With the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to hit the theater screens shortly, a little bit of history has come to light. It seems a Toyota Celica car was offered in a sweepstakes back in 1977 when the original Star Wars movie was about to open. That car has an interesting story.
When the original Star Wars film was launched in 1977, car company Toyota teamed up with 20th Century Fox to get a bit of business exposure by offering a “Star Wars Celica” as a prize in a sweepstakes, along with some Star Wars T-shirts. The car was a two-door Liftback GT, with customized bodywork, similar to Toyota’s Formula One pace cars. The car had a black leather interior with white pin striping and an airbrushed glove box.
According to Speed Hero, the vehicle had an iconic Star Wars movie poster airbrushed on to the hood, with several images taken from film cells of the 1977 film adorning the sides. The original ad for the contest is included below.
— Penny Kinsella™ (@feastorafamine) November 6, 2015
The Star Wars Toyota Celica contest was launched in September 1977 and ran through December, and the winner was supposed to be announced early in 1978. However, the winner, if there was ever one, is to this day unknown, as there is a tasty bit of scandal relating to the iconic car.
It turns out that the company that did the work on the Toyota Celica, Delphi Auto Design in Costa Mesa, California, was found to be involved in a string of kidnapping, drug, and murder charges and went out of business just after the Star Wars car was created.
The car was, however, delivered to 20th Century Fox some time before October, and photos of it were taken. Have a gander at the fancy Star Wars Toyota Celica below with Darth Vader and C3PO working on the car’s engine while R2D2 supervises the work.
— N. Hollywood Toyota (@NoHoToyota) November 5, 2015
Most likely because the various corporations involved in the film wished to distance themselves from the controversy, the contest just sort of fell off the radar. No winner was announced, and with this being in the ancient pre-Internet days, nothing further was heard.
However, the Star Wars Toyota Celica may be gone, but it wasn’t forgotten. Over the years, fans of the popular movies have made several attempts to track the car down, and now it looks likely that the car could possibly be found.
Marden-Kane, a promotions company based in New York is the company that originally ran the sweepstakes, and their general manager, Alan Richter, told Fox News they no longer have any records from back then. However, apparently Fox’s representatives were not the only people to recently inquire about the iconic car.
It seems an indie screenwriter and producer by the name of Dean Shada, who tracks the more interesting missing vehicles in his spare time, is now involved in a search for the Star Wars Toyota Celica. Shada is reportedly acting on behalf of an “interested party” in the movie business. Possibly someone involved in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
— Hoover Toyota (@Hoovertoyota) December 11, 2014
Shada has been looking for the car for around four months now, but has experienced a few dead ends along the way. With all the records of the sweepstakes destroyed or lost, it makes the search difficult for him, but he has apparently spoken with everyone imaginable about the car, including the widow of the man who originally designed the vehicle, John Sladek.
Reportedly Sladek was not involved in the actual scandals relating to the company and passed away back in 2013, but it seems many of the files and photos relating to the famous car remain. These include the Vehicle Identification Number, which is a vital clue in tracking the car down.
With the help of some people at Toyota HQ, Shada is now exploring every avenue of the car manufacturer’s records, and while this is going on, Marden-Kane apparently has some new ideas relating to old tax returns that might point to the payout the car would have represented, if it was ever handed on to a winner.
The car would be a definite valuable find as John Kraman of Mecum Auctions prices 1977 Celica GTs in good condition at anything up to $15,000. Of course, the Star Wars car, especially if still carrying its original paintwork, would go for a lot more.
There was an example of a “tastefully modified” Celica that currently has a $50,000 policy, and with the car in question being related to Star Wars, the sky is the limit.
However, whether that fancy paintwork still exists is unlikely as, according to the guys who did the original airbrushing, they had problems with the clear coat they used. They said it deteriorated quickly, and if it wasn’t cared for correctly, the iconic images may have faded fast.
If this incredible car could be found, it would be the ultimate in Star Wars memorabilia, and Shada continues his search, saying he is confident that someone out there must know something. With most folks connected to the Internet these days, maybe someone will spot an article relating to the Toyota Celica and get in touch with Shada.
If a reader of this article knows something, anything, about the lost Star Wars Toyota Celica, they can get in touch with Shada at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is obviously a reward involved, so “May the force be with you” if you do know anything about the lost car.
Just for fun, below is a photo taken in 1976 during the filming of the first Star Wars movie.
[Photo by Jesse Grant /Getty Images Entertainment]