Denis Bell is a name many members will recognise from his articles in the TEC topics magazine, and is a stalwart of the Toyota scene in Northern Ireland. Denis was a key member and salesman of the first NI importer Neville Johnston (Garages) Ltd., back in the memorable summer of 1966. Here’s a feature on his recollections from selling of the TA22GT and his own rare 1975 model:
Sales in the UK of the earlier 22 in GT form were very slow and survivors are rare. Buyers found the price hike of around 20% on the just under £2000 ST a lot of money for a power increase of only 11 B.H.P on the standard ST and to some purchasers the cheaper derivative actually looked more luxurious. By 1974/5 the ST featured attractive cloth upholstery and a coach line on the front guards while the GT stayed with vinyl and a transfer low
down on the doors.
Toyota (GB) also, seemed rather apathetic only offering the GT in two colours, Copper or White and a two page black and white brochure contrasted with the glossy colour production for its cheaper brother. No accurate figures seem to exist for numbers officially imported into the UK but it seems may be as low as 100. But as with many Classic cars it is often a lack of commercial success when new that adds to their rarity and desirability to-day. The early TA22 GT is now one of the most sought after of all Celicas.
The car was bought in 1991 from a Club member in the Liverpool area and was apparently quite well known to early Club members. When purchased I think a fair description of the car would have been “good/average” condition, and largely original. An immediate decision was taken to undertake a moderate scale rebuild with originality a key factor.
Even then it was clear that few if any of the small number of other UK survivors were in original trim. The sporting nature of the car encouraged modifications including change of engine, wheels, seats, colour and so on. Again 15 years ago it was clear that parts availability was getting more difficult and we quickly obtained parts as and when needed. JKC received new front guards and door-skins while most of the external mouldings and badges were replaced including the distinctive bonnet top vents. Try obtaining those today! The car was repainted out of the brighter 339 (an ST colour) into the correct slightly darker 338 Copper specific to a UK spec. GT. The original sport wheels were repainted in the correct mid – grey.
Turning to the interior and even in the early nineties replacement trim was unobtainable. But then one of the main reasons for joining a Classic Car Club, which I promote to any prospective members for our Toyota Enthusiasts Club is the invaluable help and experience of existing members. Thanks to early model Celica stalwarts Bob Clark, Malcolm Graham – Jones and Harvey Wade good second hand parts were located to fit an original single band AM radio, door trims without speakers, plastic trims for the footwells and a source to re – cover the leather steering wheel – not cheap! Still need an un – cut drivers door inner trim and seat back in ivory if anybody has one? (See Denis’s contact details in the Contacts page.)
So today I have a tidy and useable Celica. It is unlikely to win a Concours award but as the re – paint has aged over the last twelve years presents (and there is a body of opinion in the Old Car World that this is the way to go) the appearance of a well maintained old car as opposed to a re – build that resembles a giant Airfix kit. It does around 2000 miles a year attending Club events, occasional drives on a nice day and can serve as everyday transport as it did for a month last year to fill the gap between the sale of my everyday 205 Celica and its 230 Series replacement. It also gets an opportunity to stretch its legs on the occasional semi – competitive Classic Rally.
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