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May the 4th be with you: missing Star Wars Toyota Celica GT

4 May, 2017



Major motion pictures, custom car giveaways, scandal, and a missing Toyota



May 4th each year marks the unofficial Star Wars holiday — if you don’t understand the reference after reading the title, then this article probably isn’t going to be for you.

It’s only fitting then, we take a huge leap back to 1977 when a little film called Star Wars was released and the company producing it, 20th Century Fox, joined forces — see what we did there — with Toyota to customize and give away a ‘77 Star Wars Toyota Celica GT.

The GT was a grand prize in a Star Wars Space Fantasy Sweepstakes, described as being prepared by Delphi Auto Design of Costa Mesa, California, and featured “a specialized [Star Wars] paint job, a moonroof, tinted windows, and block chrome on the outside, along with plush silver carpeting and silver piping on the seats inside.”

Oddly information surrounding the sweepstakes origins are scarce, perhaps due to the loose management of such undertakings in the era, however we do know that four companies were involved: 20th Century Fox, Molly Designs, Delphi Auto Designs, and Mardan-Kane Inc. 

Once completed, it’s alleged that the car was  delivered to 20th Century Fox and by the end of the sweepstakes, it was allegedly delivered to the anonymous contest winner in January 1978. We say allegedly, as this is the last time the car was seen for many, many years, and the company that had built it would soon go out of business — the owner of Delphi was convicted of smuggling hash oil, while one employee was kidnapped, and another, Steve Bovan, was murdered. Some suggest, as the conspiracy goes, that the Celica got caught up in the mess and was never delivered to the winner.

This would tie in well with the fact that there was never an official winner announcement and any further publicizing put on the back-burner — not surprising, considering a company like 20th Century Fox wouldn’t want to be associated with drugs, kidnapping, and murder 

On a lighter note, LucasFilm employee Steve Sansweet — who now runs a museum with the world’s biggest collection of Star Wars memorabilia — saw it in a magazine for sale some 20 years later. He said of the discovery: “Sometime around the late 1980’s or early 1990’s I was reading my monthly issue of Antique Toy World when my eye was drawn to a small black and white ad at the bottom of a page. There it was, the Star Wars Toyota, being offered up for sale by the original owner, who said it was in great shape. Here’s the killer: the asking price was just $1,000. I remember being transfixed and started thinking how I could possibly buy this primo piece of promo history.”

However, for whatever reason, Sansweet didn’t jump on the Celica, and that was the last known sighting to date. 

We wonder what corner of the earth it’s tucked away in now ….

Motorsport Flashback – Kiwi rallying in the 1970s

Rallying arrived in New Zealand in 1973 like a tsunami. It had been only a few years since the sport was introduced here and shortly afterwards Heatway came on board as the sponsor to take rallying to a new level. The 1973 Heatway would be the longest and biggest yet, running in both islands with 120 drivers over eight days and covering some 5400 kilometres. The winner was 31-year-old Hannu Mikkola — a genuine Flying Finn who had been rallying since 1963 before putting any thoughts of a career on hold until he completed an economics degree. The likeable Finn became an instant hero to many attracted to this new motor sport thing. I was one of them.

Think of it as a four-door Cooper

New Zealand Mini Owners Club coordinator Josh Kelly of Dunedin loves his Minis. It’s a family affair. Julie and Mike, Josh’s mum and dad, are just as keen, and they can usually all be found taking part in the club’s annual ‘Goodbye, Pork Pie’ charity run from the North of the country to the South.
But lately Josh’s young head has been turned by some other revolutionary BMC cars. He has picked up a couple of Austin and Morris 1100 and 1300s, which he started to restore — that was until an opportunity arose to buy a rare example stored in a shed.