While Nissan shunned the GT-R badge for most of the 1980’s, Toyota made good use of it with the A63 Carina GT-R sedan and liftback.
The Carina of the early 1980’s was a versatile car, with many engine options and even a driveline option available later in its life with the Carina FF sedan from 1984. But the car younger enthusiasts were interested in was the RWD GT-R version, first available with the 2T-GEU then later with the 4A-GEU engine, and from 1982 the 1800GT-TR with the 3T-GTEU. With tightening exhaust gas regulations at the time, it marked the end of Toyota’s reliance on carburettor injection, and by 1984 four engines (4A-GEU, 18R-GTEU, 3T-EU and 3T-GTEU) would be available with EFI in the A63 Carina line up. The 3T-GTEU was most memorable as being the first ever twincam turbo engine introduced in Japan.
The GT-R and GT-T versions were available in sedan and liftback models with strut type front suspension, and with semi-tailing arm suspension with a live axle at the rear which shared components with the AE85 Sprinter. This gave the Carina agile handling with it’s very low body weight (995kg) coupled with 160ps and 21.0kg/m from the 3T-GTEU 1.8L turbo that would eventually gain a cult following amongst Toyota fans. The power produced by the 3T-GTEU was the highest in it’s class at the time, with owners giving it the ‘Laser 3T’ nickname. The 4A-GEU Carina GT-R however was the more balanced drive, still showing a tendency to oversteer at the limit which to some was more predictable than the 3T turbo.
The GT-R name was joined by the GT-TR in October 1982, and both these cars along with the TA63 Celica 1600GT-R and 1800GT-TR made a formidable line up which spurred on rivalry with Nissan. Toyota’s rallying exploits at the time were used to advertise the Carina GT-R with images of it sliding around on a dirt track in unison with the GT-TR, with great emphasis put on the technology used to extract class leading horsepower from relatively low capacity engines. Inside, the GT-R and GT-TR were limited to sporty upholstery with simple dials and switchgear which didn’t really differentiate it much from the lower-spec Carina models, although the actual dashboard layout was well designed and even now, 25 years later, still looks good compared to other cars sold at the time.
Change was on the horizon for the Carina though, as rival car makers were introducing front wheel drive models into the class. Toyota decided to respond with the Carina FF 4-door sedan in May 1984. At first it was sold alongside the outgoing RWD models, but when the A63 model lifespan ended, all successive Carina models would be FF only. The FF based Carina GT with a much newer generation of the legendary 4A-GE engine would be resurrected in 1996 and produced until 2001.
Model: Carina GT-R / GT-TR
Total Length/Width/Height (mm): 4325/1665/1390
Engine: 4A-GEU / 3T-GTEU
Max power: 130ps / 160ps
Max torque: 15.2kg/m / 21.0kg/m
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Front suspension: Strut
Rear suspesion: Semi-trailing arm
Text: Justin Karow
Photos: Musashino, GTSpirits