The story of my Celica - my 1977 RA29 - is actually the story of how I got into this
whole Toyotageek thing in the first place. It starts like this...

In 1963, at the age of three, I moved to California from Germany. At first my mother &
I lived with my aunt & uncle and their four kids. My dad arrived the following year and
began working for a Southern California Volkswagen dealer. He started as a lot boy and
worked his way into the sales department, eventually becoming the general sales manager
- thus, I grew up the son of a car salesman. As a kid, I thought some of the VW’s were
cool, but I never really got the car-bug (no pun intended) - so while I thought cars were
neat, they were nothing more than a minor diversion for me. During the 80’s my dad
started working at a Toyota dealer. Eventually I found my way to work at a Toyota
dealer too, although my employment was with the parts department rather than car sales.
During that time I switched from driving a Volkswagon pickup to driving a Toyota
pickup. It wasn’t until a few years later in 1991, that I entered the world of 'classic'
Toyotas. It was late 1991 and my dad bought a nice clean low mileage 1977 Celica to
use as a second car.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that day would actually be a major
turning point in my life.

The Celica was an orange liftback with black interior and manual transmission. The car
had belonged to an elderly couple. It was only driven locally, to & from the supermarket
and around town. The car was completely stock and original and had always been kept
garaged. It even had one of those cool SHADOW louvers on the rear window. The car
had only 33,000 miles on it. The headlining was drooping, so we had that fixed, and I
think we had new tires put on it. That was it.

For the first few years I drove the car to work a couple of times a week. My primary
vehicle was a Toyota 4WD Truck, and the Celica got much better gas mileage than the
truck, so I was more than happy to drive it. Besides, the car looked cool, and people
always tended to check it out, or ask questions about it. This little Japanese Mustang was
quite a head turner. It was during this time, that I started getting interested in Toyota
history. Several of my coworkers had older Toyotas and it was through them that I  
became aware of an organization called TORC - the Toyota Owner’s and Restorer’s
Club. As it turned out, the Toyota dealership where I worked was indirectly associated
with TORC since they advertised in the TORC newsletter, and some of my coworkers
took part in the annual TORC car show. Because of this exposure to older Toyotas my
own interest in them continued to grow, and I eventually attended one of the TORC car
shows that took place in Carlsbad California.

That was it, I had the Toyota bug and things just continued to grow from there. I still
didn’t consider myself a car guy since I didn’t work on the Celica myself – I still took it
in to the dealer for regular maintenance. Instead of becoming a grease monkey, I became
a history nerd. I tried to learn more about Toyota history and especially pre 1970’s cars.
All this led to me coining my nickname of
Toyotageek. Since then, I’ve collected
brochures, toy cars, and all sorts of other Toyota memorabilia - the stuff I now call
Toyotamobilia. It was in 2001 that I created a Yahoo Group called Classic Toyota
Town
. I eventually joined TORC, and after a few years was nominated to the board of
directors. During that time I helped organize car shows, came up with the name
Toyotafest, made friends, and traveled to Japan where I visited various Toyota
landmarks. I even met & married my wife because of my association with TORC. All
this, because of a little orange car.

As it turns out, I am the second owner of this sweet little 1977 Toyota Celica GT
liftback. Back in 1991 the odometer read 33,000 miles - now, almost 35 years later in
2011 the odometer reads close to 62,000 miles. Somewhere along the way I stopped
using the Celica as my second car - instead, I only drive it occasionally to keep it in
running condition. The car still has it's original 1970's orange paint, with no major
changes made to it. As I mentioned before, a sagging headliner was replaced when I first
got the car. Years later I removed the side moldings due to the fact they kept coming
loose in places. Back when these cars were new, the side molding were added by the
dealer. Some dealers installed side molding that were screwed or riveted on, while other
dealers used a tape-on molding. Fortunately for me, this Celica had tape-on moldings.
The car looked a lot cleaner with out the moldings, but I kept them anyways, in case I
ever decided to put them back on again. I also decided to remove the SHADOW louver
at some point, but again, I've kept it in case I ever decide to use it again. Other then that,
I've simply had regular maintenance done to the car, and replacing or repairing parts as
needed (with OEM parts only). The only non original swap I've done was the headlights
which I replaced with Hella H4’s back around 2003 to improve night time visibility.

Unfortunately I have no records for the car prior to my ownership. At the time I acquired
the car I wasn't into 'old cars' so I didn't think about getting that sort of information, or
the importance of it. At that time I had no idea what the next 20 years of ownership
would lead to.  Remember, for me, the Celica was just a second car to drive around.
Otherwise, I kept it garaged and took good care of it. During all these years the car has
been regularly maintained at an authorized Toyota dealership and I have complete
records. Some maintenance highlights include:
  • 1991 replaced sagging headliner
  • 1991 replaced water pump and tires; R&R the radiator
  • 1993 replaced left door mirror
  • 1994 replaced rear hatch weather-strip
  • 1996 replaced ventilation hoses; performed Exhaust System Warranty Campaign
    (catalytic converter, exhaust pipes, sensors, gaskets, manifold shield, etc. - all
    replaced)
  • 1997 replaced brake pads & shoes
  • 1998 replaced starter
  • 1999 replaced wheel cylinders
  • 2000 replaced clutch master and slave cylinder
  • 2002 replaced heater hoses

In October 2005 my Celica was one of the featured cars of HEMMINGS SPORTS &
EXOTIC CAR (Volume 1, Issue 2), and later was featured as one of the twelve cars for
the 2007 Hemming's wall calendar. The car has also been in several Japanese car
magazines including Kosokou Yuen.

Since I've had this car, I've been attending  a few car shows every year, and this brightly
colored orange Celica has won several awards at the annual All Toyotafest and at the
Japanese Classic Car Show:
  • 2001 Most Original Toyota - 6th Annual TORC Meet (All Toyotafest)
  • 2006 2nd Place Best Original Toyota - 11th Annual All Toyotafest
  • 2007 1st Place Best Old School Celica - 12th Annual All Toyotafest
  • 2007 3rd Place Best Toyota Celica - 3rd Annual Japanese Classic Car Show
  • 2011 3rd Place Best Old School Celica - 16th Annual All Toyotafest


Specifications:
1977 Celica GT Liftback
Model: RA29
Engine: 20R
Production date: March 1977

Next installment - TWINS! Sighting of another orange Celica lead me on
a quest to meet the owner...
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My RA29
PART 1
OC in OC
The story of one Orange Celica in Orange County by Michael Foertsch ~ Toyotageek
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