Owners and fans of Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs took over Long Beach, CA’s Marina Green park adjacent to the Pacific Ocean the first Sunday in June, in order to celebrate their love of the Japanese manufacturer’s products. There were vehicles from the late 1960s, early 1970s all the way up to the latest, fifth generation Toyota Supra, a recently revealed 2020 model.
Going in search of unusual Toyota models isn’t difficult, as Toyota has produced many vehicles with short run cycles. Searching for owner-developed vehicles is even easier, as Toyota fans love to show their affection for their chosen brand by making adjustments ranging from decals to full-out art cars. Call it sublime to ridiculous – all were available to see and enjoy.
The day dawned with what Californians refer to as “June gloom,” perfect for the first day of the month. Gray skies and a light early-morning mist failed to stop the line-up of cars and trucks from finding their way down Shoreline Drive, part of the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit. Vehicles were directed to peer groups on the grass, lawn chairs were deployed and stories told from early morning to late afternoon.
This 24th annual Toyotafest, held by the Toyota Owners and Restorers Club, brought vehicles of every generation and model. Included among the rarities were Steve Alpert’s 1969 four-door Toyota Corona sedan, an original, unrestored beauty in blue with about 25,000 miles. As expected, it drew a crowd, as did a nearby pale blue Carina two-door, only brought to the USA for a few years and also in original condition.
MR2’s of all vintages, including hard-top versions, Prius models trying to look like hotrods and indeterminate models all lined the grass. There were Camry sedans with exhaust systems that never saw the inside of a Toyota factory, an xB homage to one particular Kentucky bourbon, 4Runner camper specialties, Land Cruisers and Corollas, Starlets, Matrix’s, 86’s, even an Echo no one would want to underestimate.
The black Echo, a car customarily appreciated for its fuel saving attributes, has been massaged to worthiness with a 1ZZ-FE engine swap that’s been supercharged and boasts AEM S4 engine management, a 6-speed manual transmission, RPS clutch & flywheel, KAAZ limited slip differential, stitch-welded chassis, custom valved Teins suspension and Swift springs. It looks pretty stock; it goes like stink!
After looking over the fifth generation Supra at the end of the day and watching earlier members of that family park next to the latest version for selfies, I noticed two right-hand-drive sedans to the side. There were a Toyota Century, known for its conveyance of Japanese royalty and heads of state, and a Crown, a sedan normally used as a taxicab.
The Century sedan lives in Chatsworth now and its owner, an import/export dealer, said he had a lovely 80-mph ride to Long Beach for the festivities. The Century, he said, is a very comfortable sedan whose V-8 Hemi engine is great for touring. His neighbor with the Crown, powered by a V-6, said he purchased the sedan for its comfort. A nice selection of Japanese-style white seat and headrest “doily” covers kept the upholstery nice and clean.
As drivers left the site at late afternoon, the cacophony of uprated exhaust systems was music to the ears. Thankfully, Long Beach Police Department appeared to be looking the other way as Toyota fans showed why they love their cars so much.