Toyota & SoCal: Together Forever
Toyota left its heart in Los Angeles

Toyota and Southern California have been linked since the brand’s very first days in the USA in the late 1950s. The first Toyota dealership in America was located in Hollywood and after that would come the company’s massive American headquarters in the city of Torrance.

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For decades Toyota’s operations have been a major player in the Southern California car industry. But that’s all about to change. Last week, the company announced plans to move much of its US operations to Texas to take advantage of that state’s business-friendly policies.

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While the move to Texas makes compete sense from a business standpoint, Toyota’s large presence in Southern California will be sorely missed. For decades LA has been an epicenter of Toyota enthusiasts – and nowhere is that more evident than at Toyotafest in Long Beach.

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It just so happens that Toyotafest 2014 was held just days after Toyota announced the move to Texas, and there certainly seemed to be a strange aura around this year’s show.

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But at the same time, it was also comforting. Because while Toyota’s corporate operations might be packing up and heading off for greener pastures, the passion for the brand in SoCal shows no signs of fading.

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In typical LA fashion, the weather for this year’s event couldn’t have been better. If anything, it was actually a little on the hot side with a mid-summer feeling despite the fact that we are just a couple days into May. Sunshine and Toyota: two Southern California institutions.

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I consider Toyotafest one of the most enjoyable events on the yearly calendar, and regardless of the fact that it’s limited only to Toyota, Lexus and Scion-branded vehicles – it has one of the most diverse lineups of any car show I’ve been to.

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Spread among the grass near the world famous Queen Mary, you’ll find everything from lifted Land Cruisers and slammed Scions to immaculately restored Celicas. Enthusiasts of all types have been gathering in the SoCal sun for 19 years now to celebrate their love of Toyota.

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While I’ve covered Toyotafest several times, it seems that every year there’s a bunch of cool cars that I’ve never seen before. Sure, there are plenty of familiar ones, but it’s always impressive to see just how many Toyota maniacs come out of the woodwork for this event. Look for more on my favorite cars from the show in an upcoming spotlight selection.

Future classics
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For several years you could say that Toyotafest didn’t offer much by way of modern cars to be excited about. But now that the Scion FR-S has been around for a bit, the contemporary side of the Toyota community is alive and well. Who cares if the engines say ‘Subaru’ on them?

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Needless to say, the variety of modified 86s that came out got me once again wishing I had one of my own. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out, especially after reading about Keith’s adventures with his.

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Even with the popularity of the FR-S you still only see them on the roads occasionally, so it was cool to see so many in one place and all showing different degrees of modification.

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As with last year, one of my favorite cars of the FR-S bunch was this vintage-inspired example with Hayashi Street wheels and other cool details.

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How about a Prius with the same retro-flavored Hayashi wheels? I totally dig this.

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Here’s a Lexus SC – a car that many of us consider modern, but is quickly moving towards classic – or at least, neo-classic territory. Despite its age, the big coupe is still a looker, especially when dropped on a set of Work VS-KF wheels.

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And here’s the predecessor to the Lexus SC – the Z20 chassis Toyota Soarer. These were never sold in the US, but every once in a while you’ll see a rare JDM import on the highways of LA.

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The first generation Lexus GS is another car that still looks great despite its age. I’m sure you’ll agree that it looks even better in full Junction Produce mode.

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No cracked leather here or sun-baked surfaces here. The cabin on this GS looks as good as it did the day it rolled of the Lexus production line.

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It’s always nice to see a strong showing of MR2s at Toyotafest, and this year’s group included this tasty SW20 with candy red RAYS Volk Racing TE37s and plenty of go-fast goods. Talk about a great, if slightly underrated car.

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A 2001 Camry is a car that’s usually reserved for grocery store and college parking lots rather than car shows, but this one is pretty damn cool.

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Because along with  some suspension work and a set of J-Line wheels, the Camry’s 3MZ-FE V6 is wearing a TRD supercharger that takes it right into mega-sleeper territory.

SoCal old school
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When it comes down to it though, the thing that makes Toyotafest truly special are the old cars. From restored ’60s and ’70s Corollas to the great angular Celicas and Supras of the ’80s, this year’s selection of vintage Toyotas did not disappoint.

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As far as these retro Toyotas go, it’s hard to get much better than a TE27 Corolla with a twin cam 2T-G under the hood and TRD TOSCO wheels at all four corners.

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For a while it seemed like few people wanted to play with A60 Celica notchbacks, but I was happy to see big group of them at Toyotafest this year, including this tough looking flared example. Nice touch with the stripes.

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Toyota Crowns are a few and far between in the US, and that’s why it was really cool to see this beautiful S60 wagon out there. I can’t wait for the day when I’ll be able to take my own S50 wagon out here…

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To me, the 70-series two-door coupe is one of the best looking Corollas ever made, and this 1982 example on factory Supra wheels was as clean as it gets. Big thumbs up.

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The first generation Supra never gets a lot of love, so it’s refreshing to see the guys from Japanese Nostalgic Car giving some love to the original.

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How about some love for the front-wheel drive Corolla? Here’s an AE92 sedan with a ton of JDM body parts thrown at it. Very unique.

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As much as we like modified cars, it’s also nice to see totally original examples of cool models – like this factory spec ST185 Celica All-Trac (aka Celica GT-Four).

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How’s this for something a little bit different? It’s an FJ75 Land Cruiser heavy-duty pickup that was originally used by the US Marine Corps during the first Gulf War.

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Finally, we have a fitting car to close out this post – a Celica liftback driven by Dan Gurney in one of the early Long Beach Pro Celebrity Races during the late 1970s. Few events better symbolize Toyota’s ties with Southern California than the annual race on the Long Beach shorefront.

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While Toyota’s large presence in SoCal will certainly be missed when the company moves to Texas, the memories and passion of local enthusiasts aren’t going anywhere.

See you at Toyotafest 2015!

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike



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Cool opening image! Philippine pride right there! :D


Great post Mike!  I didn't realize the Pro Celebrity Race was that old... I looked it up and Gurney won it 4 times, no surprise there :)


Whats the car behind Dan gurney's Celica?
Looks to be some kind of land speed car..

I love the old school toyota's that come out to this. Glad you guys are there when I can't be


Love that the Celica on the header of this article kept the Philippine license plate on. #PhilippinesRepresent


@speedhunters_mike awesome post.. i cant wait til next year for their 20th anniversary.


You had better have spotlights Mike!


You had a nice choice for that Green sweetie as the starter of the post!
The show mus' have been tasted like a Tipico restaurant since you are dealing with cars from the same brand!


No LFA, no Mk4 Supras? The only decent cars are the 1st gen Celica and the FRS's, which are just a Subaru with Toyota badges. PFFFFFFTTTTT!!!!!


What model car is that in the foreground of the 6th pic on the 1st page?


that opening image is epic, how do i download it as a desktop?!


PeterWilliams1You need to view it in presentation mode

turbo BEAMS ae86

cool ae92 and red ae86 hatch..


wheatgod Agree with you, especially with a 1MZ swap


Nice post! That AE92 looks so clean... It makes me wanna go out and buy one
Oh, and I really love how that green Celica has PH plates on it, makes me proud...


wheatgod Chri5 Duncan  Actually the design was held by Toyota, the engineering was done by Subaru. Toyota owns 30% of Subaru so they can tell them to run a few projects if they want. Also, Toyota had done a cross Subaru/Toyota back in mid 60s the Toyota sport 800.


@Poppyheed PeterWilliams1  ah thankyou!


teeson  hope there's an upcoming feature on that car.  :)


theomaralvarado Thank you!


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Lots of Corolla lovin'!


wheatgod I'd love to see another MR Toyota at some point.


JjCruz Thanks. Next year should be fun!


oneslyfox You got it.


K's Yes, I love nothing more than a good sleeper.


teeson SW20 MR2, part of the Toyota collection.


@flushpoke Yeah, a ton of history there. Almost all Celicas up the Scion tC and now the FR-S.


Mike Garrett Awesome! Thanks for linking me to this! You guys should come to the Philippines, check the car scene out, you won't be disappointed!


tomhuang03 Mike Garrett  Well, I agree with him!


Update on Crown wagon when?


What's the name of the white car behind the Celica GT4?
And no.. not the prius :p


@Nobuseri wheatgodChri5 Duncanwhy let facts get in the way ;)  Thanks for the post.  Let's not forget that without Toyota's $$, the car would not have seen the light of day from either badge.  Subaru couldn't afford it on their own, and Toyota didn't want to dedicate their spaces to build it.   Necessity and invention, once again.




wheatgod  Has the super rare Kei Office bumper on it too. Want to get my hands on one of those bumpers.


BenHunter  That'd be a Scion xB.