I don’t remember a busier start to the year than the one I just had, thanks to a coincidental coming together of work and personal events. That’s the reason for this delayed wrap-up post for our 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon coverage, but I’m confident that it’ll be worth the wait.
It’s the first time we’re covering Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS), which – along with SEMA in the US – ranks as the world’s most famous auto tuning show. When you consider Malaysia’s Japanese-dominated car culture and preference, TAS is definitely the show for us car guys and Mat Keretas.
While I’ve been to every Tokyo Motor Show since the 2007 edition, I knew that TAS would be an entirely different sort of show – less corporate and stuffy, more passion. Still, the scale of the event at Makuhari Messe (the previous home of TMS), how packed the halls were, and how enthusiastic the visitors, completely blew me and Paultan.org BM colleague Farid Awaludin away.
Japan was cold, but TAS was a baptism of fire for Farid, a lifelong JDM and retro car maniac who was stepping on Japanese soil for the first time in his life. My tag team partner is a walking car encyclopaedia, and visiting the mecca of car tuning was akin to a pilgrimage for him. Even I, the more jaded between us, woke up every morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
We were there for the entire three full days, and yet we can’t say that we saw every booth and exhibit in detail – there were just too many interesting sights; be it cars, parts, merchandise or ahem, ladies. Like the most popular pasar malam you know, the dense crowd made photography a physical battle as well as the ultimate exercise in patience (to get a clear shot). A mainstream motor show’s press day is child’s play in comparison.
But we had a mission, and we managed to be among the first outlets to show you the GR Supra Super GT Concept, which will bring the famous Supra name back to Japan’s Super GT series.
Race Supra aside, Toyota’s Gazoo Racing had some yummy cars on display such as the Daihatsu Copen GR Sport Concept (I need one!), the Toyota Mark X GRMN (big sedan, big NA V6, manual!) and the Toyota Century GRMN. The latter is Akio Toyoda’s company car, but in menacing black.
Staying on the Toyota side of the park, we also showed you the Toyota Hilux TRD Black Rally Edition (imported from Thailand) and the good looking Toyota Corolla Sport hatchback, presented by TOM’s, Blitz and Yokohama in iconic Advan livery and a TCR-style body. Speaking of bodies, it would be a colossal waste if the Corolla Hatch shell does not eventually house more than a 1.2L turbo engine and a hybrid drivetrain, ‘cos it’s so evocative.
Why not a Corolla GRMN to fight the hot hatch king from next door? We’re of course talking about the Honda Civic Type R, which was one of the most popular models at TAS. Legendary Honda tuner Mugen had two FK8s on display – the pig-nosed pre-production Mugen Civic RC20GT and a stock car wearing a full catalogue of prototype Mugen parts.
Power tuner HKS didn’t bother with aesthetics and instead developed parts to boost the Civic’s 2.0L VTEC Turbo engine to 380 PS and 510 Nm. All coming to Sunway soon, for sure.
I didn’t bother sitting in the FK8, but couldn’t resist trying out the Honda S660 Neo Classic Racer Concept for size. It’s a tight fit made even tighter by the roll cage, but the retro style and parts are way too cool. Speaking of kei sports cars, the Copen receives an official but limited edition Coupe version, besides the above-mentioned GR concept.
What’s more interesting is the trend of making these cute little cars look like giants. The S660 and Copen can be made to look like the Honda NSX and Nissan GT-R, respectively, thanks to the Supreme of car tuners – Liberty Walk. LBWK can also turn your Suzuki Jimny into a baby G-Wagen, but DAMD goes one better by giving you an option of a Little G or a Little D – the latter is a miniature Land Rover Defender that’s off the scale in cuteness. If I ever need another Little D…
To our surprise, the new Jimny was by far the most popular vehicle at TAS 2019, present at every other tuner’s booth. It wasn’t so much about performance upgrades (HKS has catalogue for it, though), but the customisation possibilities afforded by the little 4×4, which now carries a modern-retro look that’s impossible to not like.
All very nice, but the best of the lot was from Suzuki itself, which brought out a pick-up version of the Jimny that reminds us of the OG BJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser. A sure-fire hit if they make it, don’t you think?
That’s some list, but we’re far from done. Don’t miss the interesting stories and galleries of Top Secret’s Skyline GT-R collection (every generation is here, including Smokey’s crazy “R32-bodied R35”), gorgeous restomods from Star Road (Hakosuka, Kenmeri and S30 Fairlady included) and Jun’s “Super Lemon” Honda Fit RS for the Jazz fans. Also, feast your eyes on iconic rally cars in our WRC gallery (hint: Castrol, 555, Marlboro) and learn about “the new Initial-D” manga called MF Ghost and its modern day hachiroku hero car.
While walking around on the final day and emptying our wallets of yen, we spotted a crazy-looking time attack-style Lancia Delta that deserved a post by itself, and a pink Kelisa that reminded us of Malaysian custom jobs.
There were more offbeat creations in the form of a “homemade Mazda RX-9” and a strange beast that fuses Lamborghini Urus, Toyota 86 and a pick-up bed. Before you mock them, the latter two are projects by students of the Nihon Automotive Technology School (NATS), the future generation of Japanese auto engineers and customisers.
Last and definitely least are the predictable dressed-up versions of everyday SUVs such as the Nissan X-Trail (Impul), Subaru Forester (STI) and Honda HR-V (Modulo). These were the only cars we shot and wrote about out of duty – the aesthetic add-ons are likely to reach local showrooms in the near future.
By the way, the above links will take you to Farid’s posts on our BM page. If you can understand Bahasa Malaysia, I recommend that you recap our TAS 2019 coverage in BM, as the author’s deep insights and fact gathering is best read in its original form. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot, as I did! Alternatively, they’re all in plain old English here.
It was one hell of a working weekend for us, and I hope that you enjoyed our 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon live coverage as much as we did preparing it. No? Then here’s 100 variety pics of the stuff not already covered above, plus 120 pics of kawaii girls to win you over. You’re welcome.
GALLERY: 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon, variety
GALLERY: 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon, the ladies
The post TAS 2019: <em>Kawaii</em> showgirls wrap up our mega inaugural Tokyo Auto Salon live coverage appeared first on Paul Tan's Automotive News.