The Tokyo Auto Salon is known to be the annual tuning car festival held on this side of the world. Countless Japanese parts and completely modified vehicles fill all twelve halls of the Makuhari Messe to showcase what’s new with the ever-growing aftermarket. While we’ve attended the show to cover what’s new and to *cough* get some parts *cough*, it was unavoidable that there would be a few cars that would make us stop thanks to their strange modifications. Seeing as this is Japan and strange is the norm around these parts, we welcome the oddities as they come and we’re glad to share them with you here.
To start off, we went down to Halls 7 and 8 as the gates opened. Upon descending the steps we were greeted by an extensively modified teal-colored supercar. What we were actually looking at is the latest iteration of the infamous Anija Zonda. The rarity of Pagani Zondas themselves mean they’re treated as a holy grail; A car meant to be left alone and enjoyed for what it is - the vision of Horacio Pagani. We are however in Japan, where it seems the strict rules of society are contradicted by the boundless freedom of modifying anything; including a Zonda. Apart from the audacious color choice, a complete facelift, a jet-turbine styled exhaust, and more recently a ski rack have been fitted to the rare hypercar to set it apart from the rest. Whether it’s to your liking or not isn’t of value to the owner perhaps, we’re guessing he did it because he can.
Craftsmanship can be appreciated across many different styles and generes. Whether you’re into stance, circuit racing, drifting, stance, or even hot rods, true craftsmanship can make or break any other vehicle you’re looking at. And while old 50’s classics would be the last thing you’ll see in my garage, this Chevy Bel Air by ROHAN had us ogling at its rather intricate paint work. Yes folks, what looks to be some intense engraving all over the car’s body is actually a meticulous painting process that ROHAN have become known for as of late. Every single panel has some sort of pattern and texture applied to it with no stone left unturned. We just had to admire the effort that goes into this kind of work, even if it isn’t our cup of tea.
Next to ROHAN, the folks from KUHL Racing on the other hand have taken their extensive paint work onto a more contemporary platform. Their Nissan GTR doesn’t take the textured paint approach of ROHAN, instead banking on very meticulous pinstriping as well as having different shade patterns on the paint across the body. Staring blankly at the GTR’s massive bonnet, the light above allows the paint to display a wave-like pattern that gives further depth to an otherwise flat surface. Every angle changes the paint’s pattern as the light strikes it a different way, making for a mesmerizing few minutes of entertainment literally staring at a rolling piece of artwork.
The Nihon Auto Technical School, or NATS for short, always has their students come up with crazy projects that would debut at the annual show as their thesis – and boy did these kids deliver this year. While at first glance you would think you’re looking at a Lamborghini Urus, you’ll notice that the body is that of a coupe and that the rear section has been chopped into a pickup. A quick peek at its plaque on the windscreen indicates that this used to be a humble Toyota 86, hence being called the URUS86. Lifted on offroad tires with all its extensive modifications, the URUS86 is a showcase of what NATS’ students are capable of when it comes to fabrication.
Another quirky car they did this year would be this humble ‘Ford Woody Wagon’. Again, simple and straightforward it would seem, this actually used to be a Toyota Corolla Van, an otherwise common workhorse for the Japanese service industry. NATS has plenty more weird and quirky vehicles, but we’ll leave you to dig up on the rest. Just know that their students are very capable – and that the future of the japanese aftermarket is in very good hands.
Liberty Walk’s head honcho Wataru Kato isn’t one to shy away from the weird and quirky – his widebody kits for various exotica aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘normal’ to begin with. What we do know is Kato-san embraces all that is about being Japanese, and for this year he’s taken that sentiment to different heights by making a widebody kit for one of the strangest japanese production cars ever made – a Mitsuoka Orochi.
If you haven’t heard of the Orochi, that’s because Mitsuoka mainly rebodies conventional vehicles into retro-like versions for the local japanese market, and the Orochi was their rather dismal attempt at making a supercar. Unloved for its alien-bug-like quad-eyed face, the Orochi is usually shoved under the rug when it comes to talking about Japanese imports. This year however, Kato-san made an attempt to bring the Orochi back to life with a bespoke widebody kit; whether he succeeded or not is still a question we’ve yet to answer ourselves. Kato-san at least did what he does best with his work though – he gets everyone talking about it.
That photo we used for the cover was a car done by a private owner and tucked away at the last hall of the show. Subtle as it gets, but as we were walking towards the exit its popped bonnet told an entirely different story and we just had to backtrack and take a closer look. Yes folks, what you see is a Toyota 1JZ GTE shoved into the engine bay of a GRB Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Considering the nature of this swap, we’d expect the symmetrical AWD to be removed altogether, but the execution of this endeavor made it look as if the straight six powerhouse from Toyota fits right at home inside the Subaru. Guess he took the meaning of ‘Toyobaru’ to a whole new level eh?
Our takeaway from this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon continues to align with the core values of being car enthusiasts. Different vehicles, quirky styling, some even borderline controversial, yet still there is a considerable amount of appreciation for all the work that goes into every car on the show floor. Building cars isn’t merely installing a bunch of bolt-ons and calling it a day, cars are to be treated like blank canvasses with which one can express their craft and talent.