Home of JDM Eye-candy: Tokyo Auto Salon 2019

As we submerge into cold winter months, it is a perfect time to reflect on where the automotive trends have taken us and what can we expect to be in store for 2019.

And what better place to do it at, than Tokyo Auto Salon - the mecca of Japanese aftermarket world.

If I had just one world to describe this event, it would perhaps be the word "transition"

Today's show if far cry from the petrol fumed competitive yet unifying version of itself from the just 10 years ago.

Exhibition space prices are multiple of what they used to,

...and so is the attendance, albeit most people are not even here for cars

Just a while back manufacturers were a bit more conservative and tended to frown away from entire after market scene.  Today they seem not only embrace it,

but in a way lead it.

So on that cold January Friday, exactly one day before official unveiling in Detroit, we saw the final pre-production version of the A90 Toyota Supra, albeit still in camouflage.

Some of the feats were very revealing, telling us parts of the story and more importantly of what the purpose of this car might be.

While all celebrations about the production model were saved for Detroit, Tokyo got to see the launch of the Super GT version of the A90 Supra

It is undeniable that with new brand name "Gazoo Racing", new race car, and new sports car to flagship the performance division Toyota is set to take the enthusiasts market by storm.

I am sure that the so-called JDM-purists who hate the fact that BMW has been used to power the Supra will finally voice their approval once more power is squeezed out of that block, and hey if this yields a 700HP Z4, then be it!

So without any doubt, after walking out their massive display space, it is event that Toyota will be the brand to follow in 2019.

Across from Toyota was a little brand that stands for exact opposite.  Forget practicality, market share, and all the bells and whistles.

When you buy a Lotus, consider yourself lucky if you get a door handle, but what you get is some of the best handling experience the world has ever seen.  While they may not be into trying to impress audience by playing horse power games, these little cars can embarrass the Italian or German giants pretty much on any track.

Given Lotuses significant following here Lotus Japan has unveiled new Exige Cup road car , competition car, as well as Lotus Evora Cup car.

Most manufacturers were present, and it almost seemed like Tokyo Auto Salon is gaining traction at the expense of Tokyo Motor Show.

Big unveils included the new Mazda 3,

and the AMG GT four-door from Mercedes Benz.  While keeping the CLS shell and being built on E class platform, at heart, this is AMG GT,

and now you can bring your kids for a ride in one as well, thanks to spacious rear seat and extra set of doors.

Sadly notable absence was BMW, which marketing department seems to be more cost driven.  Whether costs are more valuable than future potential or attention of car enthusiasts and world wide media is not for me to decide,

but where BMW was not seen, BMW platform was surely very well represented.

Starting right here at 3DDesign booth where M2 competition was sitting next to the F90 M5, sporing array of 3DDesign upgrades,

followed by this amazing M4 build at WorkWheels booth,

with design clues bothered from the GTS.

Of course, no Auto Salon Bimmer selection would be without presence of Checkshop.  For this year Otsuka-san brought his latest project car - the F90 M5.

Owner wasted little time fitting massive Kohlenstoff diffuser and Dinan exhaust to match.

A custom crafted 3 piece Agio forged wheels were fitted to complete this stage of the build.  I am sure there will be more developments to this beautiful car in near future

I was impressed by number of customized i8's,

But again, it were the older bimmers that blew my mind.

In particular the wide bodied E24 M6 executed so perfectly by Coutner Japan, it almost seemed like it was some sort of rare BMW original concept car.

The body kit gave the car aggressive race car look, while staggered stance should definitely improve handling.

For the moment Pandem seemed like the an odd minority focusing on old classics,

The work they have done on this old E Class is simply amazing,

while this FC RX7 was truly a work of art.

Compared to previous shows, this one was difficult to navigate simply because it was simply overwhelmed by what seems to be a formula to success:

lots of lights,

Insane wrap,

Slammed suspension,

crazy wheels,

and of course wide body kit,

having an Aventador also helped.

So let's have a look at the brand that started it all, because year in and year out Liberty Walk comes up with something special that tends to blow everyone's socks off.

This year it was this: widebody Ferrari 308GTB.  While I could never imagined that somebody would  modify this car in such fashion, Liberty Walk did one fantastic job.

In true Liberty Walk style, fender design really complements the shape of the car, while wheel choice maintains that classic subtlety of car, characteristic to that era of Ferrari's.

Speaking of un-modifiable car, how about Liberty Walk version of Mitsuoka Oroshi?

On top of that, they had a modified 488,


Aventador with yet another redesigned kit, and best looking livery of entire show,

and even BMW i8 got the over-fender treatment!

Nearby was this G63 AMG with carbon fenders to make it reminiscent of the mighty 4X4 and massive exhaust to put Brabus to shame.

and a mini G-wagon - the new Suzuki Jimny, or as Liberty Walk call it "Suzuki G mini" which was released by Suzuki last year with design clues bothered from the very first generation. Retro design done right here, and  Kato-san has put plenty of flavor to it,

There were other awesome builds signalling developing trends in Japan after-market world, which I was eager to check out.

Always love a Dodge Challenger, especially if it gets the right fender treatment

but this little Porsche caught me off guard

Yes, every panel has been recreated in carbon fiber,

and the car was lowered on set of classic Watanabe wheels to seal the deal.

Then I wondered into the North Hall, where old school was the school.

Top Secret had a nice way of attracting attention,

but looking around the booth really makes you appreciate the Skylines.

The stunning R33 was tastefully modified with full set of Top Secret aero and performance to match.

While I miss seeing Ken's bayside blue R35, this homage to Midnight Purple makes the right statement,

This R32 Skyline GTR is something completely different; yes it's bone stock and has been completely restored by Smokey to its factory glory.

And if you are after model cars, well you are certainly in the right place.  These miniature versions of past Top Secret creations are absolute collectors' dreams.

Last year we looked at absolutely stunning creation from Garage Active - a full carbon wide body R32, this year they came up with another hit, albeit with similar ingredients.  While the wide body of this R33 is covered with thick coat of paint rather than exposed carbon,

Under the bonnet it's all business: a giant HKS GT-3 turbo has been bolted onto a 2.8 stroked motor, along with handful other mods pushing horse power to four digit territory

 It is becoming evident that R33 popularity is picking up pace very rapidly.

This example from HKS comes with in-house build stroker kit, same as above GT-3 turbine and high efficiency inter-cooler.

Perhaps the most unique thing was this Sonkimland West Field by RE Amemiya.   Powered by twin rotor 13B engine tuned to 300HP.  This is not the first time RE Amemiya is building rotary engine kit car, but by far this car seems the most purpose-built and performance orientated.  I could imagine that if RE Amemiya somehow managed to get this to production, this would sell like freshly baked hot cakes.

So apart from Amemiya, there was this,

 along with this Bee-car,

and of course the Urus... wait...

Pickup....86?? ..That were the craziest of creations,

...the rest of the tuning scene was a sea of GTR's and 86's with performance figures pushed to the limit,

but even though all of these cars were amazingly put together there was a bit of "been there done that feel to them."

Point being is that Japan needs a fresh platform to give to tuners,

A90 Supra may as well be the answer, but how will BMW engine react, will the price be too much?  All remains to be seen.

Until then, events like Tokyo Auto Salon will remain a playground for GTRs and Aventadors.

By no means this makes it a bad thing, but the show, as well as car fans around the world would benefit a lot from more innovative exhibitors,

who see more value in lap times than wide fenders or led lights.

Agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comments! Before you do, please check out the rest of the photos!




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