Sometimes the most interesting events turn up in your own backyard. That was the case last Saturday, June 2, when this writer happened upon the 23rd annual Toyotafest, a celebration of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles of all genres, ages and conditions.
Held on a nearly half-mile stretch of grass knoll next to Shoreline Drive, home to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach start/finish straightaway, the event attracted more than 550 cars and trucks from all over the west coast - and some from places even further afield. In fact, there was a Starlet flown over from Hawaii for the occasion!
Across the street from the venue, Toyota set up an autocross course with rides and drives available to attendees who wanted to try out the new 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Expert racers like Dan Gardner and Craig Stanton were on hand to assist drivers in learning the tricky course.
Put on by TORC, the Toyota Owners and Restorers Club, the event has grown from a small gathering of the faithful to this enormous display of Toyota pride. Toyota brought along a polished Mirai, their hydrogen-powered sedan, and a Tundra truck for event-goers to ogle. Local dealer Cabe Toyota had a big presence at the gathering, and there were vendors stacked along the parking lot apart from the display of vehicles.
S800 - Toyota's First Sports Car
One gentleman from Oregon trailered his targa-topped Toyota Sports 800, of which only 3,300 were built in total, including about 300 left-hand-drive cars. The one pictured was delivered to its original owner from a Toyota dealer in Guam late in 1967; it was sold to the second and current owner - who stalked the original buyer for years - in 2015. It is unrestored, aside from the seats, and is powered by an air-cooled, two-cylinder four-stroke engine of 800cc.
1972 Sleeper Celica
A crowd favorite was the 1972 black right-hand-drive Celica that looks docile at first sight. With its superb paint and polished chrome, it could be an everyday driver - until one pops the hood and sees the magic inside. This Celica is built for the quarter-mile and is expected to turn times in the nine-second bracket when it hits Northern California tracks later this summer. It, too, was towed to the event.
Rust Bucket or Hot Rod?
Most of the display vehicles were driven to the site. While many cars and trucks were restored, quite a few were not, including some with patina that could easily be considered rust. After prize-giving for restorations and originality in many different classes for the multitude of models on display, this large, sun-drenched crowd headed out to take their cars on the Long Beach Grand Prix course as they headed home. The noise of aftermarket exhausts was a symphony to the ears on a Saturday afternoon.
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.
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