The Toyota FT-86 Concept has just been officially revealed to the public at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, and despite its ostensible similarity to the AE86 Corolla, there's been a persistent rumor of the return of the Celica nameplate for the car's retail sales debut.
With its rear-wheel-drive layout, 2 + 2 seating configuration and coupe styling, it's a fair question as to which car it more closely resembles. In its later iterations the Celica was a front-driver, but the earliest Celicas, and the cars that spawned the legendary Supra, were rear-drive machines.
The Corolla nameplate in the U.S. has also lived on in the Celica's absence, itself morphing into a budget front-driver. So finding a way to slot the decidedly sporty and un-modern-Corolla-like Toyota-Subaru joint sports coupe into the Corolla range presents its own set of complications. Thus the talk of reviving the Celica badge.
With a 2.0-liter Subaru boxer engine piping 200-plus horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission, the production version of the FT-86 is looking like it will be well up to the task of carrying the Celica flag, especially with an expected starting price of around $25,000.
Fans of the Celica, and especially the Supra, will no doubt cheer the rumors on--discounting the highly exclusive and seriously expensive Lexus LF-A's emergence, the lack of sport cars anywhere under the Toyota umbrella has been too severe for too long. And though Toyota may not be planning a high-performance Supra version--yet, anyway--Subaru is thought to be working on an STI variant of the coupe, though even the standard Subaru sports coupe hasn't yet been given the production green light.
Of course, there's no official confirmation of the Celica's return yet, but with the car due to appear for retail sale by late 2011, Toyota will be laying the groundwork at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office soon enough. As always, we'll keep our ears to the ground to bring you the latest.