Featured: Toyotafest Is A SoCal Testament To Japanese Style

Toyotafest Is A SoCal Testament To Japanese Style

By Alex Sobran
May 8, 2017

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.



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6 years ago

Is that the Century Petrolicious writer Andrew Golseth used to own? You don’t see a lot of those imported to this side of the Pacific. Great photos!

Big Mike Muniz
Big Mike Muniz
6 years ago

Hi Alex,
It was nice seeing you at ToyotaFest. I’m the guy with the orange 1973 Toyota Levin you met at the Petersen Museum and again brought my fully restored green early 1971 Toyota Trueno Sprinter at Toyotafest.

-Big Mike

6 years ago

Reading this article gets me super pumped and I’ll tell you why.

I’m a younger guy who just got his first AE86 a few weeks ago, and got it titled/insured last week. Its in solid shape, but you can tell it sat for a long time and hasn’t been driven regularly. Only thing I have done to it thus far was change the fluids.

This past weekend was the first time actually driving it around town and I put almost 400 miles on it. I didn’t have a single issue, whatsoever; a 33 year old Corolla which hasn’t been touched in god knows how long, just went 400 miles with a turn of a key …. You just can’t beat Toyota’s reliability.

I’ve grown up reading articles like these and the passion these “cults” have for their Toyotas … and I finally experienced first hand what that feels like.

6 years ago

” Interesting ” is not a word I’d use to describe Toyota or Lexus . More like a reliable and dependable old dog that occasionally throws a surprise or two [ such as their WRC glory years and the 2000GT ] into the mix .

Speaking of which … a ToyotaFest with nary a 2000GT or a WRC car to be found ? To quote the Firefly ” character Jubal Early … ” Does that seem right to you ? “… why no Jubal ..it does not … especially when its in LaLaLand SoCal .

As for Toyota winning LeMans … nobody ‘ deserves ‘ to win .. not that it matter much seeing as how the ‘ race ‘ has become totally irrelevant to the point of near relegation .

6 years ago
Reply to  GuitarSlinger

Bland? Perhaps in the US in the modern era, by and large, some models excluded, but take a look at Japanese market offerings or vintage models here. The MR2, arguably the only remotely reliable (or near it, depending on the state of maintenance or modification on a turbo model) mid-engine car is bland? In past years, the Sports 800, 2000GT, Dan Gurney’s legendary IMSA Celicas and an Eagle Mk II GTP have been among the featured goodies. Are these bland? Is the driving experience of a well-maintained (or, if to one’s liking, properly modified (balanced)) Sprinter or Trueno (TE27, AE86), Celica, MR2, Supra, or other great car not fun, and thus bland? No, sir. There’s a reason Toyota’s motto used to be (and in some countries, still is) “Fun to drive.” (I’ll admit that most of it’s offerings nowadays aren’t, but the same applies to many of its competitors.) But you know what is bland? Your trolling. It’s absolutely tasteless.

How has Le Mans become totally irrelevant? Indeed, the current crop of prototypes drew renewed interest in the sport just a few years ago. I will agree that no one “deserves” a win, but Toyota has come heart-achingly close, only to be burned. I think that was more the author’s intent than the implication that a race victory is magically deserved. After all, racing is part hard effort, part good fortune.