Though many enthusiasts bemoan Toyota’s transition, starting in the mid-1980s, to a mostly front-wheel-drive lineup, this shouldn’t be the case. Sure, the Cressidas and Supras carried the RWD torch, but Toyota built many fun-to-drive models with transversely mounted engines too, and those cars have their devotees as well.
Ok, so we are cheating a bit with the inclusion of the MR2, but these are essentially an FX-16 in reverse. Whether MR2s owners tend to travel in packs, so either there’s a swarm of these midship runabouts at Toyotafest or there are almost none. This year had a significant number of stock AW11s, including this early model with its bizarre factory 3-spokes.
The main reason for the mid-engined feast or famine is that there is a dedicated group of MR2 owners from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia that caravans down to SoCal for biggest Toyota gathering on the continent. Jude Dacula is among them, having driven his restored 1989 MR2 all the way from Washington.
Joe Wu’s black specimen rocked a tuner era look with his racing stripes, Momo Monte Carlo steering wheel and Enkei Compe reissues.
One of the best AW11s at the show belonged to John Mungcal, who received a recognition for outstanding workmanship medal for his 1987. It was lowered slightly on Eibach springs and KYB dampers over Enkei RPF1 wheels, but where it really shined was its arrow-straight body and paint.
Dave Equilos’s 1987 FX-16 reminded us that Toyota could build a proper hot hatch if it wanted to. Though it didn’t have quite the driftability of its AE86 predecessor the FX-16 was raced quite successfully in Japan.
Beside it was still one of the most impressive AE92 Corollas we’ve seen. Toyotafest veteran Rodrigo Catibog turned an ordinary sedan into its JDM ideal. Beyond the Sprinter headlights and fender mirrors, a black-top 4A-GE, 6-speed transmission and helical LSD were swapped into the grocery getter body.
Javier Soto-Vega’s 1987 FX-16 exuded a strong 80s vibe, making us like the front-drive hot hatch even more. When we last saw this car at JCCS, it was wearing TOM’s Igetas, so it’s good to see this prime example of an under-appreciated breed is loved enough to have a rotation of shoes.
Draw on its hot hatch history, Toyota brought a new 2019 Corolla Hatchback. One in particular caught our eye with a memorable interpretation of Toyota USA’s classic racing colors.
Perhaps they took inspiration from Russell Turnbull, who revived a similar livery for his SW20 MR2. Russell hails from Canada, and this is the second time we’ve seen his car making the long drive down for Toyotafest. Although, his journey was probably quickened by the RAV4 3.5-liter V6 and a Lotus Exige supercharger that now resides in the engine bay. For his efforts, Russell went home a medal in the SW20 category.
SW20 MR2s turned out in full force. Hieu Nguyen took home a medal for his red 1993 Turbo, which had a built 3S-GTE with an upgraded turbo and Haltech ECU and 1200cc injectors producing a claimed 450 horsepower at the wheels.
We also enjoyed Jason Dang’s white 1991 Turbo, lightly modified with with a laundry list of JDM tuning houses — TRD brakes, Apex’i intake and exhaust, Blitz boost controller, HKS blowoff valve, and Tein coilovers.
Many readers may know the red MR2 with Work Equips as the 1993 belonging to Janet Fujimoto. However, she recently sold it to her friend Craig Higa, the owner of an immaculate A70 Supra, Given his track record, we know he will preserve it well. His neighbor, Bryan Zublin, had a prime example of a stock Turbo, full loaded with every option that could’ve been had in 1994.
Though not quite nostalgic, we were pleasantly surprised to see the turnout of third-gen MR2 Spyders. Usually outcasts, the mid-engined roadsters managed a small but decent showing this year, and each example was tastefully customized.
Another model that hasn’t received much attention at past Toyotafests was the T160 generation Celica. This year, there was a sizable contingent, including several all-wheel-drive turbocharged All-Trac models. With their flared fenders, round foglights and rally-inspired drivetrains they were extremely high-tech for their time. Tomas Perez’s All-Trac went home with one of three medals in the FF/AWD Celica class.
One of the rarest examples was Joey Sana’s 1988 All-Trac, an ultra-rare IMSA GTO edition. Toyota imported just 77 examples prior to the All-Trac’s official launch, each one painted in white with a subtle Toyota racing tricolor on the door. These originally came with white alloys, but perhaps those belonging to this car have been lost over the years.
Joseph DeMeo’s mint 1988 All-Trac is probably the finest example left in the country. With just 15,200 miles and one owner, everything is original except for the tires. The car has been the subject of a spotlight feature on JNC if you want to know more, but suffice it to say it is nothing short of amazing. Of course, Joseph took home a medal.
The final medal in the FF/AWD Celica class went to Sean Dana’s 1987 Celica Convertible. Amazingly, it still wears its original paint, perhaps spared a transformation into pink powder by the milder climates in which it lives in the Bay Area. Sean purchased the car in 2015 and has spent the past three years restoring the car using OEM parts wherever possible. Except for the chrome wheels and a slight lowering on Whiteline bushings and sway bars, the rest is stock.
While also not quite nostalgic yet, we spotted at least three ST205 replicas among the sixth-gen Celicas. Though the WRC homologation Celica GT-Four was never sold in the US, these owners swapped the turbo 3S-GTE motors and body parts to create some pretty convincing clones. Only the LHD steering wheels and lack of AWD give it away.
According to owner RJ Panillio, his second-gen All-Trac is one of only 81 imported in 1993, the final year for the ST185 chassis. With an upgrade to the turbo, the addition of coilovers, a custom Apex’i exhaust and wheels from a 7th-gen Celica GT-S, the car presents a nice OEM-plus style. It’s a shame we don’t see more of these, as the 200-horsepower, 200 lb-ft AWD coupes were the ultimate iteration — at least what was offered in the States — of Toyota’s WRC homologation car. With 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, they were essentially a Subaru WRX or Lancer Evo long before those cars were available in the US.
To be continued…
We’ll have more 2018 Toyotafest coverage coming up, but in case you missed it, check out Toyotafest 2018, Part 01 — Sedans and Part 02 — Supras, as well as a spotlight on Randy Beard’s Toyota Mark II kaido racer.
Or, revisit Toyotafest 2017 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, and 06, as well as spotlights on a restored Celica Liftback, pair of Drag Celicas, KP47 Starlet and an incredible TE27 restoration), Toyotafest 2016 (Part 01, 02, 03, and 04), Toyotafest 2015 (Part 01, 02, and 03), Toyotafest 2014 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2013 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2012 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04), Toyotafest 2011 (Part 01, 02, 03, 04, 05), and Toyotafest 2010 (Part 01, 02, 03).