Tokyo Auto Salon is the year’s most anticipated expo for the automotive aftermarket in Japan, the place where tuners and OEM manufacturers alike come together for three days of exhibitions of their wares. Thousands come from all over the country to pack the halls of Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture, right outside of Tokyo proper and a few miles down from Disneyland.
You may remember reading our coverage from last year where we said that the event had record-breaking attendance numbers. Well, although this year had less total cars on display and a few big players missing (HKS, D1 Grand Prix, Tomei, and OS Giken for example), ticket sales were almost as high as 2016. We personally felt that something was lacking overall with the show this year, but regardless, here are our top picks from this year’s show.
Liberty Walk Performance
Our first day at the show, we rushed immediately over to the boys from Nagoya, Liberty Walk Performance. We knew that they had something new under wraps and we were hoping to get a sneak peak before the official unveiling. Our good friend Hiro from CSD Brakes had told us already last year that he was working on a special project (air suspension) for Liberty Walk and hinted what car it would be for, so we already had a good idea what was under the covers at the booth.
Not a huge surprise to anyone, it’s the Ferrari 488 GTB! A logical next step from the guys who pimped the 360 Modena, F430, and 458 Italia already, in reverse order. It has been given the usual treatment of front and rear fender flares, side skirts, front bumper lip and canards, a reworked rear diffuser, and big ‘ol ducktail wing for good measure.
Forgiato DIECI-C wheels and Pirelli P-Zeros provide rotational ease and air suspension by Airex, designed by Hiro from CSD, takes care of the ride height adjustment. Curiously the stock brakes from Ferrari have been retained, rather than “upgrading” to the 16-pot calipers from CSD.
Not satisfied with just one new supercar, their McLaren 650S project was also on display in beautiful yellow and green, inspired by the Mclaren P1 GTR which took the color scheme from the McLaren F1 GTR. For us this was much better looking than the 488 next to it. Given the vast amount of cars that Liberty Walk makes kits for (hell, they make one for the Prius!) there are bound to be hit or miss modifications; however we think that this particular one is a homer. It just looks so natural, and to be honest the $44,000 price tag doesn’t seem so ridiculous if the results look like this.
Wataru Kato, the man behind the company, not only has a passion for high end Italian exotics, but also for the Japanese classics of the 1970s. His latest addition to the stable is this RX-3 Savannah, which supposedly is pushing 200 horsepower out of a 12A bridge-port. Dino from Speedhunters had a little one on one time with the car recently so we’ll have to wait for that to get the full scoop.
One thing we can tell you though; make no mistake about the styling, this is an homage to the renowned Mazda racer, Yoshimi Katayama. Mr. Katayama, who died last year at the age of 75, first gained huge notoriety for defeating Nissan in an RX-3, denying the Skyline a 50th consecutive win in 1972. Those huge fenders were first popularized by Katayama when he raced with them on his own RX-3 in the 1975 JTCC series. They were even referred to as Katayama flares back then. One might think that the yellow and green was decided upon because Kato wanted match the McLaren 650S they built, but the color scheme is also borrowed from Katayama’s ’75 racecar.
Pandem / Rocket Bunny / TRA-Kyoto
The Saturday Night Fever one on the left…
If you haven’t heard the name Kei Miura, then you can’t really call yourself a fan of JDM cars. The man has built his reputation as the Sir Mix-a-lot of aftermarket tuning, in that he really likes big butts. All those Liberty Walk cars we talked about up there, those are his body kit designs. Ever seen those cool as hell NASCAR-looking 6666 Customs S13s? He did those 15 years ago. The first and most widely used widebody for the 86/FR-S? That’s right, he did that one too. Well, not content with creating those designs and the wheelbarrows of cash that he is hauling in, he started yet another brand, Pandem.
At Auto Salon this year, Miura brought a squad of cars rocking his new kits. First off was this Mk2 VW Golf. If there is one car that the boxy fenders work well on, this it it. Stripped and caged, all it needs is a huge flat wing on the rear and it would look at home on a rally course. Those uber-rare BBS E30 3-piece wheels are a nice touch too.
Next up was this E30 Wagon, which is something we never got in the states. However, given how good this kit looks, while seemingly retaining the functionality of the rear doors, it seems like this eligible-for-import car might be something we see more of at the stance meets.
Miura’s third rendition of the Rocket Bunny kit is now labeled under the Pandem brand as well and we gotta say, the rear fender vents are pretty cool. We think the redesigned front bumper takes influence from the kits of the 90s, especially those for the Mk4 Supra. At only $3,500, the kit is a bargain considering you’d need another $40,000 if you wanted to get something like this for an Italian car.
With RWB making widebody kits for the air-cooled Porsche 911s and Liberty Walk selling a kit for the Porsche 997, there is a gap in the market for the Cayman, one that Miura is looking to fill with this kit. We don’t exactly agree on the front bumper design, which appears to integrate the moustache-esque vents from the Boss S14, but the fenders meld well with the Cayman’s smooth and slippery lines.
Perhaps the wildest of the Pandem bunch, we predict that this R32 kit is going to be extremely popular. Back in the day several companies such as Pentroof and Veilside used to make widebody kits for the R32, but those can be a bit hard to find and so this is a godsend for hundreds of military guys who want to spice up their bland me-too GTRs.
Finally, we come to Pandem’s kit for the S30. A true Japanese classic, this car’s aftermarket remains hot, but rarely are we given something so fresh. Star-Road shook it up a bit the past few years, but to be honest we weren’t feeling their widebody fare. Miura’s, on the other hand, is amazing. He managed to work in his signature Boss bumper vents and the cut out of the rear portion of the front fenders. Deleting the rear metal bumper bar entirely is also a great touch, keeping with the rest of the car.
Speaking of Star-Road, we really loved this late model Hakosuka Skyline 2000 GT-X they brought out. The exterior has been completely restored to as stock as possible and sits on Star-Road’s signature Glowstar wheels. Most notable are the original fenders, especially looking at the rear. The intact “surfline” that runs from the doorjamb to the rear bumper is stunning, just as the designers at Prince Motors intended.
The engine features Star-Road’s specialty, converting L-series motors from carburetors to Electronic Fuel Injection, while still retaining individual throttle bodies. The engines they build have an output of roughly 350 horsepower, which is amazing considering the age of the engine design.
RE Amemiya stepped up their game last year with the 13B-powered Mazda Chantez that sported the same power to weight ratio as a Veyron. This year, they focused more on the two RX chassis cars that constantly get eclipsed by their sexy middle sister, the FD3S.
The green FC3S RX-7 seen here looked like someone went on shopping spree via a mail-order time machine service from the 1980s. Just look at that hood! The original pop-up light covers have been repurposed to act as vents, and gone are the sealed beam headlights themselves, replaced with two sets of projectors.
LED daytime running lights are also molded into the front bumper, which incorporates a giant triangle right in the center. All this to direct airflow up and into the naturally aspirated 3-rotor that sits inside the engine bay.
A subtle (or not, depending on your opinion) widebody was slapped on and some louvres were added on the fenders as well, with the hood taking a cue from the company’s famous FD3S offering. The rear wing is a bit unique since it is reminiscent of a scaled-down version of the one found on the Plymouth Superbird, but somehow it works.
At first glance this car plays a trick on the viewer. It’s an RX-8 for sure, but that front end is from the RE Amemiya parts bin for the later model FD3S – a welcome change from the hideous face Mazda had on there originally. The gaping mouth of this one fits an intercooler perfectly, and the front fenders are expertly crafted with that time-attack look. The same style wing, albeit in carbon fiber, from the green FC sits in back. We really like this one!
We first saw this car at the Nismo Festival two months ago, and yet still we were stunned all the same when we strolled up to the Top Secret booth. Smokey Nagata always has something cool going on, and this might be the coolest thing he has ever built; an R32 with the entire drivetrain of an R35! Somehow he shoehorned the massive VR38 in there and even managed to use the stock intercoolers. Appropriately named the VR32, this is sure to be a big hit.
Amazingly he was able to transform the interior to that of an R35 as well! Except for the seats, which have been kept R32, it looks like an exact replica. There is a giant GReddy boost gauge where the driver’s side air vent used to be, a hint that perhaps Smokey has some bigger plans for the engine later this year. There is no word on the price, or if Smokey will even be selling these, but we are hoping to take a ride down there soon to find out for ourselves.
Now, every bit of this article has been about tuners and cars, but we would like to round it out and finish off with a little story about wheels, Work Wheels to be specific. The company was founded 40 years ago, and to commemorate four decades of being in business they decided to release a new wheel design. Jean-Christophe Pepino, a Frenchman who has been employed with the company for quiet some time, pushed for a design that would capture the spirit of the company.
What better line to do that than the Equip series? Founded in 1982, Team Equip was Work’s racing division, charged with handling wheels for the various Formula racing that Japan was enamored with. Their crowning achievement was the center lock Competition Wheel and it was from this wheel that Jean-Christophe drew inspiration from for the 40th anniversary model, the Equip 40.
The wheels, although a brand new model, appear to have been plucked from that 1982 advertisement. Curved grooves in the spokes give depth to the design and help shed weight as well. Attention to little details like the raised Work logo and weight reducing holes drilled alongside the lug pattern help create the illusion of a 35 year old wheel.
The wheels come in only 4×114.3 or 4×100, 15 inch diameter, and can be ordered from 5.5J to 13J wide in a variety of offsets. Two face colors, Brut Silver and Sprint Gold, can be mated to four different colored barrels with your choice of black or silver bolts (and washers) on the face. A shaved rear disk helps alleviate problems with fitting large brakes for owners who have upgraded their cars.
Quite the number of combinations can be configured! Don’t they look awesome? We sure hope these sell well, because if so this could help bring back old school designs from other makers as well.
Finally we leave you with this, the Triumph TR3 that Work Wheels had built to showcase the Equip 40. An odd choice given the JDM feel of the wheel, but perhaps they wanted to harken back to the Competition Wheel they made for racing back in the 80s. Stay tuned for more coverage on TAS from Revved!