Tokyo Auto Salon 2018
Before I became a motoring journalist, I was always an enthusiast, heavily into the car lifestyle, tuning and modifying scene, and going to car meets, track days, amateur motorsport events as a participant, and of course, car shows.
While I’ve moved on, having less time unfortunately for these, my heart still yearns to be around as often as possible.
Globally, there are three major aftermarket shows universally recognized as the biggest and best: SEMA in the United States, Tokyo Auto Salon in Japan, and the Essen Motorshow in Germany.
I haven’t had the opportunity to see SEMA and the ESSEN motorshows, but the Tokyo Auto Salon is special because it is in Japan.
I love Japanese food, anime, and their very specialized car culture.
The first time I had been to the Tokyo Auto Salon was in 2011, and after six years, it felt great to be back in Makuhari Messe in Chiba.
Purists beware: this show has questionable cars with questionable modifications. But diversity is key here, and respect for others, as the Japanese do so very well, helps keep this show alive.
Even if it’s not your thing, respect for others is paramount as well to fully appreciate the Tokyo Auto Salon experience.
So, what were the big stars of this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon?
Firstly, Lamborghini’s and other European exotics were the real stars of the show, almost outshining the usual Japanese favorites.
Japanese tuners Liberty Walk almost sent the entire internet into meltdown after unveiling their Lamborghini Miura kitted with their latest widebody kit.
Wataru Kato, the man behind Liberty Walk, was all smiles, proud of his creation at the unveiling.
The “Miura” was actually a Ford GT40 replica chassis which Liberty Walk used as a basis in creating their Miura creation, complete with custom widebody kit.
Aside from Liberty Walk, Boom Craft had a large number of Lamborghinis on display as well, styled in the same vein as the iconic Lamborghini owner and Yakuza affiliate Shinkichi Morohoshi.
Time Attack is a popular motorsport endeavor popularized by the Japanese. The goal? The fastest lap at Tsukuba Circuit’s TC2000 layout.
HKS, a popular Japanese tuning outfit unveiled their latest TC2000 Challenger, the HKS TRB-03, which stands for Tsukuba Record Breaker car number 3.
HKS had created two previous cars, the TRB-01 which was a Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS sedan, followed by the TRB-02/CT230R, which was based off a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
The latest is based off a Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 platform, and pushes the boundary of “tuner car” against purpose-built race car.
While the TRB-03 doesn’t comply with any particular racing series’ rules, the sole goal for the Fujinomiya, Shizuoka-based tuner is the fastest lap around TC2000, ideally breaking into the 49-second range.
With 800 hp, a sequential transmission and massive aerodynamics engineered by Andrew Brilliant, one of the foremost race car aerodynamicists in professional motorsports globally, this is going to be super indeed.
Japanese also love classic cars. Throughout the show, high-quality restoration works of the KPGC10 or Hakosuka Skyline and Datsun Fairlady Z were scattered throughout the 11 halls of the Tokyo Auto Salon.
Their values have shot through the stratosphere as serious car collectors worldwide have begun to take notice of these cars.
The Tokyo Auto Salon is also maturing: corporate entities Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Subaru had some of the biggest, most massive displays.
It is good that these mega corporate entities give importance to a small and specialized niche in the automotive market by cultivating car culture and enthusiasts.
Subaru unveiled their Viziv STI concept, a taste of the future STI performance model due in 2020, while Toyota unveiled their latest hypercar concept, the Gazoo Racing Super Sport Concept aimed at the likes of the Porsche 918 Spyder, the Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1.
The Gazoo apes the shape of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG Project One, that of a modern Le Mans LMP1 race car.
While late to the hybrid hypercar party, it goes to show that the Japanese have the engineering mettle and the balls to go head-on with the European aristocracy.
The Gazoo is powered by a 2.4-liter V6 twin-turbo engine and hybrid electric power called Toyota Hybrid System-Racing (THS-R) gleaned from Toyota’s Le Mans Endurance Racing Efforts.
Will we actually see the GR Super Sport on the roads anytime soon?
The Tokyo Auto Salon also means car parts. Various parts manufacturers had their full or new range of wheels on display.
Work Wheels, Ray’s Engineering, BBS, Forgiato, Taneisya Wheel Supply (TWS), Cusco, Brembo, Dash/Carbing Motorsports, Recaro Japan and more had massive displays, many with parts on clearance sale.
Another popular vendor was Hashimoto Corporation, which imports KW Suspension to Japan.
It is also the official Speedhunters Merchandise partner in Japan.
Speedhunters is the most popular aftermarket automotive car-culture website in the world, and I spent some time with Dino Dale Carbonare, their current editor-in-chief.
Watch for a future article on him here. I spent a considerable amount of money at their booth.
Of course, my favorite car on display was the recently unveiled Toyota Supra track-spec car with an all-new Varis X Hurtling widebody kit.
The Supra has been out of production since 2002 in Japan, yet remains a holy grail of a tuner car, being quite rare, if not as accomplished on the track like its other JDM brethren such as the Skyline GTR, RX-7 and NSX.
But it’s a great street car, fun to drive, and has perhaps the greatest power potential.
Being a Supra owner myself, I was pleased to see some love being given to an old platform.
The Varis X Hurtling widebody kit modernizes the Supra’s classic lines. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but it does stand out.
There’s so much more to share and talk about, but I’ll let the pictures speak.
We’ll have a few follow-up stories on some parts manufacturers who hosted us at the show. Until then, enjoy!