In the 1990s, Toyota blessed the US market with two excellent performance cars, the MR2 and the Supra. We are, of course, thankful for that mid-ship runabout and that straight-six monster, but we can't help but be jealous of Japan, Australia, and Europe. Why? They got the Celica GT-Four, a rally homologation special that remains all sorts of cool to this day.
The GT-Four might look like a slightly more well-ventilated Celica, but underneath, there's lots of interesting stuff going on. It has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 250 hp, and a permanent all-wheel drive system to get all that power to the ground. The GT-Four also received a number of suspension tweaks and lightweight parts similar to those used on its Group A rally sibling.
The Celica GT-Four rally car was quite successful too, at least until the FIA figured out that Toyota was technically cheating. Toyota Team Europe used that effectively bypassed the officially-mandated restrictor plate, giving the car more power. That got Toyota banned from the final WRC race of 1995 and the entire 1996 season.
Today, the Celica GT-Four is most known for Toyota's brazen, brilliant cheating, but don't let that detract from what is, ultimately, a great road car. Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire drove a Japanese-market example—legally imported to Canada—and he fell in love. Noting that the owner paid under $6000 for his, he argues that it's an incredible performance-car bargain.
Next year, we'll be able to import the Celica GT-Four to the US. I'm thinking that's a great idea.