At one time, Los Angeles County's South Bay region was the U.S. home for all Big 3 Japanese OEMs—Nissan was in Gardena before it split for Tennessee in 2005; Toyota was in Torrance before it moved to Texas in '17; and Honda is still on its Torrance campus and has been since 1990 (before that they were in Gardena since the '60s). The South Bay is also widely believed to be one of the birthplaces of import street racing in America, a phenomena with roots in the late '70s and early '80s that helped inspire and drive entire new subcultures of car enthusiasts. Get lucky enough to score a ride around the area with a local who's been there forever (we actually have one on staff, who may or may not have engaged in said illicit racing), and after pointing out landmark after landmark, you start to get a sense of the importance of this area to our scene.
In the shadow of one of the last monuments to Nissan's time in California, South Bay Sundays holds its monthly cars and coffee-styled meet on each third Sunday from 7 to 10 in the morning. The get together is held in the actual parking lot of Nissan's old HQ, but these days the building is owned by distributor Tireco. And for December, SBS partnered with Tireco brand Milestar Tires and shop Gasratz Customs to host one of the LA Fire Department and local TV station ABC7's "Spark of Love" Toy Drive events.
South Bay Sundays manager Rob Pia invited us to come check out his event and see what they were all about, and it just so happened to coincide with the Spark of Love Toy Drive. Not dissimilar from what the Purist Group does with its Winter Drive each year, SBS put the word out for donations at this toy drive to help the less fortunate this holiday season, and the enthusiast community, as it always does, responded with open hearts. Some of you might recall Rob's name from our Wekfest LA coverage this year, as we had an instant crush on his Honda Legend, and it was a chance encounter at Winter Drive when he mentioned we should stop by—and we're glad we did.
In a garden in front of the building (one with a plaque that reads: "Landscape Area Donated by Datsun Dealers"), organizers parked Yutaka Katayama's - or more popularly, Mr. K's—1972 Datsun 240Z for the toy drive, the G-nosed personal car of the first president of Nissan Motors USA. Katayama-san, who passed in 2015 at 105 years old, is credited with convincing Nissan to have a headquarters in the US and also championing affordable sports cars for the brand in the '60s and '70s, making him a saint in our eyes. Not far from where Mr. K's Z was stationed sat the "Phantom Z," a one-off, shooting-brake styled S30 Sport Wagon, which was apparently dreamed up by Yoshihiko Matsuo, the original designer of the 240Z.
As a meet, South Bay Sundays very much draws from many different pools of enthusiasts, and in a lot of ways getting three hours for it all seems like not enough. In addition to Japanese and European tuner cars and nostalgia, the event featured lots of domestic fare, from hot rods and rat rods to lowriders and old pickups.
Maybe this clean 1966 C10 with a built Honda Ruckus strapped to its bed was the best expression of the diversity of South Bay Sundays. As a builder, if you're not going to be boxed in by category, this is how you should do it—flawless execution.
We don't know anything about the Lincoln Continental, except that we loved the ones that were at SBS. Most at the event were from the line's fourth generation (we think), and with its boxy design, boat-ish dimensions, and factory suicide doors, the platform is naturally sinister looking. We saw a couple on airbags, too, which kinda makes the model a great candidate for an anti-VIP VIP car.
We cannot betray our mainstays, and there were quite a few great examples at South Bay Sundays that made our hearts race - but the more we come to events like this, the more we appreciate the rare birds in our midst's. It was hard to miss this Toyota Sports 800 primarily because the thing is so tiny—you could probably fit two in an average parking space. The goofy little machine was Toyota's first production sports car and came with a 44-horsepower 800cc engine, putting into perspective how far the brand has come in making fun-to-drive cars.