TRUE TO THE ROOTS
WHEN LIFE GETS IN THE WAY, TAKE A BREAK AND REGROUP
Thirteen years ago, this ’75 Toyota Celica was nowhere near the sort of condition that has you gently shaking your head while admiring just how clean and well-executed it really is. A project, in the most blatant of terms, is how builder Kong Vue viewed it. The transaction was made—the car running on its own power, at that time with an 8-valve 18R-g—and it was taken home where Kong and his four cousins would begin the long, winding road toward creating a high-level restomod.
As with most old-school chassis builds, stripping down the entire car, top to bottom, was at the top of the priority list. This gave Kong and his cousins the ability to see past mistakes, any hidden problems, and, most importantly, allow proper prep for a future in the paint booth. With all the dents, dings, and 30 years of life cleared off the car’s surface, a healthy slathering of gunmetal paint (sourced from an ’06 Corvette) was applied, and the body looked far better than any finish you’d find in the mid’70s. Avid Celica aficionados will also recognize the taillight conversion from a ‘71 model. To complement the fresh color change, a set of staggered 15-inch SSR Longchamps was added to maintain that nostalgic Japanese look and feel. Inside, the front door panels and rear panels received a reupholstered finish, and an array of Autometer gauges was added just behind the woodgrain Nardi steering wheel.
All was right with the buildup except for one thing: The Celica still didn’t run. “The car didn’t run until 2010. After college, my cousins and I all went our separate ways, and we didn’t get to finish it until much later,” Kong recalls. Like many enthusiasts, life tends to get in the way of long-winded weekend wrench sessions, so the engine—arguably the best part of this entire project—had to be put on the backburner until the group was able to join forces again.
We’ve featured a number of Toyota’s well-known ’70s icon in the past. Some have featured Nissan SR20DET engine swaps, others have opted for Honda’s high-revving F20C from the S2000. Kong, on the other hand, can’t relate to cross-platform transplants. “I just don’t get those types of swaps. With my car, I wanted to keep a Toyota engine under the Toyota hood. We wanted to go with a fourth-generation 3S-GTE.”
The group’s idea was to opt for an engine Toyota relied on for the groundbreaking Alltrac, minus the weight associated with such a complex drivetrain. “Weight reduction and power was the key.” Swapping and upping the power ante often means custom fabrication, and Kong’s Celica was no exception.
On the exhaust side, between the head and the Turbonetics T3/T4 turbo sits a custom exhaust manifold. On the other side, a custom intake manifold attached to an Infiniti Q45 throttle body directs the forced air. A TIAL 38mm wastegate and Greddy blow-off valve cough and whistle, and up front two more custom pieces, the radiator and intercooler, help to cool things down. A custom fuel cell joined by a Bosch 044 fuel pump and Aeromotive filters takes care of the fueling, while a Haltech E8 manages the operation.
In an effort to improve the Celica’s handling, especially with its newfound power, a custom rear axle was joined by one-off coilovers and a set of four-link bars. Techno Toy Tuning camber plates were added and the ride height dialed in. Finally, Wilwood’s Big Brake kit and a custom rear disc conversion added a new level of safety.
Not unlike most deep builds, the garage hours turned into days, then weeks, and with life getting in the way, the years began piling up. The fact that Kong and his cousins were able to pick up where they left off and finish a pristine restomod drives home the point that good things come to those who wait.