Site map
日本語

| HOME | What's New? | Critical Stuff | Close-up | New Car Tests | Driver Training | Racing |
| Circuit Oz | Car Culture | Lifestyle | Contributors | About Me | Links | Contact Us |
Critical stuff

Tokyo Auto Salon Report

Manufacturer might meets customizer craze

Even pint-sized robot Asimo danced to the tune of this year's Tokyo Auto Salon
*

If the Tokyo Motor Show is an environmentally conscious Leonardo DiCaprio who cares about hybrids and understated styling, then the annual Tokyo Auto Salon is his rebellious, nonconformist rival Charlie Sheen who worships power and over-the-top cosmetic surgery. Sure, the Auto Salon has a few hybrids and even the odd electric car, but this 3-day show, which attracts around 250,000 fans each year, is a journey into the lunatic extremes of what is possible in the world of tuners and customizers.Where else in the world can you find a soon-to-be-released, production-ready Suzuki minicar sitting across the aisle from a fully worked 700-horsepower Nissan Skyline GT-R track racer, or a wacky green machine that looks like it came straight off the set of Thunderbirds?

The international attention that this show attracts, comparable to America's SEMA and Germany's Essen events, means that mainstream car manufacturers can no longer ignore the Salon's massive appeal. It has got to the stage where each major Japanese carmaker feels obliged to reveal at least one new model. And this year, more brand-new cars appeared on stands than ever before, including the 2006 Daihatsu Bego, Mazda MPV, Mitsubishi i, Suzuki MR Wagon, Toyota bB, Toyota Estima, Toyota Rush, and even the limited-edition Subaru STi S204. But as the carmakers unveiled their new metal to low-key media reception, it was the tuner shops' day as wild wares were everywhere. Even Japan's foremost automotive college unleashed its mix of madcap designs that are always the surprise of this party.

*

Toyota
First seen at last year's Tokyo Motor Show in concept form, the new Estima, bB and Rush, each due for imminent release, appeared on Toyota's stand in final production form. The all-new Estima (Previa in the U.S.) now features even sharper lines, as well as a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V6. The bB, which has always appealed to a young hip-hop type of audience with its boxy styling, has taken on an edgier, more extreme stance in the design department ― a look that will further enhance its position as a style icon for Japan's X-Generation. Sitting on the same platform as the Daihatsu Bego and launched a few weeks ago in Japan, the Toyota Rush is a compact, 1.5-liter, hard-core SUV with full-time 4WD capability.

*

Nissan/Nismo
The highlight of the Nissan stand was this one-off Nismo 350Z RS Concept which takes the S-tune to the next level. Nismo engineers took a stock 294-hp Z and basically tweaked every part of the engine to generate upward of 350 hp. Wanting to build Nismo's most extreme Z so far, Nissan's racing arm also fitted larger brakes, a stiffer suspension and outrageous aero parts.

*

*

*

Honda

Civic Hybrid Modulo
Boasting a childlike charm and improved dancing skills, Honda's famed robot, Asimo, was given the job of introducing the carmaker's concepts and new models. Sitting on center stage was the Civic Hybrid Modulo Concept, a bright red sedan employing a movable rear diffuser and intake vents, and special aerodynamic wheel covers to further improve the mileage of a car that already challenges the record books. Parked opposite the hybrid, Mugen engineers took the basic (non-hybrid) Civic, and bolted on a supercharger to create the 300-hp Mugen Dominator, a supercharged 300-hp Civic sedan. "But don't expect to see this on the road too soon as it's just an idea," said a rep from Honda's racing arm.

 

*

*

*

Mazda
Mazda has taken three of its most popular cars ― the MX-5, RX-8 and Mazda 6 ― and given them the Mazdaspeed treatment. That means they've all been painted in a special Mazda blue, a color which Mazda tells us hasn't been named yet. Engineers also raided high-performance parts bins to fit all three concepts with stiffer Bilstein suspension, uprated four-piston Mazdaspeed brake calipers, and buckets of raunchy aero parts. And by fitting the Mazda 6 with a remapped ECU and larger intercooler, Mazda has upped power to 300 hp. And if the market likes what it sees, Mazda says it

will consider sales in both Japan and overseas. On the production-car side, two new stock MPVs also appeared, but without the 245-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter 4WD model, due for release in early February.

 

*

In addition to the three blue special editions was another rather good-looking one-off MX-5, customized by well-known tuner DAMD and incorporating an $8,000 upgraded interior that had media and pundits enquiring about

possible future availability. And to complete Mazda's lineup, a modified green and yellow MX-5 from Super Autobacs, Japan's biggest car accessory chain, offered a new-look front and classic lines all round.

*

Subaru
STi took this opportunity to launch its all-new limited-edition S204, the fourth installment of a luxury WRX STi. Costing in excess of $42,000, the S204 gets two specially designed Recaro reclining race seats ― each costing around $5,000 ― a full leather interior, a fully reworked engine developing 320 hp, and revised suspension and brakes. A carbon-fiber spoiler, rear wing and diffuser also add to the cost.

*

*

This time around, STI has also fitted two newly developed performance dampers, one at the front and one at the back. Attached to the body between the suspension tower struts, they act to absorb unwanted bumps and vibrations and reduce body roll and understeer, generating the smoothest ride ever experienced in a WRX ― at least that's what Subaru is promising.

*

Garage Trial NSX
Aiming to build the quickest NSX in the country, tuning specialist Garage Trial Ltd.'s souped-up Honda broke the magic minute lap time barrier last year at Japan's well-known Tsukuba Circuit. Its time: 59.8 seconds. Sitting on Yokohama Advan A048 rubber, uprated brakes and suspension, and packing a fully reworked and bored-out 3.5-liter V6, this privately owned NSX generates 415 hp at 7,700 rpm and 311 pound-feet of torque at 5,600 rpm.

*

Prochrome Silvia
Spray-on chrome technology debuted at this year's Salon in the form of the Prochrome Nissan Silvia. Fenced off and guarded by a pseudo-soldier, this display vehicle clearly shows just how far chrome application has come and how good it can look when done properly. The 600-hp GT-R straight-six twin-turbo, specially lit under the hood, showed that Prochrome meant business.

Mitsuoka Orochi
First seen in concept form at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, the Orochi cabrio employs Mitsuoka Motors' second original chassis after the one fitted to the Caterham look-alike Zero One Caterham of 10 years ago. While launch dates and engine specs have not been finalized, Mitsuoka tell us that it is currently testing an Orochi powered by the same 3.3-liter V6 that powers the Lexus RX 330.

*

Power Enterprise WRX STi
As one of the most powerful Subaru Imprezas at the Salon, the STi from Power Enterprise employs a larger turbo and intercooler generating upward of 520 hp. Other modifications include a blow-off valve, a rotated intake manifold, a repositioned radiator for better cooling efficiency, bigger brakes, and stiffer suspension.

 

*

Super Autobacs 300C
It goes without saying that the Chrysler 300C is one of the most popular cars for customizers in the U.S. In Japan, Super Autobacs, the country's leading car accessory chain, has taken the lead in developing parts for this macho machine. This jet-black 300C employs lots of cosmetic surgery inside and out in the form of hundreds of clear plastic beads "meant to resemble the glitter of little diamonds," as one staffer told us. Check out the gearshift surround. The oversized stereo system in the trunk is optional.

*

Cross Style Copen Racer
Known worldwide as a turbocharged 660cc minicar, this Daihatsu Copen's four-cylinder engine has been bored out to around 700cc by race shop Cross Style which replaced every conceivable part with racing components to achieve maximum output of around 180 hp, roughly the same power as a 1.6-liter engine. With power channelled through the front wheels, the car's suspension and brakes have also been upgraded to race spec and a special red paint job completes the package.

*

*

Kagotani 700-hp Skyline GT-R
Where would an Auto Salon be without its token 700-hp Skyline GT-R? Right? This is Japan's greatest sports car taken to the absolute max. Specially tuned by Garage Kagotani as an entrant in the country's fastest-lap time challenge to find the quickest tuned car in the land, Kagotani beefed up this 320-hp stock GT-R.

 

*

NATS (Automobile Design College)
By far, the most eye-opening stand at the Auto Salon was produced by students from the Japan Automobile College, or NATS. Each year, the instructors give these lads free rein to create anything they want, as long as they use chassis from existing cars. And with each year, the designs and the names get more extreme. This year, the highlights of their display included the Ahora Splar, a green, long-nosed mobile that looks like it could have just stepped off the set of Thunderbirds. Based on a Toyota Crown, the Splar is powered by a 3.0-liter straight-six and employs a Nissan Figaro cockpit.

Dropped onto a Ferrari 328GTS chassis and powered by a 270-hp Toyota V8 with a Subaru Impreza WRX STi six-speed manual gearbox, the Lightning incorporates a Toyota Sera gullwing cabin.

 

The yellow Fermata is based on a twin-turbo Supra while the Scarpa, which has been licensed for the road, is a stretched Nissan March in disguise.

 

Looking like a Stephen King creation from the horror flick Christine, the Ahora Vivir is a combination of a Toyota Crown chassis and Nissan delivery van.

NATS students will vie with hundreds of other designer and engineer wanna-bes for positions as future employees of Japan's carmakers. Sure, some of this penmanship is excessive and over the top, but let's face it, Japan's carmakers do need a shot in the arm when it comes to exterior designs.

And as weird, wild and wonderful as it gets, it could never be more so than at the Tokyo Auto Salon.

past articles

戻る


COPYRIGHT(C)2004 PETER LYON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.