By all accounts, compiling over two decades worth of successful annual gatherings, especially in the import automotive world, is almost unheard of. While many of you were daydreaming about cars in your third-period History class, the Owners and Restorers Club, or T.O.R.C., was busy organizing the first Toyotafest. Over 20 years later and not only is the gathering still around, but its attendance towers over its early days.
Multiple new generations have jumped into the yearly celebration, and while some have retired and moved on, more often than not walking through the event reveals countless stories being shared by people that have been involved with the brand and the gathering since their teenage years - sometimes even earlier. And in terms of participation, it doesn't matter if your passion lies between the fenders of an early '80s chassis or a more modern option, Toyotafest is open to everyone.
For the past three years the event has taken place at the Marina Green Park on Long Beach's scenic Shoreline Drive. The park takes up an entire city block and by the time the Toyotafest roll-in is complete, the majority of that real estate is full of display vehicles. This year's event boasted over 500 registered vehicles on-hand.
Organization is key to an event this big and Toyotafest's staff has things well under control, moving cars through the lot and on to their patch of grass seamlessly while also grouping models together so that visitors are greeted by a section loaded with Supras (you'll see in Pt. II), another overtaken by MR2s, another filled with lifted pick-up trucks and the list goes on. The multi-generational sectors gave the entire event a much more tailored fit, so to speak, and offered show goers a different take on the same chassis as they sat side-by-side.
Dark clouds and a short burst of early morning drizzle threatened to invade but once the gates were open, visitors remained dry throughout the day. Toyota was in attendance showing off their controversial 2020 Supra along with the Hakone 86 and in the parking lot that runs parallel to the show area, various venders were on hands alongside enough food trucks to meet the demand of a packed show that saw the arrival of attendees continue until the final minutes of the event.
The number of old-school builds used to dominate the show, but things seems to have evened as of late. And while you'll still find plenty of iconic '70s and '80s-era chassis...
Favorites from the '90s making their way to the show have definitely picked up.
With all of the widebody FR-S and 86 builds floating around, you might think that a stock-bodied version would get lost in the shuffle. Truth be told, if the hood wasn't popped, this clean example might not have drawn us in for a closer look.
Fortunately the bay was on display, and for good reason. The completely custom affair features titanium tubing snaked throughout the turbo-equipped bay and a liberal use of XRP hoses and fittings to help get the point across that the majority of attention was turned toward the powerplant. A number of other slick additions, like the titanium dipstick brought in from Thailand and the deletion and remounting of select items around the engine itself made for one of the best 86 platform bays we've seen in a while.
Admittedly, we were somewhat disappointed when we only found a small number of mid-'80s Corollas in attendance. The "AE86" serves as a hero car to Toyota fanatics and we expected to see a full row of the icon. What we didn't find in quantity, however, was replaced by some real quality - proven by this sleek black coupe on SSR Mk III.
Right in the middle of the park sat a group of first- and second-generation MR2.
The mid-engine, RWD dynamo has been used for countless engine swaps, some of which are Toyota derivatives and usually 6-cylinder based, like this all-aluminum 3.5L 2GR-FE. Found in a long list of Toyota's from the Avalon to the Venza, SW20 owners have relied on this swap for many years, and these days there are complete swap kits available to make the process painless.
This '94 MR2 was a standout in a few different ways. First, the simple exterior that features a small serving of TRD livery tastefully applied and highlighted by a set of Work Meister S1s couldn't have been any cleaner.
Walk around to the car's hips and another 2GR-FE swap is in place, but sits within a spotless engine bay topped off with a supercharger. And before you assume it's a trailer queen due to its level of cleanliness, the owner actually drove the car all the way down from Canada to make the event!
Of course, some choose to work with their car's native powerplant and make major improvements over what Toyota originally offered.
Not far away was a concentration of MR-S builds on display - a chassis that, much like its MR2 predecessor, never got as much of the spotlight as it should have.
The current crop of lifted Tundra, Tacoma, and 4 Runner builds sporting wheel and off-road tire packages seems to increase in popularity daily and has become the source of industry buzz over the last few years with no signs of letting up.
You're used to seeing turbos and superchargers mounted up front on the 86/FR-S/BR-Z chassis but this WORKS Stage II turbo kit flips things around a bit. Armed with a Garrett GT28 ball-bearing snail and an air-to-liquid intercooler that runs across the top of the engine bay, the system retains a number of OEM pieces, including the factory airbox and catalytic converters.