Tokyo Auto Salon 2015: Petrol Heads Playground

Published on February 2nd, 2015

A mecca of modification, centre of customisation or a petrol heads playground; it’s a little difficult to describe Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) without actually dropping in on the three-day extravaganza.


Japan itself is still considered the epicentre of car culture but of late and to the uninitiated, things might appear to have slowed down a notch or two.


Nonetheless, a visit to TAS 2015 and some of the small scale events leading up to it will have corrected that oversight and truly put things into perspective which I will get to as this isn’t all she wrote.


Prior to every iteration of TAS, hype will build up surrounding some of the top builds or show favourites that the big guns of the tuning scene are putting together for the show.


This year was no different and among the showstoppers expected was the Rocket Bunny NSX that Kei Miura whipped up in a deep candy apple shade sans his usual sticker treatment for a clean and loin-tingling take on the Japanese classic.


Miura-san himself though didn’t take up any floor space as he probably wanted to take a break. Stepping in to take his place though was none other than Wataru Kato of Liberty Walk, whose cars are a metallic representation of his carefree take on modifications.


Just a couple of years ago, the self-christened purists were screaming bloody blasphemy at his overfender treatment for exotics such as the Nissan GT-R and Lamborghini Murcielago. Now though, the world can’t get enough of his creations.


Kato-san was on hand with a wide selection of his demo vehicles, including a Porsche 997 Turbo and even Robbie Nishida’s new GT-R R35 D1GP car that was kitted up by Liberty Walk.


326 Power have been making waves, more so than usual, as of late. The centrepiece at their booth was undoubtedly their new RX-8 that schooled the stance movement.


There are always a number of cars that will cling to your memory for a long time after the show. Apart from the Rocket Bunny NSX, another car that never failed to steal a second glance throughout the show was the Impulse Toyota AE86.


Impulse took carbon fibre usage and weight saving to a whole new level on the diminutive hatchback. Weight aside, the quality of their work was simply outstanding, bordering showing off.


Replacing the glass rear hatch of the AE86 was a one-piece carbon fibre hatch with an image of the Rising Sun weaved into the rear.


Lastly, you just can’t finish any sort of TAS coverage without a mention of Youichi Imamura’s new ride for D1GP 2015, a Lexus LFA.

Overfenders to contain the wide TWS wheels and a TRD-developed Nascar V8 engine, just like the one used by RS-R in their GT86, will make this the hottest and most expensive car on the grid when the season is flagged of.


However, the bigger picture after taking almost everything TAS had to offer was that the Japanese tuning scene is slowly but surely beginning to take a slower pace as it matures.


This time around, TAS seemed to lack the pizzazz and hype that was synonymous with it previously. Even some of the big names were absent from the exhibitors list this time around, although they might have just been taking a short breather.


The tuning scene in Japan was beginning to mature and settle into a more behind-the-scenes role by the looks of it.


Japan has always set the pace when it comes to tuning trends and the world had in return turned to them for inspiration.


It would appear that enough seeds of Japanese automotive culture has been sown around the world and those seeds are now blooming into their very own plant wherever they may be.

The rest of the world have always aimed to emulate the Japanese scene but in an innovative manner, not an imitating one.


Now that the world has developed its own tuning identity, the Japanese scene is moving a little upmarket. It can’t be skirted around that almost all the new performance machines coming out of Japan are more than just a pinch above the pay scale of the average petrol head.


Toyota are in the midst of cooking up a Supra successor and Honda have lifted the lid on the new NSX, but both of those cars have taken on a more premium position much like the current GT-R that is only now beginning to trickle down into a more affordable bracket after years on the market.


Fittingly, the big guns of the scene are inching towards that zone, following the crowd.


Nonetheless, the grassroots scene has also been growing exponentially in the same direction. Japan’s grassroots scene is the stuff of legends; it has always been the most passionate, spirited and real with people that reflect that.


Lots of smaller shops and tuning houses made their presence felt at TAS this year. They’re really stepping up their game and even the number of foreign tuning outfits has significantly increased this year.


Furthermore, the OEM support has also noticeably increased this year. Honda, Mazda and Subaru were among the biggest presence in terms of manufacturers. Understandably, the new MX-5 from Mazda pulled in the most visitors following its world debut not long before.


Together with the Toyobaru twins, the new MX-5 should keep the tuning scene more accessible to the masses and the fact that it resembles the first generation MX-5 with respect to weight and dimensions more is just making the industry salivate with excitement and anticipation.


The mistake you might succumb to as the Japanese tuning scene settles down into a more relaxed pace however is to assume that it might stop churning out more show stopping machines.


Absolutely not! All this means is that the scene has already preached its gospel far and wide with the only thing left to do is allow its followers to whip out their own take on things and let it evolve from there.


TAS was a crystal clear demonstration that Japan is still the undisputed leader in car culture. The sheer amount of variety on display is something not even the likes of SEMA could emulate.


Furthermore, one thing Japanese culture in general advocates is performing your duties to the best of your abilities and the quality of workmanship on hand made perfectionism look amateur.


Be it show or go, there was something for everybody at TAS and things will only grow as time passes. You may very well be able to experience pure unadulterated car culture regardless of where you call home in the world now but one thing is for certain, more likely than not, it originated in Japan and you just have to make a pilgrimage to TAS to pay homage the origins of what you take for granted now and see how the sifus do things in the motherland of automotive culture.


Stay tuned for one fine example of that to drop soon. If you need a hint, it involves a basement car park and some of the wildest rides Tokyo has to offer. But no drifting though, in case you were wondering.

Words: Dinesh Appavu

Photos: Haznajims


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