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The Bad “Baby Camaro”: An Old School Toyota Celica with a Supercharged LS Secret

Toyota first introduced a brand-new sporty model, called the Celica, in the early 1970s. A common response on this side of the Pacific was that the little coupe with the funny name looked and felt a lot like a pint-sized American pony car. And even today it’s hard to look at a first-gen Celica and not have your mind draw immediate parallels to both the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro of the ‘60s.

top passenger side front of LS v8 swapped Toyota Celica white

In the years that followed its debut, the Celica would go on to create a personality and market all its own — all the way to the model’s demise in the mid 2000s. But those early cars have always been loved for their scaled-down American looks.

LS V8 swapped toyota celica

And what happens when you take one of those “baby pony car” Celicas and give it the supercharged V8 heart of real muscle car? You get Juan Preciado’s radical 1974 Celica.

Humble Beginnings

Before it became the monster you see here, the car originally belonged to Juan’s mother and sat in the California high desert for many years before Juan found it again and put it back on the road. Initially, Juan stuck with the Celica’s original four-cylinder carbureted engine. But he soon found he was having a hard time keeping up with fast-moving LA traffic. To call his solution to that problem overkill would be a massive understatement.

driver side profile of Nitto NT555RII tire on a 1974 Toyota Celica

The Heart of a Muscle Car

He first considered doing the Toyota/Lexus 1UZ V8 swap. But the amount of work it would require, and the scarcity of aftermarket options soon had him looking toward the mighty GM LS family of V8s instead. Sure, the purists among the vintage Celica community would object, but Juan was building this car for just one person, himself.

Supercharged GM LS V8 in a Toyota Celica

As you’d expect, dropping a modern 5.7L American V8 into a tiny Japanese car from the ‘70s was going to require some work, but Juan was up for the challenge. His motto throughout the build was, “If it doesn’t work at first, figure out how to make it work.” He did all of the heavy wrenching himself, and although the fab work is extensive, he took great care to keep things looking clean.

front view of a custom 1974 Toyota Celica

He kept the engine bay as stock as possible but wound up basically re-fabbing the whole bottom of the car, from raising the transmission tunnel for the T56 transmission to custom- mounting a much beefier Ford nine-inch rear end to handle the V8 power.

tail pipe and rear end of 1974 Toyota Celica

And while most would agree even a bone stock LS would provide more than enough power for the featherweight Toyota, Juan went even further and did extensive intake mods to add a Vortech V2 supercharger setup originally designed for a 5.0 Mustang.

Bringing the Heat

With the car being so small, space was at a premium. A custom rear-mounted radiator setup was required, which Juan says has no problem handling the heat of the blown LS.

radiator in the trunk of a highly modified 1974 Toyota Celica

In total, the new setup is good for 650 horsepower and 685 pound feet of torque, which are insane figures when you consider the car weighs just 2,350 pounds. For reference, that’s about half the weight of something like a modern Challenger Hellcat.

Big Meats for the Streets

Getting that supercharged V8 power down to the ground are a set of Nitto NT555 RII drag radials in a fairly modest 275/50R15 size, mounted on a set of rare 15-inch Epsilon three-piece mesh wheels. Juan says he’s been tempted to go with a larger wheel so he can run a larger, wider tire but the car was built with the old school 15s in mind, and he doesn’t plan on changing them.

Nitto NT555 RII tires on the back axle of an LS V8 swapped Toyota Celica

Finally, there’s the one-off wide-body exterior, which uses a set of Rocket Bunny flares originally designed for a Scion FR-S that just happen to match the first-gen Celica’s fenders perfectly and complete the old school street machine look.

Rocket Bunny Fender flares on a 1974 Toyota Celica

A Stylish Sleeper

Given how much work has gone into it, it’s not surprising that Juan more or less considers the build complete. He’s debating on whether he wants to put a roll cage on it and may upgrade the audio system, but for now his plans are mainly just to get out and have fun.

Sorry Toyota purists, the LS wins another one.

Custom LS V8 swapped 1974 Toyota Celica Rear end view

Hard Facts: 1974 Toyota Celica


Juan Preciado


GM 5.7 Liter LS1 V8 swap, Keith Black pistons, BTR camshaft, Fitech intake manifold, Vortech V2 supercharger, MSD coilpacks, MSD two-step with launch control, Fitech stand-alone harness, custom-built exhaust system, custom rear-mounted tri-radiator setup

Horsepower & Torque

650 horsepower, 685 lb feet of torque on 91 octane


T56 Magnum six-speed manual transmission, McLeod RST clutch, custom Ford 9” rear end with Yukon 3.55 LSD, Currie axles

Suspension & Steering:

T3 front spindles, BC Racing AE86 front coilovers, T3 big brake kit with Wilwood calipers, BC Racing rear coilovers, custom-fabbed front and rear sway bars, custom rack and pinion steering with electric assist

Wheels & Tires:

Epsilon three-piece mesh wheels 15”x9.5 (front) 15”x11 (rear) 235/50R15 tires (front) 275/50R15 Nitto NT555 RII drag radials (rear)


Custom wide body adapted from Rocket Bunny FR-S kit, front chin spoiler, rear ducktail spoiler, LED lighting


Sparco R600 seats, Grant steering wheel, Fitech touchscreen instrument panel


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