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Tokyo Auto Salon 2017 – Part 1: This Is How We Live in Tokyo

What’s that thing about the eyes being the window to someone’s soul? Anyway, think of the Tokyo Auto Salon as being the window into Japan’s twisted, perverted, and absolutely mental soul of its car culture.

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Where most other car shows like to keep things restrained, elegant, and well generic, TAS throws all that out the window and does things in its own crazy Japanese way. The bright lights of the Makuhari Convention Halls and the variety of colours displayed make you feel like you’re in some Neo-Tokyo future. Literally all it needed to complete the feel were some bright pachinko signs.

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This year’s TAS was the biggest so far. Over 320,000 people were in attendance to see the 458 exhibitors and over 850 vehicles displayed. From the looks of it, this show will just keep getting bigger each year. I had intended to do two articles on TAS this year, but the show was so big and there was too much to see and do, I’ve had to add an extra post for all the weird and wonderful things.

Wider and Wilder
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I’ve covered TAS for three years now, the first and second years were quite similar. There wasn’t a particular theme among exhibitors. Everyone sort of did their own thing, trying to find their style. This year however, it was slightly different. It was hard to escape everyone’s fascination for the widebody overfender look made famous by the likes of RWB, Rocket Bunny, and Liberty Walk.

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The latter is absolutely massive these days. Liberty Walk has almost become synonymous with this style, even though they weren’t by any means the pioneers. You can see the growth of the company by their stand compared to previous years. There are more cars, more staff, and more merchandise.

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The cars they displayed this year weren’t showstoppers per se, LB don’t need to rely on Aventadors and Murcielagos anymore. They know they’re going to get a crowd anyway so they’ve put some of their lesser known (and newer) products on show. The 650S was a nice surprise as it looked weird and awkward in photos but worked really well in reality.

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The new LB 488 was unveiled at TAS as well, improving the slightly stale design of the standard car. Next to it was a cool little project car which doesn’t really go with the supercars Liberty Walk is famous for but has bags more style; the RX-3. We actually saw this car at Tatsumi PA a couple months back but didn’t know it was a LB car then.

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Speaking of old school, another brand with a lot of attention this year was Pandem. An off-shoot of Rocket Bunny, Pandem have gone for a squared-off overfender look compared to the round arches seen everywhere else. What makes Pandem unique is they focus more on older and more affordable cars such as the E30 3-Series, R32 Skyline, and Toyota 86. It’s good to see these aftermarket companies acknowledging a market for affordable cars and kits rather than concentrating on the high value exotics.

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Continuing on with widebodies, because we might as well, another squared off widebody look was the Honda Integra at Solid & Joker. It was possibly one the best looking and cleanest builds at the show. The Aimgain stand was a mix of the VIP style executive cars with massive overfenders. Their blue and gold Lexus LS600h is a prime example of this fusion style. Also at their stand was a slammed Acura (Honda) NSX with a subtle aero kit.

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Aimgain weren’t the only ones with a widebody luxury sedan, the Lexus LS was a popular base car for these crazy widebody kits. Probably because this generation is starting to become more affordable. What isn’t affrodable or common (yet) is the Maserati Levante. It’s only been released in Japan for a few months and there are already widebody kits available for it such as the kit from Nakagawa.

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It’s Not All Widebodies, Honest
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Okay, so you’ve had enough widebodies then? Let’s move on to the other cars of TAS. One of the highlights for me was the Kuhl stand. As usual, they didn’t disappoint. Last year they had the award-winning metal paint etched Nissan GT-R, this year they had a Subaru WRX and a Toyota Veilfire. The details were absolutely stunning and the overall look was unique and a crowdpleaser. Of course the Subaru also had overfenders.

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Moving on and sticking with Japanese cars, while most played with widebody kits and fancy paintwork, there were still a few companies doing performance tuning to cars. RX-7s and GT-Rs were the most popular project cars, with companies such as Scoot, Top Secret, and RE Amemiya showing some of their best.

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A stand out was the VARIS Kamikaze-86, based on surprise surprise, a Toyota 86. VARIS went for the full time attack car look, turning the 86 into a sharp, edgy, ninja star looking thing. The bodykit, the rear wing, the centre exhaust, and especially the diffuser, were about the most aggressive of the show.

There’s Still A Strong European Presence
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Moving on, there were a good mix of custom European cars too. It does seem that every year more and more European cars are used as projects for show cars. From a simple wheel change in the case of the Pagani Huayra and Ferrari F40, to complete bodykits on Ferraris from Novitec and Autoveloce SVR, there was something for everyone.

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A particular favourite of mine was the Alpii Audi R8 RSR. Yes it looked like it could’ve been from Liberty Walk or any other widebody kit company, but the overfenders, stance, and massive wing were hard to dislike. Oh, and did I mention the carbon fibre?

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The Land Rover Defender and the Mercedes G-Wagon displayed at the Bond Group stand were undeniably cool and a stark contrast from some of the blingy SUVs at the rest of the show. Speaking of which, the Forgiato stand never disappoints with bling and excess. The Dawn with a very confused looking bodykit took centre stage, next to it was a widebody Corvette C7.

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While its mostly tuned cars, TAS is also the first big motor show of the year in Japan so it’s primetime for companies to show off their latest creations. Mazda took this opportunity to show the public their new CX-5 which actually looked better than I thought it would. Lexus also showed their new LC500 Super GT racing car in its full carbon fibre glory.

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Even though most of the cars this year did look alike, if it weren’t for the booth names I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell Aimgain from Rocket Bunny, it was still great to see some diversity of customization and to see the trend and direction of Japanese customisation market. I’m not sure if most of the new stuff can be considered ‘properly JDM’ as there’s definitely a lot of inspiration from overseas. However, there still something uniquely Japanese in the craziness and the whole attitude of not caring what anyone thinks, let’s do it for the sake of doing it.

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So that’s all the serious stuff out of the way. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my coverage from TAS2017 for all the weird and wonderful sights of the show.

Ken Saitohttps://instagram.com/kenmsaito/
Words cannot begin to describe how much I love cars but it's worth a try. Grew up obsessed with them and want to pursue a career writing about them. Anything from small city cars to the most exotic of supercars will catch my attention.

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