Celica Tuning

"The Celica is a reliable project car base to work on."

With each revision and update the Celica became more and more appealing to the performance driver, and for many years stood as Toyota's flagship performance car. Early models are commanding high resale prices, and we feel it is sure to become sought after future classic.

The Toyota Celica is a two-door sports coupé that was produced by Toyota from 1970 until 2006. It has a low-slung driving position, light controls, crisp steering, a quick gearchange and sharp handling. It was regarded as one of the best-handling front-drive cars of its time.

The last generation of the Celica (T230) had a 1.8-litre engine with variable valve timing that produced either 140 or 190 horsepower depending on the model. It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8 seconds and had a top speed of around 130 mph.

The Toyota Celica might appeal to drivers who are looking for a sporty, compact and reliable car that is fun to drive and has a distinctive style. However, some drawbacks of the Celica are its limited rear space, high insurance costs and low resale value.

Thankfully there are quite a few performance parts, upgrades and mods around for the Celica so let's delve into the world of Celica tuning and highlight the best mods and upgrades for your car.


The Celica first appeared back in 1970 so it has enjoyed a very  long run.

Ever since Toyota dropped the Supra, the 5th generation Celica was the only sports oriented 4 seater car they produced for many years.

Early models had pop up headlights, a sporty appearance  and a choice of engines from the underpowered 1.6 4AFE to the 2.2 5SFE engine.

The 3SGTE engine was provided with a turbo and made this the engine of choice for a Celica Tuning project.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

The turbo engine produced 225 ps and came in a number of limited edition guises. 4 wheel drive/steer make the cars handling sharp and lively. The GT Four Rally presents the most Celica tuning options and had many race spec components.

Celicas were until recently the fun family sports coupe from Toyota. The 5th and 6th generation are the best for tuning with a lovely turbo engine.

The later sixth generation had round headlights and subtle styling. The 3SGTE engine was still an option and the last version of the GT Four ST205 had a light weight aluminium roof and CT20B turbocharger taking power to 230 hp ready to meet the Homologation rules for the WRC.

By 2000, Toyota deemed the Celica to need an upgrade and the 7th generation model was introduced with distinctive triangular headlights.

There were only 2 engine options both using versions of the VVT (variable valve timing), with the lovely high revving 2ZZ-GE 180 hp engine.

Beware though as some countries had rev limits reduced from 8400rpm to 7800 where full power is starting to come on strong.

Celica Tuning

It seemed to be a bad move at the time reducing the power and hoping that strong sales would continue.

Toyota has announced that the Celica will no longer be available in the USA due to declining sales.

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Best Engine Mods for your Celica

Enhancing your Toyota Celica can significantly improve its performance and driving experience. Here's a detailed guide on the upgrades that can take your Celica to the next level.

Suspension Upgrades: Coilovers for Improved Handling

A set of quality coilovers can drastically change your Celica's handling. This suspension upgrade reduces body roll, enhances stability, and improves the overall feel of the car on the road.

It's a vital upgrade for a more dynamic driving experience.

Intake and Exhaust: Enhancing Performance Synergy

While intake and exhaust modifications alone won't significantly add power, they play a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness of other upgrades.

By removing airflow restrictions, these mods ensure that your engine breathes better and benefits fully from other performance enhancements.

Turbochargers and Superchargers: Major Power Boost

Forced induction, through either turbocharging or supercharging, is the most efficient way to increase air supply to your Celica's engine.

While these upgrades are among the most costly, they offer the highest gains in power and performance.

Cylinder Head Work: Optimizing Airflow

Porting and flowing the cylinder head are all about improving air intake and reducing flow restrictions and turbulence.

This head work is essential for maximizing the efficiency and power of your engine.

Lighter Flywheel: Increased Engine Responsiveness

A lighter flywheel significantly enhances your engine's responsiveness.

It improves rev matching during gear changes, making your Celica more agile and enjoyable to drive.

Engine Mapping: Maximizing Performance

Engine tuning or remapping offers substantial benefits in terms of performance gains and cost savings. Aftermarket ECUs and piggyback ECUs provide alternatives for tuning, especially since Celicas have historically been challenging to map.

Proper engine mapping ensures that all your upgrades work harmoniously, unleashing the full potential of your Celica.

Celica Tuning stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Exhaust, Panel air filter, Engine Tunes/Remapping, lighter flywheel

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Fast road cam, ported and polished head, fuel injector & fuel pump upgrades,

Typical stage 3 mods: Engine balancing, forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), competition cam.

Celica Tuning modifications.

The following modifications are usually performed by our Celica owning members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the right mods for your planned usage of the car is vital. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road.

There is no shortage of parts around for the Celica particularly the 5th and 6th generation cars. Engine swaps are popular with owners looking to obtain the 2.0 Turbo engine. Suspension upgrades will do a lot to improve the handling and ride quality.

Celica Intake Mods

With a sports manifold and induction kit with a cold air supply, you can get the breathing just perfect. The power supply will be smoothed out thanks to a boost controller. Maintain a boost pressure of 15 psi.

You only need to replace your exhaust if your present exhaust is causing a flow restriction.

Even with small power improvements, the flow rate on most factory exhausts should be acceptable, but if you start pushing up the power levels, you'll need a better flowing exhaust.

Please don't use the largest exhaust you can find since it will slow down the exhaust rate - the optimum for power improvements is generally 1.5 to 2.5 inches. More than the hole size, it's the form and substance.

Typically, exhaust limits can be traced back to the emissions filters fitted, therefore switching to a more free-flowing sports option can help you avoid this restriction.

Upgrades to the fueling system should assist match the air intake charge, and you may require uprated injectors, a larger fuel pump, and wideband Lambda in certain circumstances.

You only need to replace your exhaust if your present exhaust is causing a flow restriction.

Even with small power improvements, the flow rate on most factory exhausts should be acceptable, but if you start pushing up the power levels, you'll need a better flowing exhaust.

Please don't use the largest exhaust you can find since it will slow down the exhaust rate - the optimum for power improvements is generally 1.5 to 2.5 inches. More than the hole size, it's the form and substance.

Typically, exhaust limits can be traced back to the emissions filters fitted, therefore switching to a more free-flowing sports option can help you avoid this restriction.

Celica Turbo & Supercharger kits

NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your Celica

The more air that enters an engine, the more gasoline it can burn, thus increasing induction with a turbocharger upgrade results in significant power improvements.

When a vehicle has a turbo, the parts are more dependable, and turbocharged engines are manufactured with higher-quality components.

Greater power values, on the other hand, will need stronger components; examine these limits and upgrade to better quality crank and pistons to withstand the power.

We've seen a lot of people spend a lot of money on turbo enhancements for the Celica just to have it all go up in flames right after they've completed.

Small turbochargers spool up faster but lack the peak rpm horsepower advantages of larger turbochargers, whereas big turbochargers suffer from low end lag.

Thankfully, the turbo industry is always improving, and we often see variable vane turbo units, which allow the vane angle to be adjusted according to speed to reduce latency and boost top end performance.

The exhaust flow is split into two channels and directed to distinct profiled vanes in the turbo using dual scroll turbo units. They also aid the engine's scavenging function.

It is not unusual that there is a limitation in the air flow sensor AFM/MAF on the when a lot more air is being sucked into the engine.

We see 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited power at a much lower level.

A fast road cam and uprated turbo will take power up to around 340 bhp.

If you strengthen the engine then  you don't have to stop there, the power gains are phenomenal with large turbo conversions but you will probably end up with a fair amount of turbo lag.

Traction is a problem on 2 wheel drive models so the four wheel drive limited editions are great project cars and can put some serious power down.

Celica Clutches

The clutch can slip when large power gains are put through the transmission. If this is the case, or your clutch is getting old it will be time to replace it with a triple plate clutch in a high friction material.

The clutch bites and hold is increasingly difficult to achieve as your engine generates greater torque.

Biting requires more effort than holding, which is why clutches are more prone to slip when in use.

Power and performance clutches feature very high friction surfaces, are designed to cool faster, and may have two (double) or three (triple) contact plates.

More power necessitates a lot stronger clutch, otherwise you'll have to replace it every few weeks!

Heavy-duty racing clutches are more demanding to use and are essentially on or off.

This makes driving in traffic difficult, and pulling away smoothly on a slope takes a lot of leg strength and control.

Most racing clutches have a larger clutch release spring, and a TorqueCars member discovered to his cost that clutches and cables must be exactly aligned and of the right material or they would break rapidly. Performance cluches typically need higher tensile strength cables etc...

For regular road usage, a high-performance road clutch makes sense. If you don't have a lot of power to deal with, don't be tempted by the high-spec multi-plate racing option, since it isn't well suited to domestic driving for most vehicle types.

Celica lighter flywheels

A ligher flywheel will help the engine to feel more revvy and is quite handy for track use where the engine is mainly used in the high end of the RPM band.

Because the flywheel is lighter and the rotational energy of the engine is not restricted or maintained, the revs in a highly tuned Motorsport engine climb and fall significantly quicker than in a conventional engine.

The loss of engine momentum, or inertial spin, is another significant disadvantage of a lighter flywheel. On a slope, this will become noticeable as the engine tends to bog down.

Engine RPM will rise and fall more rapidly with a lighter flywheel, but you will lose momentum on a climb and suffer bogging.

A heavier flywheel, on the other hand, maintains the engine's momentum and makes it more resistant to bogging down.

A light flywheel should only be utilised in a racing context, but weight may be changed to varying degrees so that the best of both worlds can be had.

A lighter flywheel will substantially enhance your driving style if you heel and toe gear changes with braking and rev match.

You may choose from a variety of flywheel weights to achieve the optimum torque/free revving capabilities.

Different flywheel grades are available for different situations, and you don't want to go too light for street vehicles since your tick over would suffer.

Celica Suspension/Handling updates

Modifications are generally the Celica's first mission. On most models, we'd drop 35mm. Lower than this and your tires may rub on the arches.

Lowering the car by 30-40mm will help improve the handling and the cornering. Large wheels of 18 or 19 inches will be prone to tramlining and should be avoided if you are serious about performance.

Improved handling is generally the primary aim for Celica owners, yet we see the same errors repeated.

So, if your car is also a daily driver, how do you set up and choose your suspension?

New bushings

Bushes are a rubber mount that spins around the car's chassis. The rubber ones will wear out.

Replace your OEM rubber bushings and notice a big difference in handling.

New polyurethane bushes stay longer and keep the handling tighter, although they may make the ride a little bumpier due to their durability.

With increased vibration and play, they may potentially damage other suspension components.

New poly bushes will enhance your car's handling by reducing excessive rubber bush play.

Most aftermarket bushing kits include all suspension bushes, although older and rarer versions may just include the main bushes in polyurethane.

Custom bushes may often be made on order.

Purchasing a non-adjustable suspension system that lowers the car 30mm from a neighbourhood component store and expecting it to be the optimal configuration is a typical misunderstanding.

Vendors often tout their Celica suspension kits as being compatible with any or all automobile models.

The one-size-fits-all strategy is flawed since engine, wheel, and vehicle weights vary.

Speed bumps will grasp the sump and take off the bottom of the engine as well as the bulk of the front skirt. Lower doesn't always mean better.

TorqueCars says most road cars shouldn't be lowered more than 35mm, and hot hatches with upgraded suspension just 30mm.

These tolerances may be lower if you changed the wheel size. A car with standard suspension and 17" rims would be OK, however lowering it may cause complications.

Because the car is lower, less air passes under it, which may help with stability. Remember to use matching lower springs and shocks.

Consider your Celica's suspension setup & alignment.

A little front negative camber and 1 to 1.7 degrees of toe in or out for improved handling and cornering may typically assist your Celica's handling and cornering.

Drop the vehicle by 27mm-36mm and upgrade the dampers to racing stiffness. Larger reductions need extra modifications.

Mapping your Celica

After you have modded the car look at a full Remap using a new ecu such as that from Apexi in the guise of the power FC will unleash a few more hp. The Toyota ECU's are locked and very few are able to tune/remap them so going the aftermarket route is the answer. Be sure to choose an aftermarket ECU with a knock sensor though.

If you still have flat spots and power surges after upgrading, check your fueling and try a higher octane gasoline. Your injectors may need to be upgraded to obtain enough gasoline. Larger injectors need a larger fuel pump to provide them with sufficient fuel.

Join us in our forum and meet up with other Celica owners where you can chat and swap tuning ideas for your car. Also, have a read of our tuning articles to see what the pros and cons are of the many tuning options open to you.

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5 Responses to “Tuning the Toyota Celica”

  1. TorqueCars says:

    What mods have you done to your Celica? What mods work best, which were the most disappointing and what mods have you got planned for the future? Please share your tips.

  2. peterM says:

    is it still possible to increase Power of a celica 1991 4wd carlos sainz now 208 It looks that chip tuning is no option for this model
    How ?? where to find parts??

  3. Brian says:

    Very informative. I have a celica vvti have fitted fox lightweight alloys cat back exhaust cold air intake. Removed rear seats spare wheel and rear spoiler and wiper and it goes really well

  4. Rico Martínez says:

    It helped me . It gave me an idea where to start off

  5. Jp says:

    Enjoyed the break down. Good write up

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