AlCan Adventure: Meet the To-go Cup! (Celica)

Photo: Taylor

For this last cheap car challenge road trip, we did things a little different. For starters, we bought the cars at home and had them shipped. This gave us the ability to have clean titles and registration in our names, which would make border crossing and selling easier. More on that later. This also meant we could have as much or as little time with the cars as we wanted to get them ready.

I’ve detailed my buying the Volvo...

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And George buying the Tracker....

Now it is time to give the Celica some love!

Taylor is a busy man. A busy man with a full schedule living in what is, apparently, a shitty car market. Austin, Texas. The end result of all this is he basically had three days to buy a car. He had a lot of potentials...

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But as he put it:

I quickly learned that, among bottom dollar rides, no one in Austin wants to actually sell their car because they never answer their phone. When they do, they postpone on you. At the end of the weekend, I was only able to get one seller to respond and agree meet with me.

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So he met that person, who was selling a white 1997 Toyota Celica.

When he turned up at the seller’s house, he was... surprised. As he put it, his 2015 XTerra might have been the shittiest car in the neighborhood.... aside from the Celica. This was a fancy gated neighborhood and he wasn’t sure why they were selling a $2,500 shitbox.

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Turns out this family had bought the Celica to teach their teenage sons how to drive stick. Good on them for that, but also that poor clutch!

Anyway, as a final learning experience Dad was going to make the elder son negotiate and complete the sale. If that sounds awkward and uncomfortable... it was. It did, however, come with a fat stack of maintenance paperwork from the previous, non-teenage, owner and some recent work by the current ones.

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Either way, despite some very obvious flaws, the Celica started and ran well, though it smelled a little bit like coolant. That said, the car was a good fit and a bird in the hand, etc etc.

So Taylor put a deal together. Under the watchful eye of the kid’s father, he didn’t get the price down quite as low and he wanted and likely overpaid for the car. At least a little. Then, as Taylor put it...

We called it a deal and Mark’s Dad asked how I intended to pay — a check, money order… Bless. You really don’t do Craigslist cars, do you… You’ve entered a world of internet scams and cash, sir, so here’s a stack of the latter.

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He left the XTerra on the street and drove away in the Celica, eager to start his adventure.

The other shoe

Well... as with all used vehicle purchases, the other shoe dropped days later. While driving, he went to make a turn and, as he put it, the car felt like “it had rocks in its shoes”. Knowing what this car was going to have to go though, he took it to his family mechanic for an evaluation. He also looked over the fat stack of maintenance paperwork that came with it.

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Turns out, a lot of that paperwork was various mechanics recommending work and it being declined. Going back as far as 2017 it was recommended to replace the CV boot as it was torn, and then later both CVs at they’d begun to wear out.

Oh bother....

Photo: Taylor
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He went ahead with the repairs, which thankfully stayed under 4-figures, but declined to have the failing struts replaced.

He also threw on two new tires when it was noted there were two different sizes fitted to the car.

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Also for some reason no one discussed the air bag that was held in with roofing screws. I guess, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to know the answer to some of those questions either.

Photo: Taylor
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Then he drove it to Washington.

Seriously.

While George and I were having a pain of a time getting shipping put together, Taylor was having an even worse time. Turns out shipping a soft-top from Austin to Seattle was... expensive. Like... on par with what he paid for the car.

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As he works remote, he had the option to work from coffee shops and hotel lobbies during the day and make his way to Seattle at night. So that is what he did, the end result saving him well over $1k as it also meant he didn’t have to pay for a flight there.

The trip looks epic and I’m a little jealous I didn’t get a chance to do the same in my Volvo.

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After that, the rest is history. Or, rather, words for a different write up.

Overall

The Celica was a good car.

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It burned/leaked/used oil at an alarming rate, went over bumps like a paint can full of nails, and sounded like a diesel truck on start-up, but it did everything that was asked of it and seemed happy to do it. We put it in situations far outside its comfort zone and it did it with poise and... well not grace but it did it.

I nicknamed it the “TO-GO Cup” because whenever we encountered bears, I choose to believe they thought their Grubhub order just arrived.

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Selling the Celica also proved decidedly easy. Either because it was a $1,500 running, driving car or because it was a $1,500 convertible, we’ll never know.

God speed little Celica!

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