Toyota Unleashes Its "OctoberBeast" at Annual Company Auto Show

By Jacob Brown | October 30, 2012
Among car enthusiasts, sometimes you hear jokes like, "With as boring as the Camry and Corolla are, you wonder what the people who work for Toyota are like." The fact is, they're nothing like you imagine them to be. Many of them are as enthusiastic about cars as your average Motor Trend or Automobile reader. Maybe more so. And they can prove it, too.
You don't typically hear of big, conservative Japanese car companies starting classic car shows in their parking lots, which makes this story all the more interesting. Back in 1992, engineer Greg Busenkell was searching for a lot around Toyota headquarters in Torrance, California, to put a fleet of cars for new accessories testing. He noticed interesting and classic cars showing up from time to time and figured he might as well try to have them show up at the same time—an annual cruise-in.
Thus, OctoberBeast was born. Or, at least, the Toyota Associate Special Interest Vehicle Display, which is what you probably thought a company like Toyota would call it. But Busenkell quickly renamed it after seeing so many old Detroit "beasts" show up every October. The first year found eight cars lined up in a parking lot. Some were show-ready; others were works in progress that would come back year after year with signs of improvement. All of them were loved by their owners, proud of their classics regardless of what badge adorned their hood or grille.
OctoberBeast continued expanding through the years to include invitations to Toyota's local suppliers—some years getting as many as 100 cars. While there are no specific rules to which cars are allowed to show up at OctoberBeast, general guidelines are that the vehicle should be at least 25 years old or of special interest. Everything is welcome, whether it runs or not, as OctoberBeast's official motto has become "Drive it, Tow it, Push it...Show it!"
Earlier this month, OctoberBeast had approximately 65 cars enter through Toyota's parking lot, with no classes, awards, or particular arrangement of cars. For Toyota, it has become a social gathering of enthusiastic coworkers who might not otherwise mingle with one another in Toyota's vast office space. They share their stories and just catch up with one another for the first time in a few months.
Lawrence Keller of Toyota accessories and the torchbearer for OctoberBeast for the last five years, has said during the past 20 years, cars, trucks, dragsters, speedboats, antique strollers have been shown at OctoberBeast. One person even brought a 1940 Piper Cub airplane, which he had to disassemble, load into a truck, and reassemble on the show field. Some of the more memorable cars have been the two ultra-rare Toyota 2000GT sports cars from the company's private collection, a Porsche Carrera GT, a '32 Ford hot rod with a Lexus V-8 shoehorned into it, and a pair of original AC Shelby Cobras—289- and 427-cubic-inch engines, respectively.
Says Keller of OctoberBeast, "This is not a one-man show, and this yearly event could not happen without the assistance and coordination of various departments within Toyota." "A special thanks to all the car nuts who go to the trouble to bring in and share their passion with the interested and the curious." And a special thanks to Lawrence Keller of Toyota for the photos and history of OctoberBeast.