Hanging like a cloud over the festivities of the 19th annual All-Toyotafest this year was the news that had been leaked to the press a week prior: Toyota USA was moving its headquarters, which had been a southern California fixture since 1957, to Texas. What would happen to the Toyota USA Museum in Torrance? To its vast archives of historic data? To Toyotafest? It was with this uncertainty in mind that we began to explore the fine specimens of Aichi steel that had taken the 57-year journey to the lawn of Queen Mary Park.
Since it seemed like the end of an era was upon us, let’s first take a look at the luxury sedans, grand tourers, and deluxe nameplates whispered in reverence that made Toyota great.
First up, the grandest of them all, the Toyota Century. It was never officially sold in the US, but even in Japan you had to be a head of state, CEO or some other ur-citizen before Toyota would even hand you a brochure. It is the original VIP sedan. Long-time Toyota Owners and Restorers Club (TORC) member Kirk Hubbard’s centurion even sports an old school two-digit Japanese license plate and a limited edition Mooneyes Parking Area sticker.
Before the Lexus SC, there was Matt Harada’s 1987 Z20 Soarer, another JDM import and the only second-gen Soarer fully registered and street legal in the state of California. Powered by a 1G-GTEU straight six and facing off against a lineup of front-wheel-drive Celicas, it’s a reminder that Japan was still building a wide range of rear-drivers in the late 80s.
The T110-generation Corona Hardtop Coupe is heart-achingly rare these days, but at least we’ll always have Lawrence Keller’s red 1974 RT114 and Robert Co’s white 1975 RT115 to remember them by. The Corona was the middle child in Toyota’s sedan lineup, bracketed by the Cressida on the upper end and the Corolla on the other, making these the disco era counterpart to the Solara. Ok, fine, so they’re not particularly luxe, but they make up for it with stately pillarless two-door styling.
Both owners have chosen to replace the stock engines — an 18R-C for the ’74 and a 20R for the ’75 — with the venerable twin-cam 18RG. In Robert’s case, an ultra rare, period correct HKS Turbo gives the car extra oomph.
The one name that even Toyota haters have no choice but to respect is Supra, and the king daddy of them all is the fourth-gen JZA80, or MkIV as the ‘Murricans call it. It’s one of the rare cars that was a classic since Day One, with prices that never dipped anywhere close to hooptie levels on the used car market. That’s why, unlike a Z32 300ZX or Mitsu 3000GT, you’ll never see a clapped out A80 with mismatched panels rolling around on steelies.
What you will see, however, are owners whose sole purpose for owning a MkIV is to have the longest mod list, preferably one that exceeds the space on the display placard provided by Toyotafest by several miles. For such a notable and rare car, there are precious few stock Supras left these days.
One exception is Roger Reyes’ red (above, with bronze wheels) 1997 15th Anniversary Twin Turbo that has only 37,000 miles and “BPU” mods (Basic Performance Upgrade in MkIV parlance, meaning downpipe, exhaust, increased boost and a boost cut controller). We hope the mods stay reversible.
The second-gen A60s were the first real sporting Supras and took America by storm when they debuted in 1982. There have been a steady showing of them at Toyotafest for several years now, and in contrast to the MkIVs there’s precious few cosmetic alterations. No hood scoops here. What little there is tends to be limited to an 80s-style aero kit and some period-correct wheels.
Platform twin to the JZA80 Supra was the more luxurious and drop dead gorgeous JZZ30 Soarer, or Lexus SC. Toytoafest welcomes all marques under the ToMoCo banner, so all manner of Lexuses were present, from spindle-grille modern ones to the completely grille-free early SCs. September 1989 is when the Lexus brand launched, meaning that some Lexus models are official nostalgic. Incredible, is it not?
The SCs, both 300 and 400, however, really stood out in a flotilla of VIP grandeur. It’s another one of those cars, where even the most vitriolic despiser of the Lexus brand cannot hate it due to its sheer beauty. It’s the Supra dressed in a fitted suit.
The MA70 and 71 Supras are classics too, and sit in that sweet spot between the old guard of AE86s and the insane offspring of the Bubble Economy. For a time, these were the Wangan brutes of their day. Though they were pre-Fast and Furious franchise a good number of them did succumb to the kandy stylings of the era. Now, however, high quality and tasteful builds have reclaimed the lead.
Craig Higa’s 1988 MA70 won Best Supra of the show. If you saw it on the street you’d think it was just an exceptionally clean naturally aspirated zenki but under the skin it was the subject of an extensive six-year build that saw a complete teardown of the engine with beefed up internals and a ported and polished head. It’s truly one of the finest non-turbo MkIIIs we’ve ever seen and winner of the first ever Toyotaku Award.
And here’s where it all started, the MkI Supra. This is my personal roachback, an elongated Celica with 110hp, a 4-speed automatic, 2000GT grille, and a name borne from porn. It also holds the honor of being the first Toyota — the first Japanese car, actually —designed in the US, at the CALTY studio in Newport Beach. That’s not moving to Texas, at least.
We’ll have more Toyotafest coverage coming soon, where we take a look at the less opulent offerings from ToMoCo. Stay tuned for Part 02.
Thumbs up for the Corona love! Currently daily driving a ’76 RT115 myself with only 106k miles on the clock. Car will be getting some love this fall and will hopefully be ready for Toyotafest and JCCS next year. I haven’t taken many pictures of it yet but here’s my intro post on the forum for a preview.
Nice ride – looks complete, which should make life MUCH easier.
Suggestion: Keep that shade of blue!
(Oh yeah – I’d keep the whitewalls, too; make it look like it just rolled out of the brochure.)
Very nice find!
Its missing a few very minor things that I’ll have a friend track down for me while he’s in the Philippines, but overall its a beautiful original survivor. Hell the car even has one of the factory original sealed beam headlights still working and bright as ever!
Were there any others at the show this year? I’ve only seen these two and the yellow one (with the flat black spray bomb) covered over the last 3 or 4 years. Would like to see how that one is coming along by the way, if anyone knows more about it.
You named all of them. I’d like to see more of them around too. Good luck on your project!
Nice group of SC’ s.
(Looking forward to part II).
I need so many of these in 1920×1080 size for wallpaper. So many gorgeous cars.
fun to change wheels but the enkei 92’s look the best on the century
props to jnc’s mk1 supra fyi CALTY designed
What about those chrome, straight-spoke wheels that are one the red Corona for the Century?
I think they’d tie in very nicely with the bright trim.
Been there done that
Yeah, THOSE are more my style…
If it has bright trim (chrome; stainless; anodized aluminum; whatever), then I’d try to tie in a bright wheel.
I like how you went with the red-centered wheels to connect to the red stripe on the Celica. The barrels go nicely with the bumpers and other trim. Not over-the top; just nice..
Keeps in character with the car; looks like it COULD HAVE come from the factory that way.
Now, if a car has ZERO chrome, then I could go any direction… Just depends on what catches me.
Hey – Is that Celica white, or a REEEEEAAALLLLLYYYY light blue?
And just for my own reference – do the rear quarter windows roll down? I’m asking because I’d REALLY like to see 2-dr hardtops come back. That’s always been my preferred style. I miss being able to open all the windows. Would’ve made the various 2-doors of the past decade-or-so much more attractive, I think.
Oh yeah – hope it’s okay with you – I just saved that pic to go into my desktop rotation.
The 6 cylinder SC300 was the toyota Soarer with a 2500 straight six and twin turbos in Japan. It had higher torque and horsepower ratings than the V8 SC400. See Japanese Car and Driver November 1991 pages 13 and on for the complete story. The “SC250” as I would call it had super great interlaced twin spoke cast wheels which I have never seen in the USA. I took this magazine to the LA Car Show in 1992 and showed the pictures to the Toyota USA reps. They had never seen tose wheels either.
Thanks for showing the coronas. Love the coupe. I own a sedan that I’m rebuilding here in Texas, not too many around and its a joy to see them on this site. Much love.
I will always have difficulty with any modifications on any classic Toyota or nissan (Datsun), specially on any non stock modern wheels, because stock wheels of that time was so beautiful and complete and was the perfect complement to the classic styling of these cars. The styled steel wheels on SR RT114 or SR5 RT115, RA22-24 or 29GT with chrome trim rings look SO MUCH better than anythings modern put on these cars today. Just take the time and look on classic Toyota or Datsun sale brochure and hope you will see..GTS wheels on MA61,1979-80 or 1981-83ZX wheels, snowflakes wheels on 1981 turbo ZX, MA70 wheels with Goodyear eagle VR50 or Dunlop supersport tires and even classic stock eight spokes wheels on your MA46 look better than the ones you did put on your car Ben,remember they put white letters Dunlop SP4N with these wheels and the result was fantastic,see the 1981 celica brochure.Classic cars are monuments on wheels,they never built cars like them anymore. Nothing will ever look better than unaltered look of a bone stock machine.Even modern tires look ugly on classic cars. It’s the same story for a classic challenger,mustang or Z28 with Goodyear polyglass or firestone wide oval tires than any japanese cars.
You are missing out on one of the great features of Japanese classics then, my friend. Japanese has by far the best selection of period-correct, high quality aftermarket wheels. An ENORMOUS variety, compared to anything from any other country, or any other time. It is one of the big perks of the JNC world. American car lovers get endless aftermarket for their engines, we get wheels.
Ben’s wheels are dope as fk. I’d love to get a set of those, and I already have far more sets of wheels than I do JNCs to put them on. I’m not quitting any time soon either, old skool JDM wheels are artworks.
I think a lot of the factory wheels are getting to be a nightmare to find… I looked on a couple of pages that specialize in wheels, and there ain’t much. Sometimes it’s also a budgetary choice.
My personal fave of the aftrmarket wheels are the Enkei 92s, but I honestly wouldn’t put them on EVERYTHING; I’d save them for more of a “touring car” version…
I find I rather like Ben’s wheels. I’m not sure if I prefer them to the also-not-stock solid chrome disks, but they’re an option. Remember, he could have put donks on there . . . In neon pink . . . With spinners. . . And light-up valve caps…
As far as general modifications goes, I’m okay with bolt-on stuff. No roof-cutting on a classic, or anything else that can’t be easily undone. Changing the seats? Make some brackets to connect the new seats to the old mounting points.
If mods are done as possibly the only way to keep it from the crusher, then grudgingly, okay.
That Century looks simultaneously ominous, innocent, dignified, and sleeper-esque (the wheels…). It’s pretty awesome. On a side note, anyone noticed the Toyota Century in Casino Royale?
I think that old Soarer comes to all the Toyotafests. I love that generation of Soarers, they’re so handsome and confident-looking, the quintessential 80’s high-tech grand tourer. And the Z30 Soarer/SC is shoe in for a future classic. To me, it’s still such a beautiful, impressive machine. Every time I see a 2JZ SC for sale, I’m always tempted.
the Z20 Soarer picture was facing awd celicas. that black and white celica were the alltrac st165 celicas 😛
Thanks again for the great coverage JNC!
I’ve been looking forward to this for a week.
Hopefully the show keeps on going well into the future (changing venues for the 20th anniversary would be a bit silly, now wouldn’t it). I hope to make it over from AUS one day to check out all that Toyota Fest has to offer.
I’m a big fan of the big T and of JNC. Looking forward to your extended coverage.
Getting a Century brochure is quite easy now…..if you are an American. All you have to do is go to the “red” Toyota dealers and ask for one. Wait a few days for it to be delivered and then pick it up. I’ve gone to three different dealers and gotten three brochures.
Also, like a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, the Century plummets in value like a stone. Just check out goo-net.com for listings.