What has Four Wheels and Darth Vader on its Hood?

By Pete Vilmur

Thought the Star Wars Hummer given away in a national sweepstakes a few years ago was a sweet ride? Well get a load of this stellar street-rod that was given away twenty years earlier by a Southern California Toyota dealership! It was the grand prize in a "Space Fantasy Sweepstakes" that took place during the latter half of 1977.

Designed by John Sladek, chief stylist at Delphi Auto Design in Costa Mesa, California, this modified 1977 Celica GT liftback included customized body components such as a front air dam, fender flairs, rear spoiler, louvers, moonroof, and tinted windows. The interior sported black seats with silver piping along the edges and silver grommets in two rows across the seat back and cushions.

applying the paint applying the paint
But the real magic of this masterpiece was in the paint job. It began with multiple coats of silver pearl paint. Next, the areas that were to sport the Star Wars graphics were masked off and given a base coat consisting of a special "Aero-lac" paint, which was first sprayed onto tinfoil and then transferred to the car body.

This provided a dappled three-dimensional outer space background for the Star Wars graphics, which were created by a combination of freehand airbrushing and intricate stenciling. Scenes from the movie were recreated along the sides while the hood was reserved for a stunning recreation of the famous Tom Jung-designed poster graphic.

Toyota Today Magazine One of the items recalling this long forgotten promotion is the October 1977 issue of Toyota Today, an in-house dealership magazine. The images of the car which appear in this article were drawn from this issue, which features a great photo of the car with the droids and Darth Vader in front of the 20th Century Fox lot. As a Star Wars poster collector, I relish the image of the rare billboard poster hung high on one of the soundstages in the background.

Promotional items that were sent to Toyota dealerships by 20th Century Fox include a poster, a similar counter easel display, a letter from Fox describing the promotion, and a postcard/flyer. I personally aquired the promotional poster and entry blank pad about two years apart and from different sources. Reuniting two obscure pieces of Star Wars display memorabilia was a thrill only a hardcore Star Wars geek would appreciate. Thanks to collector Todd Chamberlain, I was made aware of the countertop easel and postcard as well as the promotional letter. 20th Century Fox Letter

Counter-Top Easel Display The postcard exhibits the same art as the poster/counter display although it is in black and white rather than color. Finally, the letter proves what I had already suspected, that Wonderbread was a contributing sponsor to the promotion, as the poster blurbs about free Star Wars trading cards being available in the bread isles of grocery stores. (Interestingly, the imagery used for this Celica promotion was also employed on the Wonderbread store display seen here.) It also emphasizes Fox's intent to stoke interest in the film through the promotion, as if the company actually needed to give away a free car to sell Star Wars to the masses.

Postcard Front Postcard Back
In any case, it's undeniable that the Star Wars Celica deserves a premier spot in the sometimes fickle realm of collector lore. It was the ultimate '70s prize from the ultimate '70s film. And now it's been lost in the realm of obscurity. But although the fate of this celestial Celica has remained elusive, it's enticing to believe that it's sitting in a dark old barn somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered and restored. But, soberly, we must accept that this retro state-of-the-art Star Wars collectible-extrordinaire was probably long ago chopped up, pieced apart, or allowed to rust away in the corner of an old midwestern scrapyard. Perhaps someone with the know-how will someday track down this holy grail of the custom Star Wars motorcaid. Any takers?
sweepstakes poster sweepstakes entry form
Special thanks are owed to Todd Chamberlain and Duncan Jenkins for their help in assembling images and information for this article.

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