The world's biggest custom car show, the Tokyo Auto Salon was held last January 11-13, 2008 at the Makuhari Messe (Nippon Convention Center) in Chiba-Ken Japan.
The highlight of the show was the Tokyo International Custom Car Contest where tuners from all over Japan display the best of their creations. Last year's winner, the Top Secret Twin Turbo V12 Supra was on hand to show just how a custom car should be done.
Roaming through the 8 different halls of the show, it was quite obvious which car tuners chose most to modify this year, and that is the Nissan R35 GTR. Ever since its launch late last year, the latest iteration of Nissan's iconic sports car has created quite a stir. Seeing as how the past 3 versions of the GTR have become cult classics when it comes to customizations and modifications, Japanese tuners wasted no time in getting to work on the R35. Most GTRs in the show featured only minor upgrades like exhaust systems, wheels, body kits, etc. But surprisingly, despite Nissan's efforts to prevent tuners from fiddling with the ECU, some tuners have already come out with their own upgraded ECUs for the Japanese supercar. With the GTR only being out for a couple of months, one can only wonder what tuners will come up with in the next year or so. Nismo, Nissan's motorsports division, also took the opportunity to introduce the racing GTR that they will campaign in the 2008 Super GT series.
A pair of rival cult classics, the Supra Impreza WRX STI and the Lancer Evolution X was also well represented at TAS. Subaru had a mockup of its next generation Impreza based WRC rally car while there were different racing versions of the Evo X from Group N rally racing to Super Taikyu touring cars. The two cars were bred as much for the street as for the track so companies like Jun, HKS, etc. wasted little time in extracting more power from the newest rally bred street machines.
Speaking of rally machines, Suzuki marks the start of their first full year of competition in the WRC class by introducing the SX4 WRC. This factory backed 5-door hatch was built to take on the best rally cars from Ford, Citroen, and Subaru. Suzuki also displayed the SX4's little brother, the Swift which competes in the Junior category of the World Rally Championship.
Mugen, a Japanese tuner well known for making some of the fastest Hondas in the world, came out with a radical concept, the Experimental Spec Mugen Civic RR. The sedan features a full carbon fiber front end (front fenders, bumper, hood) and a thoroughly massaged 2.2L naturally aspirated engine producing 260hp.
With all the new cars coming just in time for the TAS, several tuners made sure that older models received just as much attention as new ones. As a result, there was no shortage of perennial Japanese cult classics like the Mazda RX7, Nissan Silvia (S14 and S15), Honda S2000, Toyota Supra, and previous generation GTRs, Evolutions, and STIs.
One of the biggest display areas belonged to the D1 Grand Prix group. The display showcased the finest drift machines in the world. Of particular interest is the RWD Lancer Evolution X built by Jun Auto Mechanic for Nobu Kumakubo's Team Orange. This will be one of the vehicles the team will use in campaigning for the 2008 D1GP. Other notables in the D1 GP area include the Top Secret Z33 (350Z), the Yashio Factory S15, and the Vertex Soarer.
Showing just how popular drifting really is, several of Japan's top drifters including Takahiro Ueno, Nobu Kumakubo, etc. gave stunning demonstration runs outside the halls. Team Orange ran their GD body STI and Evolution 9 drift cars. It's a shame though that the team's newest RWD Evolution X did not run.
This year's Best Tuning Car award went to the Super Greddy III by RE Amemiya. At first glance, the silver FD3S RX7 does not appear to have too much work done to it. But closer inspection reveals an entirely custom body kit that looks a bit like a Miata and a Porsche combined. The modifications extend to the engine where a 20B Rotary Twin Turbo powers the beast and gives it more than 600hp.
This year's Tokyo Auto Salon showcased a lot of the newest Japanese sports cars to come out in the market. At the same time it did not neglect the cult classics that have made the show what it is today. Add to that a display and exhibition of Japan's most popular form of motorsport (drifting) and you have the perfect recipe for a great show.