.

As far as the Celica goes, when the chassis rots away the car becomes unsafe, and there’s no way to strengthen that kind of damage. It’s time to consider getting a replacement. And remember, if your hcassis is rotting out so are your brakelines…

Agree, owning a convertible sports car in New York is just asking for it. I’m told that every Corvette there has been stolen at least once. The insurance will likely be very high as well.

I’d go for reinforcing the body. The record mileage for a car jut like your is over a million miles. That Celica was mostly driven in Nevada and other Western locations.

Reinforce against what? This car is unibody construction. The metal that reinforcing will be welded to is thinner than the reinforcement. If you can find a spot that shows no rust. And the weld spot can easily become weaker than the rest of the surrounding material. A lot of money and risk for a car with no value.

Don’t try and fix it, for all the reasons given, and don’t get a Miata. A Scion tC is the modern equivalent of the Celica, you could find a used one for decent $$.

Thanks. It’s hard not to be a sentimental about a car one’s had so long. My parent’s have a Scion but I’m not crazy about the ride. I’ve test driven the Civic and it handles much better. I see very few manuals in inventory in my area and a manual is what I want. I might consider an SI although it is more expensive. There seem to be a few used one’s out there but no great bargains. Does anyone know when the 2012 Civic comes out?

I have a Scion tC and I love mine, but it’s all purely a matter of taste.

The new Civics are really cool. I’d be reluctant to buy a used SI because the kids that buy them neglect them and beat them to death, but I’d defintely buy a new one.

OP’s mechanics say it can be reinforced. Rust tends to form in specific areas. Agree that if the car is competely rusted out, it should be scrapped. I once owned a unibody Plymouth with a rusted out floor panel. It was relatively easy to reinforce it with galvanized steel sheet to make it last another 3-4 years. In my case I did not weld, but used high strength screws (lot of them) and copious quantities of the sealer car companies use.

I would look for a 1-2 year old small car.
That’s old enough to take off the initial depreciation and young enough to not have been abused.
Will still have the factory warranty too.
That’s what I did (bought a 2006 Matrix with 8000 miles in 2007) and saved $4000 vs a brand new one.

I would buy a car that is cheap to insure and nobody wants to steal. A 3-4 year old Totota Echo or Yaris (short model) is very compact, easy to park and does not draw attention. It’s also the most reliable small car money can buy.

Replacing a rusted floor is much different than trying to restore strength to a rusted structural member, you must agree with that! I’ve seen some good rust repair, and I’ve seen a lot of bad rust repair. His mechanic says it can be done, but to be done right, your better off getting a new ride.

In my area the kids seem to be into BMWs. People like clerks and security guards drive them, probably second hand. There are a lot of them on the street in my neighborhood along with the Civics and Accords. They are not a rich man’s car anymore. SI’s are stick and most people don’t drive stick these days. There seem to be a lot of used SI’s, certified, on though. I guess after having an old car for so long I want to treat myself to something sporty without going for the luxury sport coupes. Any idea how much I should be able to negotiate pricewise?

“probably second hand” - yep, GUARANTEED second hand. 10-year-old BMWs, MBs, and Audis are relatively cheap, because they’re quickly sold after a few years and folks don’t want to pay for the repairs, and they want to drive the latest. Ignore them. There’s even a phrase for it: a “baker’s car”, a high-profile car that has depreciated to the point that your neighborhood baker could buy it. Get your Honda and enjoy it.

Did they even HAVE crumple zones in 1981?

For about the same price as a Civic Si, you could get a Mazda Speed3. You’ll trade a little fuel mileage for a lot more fun, and they only come with stick shift.

The Mazda dealer suggested that and it is an option. The only issue is it doesn’t come as a coupe.

You are taking me back to 1991…I moved to San Diego to “go Surfing for a while” During my stay I bought what was probably my most loved vehicle…a GOLD…lol…78’ Celica Hatchback…5sp…not ONE SPECK OF RUST…Me and that car went EVERYWHERE together! From Tijuanna to Canada to Florida and back… ALWAYS FAITHFUL and rock solid dead to rights reliable…Unbelievably so in fact. Before long I had installed a 1 inch thick FUR cover over my dash board…LOL…Grey Fur…it was so funny and everyone loved that dash. I built a hitch for the rear bumper out of some heavy angle iron and when it was time Me and the Celica and My 73’CB750 on a trailer drove cross country. I made it back without so much as a hiccup. I mean this vehicle was my best friend. I sold it in around 97 or so to a friend of mine who drove it for a number of years and then sold it to one of our buddies from Mexico…and HE loved it…who knows…she’s probably still out there somewhere…running.

WHat a great vehicle.

I have always had my eye open for the big brother to that car…The Celica/Supra…yep two names on the same car…Remember that? Someday I will find one…with a sweet running 6 Cylinder and a 5sp…

I see Celica’s being sold on ebay in the southwest and Australia where you don’t have the killing northeast winters and the rock salt. If I had known to take the car to the carwash where the underchassis would be washed it probably would have gone several more years. To bad one can’t live on hindsight…