Event Coverage: Toyotafest 2012 T.O.R.C. Part I

Toyotafest 2012

You’ll hear a lot of words when it comes to describing Toyota and their respective sub-divisions Lexus and Scion. Reliable. Comfortable. Beige. Durable. Fuel-efficient. Quiet. Dull. Beige. Rarely do you hear words like awesome, powerful, exciting, or even fast. However, the people who spout the former are either haters or uninformed. As one of the premier automotive powers in the world, Toyota is the equivalent of one Dr. Bruce Banner. Calm and unassuming until it [Toyota] feels the need for speed, Toyota has demonstrated time and time again that when it wants to, it can and will, make machines that’ll tear your face off. The annual Toyotafest held in Long Beach, organized and held by the Toyota Owner’s and Restorer’s Club (or T.O.R.C.), is a celebration of those machines and then some.

As a longtime fan of the brand, I owe a lot to Toyota from where I am today. It was a Toyota that chauffeured my family and I around for the majority of my childhood and teenage years. It was a blazing orange Toyota that got me into the car scene into the first place. And today, by my hard-earned choice, it is a Toyota that zips me through and around the mean streets of SoCal, one traffic jam at a time. Needless to say, I was pumped for this year’s Toyotafest and wouldn’t attend it like the clueless spanner I was last year (forgetting to charge my camera). Commence the coverage.

A huge benefit of car shows dedicated to brands is the often unbelieveable organization of the show itself. Walking in, all spectators were immediately introduced to the best the Lexus community had to offer and the big-bodied GS series was up first.

The VIP scene has been hot in Japan for quite some time, but only in the past few years has the philosophy really caught on fire with enthusiasts here and Lexus’ are easily one of the most popular platforms. If you’re unfamiliar with VIP, imagine a Japanese mob boss, somebody high up in the Yakuza. Now imagine their ride and what they’re being driven in and you have the roots of the VIP scene.

As with any modification, there’s no one or right way to do a VIP car. However, the common starting points are proper wheels, stance, and custom/retrofit projectors. Carbon fibre never hurts either.

The message behind VIP is to cultivate respect through presence. Pass a quality VIP car and it should almost make you look down or tip your hat in deference. Think less snobby and more sophisticated.

A rose by any other name, the second-generation GS is known in Japan as the Aristo. Roughly translated, the term “aristo” means is “the best” in Greek and is also short for “aristocrat” – qualities expected of Toyota’s executive performance sedan.

Did you expect a mob boss to ride in bucket seats?  You can’t look good in a six-point harness. Besides, it would probably crinkle your suit/tie and restrain your sake drinking.

Toyota/Lexus used the third-gen GS to debut their L-Finesse (the “L” standing for Leading Edge) design language. While the third-gen model left behind the beloved JZ engine line, the redesign left it with a front end with a much more intimidating presence.

For all their love of luxurious comfort, the VIP crowd are still car guys and no matter what they say, car guys like speed and power – two attributes stock exhausts tend to leave wanting. Fortunately, the gentlemen over at JOB Design can change that very quickly and would have it no other way.

However, the mad mechanical engineers behind Lexus would definitely have it other ways. The LFA is the product of Toyota letting its engineers off the leash. Ravenous from years of the pursuit of arguably boring perfection, the engineering and design teams took all perceptions of Lexus anyone ever had, and jack-hammered them into V10 oblivion.  

By now, the specs on the LFA are no mystery, but the car itself is still amazing to look at and view in person. It is all at once sharp, but rounded, angry, but calm, excessive, but conservative – everything Toyota can be in a singularly premium priced package.

Nobody ever simply looks at an LFA. You marvel at it. There’s no other choice.

As I kept walking around the initial entry area, I came across part of the extremely large Scion turnout. I’ve long maintained that xB owners are a shoe-in for the most unique car community in the scene. Unabashedly afraid of modification and standing out, there is no style or detail too out there for the xB crowd.

Transformers, koi fish, and vintage Pac-Man overlaid over carbon fibre? I dare you to put these same graphics together on a different car and proudly show it off to the same effect.

That LEGO Ninjago sticker is all kinds of awesome.

It would seem that the only thing you can do wrong with an xB is to not make it your own. From the yellow first-gen running Mooneyes discs to the white one next to it showing off some poke, I never knew what to expect with the next xB.

While the first-gen xB sold surprisingly well, the tC has been Scion’s real breadwinner. Having emerged as a popular car amongst both males and females and in all avenues of motorsport, the tC is incredibly affordable and like all Scion models, massively customizable.

Aside from running some rare ARC goodies under the hood, this Waveline Pearl tC was also sitting on some of my favorite wheels of all time…

5-lug CCW Classics! Forged with 6061-T6 grade aluminum that has been tempered through solution treatments and artificial aging, Classics almost have more in common with aircraft wings and fuselages than they do wheels – which is awesome.

With the next tC, myself and another photographer happened to be both peering into the engine bay at the same time. I heard a passerby from behind us wonder out loud what we were checking out…

The guy popped over and wondered no more. There’s always a good reason to check out a car running Optima YellowTop, a HKS sequential blow off valve, and a massive GReddy Airinx intake.

My first thought was that a tC with an exhaust that big and RE30’s that purple had better be running something impressive up front.

I wasn’t disappointed. While the 2.4L 2AZ-FE engine is more familiar with powering Toyota’s more gentle crop of cars, TRD’s centrifugal supercharger and some air work by Fujita Engineering and GReddy front strut bracing encourage heavy right foot disorder.

HPI Racing always come prepared, laying down a miniature drift track for RC drift fans. I may not have an RC car yet, but that wasn’t about to stop me from taking some action shots. Challenge accepted.

Why the challenge? I’m constantly surprised by how fast these suckers move and you never know how skilled the owner/driver is so you have no idea where they’re going.

Lying stomach-down with my camera on the parking lot bumpers, I felt like Santa at Formula Drift, the little cars slamming into the bumpers inches away from my lens. Occupational hazards be damned.

You know, I’m not entirely sure hookah is on the Scion or TRD parts catalog. Must be an aftermarket option.

While the CT200H hasn’t taken fire with enthusiasts yet, that hasn’t stopped people from applying glittering crystals to the windshield wipers – I mean modifying them .

Interwebs-savvy enthusiasts have probably heard of Ojay’s “Lyka Boss” VIP coppertone LS400 that has been making its way round the California show circuit. Starting out from the Honda crowd, Ojay set his sights on building THE LS400 show car in the US and this is the result.

If you read our coverage of the Night Import Collaboration meet back in March, you would’ve also seen Romane’s wild LS400, bosozoku pipe and all.

However, for reasons unknown to me, Romane settled for a more traditional exhaust pipe design at Toyotafest. And some ice cream truck speakers.

Not every Lexus gets the love the GS and LS series do. Even with the extensive community behind the marque, the SC430 has been largely ignored for the most part by enthusiasts and aftermarket tuners alike. Strange for a car with a folding aluminum hardtop and Toyota’s 3UZ-FE V8

If the wallet allows for it in the future, I’d love to pick up one of these cars for my own. Honda, Nissan and Toyota compete against one another in the fastest GT series in the world, the Super GT. Toyota ran the Supra in the upper GT500 class until 2006 where they replaced it with the SC430. Sure the stock car could use a pretty extensive diet, but the potential’s there. IMO it’s the tiger in the marble block. Somebody just needs to come along and carve it out.

On the other hand, the original SC is on a whole different level with the aftermarket. Penned almost 22 years ago, the SC’s classic lines and engines keep it a popular choice today

After all, I don’t know many people who would or could turn down a car powered by Toyota’s most bulletproof inline-6 or the lure of a 4.0L V8.

At the Infamous meet at Fatburger last week, I met an SC owner who had found his way into one of the few manual transmission SC300’s. This car and lucky owner makes it only the second SC I’ve ever seen with the stick shift (which was almost half a second faster to 60 than the regular 4-speed automatic).

Big brother and little sister in Ultrasonic Blue Mica. From avoiding straight edges to the Acute Angles Strike Back L-Finesse philosophy of today’s models, the evolution of Lexus’ design language has been very interesting to follow

A car that sold well that never made a huge ripple amongst enthusiasts, but still made a big impact on the tuning scene was the IS300 aka Altezza. With its distinctive lights, the car caused the explosion of “Altezza-style” tail lights that blew up the scene back in the 90’s.

Nobody seems to really go wild on Altezzas. They are cars modified in moderation if you’ll excuse the alliteration. Their owners almost seem to exhibit a degree of restraint in tuning their cars as this red example was the shoutiest model at the show.

I’ve seen these projector retrofits on bippu Nissan Cima’s, but never on an Altezza. I like it.

From the Screaming Chicken of the AW11 to the big, bold Lexus “F”, Toyota models with sporting pedigrees or even sporty intentions have some pretty cool badges. It was disappointing to find that the Altezza’s wasn’t as exciting.

Of course exciting is a subjective term and like books, you can’t judge a car by its badge. You can however, judge a car by its exhaust. While titanium is never a bad place to start…

Some shiny pipes and the hint of a turbocharger later…

And we have a sweet forced induction 2JZ ending. Many people are actually unaware that the IS300 Sportcross wagon, the hunchback model of the IS300 line up, was fitted with the 2JZ-GE (as opposed to its 1G-FE powered 4-door siblings).

All growed up.

By this time, I had finally started to make my way towards the grassy area and bulk of the show. I took a few minutes to stop and look over the Airrunner GS, which as always, has a severe case of incredible wheel fitment

And checked out the second gen GS at the WEDS booth, which was showcasing some extremely fluorescent examples of their wheel lineup.

However, it was Alpine that had brought out the unique metal in the shape of a Tacoma X-Runner. A limited production edition of Toyota’s entry-level truck, the X-Runner has been lowered, kitted, and given a reworked suspension and stiffer chassis over its plebian origins. While obviously not the most practical version of the Tacoma, I don’t think Toyota had practicality on the mind when they built it.

Finally, I came across the DG-Spec Scion Racing tC, fresh off the track from its recent outing at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. From afar, I had originally mistaken the car for one of Toyota’s Pro/Celebrity spec tC’s…

But a quick glance inside revealed some serious gutting and a cage with more triangulation than your 6th grade geometry class – much more than any celebrity would ever need or be capable of handling. My mistake Mr. Gardner.

Just to remind you, at this point in time, I hadn’t even walked onto the grassy part of Toyotafest yet so that should start to shed some light on the sheer magnitude of this coverage I’m about to throw down. Quite literally, we are just getting started. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 coming soon to the interwebs near you!