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 |   |  From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest
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From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

100+ photos recalling two and a half decades of the Southern California Toyota, Lexus and Scion institution.

Bob Hernandez
Jul 6, 2020
Photographer: Super Street Archives

This would have been ToyotaFest's 25th year were it not for the global pandemic we're currently living through halting all car shows in California. Founded, organized and hosted to this day by the Toyota Owners and Restorers Club (TORC), it is the largest West Coast gathering of Toyota cars, ranging from old school, modified retro-rods, restorations-in-progress and fully restored, to new-school entries that now include the OEM's other brands, Lexus and Scion. Over the years it's been called informally the "TORC" show and formally "All ToyotaFest," a reference to a time when the event was only Toyota branded vehicles, but everyone nowadays just seems to call it simply ToyotaFest.

Toyota has been in the US for over 60 years, selling its first Toyopet to the general public in 1957. Since then, a lot of models have come Stateside, and even more have emerged in Japan, and somehow most of it (certainly all of the domestic US lines) gets represented at ToyotaFest. The car show is, for all intents and purposes, a look at the entire evolution of a brand from beginning to end, all at once. There aren't many times when something like that is possible, especially considering that nearly every car at the event is privately owned.

You can pick a model-themed section at the show and literally walk through that vehicle line's history surrounded by examples. This is especially fun with cars like the MR-2 and Supra; when an OEM's entire anthology is laid out before you, it suddenly reveals all the layers that have gone into what's current. There are also ample oddballs from Toyota's long road map, from limited editions like the Celica All-Trac to forbidden fruit like the host of JDM machines that usually come out for ToyotaFest. Of course, the majority of entries are modified, adding a different wrinkle of appreciation for these cars.

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For as long as we've been attending, the event has been anchored in Long Beach, Calif., initially at the local city college before shifting to the Queen Mary events park for several years and then eventually putting down roots in 2017 at Marina Green Park on Shoreline Drive (off the same stretch of road used for the annual grand prix's front "straight"). Toyota Motor Sales, USA's offices and the Toyota USA Automobile Museum used to be nearby in Torrance, which is likely why all of the ToyotaFests have been in that part of Southern California.

In the modern era, ToyotaFest is massive—north of 600 registered cars on display last time we asked. Our archives of ToyotaFest photos is also pretty deep, although full disclosure, the Super Street vault we currently have available to us only goes back to about 2005, around the time the event was at Long Beach City College. Indeed, this gallery has tons of Supra, Celica and Corolla, but virtually everything sold in the USA (and some models that weren't) is in the photo album; even some famous race cars from the museum. We're always bummed when a show as uniquely rich and satisfying as ToyotaFest gets cancelled, and losing it for one year is certainly suck city—but it is just one event, and for now we have our years of coverage to look back on to keep the fires alive until next time.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Falken AE86 Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

We've had a handful of pro-drift AE86 Corolla at ToyotaFest over the years, like Taka Aono's Falken-liveried Formula D car ...

24 Years of ToyotaFest Yasu Kondo Hachiroku Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

... Yasu Kondo's RHD Trueno for FD with S13 Silvia headlights ...

24 Years of ToyotaFest John Russakoff AE86 Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

... and John Russakoff's Formula D hachiroku, which he also campaigned in the Gymkhana Grid Ken Block Invitational back in 2010.

24 Years of ToyotaFest JGTC JZA80 Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest
24 Years of ToyotaFest JGTC Supra Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

And speaking of famous race cars, anyone recognize this Mk 4 Supra? It was run in the JGTC in Japan by sponsor 5Zigen but ended up in the US, nabbed by an ex-editor of the magazine Import Tuner (talk about a dream car!)

24 Years of ToyotaFest Mk4 Supra Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

Joe Recinos's JZA80 is a more recent Supra from ToyotaFest we fell in love with. There's so much going on with this car, from the custom Midnight Purple paint to the RHD-conversion to the 833hp its 2JZ-GTE puts down.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Corolla 02 Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

These second-gen. (E20) Corolla—dubbed "Mangos" by enthusiasts—were arguably the first Toyotas to be tuner friendly, as they were the first to come from the factory with performance options.

24 Years of ToyotaFest FiveAxis xB Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

When Scion was around, they had a pretty tight relationship with Troy Sumitomo and his design house, Five Axis. They created this first-gen. xB mobile DJ booth—aptly called the DJxB—for Scion to show off at events like the SEMA Show, but for a few years it was also a common sight at ToyotaFest.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Starlet Drag Car Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

"La Delia" is an 11-second drag-racing Starlet that used to be a daily driver but has now been put out to pasture. In front is a turbocharged 3T-C inline-4 on meth under the hood, and in back is a set of the meatiest Goodyear slicks you will ever see on a car this small.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Lexus GS 02 Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

If you're inviting Lexus to ToyotaFest, then you're going to necessarily have some VIP cars in the mix, like this GS. To learn more about the look and its history, check out our recent piece explaining VIP.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Specter Offroad FJ45 Land Cruiser Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest

ToyotaFest is also a friendly den of Toyota's truck and SUV offerings from over the years, with growing numbers of Land Cruisers seeming to turn up with each succeeding year. This six-wheeled FJ45 from a few shows ago enlightened us to a version of the platform we never even knew existed.

24 Years of ToyotaFest Celica Corolla Photo 124/124   |   From the Sublime to the Ridiculous - Looking Back at 24 Years of ToyotaFest
By Bob Hernandez
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