Here's What Likely Happened To The Star Wars Toyota Celica

The "Star Wars" universe has always been very, very commercialized. Beyond the multitude of Star Wars action figures and accessories released by Kenner starting in the late '70s, beyond posters and lunch boxes and custom check blanks. There've been some spectacular Star Wars vehicles, too. Not just Hot Wheels toys or tiny vehicles for kids, we're talking about real full-sized vehicles, here. While there have been a number of limited-edition well-publicized Star Wars vehicles released in the past few decades, today we're talking about a real mystery. 

The vehicle in question is a silver and black 1977 Toyota Celica covered in "Star Wars" related imagery. The car was decked out with classy customizations like the original movie poster on the hood, film cells of various ships along the sides, and a stripe along the bottom of each door with the words "Star Wars Celica." All this was topped off with a custom black leather interior with white pinstriping.

The car was intended to be given away as the grand prize of a sweepstakes from both 20th Century Fox and Toyota, but the situation surrounding the promotion got... complicated. To the point that nobody has been able to figure out where the car is now.

So what's the story?

It's not entirely clear what's happened to the car over the past several decades, but that hasn't stopped fans and enthusiasts from trying to piece it all together. In a 2015 story from Fox News, it seemed that while the sweepstakes did run from September through December 1977, whether or not a winner was selected and who they may be is still a mystery. Though in a similar report from The A.V. Club, also from 2015, former Lucasfilm employee and creator of Rancho Obi-Wan Steve Sansweet stated that the car didn't disappear into the ether until the late '80s or early '90s — implying that the studio had some inclination of who the owner was up to that point.

An extensive (though not fully verifiable) timeline of events surrounding the promotion and disappearance of the Star Wars Celica is available from Speed Hero, but the short version is thus: in or before October 1977, 20th Century Fox and Toyota had a 1977 Celica pace car completed with a Molly body kit by now-defunct Delphi Auto Design, the sweepstakes began, and then Delphi found itself facing charges for smuggling, kidnapping, and murder. Seriously. As the company that was producing their grand prize faced so many serious allegations, Fox and Toyota most likely decided that it would be best to quietly write the whole thing off.

Where is it now?

While it's difficult to verify the information provided by Speed Hero, the documentation does at least appear to be legitimate. This means that either a winner was chosen for the Star Wars Celica contest or the vehicle was simply given to an employee. Whichever person attained the vehicle at that point seems to have attempted to turn around and sell it sometime in the late '80s or early '90s via an ad in the back of Antique Toy World magazine (also according to a quote attributed to Steve Sansweet). After that, the trail disappears.

Due to the decades between the sweepstakes and now, many of the people who might have known what happened to the Star Wars Celica have either passed away or have long since forgotten where any paperwork has been filed away. Aside from a handful of promotional images and some in-progress photos, there isn't much documentation to show that the car even existed in the first place — let alone reveal its current whereabouts. So far, despite years of searching, nobody has been able to turn up so much as a vehicle identification number.

Though even if the car is eventually located, it may be for naught. Car enthusiast and missing vehicle tracker Dean Shada explained to Fox News that in his search he managed to speak to the two men who airbrushed the details onto the Star Wars Celica. And according to them, the clear coat used to protect all of the imagery wasn't very effective, meaning that unless someone was taking very good care of the surface most of those details have probably long since faded.