One of the things I’ve noticed about car culture in Japan is that it’s very diverse. I already knew this but I never knew exactly how diverse it was. On any given day you could literally see anything from a full on Fast and Furious style GT-R to an immaculate example of a classic Jaguar on the road.
Part of the reason for this is that Japan, as a whole, don’t have much in a way of expressing one’s individuality. When most of the population live in apartment buildings, houses aren’t the best way of expressing your personality. It’s the same with clothing. Despite what anime conventions might suggest, Japan is quite a conservative and traditional society. Anyone who’s different will stand out.
So cars are a way of expressing your personality to everyone. That’s why Japan is a huge market for companies customising and tuning cars. And that’s also why Japan has many car shows. The Tokyo Auto Salon earlier in the year focused more on domestic products where as the Special Import Car Show, as the name suggests, looks at cars from overseas.
It wasn’t limited to custom cars though, some of the latest supercars and dream machines of old were also present. Mercedes-Benz didn’t hold back and had a bright yellow (Solar Beam) AMG GT S on display. But that had to play second fiddle to the crowd pleasing McLaren P1 on display at the Boom Craft stand, kindly supplied by Kimura-San (Car Guy). The usual displays of new Jaguar, Bentley, Ferrari, and Lamborghini cars were there to keep everyone happy. A nice surprise was a rare Gumpert Apollo. Not the prettiest car in the world but it was a crowd pleaser nevertheless. More on this later.
To bring balance to the show, Volkswagen had their new Golf R Variant on show. However as it was displayed across the Mansory stand which had two Aventadors, a Huracan, and many models who seemed to have fabric allergies, the poor VW was a bit neglected. Citroen’s funky C4 Cactus fared better, the yellow paint certainly helped. It’s a unique looking car and one I suspect you’ll either love or hate. I loved it.
Classic cars fans weren’t forgotten. In no particular order there were two Ford GT40s, a Lancia Stratos, a Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, Lamborghini Countach, a Lamborghini Miura, two Lotus Europas, a Plymouth Barracuda, and many MGBs including one with a Nissan SR20 engine in it. I don’t know if you can count it as a classic but there was also an absolutely immaculate Murcielago, possibly the best example I’ve ever seen.
Of course the main attractions were the custom and tuner cars. Big names such as Mansory had an onslaught of cars on display. Everything from Range Rovers, Rolls-Royce Ghost, Mercedes S-Class, and the aforementioned Lambos were on full show. There was a Merc C-Class with the Lorinser kit and many Volkswagen and Audi cars tastefully done up. A particular highlight was the R8 Spyder. However, it was hard to see it properly due to the large crowd gathered around it. Not to see the car, but to oggle at the model next to it.
Further down the hall were a group of baby blue cars. The colour were the only things remotely ‘baby’ about them. The Tokyo A-Team/Anija stall had every petrolhead’s dream; there were two Murciealgos, a Ferrari F50, a Pagani Zonda, and a Koenigsegg CCX. This was my first Koenigsegg and I was not disappointed. It was jaw-dropping.
Seeing these cars was one thing, getting up close and personal with them as something else. As I made my way back to the Gumpert Apollo I said apporached Hiromitsu Ito, owner and founder of Tomei Motors who had the Apollo as well as a 458 GTE and the actual 1966 GT40 that raced at Sebring. Ito-San was very welcoming and was perhaps one of the coolest guys I’d ever met. He opened the velvet rope for me and let me sit in the Gumpert, 458, and GT40. It was a very special and memorable moment, the GT40 in particular. That was my personal highlight of the show.
Outside the exhibition hall the fun kept going. I went on the Saturday which meant there was a display of classic cars and cars from the VW, Audi, and BMW owners club. Some highlights from that include a E30 M3, E34 M5, Lancia Delta Intergrale and Montecarlo, a gorgeous B5 RS4, and a Mercedes 190SL. Liberty Walk also had their cars outside, possibly because they were too wide to fit inside. I’ll never get tired of seeing their overside wheel arches.
Unfortunately I couldn’t make it for the Sunday show but that seemed like the day to be as it was the day all the supercars gathered at the car park. From the photos and videos I’ve seen there were many Lambos and Ferraris, but also a Bugatti Veyron and another P1. The cars displayed inside also did a drive outside. Yes, I regret not going on Sunday very much.
These kinds of shows happen quite regularly in Japan and is definitely worth looking into before planning your holiday to Japan. I didn’t know about this show until a week or so beforehand. But it was certainly an interesting show. It might not be on the same scale as the Auto Salon, but it still gave a decent representation of the latest trends and styles in Japan at the moment.