Toyotafest Is A SoCal Testament To Japanese Style
Photography by Alex Sobran
Toyota is one of the more interesting car manufacturers in the world, and though seemingly a horrible argument in favor of that statement, I think a lot of it has to do with how mass-market the company is. How many others simultaneously compete at the top levels of prototype racing (if any marque deserves a win at Le Mans, it is without question Toyota) while also building the best-selling car of all time? The over 40 million Corollas in the world over certainly make a strong statement that the company producing those cars is doing something right.
The revolutionary ideas of Toyota are not those of underdog racing victories or avant garde supercars, though they are no less impactful. While the marque’s stories of hyper-efficient production and supply chain management can never match the legendary racing tomes that belong to the shelves of motorsports’ darlings, it is sometimes these less-sexy histories that bring about the kind of enthusiasm on display at this past weekend’s 22nd edition of Toyotafest.
It’s a brand that’s spread itself over so much ground—endurance racing, NASCAR, off-road racing, CART, INDY, and on and on and on—that it comes as no surprise to find out about the dedicated followings generated by these efforts in racing. It really is a brand for everyone. Of course, that label comes with the usual connotations of failed-communism and a grey homogeneity that trades away personality for productivity, and sure, if you’re talking about the Lada that might be an apt if not slightly unfair description, but levying this kind of labeling on Toyota is more than a little bit naive.
I will say my hatred for the “Jan” Toyota commercials falls only slightly short of Chevy’s insultingly contrived situations of “Real People” that we’ve been subjected to over the last few years, but these ads featuring focus-group-created characters who are seemingly overcome with joy to find out their new car comes with the option to purchase satellite radio are not indicative of the brand’s true fans.
Because Toyota has built so many cars over time, it’s bound to build up some pockets of enthusiasm for the products that deserve it. And this is another very unique aspect of how the company’s been received by the world: the devotees that crop up around Toyota products form totally distinct fandoms. If you’re swayed by a Ferrari 288 you likely like the F40 too, but when it comes to Toyota there is a lot less of crossover, which is kind of funny for a company that makes so many. And I’m not saying that the guy with Kaido Racer-style exhaust pipes doesn’t understand the draw of a bone-stock FJ, but there’s no denying the juxtapositions to be found within this single brand’s products. There are few other gatherings where a tubbed and 1JZ-powered classic Celica shares space with an all-original Japanese-market Century with its doily curtains drawn.
There were rows of Supras showing off their souped-up guts no more than a few yards from a clump of Corollas, themselves adjacent to a long procession of MR2s beyond which a pack of Land Cruisers sat as a reminder of the vast amounts and scope and scale that have come from Toyota over the years. I met all kinds of people who were into all kinds of cars, but they were all here for one reason or another because of Toyota. So the next time you’re stuck in traffic behind a geriatric doing 20-below in a new, white Camry, remember that there’s also someone aiming a hachi-roku at the next apex too.