Another year another Tokyo Auto Salon. Japan’s equivalent to the SEMA show, the Auto Salon is not for the light hearted. Fortunately, this was my second time covering TAS so my mind, heart, and sense were prepared for the visual onslaught we’ve come to expect from Japan’s premier tuning show.


Here’s a free tip if you want to visit TAS – go on the first day. Buy an advanced ticket for the special preview day and enjoy the show without the 100,000 or so visitors the show attracts on the weekend. I don’t understand why TAS only lasts for three days, two of those falling on a weekend. An extra advanced day would help ease crowding. This year’s TAS was the biggest yet with more exhibitors and crowds than ever before.


Because of the scale of the show, one day wasn’t enough to cover everything. I went on the first press and preview day, then again on the Sunday. The first day was the most enjoyable. I was able to see the displays and move around freely. Taking photos was relatively easy. On the Sunday it was damn near impossible.


Interestingly, while it’s called an ‘Auto Salon’, at times it did appear that 90% of photographers there were only interested in the models. Now I don’t want to rant on here, but if it this was a Victoria Secret show I’d totally understand middle-aged flocking around half-dressed models. But it did start to look slightly weird after a while.


If anything, the models often got in the way of cars. You’d point a camera towards a car and they’d go and stand next to it as if thinking that’s what you wanted to happen. I so desperately wanted to say “could you get out of the way” but after what they go through the last thing they need is a wannabe James Cameron giving them directions.


Right, let’s talk about the cars. There’s not enough time in the world to talk about every single one so instead I’ll talk about some of the highlights. I’ll put the rest of the photos up on a separate gallery for you to be able to flick through.


As with last year, and the year before, the whole ‘widebody overfender’ look was all the rage. No matter where you were in the 11 halls of the Makuhari Messe you were sure to find yourself looking at a car with those ridiculous overfenders. You got them on everything from vans, Toyota 86s, Abarth 500s, Mazda MX-5s, Lexus LS600h, Corvettes, Porsche 911s and all sorts of other European exotics. The king of this trend is of course Liberty Walk.


This year LB’s hand stretched further than just Lamborghinis and Ferraris. They also had Audi A5s and R8s, Maserati GTs, and even a Mini Cooper. While the over fender craze was slightly overdone in my opinion, the widebody MX-5 from Aimgain International was one of the show highlights for me. It just looked so ridiculous.


The new MX-5 proved to be a popular base car for tuners this year. There weren’t as many as I was expecting, but to be fair it’s only been on the market for less than a year. Here’s hoping TAS 2017 will have more unique, and turbocharged, MX-5 creations.


Speaking of affordable Japanese sports cars, one of my favourites is the Daihatsu Copen. Normally a two-seater folding hardtop convertible, Daihatsu shared some interesting concepts based on this humble sports car. There was a Alfa 4C-inspired fastback coupe, an rugged looking “Adventure” concept, and a Shooting Brake concept. The latter was my favourite because 1) it was blue and 2) it reminded me of the old Z3 Coupe and hints of the Ferrari FF. And who doesn’t want a micro Ferrari?


But that wasn’t the craziest Copen-based concept at the show. There was one resembling an old Mercedes S-Class. Given that kei-cars such as the Copen cost around 8 times less in tax, it makes sense to make a kei-based Mercedes for those wanting to downsize but still want to keep up with the Jones’.


Honda’s S660 also had a wide variety of kits and tuning parts available. But the S660 Neo Concept was by far the coolest. Essentially a retro-styled S660, it was a large middle finger to the S660’s contemporary edgy styling. In white I can imagine it’d look like a cute panda.


Toyota teased us again with yet another S-FR concept. This one was called the ‘Racing Concept’ and previews what the angry Pokemon car would look like with some over-the-top aero additions. To be honest it all seemed a bit ‘Fast and Furious’ to me but I couldn’t help but smile every time I was around it.


The Toyota FT-1 Concept next to it might’ve had something to do with that though. This was a genuine surprise. I was surprised Toyota didn’t have it at the Tokyo Motor Show, so I didn’t expect to see it at TAS. Now if only Toyota could surprise us by putting it into production.


Toyota also had a RC GT3 car on display at their Gazoo Racing booth. There’s no word on a production version but how brilliant would a RC F GT3 be? Put it through a crash course diet (get rid of say 200-300kg), take away the rear seats, chuck in a roll cage, put on a GT wing, and benchmark it against the M4 GTS.


The BMW i8 also proved to be a popular car to customise this year. The orange AC Schnitzer car was displayed at the BBS booth, because it was sporting BBS wheels, but more than anything the bright orange paint caught everyone’s eyes. Why BMW only offer the i8 in four colours is unfathomable.


But if you want to go for the full ‘look-at-me’ effect with your i8 perhaps go to the guys at Energy Motorsports. These were the chaps responsible for the “first modified i3” we saw at last year’s TAS. Their crack at the i8 is even more extreme. The crazy bodykit coupled with that futuristic silver wrap makes it look like an official company car of Skynet. I never thought an i8 could look more like a concept car.


If we’re going to talk about crazy then the gold etched Nissan GT-R by Kuhl probably takes the cake. Yes, you read that right; this hasn’t been wrapped, those details were etched on. This is a follow up on the silver car Kuhl displayed last year which won the award for ‘Best Custom Car’.


When D.A.D. showed their bedazzled Mercedes SL a few years ago people scoffed. But now, this trend is starting to gain traction. LYZER displayed a pink crystal Lamborghini Murcielago which was anything but relaxing to look at it. Slightly less of a visual bombardment was the pink Liberty Walk Aventador Roadster adorned with Swarovski crystals. No biggie.


Mercedes-Benz were quite popular this year with tuners. VITT Squalo managed to get their hands on the latest SL and S-Class Coupe and gave them widebody treatments. Because everyone who’s looked at a $250,000 Mercedes S-Class Coupe have thought the same thing – it’s too damn narrow.


The FAB Design Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster has been around for a while but still managed to pull a crowd for its sheer presence. There were two takes on the new Mercedes-AMG GT, the Wald Black Bison kit and the Hamana widebody. In my opinion Hamana’s kit was faultless. The subtle widebody look like it that’s how it came out of the factory in Stuttgart. The whole look was nicely finished off with the Vossen wheels too.


While we’re on Mercedes, the Three-Pointed star took this opportunity to give the G550 4×4² it’s Japan debut. Essentially, a four-wheeled version of the ridiculous G63 6×6, Mercedes hopes this will give a more ‘practical’ alternative to those wanting the most badass 4×4 on the market right now. If I’m going to be honest I love this thing. It was the first car I went to go see when I arrived at TAS.


Subaru also showed a new concept based on the BRZ, the BRZ STi concept. Yes, yet another BRZ concept and this time featuring a turbocharger. Estimates put the power output to around 300bhp. I have to say, the styling changes and the extra oomph are certainly very tempting. But don’t get your hopes up. Subaru have a history of teasing us with concepts that never make it to production. I’ll believe it when I see it in showrooms.


Luckily it wasn’t all widebodys and big wings. There were some rather tastefully done modified cars such as the red Huracan with classic-look wheels. What made it even better was S&C Company refrained from putting overfenders on it. Well done.


Other notable mentions include the green Aventador SV was a lot more tastefully done. But I was surprised to see a tuned one, albeit only with a green wrap and new wheels. The Ferrari F12 by Autoveloce SVR with the LaFerrari-styled body kit was incredibly drool worthy. On the contrary, the Wald Rolls Royce Wraith was about as tacky as a packet of Tic-Tacs. T


In terms of ‘wow’ factor, it was hard to beat the Garage G-Force Mitsubishi Evo time attack car. As crazy as it looks, I kind of want to have a go in one. As always, the RWB cars attracted a lot of attention. The two white RWB Porsches at the Rocket Bunny booth were no exception.


TWS Wheels showed the famous Pagani Zonda F Clubsport with one of their wheel designs. I also liked the Cross Bone Toyota Crown, which looked like it came from a galaxy far far away.


Suffice to say, TAS is a show unlike any other. I was rather disappointed this year’s didn’t show anything new or forward thinking, instead recycling last year’s trends. But that didn’t mean the tuners and exhibitors didn’t have some awesome creations to display. I have no doubt TAS will only get bigger and better. Hopefully 2017 will bring with it the next big then and some new trends.


So what was my overall highlight of TAS 2016? It’ll have to be the Mazda LM55 Vision Gran Turismo Concept. If that’s not forward thinking then I don’t know what is.

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Ken Saito
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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