The 90s was an incredible time for Japanese sports cars, with most manufacturers from the Land of the Rising Sun producing at least a couple of performance models. Toyota was at the forefront of the Japanese performance movement with the Supra, the MR2 and of course the GT-Four Celica. The GT-Four was the most successful of the three in motorsport.
Toyota’s most powerful and advanced version of the GT-Four was the third generation ST205. The ST205 is starting to become a bit of a classic and we decided to create a complete buyer’s guide on the car. This article will cover everything you need to know before purchasing a ST205 GT-Four along with the history and specifications as well.
How to Use This Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 Buying Guide
This guide is long, so make sure you use the table of contents below to find the section you want to read. First, we will be looking at the history and specifications of the ST205 and then we will dive into the buyer’s guide portion of the article. At the end of this buyer’s guide we will have information on where to find one for sale and how to import a ST205 GT-Four from Japan.
History of the Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205
We have broken this section up into two parts. The first will be focusing on the ST205’s rallying career and the second will be covering the production car.
ST205 and Rallying
Toyota’s previous two GT-Four cars, the ST165 and ST185, proved to be formidable contenders in the world of rallying, challenging the mighty Delta Integrale. The ST185 managed to win both the Drivers and Manufacturers titles for the 1993 and 1994 WRC seasons.
With growing competition, Toyota Team Europe new they needed a new car to stay on top in the demanding world of rallying. However, new turbocharger restrictor rules (cars now had to use 34mm restrictors instead of 38mm) negated any previous advantage the Celica had.
The ST205 was fitted with the third generation of Toyota’s 3S-GTE engine and other improvements such as an all-aluminium bonnet, four channel ABS, an improved CT20B twin entry turbocharger and new suspension were installed to increase performance. Toyota was also the first to introduce the ALS (anti-lag system) on their rally car, a feature that would be later adopted by other teams in the WRC.
Along with the updates above, Toyota focused heavily on improving the Celica’s aerodynamic performance and increased chassis stiffness to improve the car’s handling. Broader arches meant that 18-inch wheels could be fitted for use on tarmac stages.
The Group A ST205 GT-Four Celica made its competition debut at the non-championship Rally Australia in 1994. Juha Kankkunen was piloting the new Celica and managed to claim second place, just behind the Subaru of Colin McRae. Kankkunen replicated this result at the RAC Rally with McRae and his Subaru claiming first once again. Didier Auriol in the previous generation ST185 Celica GT-Four finished sixth, enough to net him the drivers’ title ahead of Carlos Sainz.
With the exception of the non-championship Safari Rally, the ST205 was Toyota Team Europe’s weapon of choice for the 1995 WRC season. However, the team struggled with the new Celica. Toyota not only had to deal with an extremely competitive Subaru, they also had to compete against Mitsubishi’s incredible new Evo rally car.
The ST205 placed third at the first two events of the season in Monte Carlo and Sweden. Kankkunen would then claim second in the ST205 at the Rally de Portugal and Didier Auriol would go on to win the Tour de Corse with the Celica, the car’s only win.
At the next event of the season, the Rally of New Zealand, the Celica GT-Four would claim second, third and fourth, but would be beaten by the Subaru of Carlos Sainz. In Australia, the ST205 would have to settle for third behind of Mitsubishi Evolution of Kenneth Eriksson and the Subaru Impreza of Colin McRae.
The ST205 GT-Four’s story is tainted by what happened in the second half of the season. An eagle-eyed FIA official watching the cars on a special stage in Australia noticed that the ST205 accelerated faster than its rivals. The FIA decided to investigate the cause of this increased acceleration, which came to a head at the Rally Catalunya in Spain.
Kankkunen had been leading for over half of the event before he and team-mate Armin Schwartz went off the road, leaving only Auriol remaining. Things got even worse for Toyota Team Europe when scrutineers arrived and seized the team’s spare turbochargers. It was found that the Toyota’s ST205 was using a turbocharger with unauthorised modifications.
FIA president Max Mosley called the illegal turbo restrictor “the most sophisticated device I’ve ever seen in 30 years of motor sports.”
Toyota and its drivers Kankkunen, Auriol and Schwarz, were all stripped of their championship points and Toyota was banned from running in the World Rally Championship for twelve months.
While this was a major setback for Toyota, it did not signal the end of the ST205’s rally career. HF Grifone, an Italian company, won the 1996 European Rally Championship with Arnim Schwarz at the wheel of a Celica GT-Four ST205.
While Toyota Team Europe was banned from the 1996 season, the ST205 still competed in the 1996 and 1997 WRC seasons. It was run by private teams such as HF Grifone and Toyota importers in certain countries.
Upon Toyota’s return to the WRC, the Celica was replaced by the Corolla and the company’s main focus was to promote the capabilities of the car.
Celica GT-Four ST205 Road Car
Toyota launched the ST205 in Japan in February 1994, while other markets such as the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia had to wait until the middle of the year. It was the most powerful version of the Celica ever produced with an updated 3S-GTE engine that produced 239 horsepower for export markets and 252 horsepower for the Japanese market.
The car was strongly influenced by Toyota Team Europe and their ST205 rally car. Toyota introduced a number of improvements over the previous generation GT-Four including; four-channel ABS (optional for the Japanese market), a CT20B twin-entry turbocharger, Super Strut Suspension and an all-aluminium bonnet.
To compete in Group A World Rally Championship events, Toyota produced 2500 homologation versions of the ST205. These cars featured a number of extras over the standard GT-Four including all of the plumbing required to activate the anti-lag system, a water spray bar and pump for the injector system, a small bonnet mounted spoiler, a basic water injection system, and an extended rear spoiler mounted on risers.
Out of 2500 GT-Four ST205 WRC cars produced, 2100 remained in Japan, while 300 were exported to Europe, 77 were sent to Australia, 5 to New Zealand and a few others made their way to other markets.
Japanese spec models came with standard automatic climate control air conditioning, however, ABS was an optional extra until it became standard in August 1996. Export ST205 GT-Four Celicas were given manual air conditioning, but came standard with ABS.
All of the official WRC models of the ST205 were produced in 1994 as Toyota needed them to homologate their 1995 rally car.
Australia only received WRC versions of the ST205 and they were known as the GT-Four Group A Rallye. All of the cars sold in Australia came with a leather interior and the only options included air conditioning and a glass sunroof. Each of the 77 Rallye ST205s sold in Australia came with a limited edition numbered plaque that was mounted in front of the hear shifter.
Interestingly, the real ST205 rally cars for competition in the WRC did not feature the Super Strut Suspension found on road cars. This was because Toyota Team Europe found that the wear rate of the suspension was too high on demanding rally states.
Minor changes to the ST205 were made in 1995. These included new 6-spoke alloy wheels, contoured side skirts and a redesigned rear spoiler. Japanese models also featured restyled tail lights.
Toyota made Sport ABS and dual SRS Airbags standard on all ST205 GT-Four models from August 1996. The high WRC-style spoiler was not available for the updated model, but returned in December 1997 when the ST205 was updated again. The ST205 also received a new 3-spoke steering wheel with an SRS airbag and projector headlights for this final facelift.
Production of the ST205 GT-Four Celica ended in June 1999. It would be the last GT-Four Celica to be produced and would be the end of one of Toyota’s most loved series of sports cars.
Toyota GT-Four Celica ST205 Specifications
Year of production
1994 – 1999
Front-engined, four-wheel drive
Inline-4, 3S-GTE turbo
252 (JDM), 239 (Export)
5-speed manual E154F
215/50 R 16
1390 kg (3064 lbs)
245 km/h (152 mph)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)
Buying a Toyota GT-Four Celica ST205
Now that we have had a look at the history and specifications of the ST205 GT-Four, let’s look at some things you need to know before buying. In this section of the article we will be covering specific problems with the ST205 and things to watch out for. At the end of this guide we have more general car buying advice along with a guide on how to import an ST205 GT-Four from Japan.
Make sure you always inspect any ST205 GT-Four yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you (if it is not possible for you to inspect it). While Toyotas are known to be well built and reliable, there are quite ST205s out there that have been poorly maintained and could leave you with a wallet wounding experience.
When you go to inspect any ST205, try to get a viewing in the morning when the engine is cold. Warm engines can hide a multitude of sins, so don’t let the seller/owner pre-heat the car before you arrive. Additionally, avoid inspecting a vehicle when it is wet as water can hide problems with the bodywork or paint.
It is important to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of any ST205 GT-Four you are inspecting. Checking the Vehicle Identification Number on a VIN checkup website can tell you a lot about the history of a car (if it has been written off, etc.) The VIN on a ST205 GT-Four Celica should look something like this: ST205-####### (ST205-0001001 was the start of production).
WRC ST205s were 2500 of the first 5000 cars produced but their VIN number is not consecutive. This means that if you find a WRC ST205 with a VIN over 5000 it is probably fake (also remember that all WRC models were produced in 1994).
The ST205 is getting a bit long in the tooth now and many you come across will have been maintained poorly or will have been on the receiving end of crappy modifications. Still, there are good examples out there and if you take your time you should be able to find a good Celica GT-Four ST205.
To start your inspection of the engine, open the bonnet and take a good general look at the engine bay – Is there anything that sticks out? Does it look well maintained and clean? Is it stock or modified?
The next step is to move onto checking the fluid levels to see if they are at the correct level. Fluid levels that are incorrect can cause premature wear to a vehicle’s components and are a sign of poor maintenance.
Both the engine oil and oil filter should be changed at or before the recommended service interval. This is because old oil that sits at the bottom of a ST205’s crankcase will breakdown overtime and become diluted in the presence of contaminates. Below we have listed when the oil and oil filter should be replaced:
Engine oil – should be changed every 14,000 km (9,000 miles), but some owners change it much more frequently (as little as every 5,000km/3,000 miles). If the car does not get much use the oil should be changed every six months to a year. Toyota recommends a good quality synthetic 10W-30 or 10W-40 engine oil, although other oils will work as well. We recommend something like Mobil 1’s 10W-40 fully synthetic engine oil for the ST205 GT-Four.
Oil filter – The filter should be changed every 14,000 km (9,000 miles). Many owners will replace the oil filter when they do an oil change. Always replace with a genuine Toyota oil filter.
If you notice any metallic particles or other contaminates in the engine oil, move onto another GT-Four. Black oil is fine and just indicates that it is probably time for a change. A fuel or coolant smell from the oil may indicate that the car has worn piston rings or the head gasket is failing/failed.
The Timing belt should be changed every 100,000 km (60,000 miles) or every 4 to 5 years. If it has not been replaced at the recommended service intervals it shows that the owner probably doesn’t maintain their car well. Additionally, if you are looking at purchasing an ST205 with a worn timing belt you should try to get a discount on the vehicle.
Other items that should be replaced with the timing belt:
- Idler pulley – the bearing wears and it will eventually fail (before this happens it will probably squeak).
- Tensioner pulley – the bearing wears and it will eventually fail (before this happens it will probably squeak).
- Tensioner – this is a hydraulic assembly and it is not uncommon for it to fail. If it does fail it will allow the timing belt to fall slack, which means that the belt could jump teeth on the cogs.
- Alternator belt
- Alternator belt Tensioner pulley bearing – not essential to replace but can wear and squeak.
- Power steering belt – needs to be replaced to change the timing belt so you may as well change it.
- Camshaft oil seals – located behind the camshaft sprockets and are fitted into the head. It is a simple replacement and they can leak overtime.
- Replace the thermostat – cheap to replace, so you may as well do it when you remove the alternator and timing belt.
Spark Plugs on a ST205
If possible, try to get a look at the spark plugs on a GT-Four. The appearance of spark plugs can tell you a lot of information about an engine and how it is running. We recommend that you check out this spark plug analysis guide.
Spark plugs should be replaced every 30,000 km (18,000 miles) for standard plugs or every 100,000 km (60,000 miles for platinum ones).
Exhaust Problems on ST205 GT-Four Celicas
Get under the car and inspect as much of the exhaust system as you can. While there are not any factory problems with the exhaust system, make sure it is in good condition. We have listed some things to watch out for below:
- Black sooty stains – indicate a leak which may be expensive to fix
- Corrosion – Minor corrosion is probably fine, but excessive amounts of rust is a major problem.
- Cracks or accident damage – pretty self-explanatory and can be expensive to repair (pay particular attention to the exhaust manifold for cracks).
- Dodgy repairs – Watch out for any bad repairs as this can be a nightmare to put right and is a sign of a poorly maintained car.
Aftermarket exhausts are available for the ST205, but they can make the car excessively loud and ruin the originality of the vehicle. If the GT-Four you are looking at does have an aftermarket exhaust, make sure it is installed correctly (not hanging off, leaking, etc.)
Checking the Intercooler
The intercooler is an incredibly important component and it is important to make sure it is in good condition. A damaged intercooler will usually need to be replaced and it can be expensive to do so. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Dented, bent or damaged in some way – can be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and not repaired correctly.
- Missing pipes/hoses – Check to make sure everything is connected properly and there are no missing pipes.
- Missing hose/jubilee clips – Any missing clips means that the hoses are not secured properly.
Oil Leaks and Burning Oil
If you notice any major oil leaks (puddles of oil under the car, etc.) move onto another ST205. Tiny oil leaks are probably fine but try to determine where they are coming from. Check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive.
An ST205 that burns oil may have a number of issues from a failing turbocharger (more on that later) to the wrong type of oil. The first port of call is to find out what oil is in the vehicle to make sure it is correct.
Purchasing a ST205 GT-Four with a Rebuilt Engine
You may come across a GT-Four with a rebuilt engine. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a car with a rebuilt engine, you need to be extra careful when inspecting them. The main reason for this is because some rebuilt engines are slapped together for a quick sale. You may also come across an owner/seller who claims that their ST205 has a rebuilt engine when in fact it does not.
When looking at an ST205 GT-Four with a rebuilt engine, pay attention to the receipts and paperwork for parts and labour. Find out who did the work and make sure it was done by a trusted Celica or Toyota specialist.
Additionally, it is better to purchase a ST205 with rebuilt engine that has done a few more miles. Freshly rebuilt engines are an unknown whereas ones with say 10,000 km on them are probably a safer bet.
Engine Swaps on ST205 GT-Fours
It’s pretty unlikely that you will find a GT-Four with swapped engine (unless it is the same engine from another ST205). There are some crazy owners who have swapped the 3SGTE for something like the 2JZ from the Supra, but you would be nuts to buy one of those.
If you come across a ST205 with a swapped 3SGTE engine from another ST205, make sure it has been installed correctly. The work should be carried out by a specialist and if you notice any signs of poor workmanship or problems with the car, move onto another GT-Four.
Starting Up & Test Drive
We recommend that you get the owner/seller to start the vehicle for you. There are two reasons for this:
- To see if any smoke comes out the exhaust.
- To see if the owner revs the car hard on start-up. If they do, move onto another GT-Four ST205.
Keep an ear out for any strange noises or signs that the car is struggling to start. If the ST205 you are looking at runs rough, struggles to start or makes strange noises there is a problem. Any load bangs or knocks are an instant dismissal. If the temperature is cold outside, the car may run rougher but should smoothen up.
Along with knocks and bangs, listen out for any squeaks or whining sounds. Squeaks may indicate a worn belt and whining sounds may be caused by a failing power steering pump or oil pump. Chugging or misfiring may be caused by worn injectors or low compression.
A good engine on one of these cars should idle at around 650-750 rpm. Remember to turn on all the electronics (lights, air con, etc.) to make sure the idle speed does not drop too much or that the car does not stall.
Smoke or Vapour from a ST205 GT-Four
It is important to check for any smoke or vapour coming out of the exhaust both on engine start-up and while the vehicle is running. Expect to see some vapour caused by condensation in the exhaust system. If you notice excessive amounts of vapour or smoke, move onto another GT-Four ST205. Here are what the different smoke colours indicate:
White smoke – Is usually caused by water that has made its way into the cylinders and could be a sign of a blown head gasket. If the smoke smells sweet, it is almost certainly coolant.
Blue smoke – Is usually caused by wear to the pistons, piston rings, and/or worn valve seals. To check for blue smoke, get a friend to follow you as you drive the car or get the owner/seller to take the car through the rev range. Blue smoke on start-up and overrun is a sign that the car has been thrashed.
Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things you should check is the air-filter and other intake components.
Overheating and Blown Head Gaskets
Watch out for any signs of overheating as a ST205 GT-Four with this problem can be a real nightmare. Here are some signs of a blown/failing head gasket:
- External Coolant leak from below the exhaust manifold
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- Overheating engine
- Milky white oil
- Fouled spark plugs
- Low cooling system integrity
- Engine oil that smells of coolant
- Sweet smell from the exhaust
Inspecting the Turbocharger on a ST205 GT-Four
Turbochargers will wear overtime and will eventually need to be replaced. Good lubricants need to be used maximise the life of a turbocharger. Unfortunately, with used ST205s there is no guarantee that an owner has looked after the engine and the turbo properly, so you need to look out for signs of a bad one.
Signs of a Failing Turbocharger
Listen out for any strange rumbling, whistling or high pitched metallic sounds when the turbocharger is at full boost. If you do hear any the turbo is on its last legs, but it will probably fail before you notice these sounds. Below we have listed some other signs of a failing turbo:
- Distinctive blue/grey smoke – This happens when the turbocharger housing cracks or if the internal seals become worn. The smoke will become more apparent when the turbocharger is in use, so get somebody to follow you and check while you are test driving a GT-Four Celica.
- Burning lots of oil – if the ST205 you are looking at burns a lot of oil it may be a sign that the turbocharger is on its way out and needs to be replaced.
- Slow acceleration – If the car feels slow it is a good indication that the turbo has failed or is failing. We recommend that you test drive a few different ST205s to get a feel for how fast they are.
- If the boost pressure comes on late – If the boost pressure comes at higher rpms then it could indicate either a worn or unbalanced turbocharger.
- Check Engine Warning Light – The check engine light (CEL) can be displayed for a number of reasons, from major to minor. One of these reasons may be due to a failing/failed turbocharger. If the light is on and you notice some of the other symptoms we have listed above, then it is a good sign that the turbo has failed.
Doing a Compression Test on a ST205 GT-Four
While a compression test is not necessary before buying a ST205 GT-Four Celica, they can save you expense down the road. A compression test can tell you a lot of information about the health of an engine. If you do want to get one done we recommend that you take the car to a mechanic (unless you know what you are doing and the owner is happy for you to do the test).
Compression readings across all four cylinders should be around 160 – 170 psi. The most important thing with a compression test is to make sure that the results are all within about 5 to 10 % of each other and that the results are not too low.
Be wary of ST205s with tuned engines unless the modifications are well documented and recommended. A good standard ST205 GT-Four engine should be good for up to 300 horsepower and 300 lb ft of torque. Cars with engines that produce more than this should be avoided unless you really know what you are doing.
Transmission and Differential
The E154 five-speed manual transmission fitted to these cars is tough and the only common issue is that the linkage bushes can wear, resulting in loose shift action. While worn linkage bushes are the only common issue, you should still keep an eye and an ear out for any other problems.
If you hear any grinding or whining sounds from the gearbox there is a problem. Whining may indicate that the incorrect transmission fluid has been used or that the bearings have been damaged from continuous high rpm shifting.
When you are test driving a ST205 GT-Four Celica, make sure you shift through all the gears at both low and high rpms. If the car has synchro wear it is a sign that the vehicle has been thrashed.
Remember to check that the transmission and differential fluid has been changed at the required interval or before (60,000 km/36,000 miles)
The clutch fluid should be checked every 14,000 km (9,000 miles) and topped up with DOT 5. A worn clutch on a ST205 GT-Four can result in an expensive bill as it is most easily replaced with the engine out. Here are some ways to test a clutch’s health:
Clutch Engagement – Put the ST205 you are test driving into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. If it engages immediately or near the end of the pedal’s travel, there is a problem.
Clutch Slippage – Shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going and then plant your foot on the throttle. If the engine speed jumps but there is no acceleration the clutch is slipping. Clutch slippage can be caused by the following:
- Worn clutch
- Clutch covered in oil
- Clutch cable is too tight and is not releasing properly
Clutch Drag – Put the GT-Four on a level surface with the clutch pedal pressed to the floor (when you are stationary) and rev the car hard. If the cars moves then the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.
Juddering or a stiff pedal also indicate that the clutch needs to be replaced. The life of a clutch will depend on how it has been treated and how the car has been driven. They can last a long time or wear quickly if the car has seen repeated high rpm shifting.
A loud knocking sound from the rear of the car indicates a worn rear differential mount. OEM replacements are fairly expensive but easy to fit. Aftermarket options are available, but these often compromise refinement.
The diff mount is located just in front of the petrol tank and is mounted to the rear sub-frame. If you have a torch, you may be able to visually check the condition of the rubber on the mount, but this is not necessary.
Body and Exterior on a ST205 GT-Four
Bodywork problems can be an even bigger problem than engine issues, so always inspect the vehicle closely for the following.
Rust can be an issue, especially on ST205s that have lived outside for a long period of time or are in countries with salted roads. GT-Fours with significant corrosion problems should be avoided. Here are some places you may find rust on a ST205 GT-Four:
- Sills (especially where the door meets the front wing)
- Wheel arches
- Around the windows/windscreen
- Under the bonnet and in the boot (lift up the carpets in the boot)
Check to see if the vehicle you are inspecting has been undersealed. You can do this by looking under the wheel arches and around the sills for a rough, black paint like substance. Japanese models weren’t usually undersealed, so remember to check for this if you are looking at an import. Additionally, lots of places only apply underseal to under the wheel arches and not other locations on the car.
It is important to not only check the car for present rust, but also for past rust. Look for any areas where rust may have been repaired in the past (inconsistencies in the paint, non-standard parts, etc.). Additionally, check the service history and ask the owner about any past rust problems (remember that not all owners will tell you the truth).
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
Accident Damage on a ST205 GT-Four Celica
The ST205 is a performance car and many of them have been in contact with things they shouldn’t have been. Ask the owner/seller about any past accident damage, but don’t always trust their word. Here are some things to watch out for.
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps– Make sure the bonnet fits correctly and the gaps on either side are even. Look at the doors, tailgate and around the lights. If the panels are uneven it could suggest an accident has occurred.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or they don’t open/close properly the ST205 GT-Four you are looing at has problems.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels– This is a good indication of crash damage or rust repair.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not– This is usually a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and that the owner is careless. This problem can be fixed but can be a nightmare to get right.
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car –Make sure everything is straight and check for any parts that may have been replaced. Take a good look at all of the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
- Rust in strange locations –indicates that the ST205 you are looking at has been in an accident or has some other problem.
- Paint runs or overspray –This could be a factory issue or a sign of a poor repair.
- Missing badges –can be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.)
The ST205 features an aluminium bonnet and second-hand ones are expensive, so keep an eye out for any dents or damage. If you are thinking about purchasing a ST205 GT-Four with a damaged bonnet, try to get a discount on the car.
Suspension and Steering
The ‘Superstrut’ suspension used on ST205 GT-Four Celicas can be prone to issues, so take your time inspecting and testing it. Below we have listed some things that indicate worn suspension:
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
- Tipping during turns
- Instability at high speeds
- Excessive vibration coming through the steering wheel
- Delayed or longer stopping distances
- Uneven tyre wear
- Excessive tyre bounce after hitting a bump
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Knocking or creaking sounds during a test drive (remember to drive in a tight figure 8)
Figure 8 Camber Control Links
These are small links that connect the bottom of the shock absorber to the front lower arm (front wheels only). Check out the picture below to see what the Figure 8 links look like. We also recommend that you check out this guide to see what other components of the Superstrut suspension look like.
There are several ways to check the condition of these links, which we have listed below:
- Try and rock the wheel backwards and forwards in the direction of rotation. If they are really bad you will notice the wheel rolling within the wheel arch. This indicates that the Figure 8 links are very worn and will effect the control of the car. Be careful test driving the car if this is the case.
- During a test drive listen out for a slight knocking sound from the front of the vehicle when you go over a bump or while you are braking. If you do hear a knocking sound it may be caused by worn Figure 8 links.
If you do have to replace the Figure 8 links it is advised that you replace the lower arms as well. It is expensive to replace the links and lower arms so make sure everything is in good condition before you purchase the vehicle.
If the ST205 GT-Four you are test driving does not drive straight without you correcting the wheel, the wheel alignment is probably out or it may have been in an accident. Check with owner/seller to see when the wheel alignment was last done.
Aftermarket Suspension Components
Aftermarket coilover kits are available for the ST205, but some modification is required to fit these set-ups. Avoid any GT-Four with cheap no-name suspension components as these could be trouble down the line. Additionally, if you need to replace aftermarket suspension it may be expensive to do so.
Remember to take a look at the brakes and check for the following:
- Pad life
- Pitted, scored or grooved discs
- Any leaks in the brake lines (get a helper to press on the brake pedal while you inspect the lines)
ST205 brake calipers are hard to come by but most of the other brake components can be easily found. You can find seal kits and reconditioned calipers if original OEM calipers are proving difficult to find.
During a Test Drive
On a test drive make sure you test the brakes both under light and hard braking conditions. If the ST205 you are driving pulls to one side it may have a sticking/seized caliper. Seized calipers can occur if vehicle has been left standing for a period of time. If a brake caliper has seized, you may notice a load thud when you pull away for the first time.
A judder through the steering wheel under braking may be an indication that the discs are warped and need replacing. This will probably first become apparent under high speed braking.
Any other loud or strange noises should be investigated closely as they can be a sign of a number of expensive issues. Additionally, if the brakes feel weak or struggle to stop the car properly there is a problem.
Aftermarket brakes are available for those who want a bit more stopping power, but the standard ones should be more than adequate for road use. Bolt-on big brake kits from specialists such as Fensport can set you back some serious coin, so you are better off buying a ST205 with them already fitted (if you can find one with aftermarket brakes). Move onto another ST205 GT-Four if the brakes are from a cheap or no-name brand.
Wheels and Tyres
Check the wheels to see if they are curbed or damaged, and if they are aftermarket ones check with the owner to see if they still have the originals. Additionally, take a good look at the tyres and check for the following:
- Enough tread
- Uneven wear (Can be a sign of alignment or suspension issues)
- Brand (make sure it is a good one)
ST205 GT-Four Celicas were fitted with 215/50R16 tyres.
Interior and Electronics
The interior on these cars is generally durable so just ensure that it is in good condition and everything works as intended. Look for any rips, stains or fading on the seats and other trim pieces.
It is important to check that the seats slide on the runners correctly and that they do not move under braking or during acceleration. If they do move it is incredibly dangerous and it will lead to a MOT/WOF failure.
Remember to check the steering wheel, gear shifter, pedal and carpets/mats for wear as they can indicate how far a GT-Four has travelled. Excessive amounts of wear for the distance travelled could indicate that the car’s odometer has been wound back.
During a test drive and inspection of a ST205 GT-Four Celica make sure all the buttons, switches and toggles work correctly. Inspect the dash for any warning lights. If there are none during start up the car may have an issue, or the owner may have disconnected them to hide an issue.
If the passenger-side carpet is wet it could indicate a blown heater matrix, not an expensive part but expect to spend a day taking the dashboard apart. Ensure that the heater blows both hot and cold air.
Aftermarket components need to be inspected closely to make sure they work and are installed correctly. Poor workmanship here can be a sign of a careless owner.
General Car Buying Advice for the GT4 ST205 Celica
How to Get Yourself the Best Deal On a ST205
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Do your research. Before you start your search for a ST205 GT-Four make sure you know what model and condition you are happy with. Are you okay with a highly modified ST205 or do you want something that is completely stock? Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far?
- Shop around. Don’t limit yourself to just one dealer, seller or location. Check out various different dealers and sellers to find the best car and get the right price. Limiting yourself to just one area will make it more difficult to find your dream Celica GT-Four.
- Test drive multiple cars. Don’t just take one ST205 out for a test drive and then buy it. Drive as many GT-Fours as you can get your hands on. This will give you a good idea of what makes a good and what makes a bad Celica GT4 ST205
- Adjust your attitude. Don’t rush into purchasing any old ST205. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time looking through all the different vehicles available and then go inspect the ones you think look promising.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage. Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner. While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say, but check out the vehicle thoroughly and inspect all the car’s documentation.
- Bounce between sellers/dealers. If you are looking at multiple GT-Fours, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
- Be prepared to walk away. If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a big debate, but we recommend that you should always buy on condition and then on the mileage. There are plenty of GT-Fours out there with low mileage but in poor condition, while some high mileage examples may be perfectly fine.
Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good. Short distance trips are not kind to a ST205’s 3SGTE engine as they do not have enough time to warm up and get lubricated properly.
Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.
Mileage will never decrease with age, so go out and drive your car!
Service History and Other Documentation
It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. The service history will give you a good idea of how the ST205 you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.
If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any Celica GT-Four and will make it easier to sell the vehicle in the future.
Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.
Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner
- How often do you drive the car?
- When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
- How much oil does it use?
- What oil do you use in the car?
- When was the timing belt replaced ?
- What parts have been replaced?
- Has the turbo been replaced?
- What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle overheated at any point?
- Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
- Is there any money owing on the car?
- Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
- Is there any rust?
- Has rust been removed at any point?
- Has the car been used for track use at any point?
- When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
- Where do you store/park the car usually?
There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.
Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Celica GT-Four ST205
Sometimes, the best option is to simply walk away from a vehicle. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems
- Significant Crash Damage
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power (Over 300 horsepower is asking for trouble)
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engines
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Notes on the Owner
The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their ST205 GT-Four (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying a dog of a car. Below we have listed some things to consider about the owner.
- How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
- Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
- Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
- What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
- How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
- Do they know anything about the ST205 and the model they are selling?
- What can they tell you about previous owners?
- Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
- What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
- What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
- How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?
If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Celica GT-Four ST205. Toyota made quite a few so you should be able to find plenty of good examples out there.
Where to Find a Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 for Sale
Websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, TradeMe, Piston Heads and GumTree are great places to start your hunt for a ST205 GT-Four. You will find a range of GT-Fours for sale at different prices and in different conditions. You can easily compare the price, specs and condition of different ST205s and you will be able to select the ones that look promising.
Dealers and Importers
Most dealers and importers will have an online presence, so make sure you check out their website for any Celica GT-Fours for sale. Dealers tend to be a bit more expensive than private sellers, but sometimes you can get some extras thrown in or better protection.
Websites such as Reddit, Facebook and even Instagram can be excellent places to find ST205s for sale. Check out some of the many enthusiast groups or subreddits and let other users know you are interested in buying a GT-Four. Additionally, social media groups are often great places to find spare parts or get advice from other owners.
This sort of ties in with the above, but many owners’ clubs have their own website or they may not even have a website at all. Look to see if there are any Toyota or GT-Four clubs in your area as these are often great places to find cars for sale or ask for advice.
Importing a Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 from Japan
If you are struggling to find a suitable ST205 in your country, you may want to look at importing one from Japan. A large number of ST205s were sold in Japan, so it is a great place to find them for sale.
Exporting vehicles from Japan is a big business as it keeps the country’s motor industry moving and older vehicles become more expensive to run. Below we have outlined everything you need to know about importing a GT-Four Celica from Japan.
How to Import a ST205 GT-Four from Japan
While importing a ST205 from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually quite easy. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search “GT-Four Celica”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for Celica GT-Fours based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.
Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.
Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get scammed, it can happen, so be prepared. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:
Goo net Exchange – Is one of the biggest vehicle exporters in Japan and they have head offices in Tokyo and Nagoya. They have quite a good selection of Celicas ready for export.
JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.
Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars. They have a number of GT-Four ST205s available for export.
Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles and they have a range of Celicas for sale.
Always read up on any website or auction house you are thinking of using. Look for reviews and feedback from people who have used to service before. While you are unlikely to get scammed, it can happen. Here are some examples of Japanese importers/exporters.
How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?
The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles
They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.
Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.
While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.
Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.
Use the grade to whittle down the number of ST205s you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you.
The Auction Check Sheet
Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a GT-Four and where any problems are located.
Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.
What Does the Number Grade Mean?
- Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
- Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
- Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
- Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
- Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
- Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
- Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
- Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
- Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
- Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade
As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.
The Car Map
The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.
Our Guidelines for Importing a ST205 GT-Four from Japan
- Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
- If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
- Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
- Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
- Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
- Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
- Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
- Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
- Avoid cars with unknown mileages
- Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
- Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws
Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.
Summary of this ST205 Buyer’s Guide
This buyer’s guide should cover most of the information you need to know about the Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205. While the ST205 is not as common as some other Japanese sports cars, there are still plenty of good examples waiting to be found enthusiastic buyers. We will continue to update this article with more information and make sure you check out the useful links section below.
gt4dc.co.uk – Great website and forum that relates to all generations of the GT-Four Celica. We recommend you check out the ‘How to’ guides under the information section.
gt4.mwo.id.au – Contains service manuals, repair manuals and other documents relating to the ST205 and other generations of the Celica GT-Four.
gtfours.co.uk (Superstrut suspension pics) – Contains pictures of all the components of the ST205’s Superstrut suspension.
Alltrac.net – Great forum with lots of knowledgeable owners. You can also find GT-Fours and GT-Four parts for sale here.