Me & My Car: The Toyota Celica GT-Four, a WRC controversy king
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DRIVEN chats to Greg Martin; Production manager at Speedy Signs Newton, founder/president of the NZ GT-Four Owners Club, and owner of an excellent World Rally Championship tribute
What are you driving?
It’s a 1998 Toyota Celica ST205 GT-Four; one of the last to roll off the production line before they were discontinued in early 1999. It’s white under all that livery. I have owned this one for nearly three years. I purchased from another NZGT4OC member.
Have you had to do much work on it?
The car is essentially stock. Aside from the livery, it has fresh Tein suspension, a Turbosmart BOV, 18-inch tarmac style wheels, semislick tyres and HKS EBC. This is my sixth GT-Four, my first ST205. I’ve had the earlier ST165 & ST185 models.
I like the history and lineage of these cars, and they drive like nothing else I have ever owned — best chassis set-up around in my super-unbiased opinion. Not the fastest cars around but they handle and corner beautifully.
This model was banned from the 1995 WRC for cheating with a clever turbocharger mod — exposed from the same event as your livery (Catalunya 1995). Does your car have that turbocharger?
Ah yes, “restrictor plate”-gate; the ST205 is Toyota’s black sheep for sure, for that bit of history. It is kind of talked about in hushed tones from my experience. This car is not fitted with the same turbo, but I wish it was, as those WRC cars now fetch a fortune.
And about those stickers?
The livery is based on the car and the rally that were the cause of the controversy; Juha Kankkunen and Nicki Grist’s car from 1995 Rally Catalunya.
To recreate it as faithfully as possible a lot of pictures and video of the car in that rally (before and after its trip into the trees) was analysed to achieve the final look. It has since had the more “tarmac” style wheels fitted, but is a good tribute I think. I did the livery about two-and-a-half years ago so a brand new look is coming later this year; Gazoo Racing Celica is top of the list at this point.
Do you use your Celica mainly on the road or the track?
The car has 280,000km on it and is predominantly a road car that gets used a lot. Look at it, why wouldn’t you? It still drives like a new one, in typical Toyota fashion. It has seen the track a few times too though and is a regular on the Gumboot Rally.
Would you trade it on the new GR Yaris?
I would. Those things look like a heap of fun.
Do you get comments or pulled over for having the decals?
This car gets a heap of love out and about. Whether it reminds people of the golden age of rally, or the classic arcade game Sega Rally, it is popular. I have never been pulled over in it to date. It attracts only positive attention.
What do you like about the Group A era?
I love that it was the homologation era. You could literally buy the car that was rallied across multiple manufacturers depending where your loyalties lay. The result was a golden age of rallying along with an era of road cars that will never be seen again to the same extent.
What are your plans for this vehicle?
The new livery, and a full engine rebuild/refresh this year. The goal is to get this car to 500,000km one day. No plans for big power or modifications, just to keep it true to what it is.
Will the number plates stay with it?
The XGT4X plates have become my signature on any GT-Four I own. This is the third car they have been on.
With the time spent on your car and the club, how do you manage other commitments?
My belief has always been “life is too short to drive boring cars”. I like my car to be a bit different and an extension of my personality. I have a supportive wife and we enjoy time out and away in the car regularly. Over the past five-and-a-half years the NZGT4OC has taken quite a bit of time, however we have gained some lifelong friends from it, which makes it all worthwhile.
How many cars have you owned?
Probably somewhere around 20: my first was a 1986 Ford Laser GL, typical for a 90s teenager. I wish that I never sold my 1986 Toyota Corolla AE82 NZ-new GT. If I had realised then how rare they were, I would have treated it better and never sold it.
Who kicked off your interest in cars?
My dad taught me to drive and he enjoys his cars, too. How would you describe your driving style? My driving style is respectable on the road. Occasionally “spirited”, but always safe.
A Porsche 911 GT3. But still hopefully next to the GT-Four in the garage. The 911 is another heritage car that is special.