- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2000

After enduring the energy crunch of 1973 Joe Thomas began questioning the sensibility of owning a 1971 Buick boat-tail Riviera, with its 455-cubic-inch V-8 engine that delivered about 12 miles per gallon.
The recently retired Army officer who made his home in Virginia Beach decided that fuel economy would be increasingly important.
With that decision made he went to the Bill Page Toyota dealership in Falls Church on July 15, 1975, and, by the time the haggling dust had settled, he had purchased a sporty gleaming white 1975 Toyota Celica GT coupe for a total of $4,955.41 including taxes, tags and freight.
The base price was $4,249; however, the $20 for weatherguard, $6.50 for freight, $45 for undercoating and $410 for air conditioning helped boost the price to just shy of $5,000.
Although the Joe Thomas who purchased the car died a decade later, his son, also Joe Thomas, now owns the car and provides a copy of the original window sticker that explains:
"True value is in the 'extras' you don't pay extra for … ."
2.2-liter Hemi-head engine
"GT" sport package includes:
* Wood-grained accent interior.
* Wide radials 185HR/70x13.
* Aerodynamic chin spoiler.
* AM/FM MPX stereo radio.
* Accent racing stripe.
* Five-speed transmission.
* Full sport console.
* GT sport wheels.
* Instruments.
* Tachometer.
* Clock.
Additionally, servo-assisted front disc brakes, brake fluid warning light, transistorized ignition as well as tinted glass and a day/night mirror were included in the price.
The younger Mr. Thomas, a commercial pilot and aviation consultant, recalls his father showing him the car when it was new, proudly displaying the 133.6-cubic-inch, four-cylinder, cast-iron, single-overhead-valve engine with an aluminum head. With a downdraft two-barrel carburetor sipping fuel from the 13.2-gallon tank at a 25 mpg rate the original owner was ecstatic.
Soon after the younger Mr. Thomas inherited the Toyota it began to show its age so in 1990 he had the original white covered with a coat of Jaguar regency red.
"It's the cheapest thrill you can get," he said of a new color on his car. "It's fresh paint for your car and your soul."
In 1994 he had the color changed to a dark maroon, and late last year the Celica received a new covering of Jaguar racing green metallic.
"At any time," Mr. Thomas said, "you are only $200 away from a paradigm shift."
The 14-foot, 3 and 1/2-inch-long car, with only 3 and 1/2 turns of the steering wheel lock to lock, is quite nimble thanks to the 95 and 1/2-inch wheelbase. It can turn around in a 34.1-foot circle. A set of 185/70HRx13-inch tires support the Celica with an independent front suspension and a rigid rear axle.
Owning this car hasn't been a sacrifice at all, Mr. Thomas said. "It never fails and just seems to run and run and run."
He attributes that durability to the fact that the car has the ability to be honest to goodness tuned. "The points, and plugs are easily accessible," he explains.
As the odometer approaches 96,000 miles Mr. Thomas proudly reports, "It still has the original clutch." That's testimony to the senior Thomas' driving habits that were taught to the junior Thomas. "If you drive cars properly and take care of them they will last," he said matter-of-factly.
An unusual feature is the location of the locking gas cap on the sail panel at the left side of the rear window.
"It's still fun to drive," Mr. Thomas said. Continuing, he explains that he enjoys having something his father once owned in order to have some linkage to the past. "I would like to thank him posthumously," he said.
Besides, there are worse things than having a sporty car with an AM/FM stereo with a pair of rear speakers. "It has style," Mr. Thomas said.
The single drawback to the car, according to Mr. Thomas, is that, "In today's sport utility environment, it's too small." The same can be said about a lot of newer cars.
On a brighter note, Mr. Thomas is never reluctant to take his 1975 Toyota Celica GT for a romp on a nearby parkway.
"Time spent driving your favorite car is not subtracted from your allotted time on Earth," Mr. Thomas concludes.

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