Racing Hero – 1986 Toyota Celica IMSA GTO Is a Rear-Drive Boost-Monster

1986 Toyota Celica IMSA GTOThere is something about this purpose-built Celica racecar that feels like the best of all worlds: rear-drive with a rear-mounted transaxle, a 2.0-liter Toyota “T” turbo engine detuned from 600HP to 450HP, and a grip setup to shame any other race series.

This beautiful carbon-skinned racecar is hiding tires wider than a NASCAR racer, yet is as low as any modern hypercar.

We just love its relative simplicity versus the tech-overloaded racecars of today. One purpose: be faster than anything else ever made… but only with the right driver aboard.

This car earned $242,000 when sold in 2014.

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RM Auctions


16-17 January 2014

Lot 43

1986 Toyota Celica IMSA GTO

To be auctioned on Thursday, January 16, 2014

Without Reserve

Sold for $242,000

  • Chassis no. 86T-002

Est. 450 bhp, 2,090 cc turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 99.4 in.

  • Memorable history of collaboration between AAR and Toyota

  • Sold by Toyota to championship-winning driver Chris Cord

  • One of only three built for the 1986, 1987, and 1988 seasons


This car, chassis 86T-002, was completed in July 1986 and built to, and beyond, the framework of the rulebook. At its heart was the legendary four-cylinder Toyota T engine, which, in various forms, saw duty in everything from Formula Two, Formula Three, Group B rally, and World Rally Championship competition.

The GTO implementation made near 600 horsepower before IMSA-mandated restrictions were added. In a 1999 interview with Sports Compact Car, Gurney describes the IMSA GTO as being “…pretty good, a hairy motor. It was enough to get the job done!”

It is a Celica in name only. In truth, AAR built a tubular space frame machine that had a rear-drive chassis, a rear-mounted Hewland transaxle, and enough bodywork modifications to make a plastic surgeon blush.

After the program concluded in 1989, this car was sold directly by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. to their championship-winning driver Chris Cord, and it now incorporates all of the latest performance developments, including a revised suspension setup, a carbon fiber body and driveshaft, a more robust gearbox, and aerodynamic improvements. With only three owners from new, including Toyota, this mighty Celica IMSA GTO is being offered from a prominent Southern California collection.

It represents an opportunity to own a championship-winning design that remained competitive until taking its very last checkered flag—not to mention one that’s a rare example of a successful partnership between American engineering talent and Japanese muscle.

This is a race car and will, therefore, be sold on a Bill of Sale.


Please note that this car is accompanied with numerous additional parts including a spare engine, three front bumper air dams, a front and rear clip, a set of four wheels, and five sets of tires, amongst others. For a complete list of spares, please consult an RM Specialist.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s1986 Toyota Celica IMSA GTO

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About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)