Old School Toyota
Luis Bonilla is on a one-man mission to win respect for the lowly Toyota Corolla, reports Jim Koscs in The New York Times (9/8/13). Luis’s passion is "customizing and racing Toyotas that he calls old school, the term describing the carmaker’s rear-wheel drive models built until the late 1980s." He "inherited his love of cars from his father, who did body repair work, and his uncle … who still drives a 1980 Toyota Corolla in Puerto Rico." Luis says Corollas are part of his heritage, given "the popularity of Toyotas – and people racing them – in Puerto Rico, where he was born."
While most other car enthusiasts "look down on Corollas of any vintage as prosaic," Luis says he loves the car’s "reliability and the ease of modifying them for much more power and performance." In the 1990s, he and his Corolla-loving friends "encountered anti-Toyota prejudice at car shows, where their efforts were ignored." "No matter how good our workmanship, we could not get respect or awards," he says. "They were never going to give a ‘best paint’ trophy to a Toyota over a Chevelle." So, in 2000, he started the Old School Toyota Car Club, in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Luis also started "organizing his own shows … skewed toward older Japanese models." "My shows offered a new playing field," he says, noting that it grew from 32 cars to 330 over the past decade. He has discontinued the shows, having moved onto a drag-racing track day, featuring "older Toyotas, Datsuns, and rotary-engine Mazdas." Owners of American cars "were also invited to participate. "We used to not talk to each other," says Luis. "Now we exchange ideas, we learn from each other." Luis also admits he uses a Dodge pickup to tow his Toyota racecars. "It’s a well-made, reliable truck," he says.