As is often the case, 86 Day here in the UK took place a couple of days after the calendar said it should.
Well, to speak the truth, it took place exactly two months after it really should, but this isn’t the place to petition the international eradication of the frankly ridiculous month/day dating nomenclature.
Hosting this year’s Corolla Brotherhood event – specifically, The 10th Annual Retro Toyota Gathering – not on the right date was possibly a subtle protest against Americanisation, but more likely just because everyone was at work on Thursday.
The venue for Saturday’s modest-sized get-together was the popular Caffeine & Machine in Warwickshire.
Amidst Boris & Co.’s ever-fluctuating regulations and commandments regarding how we should all be conducting ourselves whilst surrounded by floating COVID-19 particles, C&M has come up with a sensible system whereby you have to book to attend, with only a set number of cars per block booking. It works pretty well in truthfulness, keeping the crowd and cars to a sensible number, even if it does take away some of the charm of sitting on the grass bank in the sun all day in anticipation of what might roll in next.
Fingers crossed the ‘old normal’ returns at some point, because I love an unexpected F40 as much as the next person.
Digression aside, the task of gathering any more than a single AE86 in a predetermined place at a predetermined time is never as simple as it sounds.
For a start, there really aren’t that many of them around in the bigger scheme of things. Subtract those currently in pieces, or being rebuilt, and minus those tucked away under tarpaulin like a gradually dissolving savings fund, and there are even less. That’s before you factor in convincing a Corolla owner to drive halfway across the country on one of the hottest days of the year without any air-conditioning (of course they’ve removed it) to meet with other like-minded weirdos.
And then take into account that these are now pretty old cars, and old cars don’t mix well with hot days, traffic and long journeys. In fact, this gathering was three cars short straight away simply because one broke down on the way, meaning the other two in the convoy stuck with him in solidarity. A service station beside a motorway somewhere down south unwittingly hosted the UK’s second largest AE86 gathering on Saturday.
Ultimately none of this mattered because, as I’ve come to learn over the years when attending Corolla Brotherhood events, the annual AE86 gathering isn’t about the number of cars that show up, but rather the community that surrounds this Japanese automotive icon.
Several of the attendees are recovering Corollaholics, while a few are aspiring fans yet to experience their first ‘hit’. Some, like myself, have no interests in the automotive equivalent of self-flagellation, but we like the people and vibe surrounding those that do. Plus, making fun of your mates’ weird hobbies is what makes friends, friends.
Other retro Toyotas come hand-in-hand too, and are welcomed by all.
This annual event gives us the chance to catch up with familiar faces, as well as meet new ones with a shared interest. The very fact that this happened at all amidst the current pandemic was seen as a godsend by many. For some, this was the first real ‘car thing’ that’s happened this year – a welcome break from WFH, Zoom quizzes and banana bread.
As much as we all interact online in ever increasing amounts, there’s something to be said about gathering on a sunny summer’s eve and talking about everything and nothing in particular. Cars were meant for driving and people for gathering – as long as we all continue to do both in a sensible and respectful way there’s no reason why we can’t look forward to more days out like this.