What started as a small gathering of enthusiasts of the last RWD Corolla eight years ago has grown into a gathering that attracts hundreds of cars from all over southern California. It all started with the beloved Hachiroku, and the types of cars that AE86 Nights has attracted over the years has changed dramatically, but it’s still a very specific type of car. It’s a bit hard to explain, but you’ll see what we mean when you see the gallery of images.
The home of the AE86 Nights anniversary bashes, for the last few years at least, has been Longo Toyota-Lexus, one of the largest movers of Aichi steel in North America. Feeding the suburban Los Angeles’s insatiable appetite for hyper-reliable, comfortable cruisers for their hours-long, gridlocked commutes, it is one of the largest car dealerships in the world.
This year, the show moved to the five-level parking garage on the dealer premises. While its general darkness made photography difficult, the venue provided a lot more space and a little bit of the feeling of a Tokyo Drift scene.
Many of the cars present wouldn’t exactly be award winners at shows like Toyotafest or JCCS. Some were clearly rescues that would have been sent to the crusher had it not been for the owners that recognized them for what they were. Were they on their way to restoration and a new life? Who knows. But their imperfections are proof that one can still have drive, tinker and have fun with a JNC.
Others, however, were not only show quality but cars that could be considered the finest examples of their breed. Unlike what you’d find at the typical cars and coffees in SoCal, these cars could have been purchased when new by any kid with a minimum wage job. Many still can be. But their owners still lavished them with the restoration and detailing found on cars worth ten times as much.
Back in the day the meet would consist of purely AE86s, with perhaps the odd 4AG-powered brethren in the form of an AW11 MR2. Then it began expanding to older rear-drive Corolla models, E70 E30 and E20 chassis. Next came the other RWD Toyotas — Celicas, Supras, Cressidas. Non-Aichi steel is welcome too, with early Mazda RX-7s, Datsun wagons, and Cressida lookalike 810 Maximas filling the floor.
But even with the presence of early sport compacts like EF Civics, Subaru Imprezas and front- and all-wheel-drive Celicas, one thing’s for sure: 80s Toyotas still dominate. From NUMMI Novas to the capital-V Van, it was like being transported back to the future. The selection of cars really made us feel as if we were playing the best part of Gran Turismo —when you’re just starting out and don’t have loads of credits to spend.
Ultimately, it was the convivial nature of the gathering — no trophies, no snobbery, no drama — that made AE86 Nights one of the most enjoyable meets in SoCal.