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February 20, 2018

Hello again everyone. As I finally found the freedom to sit for a few hours and write about my Tokyo Auto Salon experience, I realized this is our first post of 2018. What better way to start than with a look at TAS? Admittedly, this is a bit of old news since TAS occurred about a month ago. Most of the cars and stories have been shared on the various outlets already. PRIME was never really about bringing out the latest scoop or coverage anyway, at least that’s what I’m telling myself for now, haha. We’re simply car enthusiasts, just like you.

Making the journey back to NYC from Japan, I had no idea what was waiting for me here.  The jetlag was killer and I was unfortunately caught in a storm of office life for the better part of the last month. The storm has thankfully passed and I hope to never see it again. I think we all have to deal with these situations sometimes in one way or another. Responsibility delays. It’s only been a month since Japan, yet it feels like it was so long ago. Sitting here, reminiscing about the experience has got me excited to share what I captured with you. Tons and tons of photos were taken, some are terrible, some are decent, it won’t take long to notice but I’m not best photographer around. Either way, I’m excited to describe my journey through the halls of the Makuhari Messe with you.


It all started on the Thursday before the main event. I linked with Ben and Avi who run a company that needs no introduction, Bulletproof Automotive. As exhibitors, they are able to access TAS on set up day and have been doing so for years. I was lucky enough to come along for the ride.


As we approached, we could hear the familiar rumbles of Japanese motors being offloaded from trailers and moving into their respective locations. The first one to capture my attention was the incredible Star Road S30Z you see here. The activity happening before my eyes, seeing this immaculate machine, I thought, “we’re here.”


From that area, we entered the hall. There were a couple of slammed R35s which caught our glance, then the ROWEN Aventador, and suddenly the RAYS Engineering booth, which was still very much under construction. This was honestly amazing to see. In a matter of seconds, TAS was throwing these visuals our way. I felt a knot in my throat due to how excited I was.

We then came across yet another Star Road S30Z. An identical twin to the blue version we saw outside. Only this one in a beautiful shade of red.


We were on a mission to find the Varis booth. The three of us worked on a very special project and we wanted to make sure it arrived safe and sound but were also just hyped to see it again. We also wanted to see the highly anticipated widebody Supra that had the online car community actively captivated and curious for the past few weeks. Upon entering the hall, the three of us looked around and finally spotted it. Ben and Avi casually made their way to the booth. I, for some reason, felt like walking at a higher pace, as if I didn’t get there quick enough, I would miss it. Which was ridiculous, but for some reason, my brain triggered this sense of urgency. I was about to see our most recent project, one of the reasons I came back to Japan. I didn’t know what to think, or what was going to feel like. Was it even a big deal anyway? It may not be a big deal to most, but it was to me.


We made it to Varis. The first sight, which everyone gravitated towards, The Garage Revolver X Varis Supreme JZA80 Widebody Supra. From sketch to reality.


The team at Varis spent the last couple of months prior to TAS working on this build day and night. All through the holidays, Christmas and New Years, to get this done. The not so uncommon automotive trade show deadline grind time. It almost seemed impossible that they would finish it, but here it was.


They still had some setup work to get done. While Ben and Avi discussed the build with the owner, Shunsuke @revolver112, I made my way over to the car that I myself, spent many nights on after work, albeit digitally.

It has always been a dream of mine, to have a car in Japan, let alone TAS, with my artwork on it. Being a fan of Japanese car culture, over the years, I’ve consumed massive amounts of content from TAS. Back in the day, on websites like speedoptions.com, minkara and the Veilside/RE-Amemiya blogs. I held TAS in high regard as the mecca of cool car culture. This still holds true. Fast forward to mid last summer, Ben and Avi reached out to me to work on the world debut of the new Varis EVO X project. I, of course, agreed to do so. I made a few renderings and we finally decided on the look. From that point, the guys built the car out in LA and displayed it at SEMA, that alone, was a huge accomplishment.


A few days after SEMA, Ben mentioned they were going to ship the car to Japan to debut it at the Tokyo Auto Salon, then run it at HKS Premium day at FUJI Speedway. “Are you serious?!” was the first response from me. Upon confirmation, I thought, alright, I’m definitely going to Japan to see this.


Suddenly, I was in Tokyo, standing in front of it.


I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I was surprised by this myself, but there’s was something about seeing this that got to me. After so many years of being interested in this culture and industry, looking from afar, online and in magazines, then seeing your work in the booth of one of the most respected and well known Japanese aero manufacturers in the world, it was a lot to take in. It was fulfilling yet almost unbelievable. I actually still can’t believe it, but it happened. They once again accomplished bringing render to reality, exactly how it was intended. I’m grateful to Bulletproof Automotive and Varis for the opportunity. 


There is a Japanese term, お疲れさまでした! (Otsukaresama). Which has a few different meanings depending on the context. It’s usually used after a long day of work before heading home. “Good job” is the most common use. It would have been appropriate to say that after checking out the EVO in Japan, though we didn’t. We simply shook hands with everyone and somewhat jokingly said let’s do this again next year. I guess only time will tell, we were just enjoying the moment.

Varis still had some work to do on their booth, so we decided to continue on our journey. We did take a closer look at some of their other demo cars prior to doing so.


There was surprisingly yet another Supra that Varis announced prior to TAS. The Hurtling version actually belongs to the CEO of Varis. At first, I thought it was an updated RIDOX kit, but upon further inspection, it seems to be an all-new design.


I found this completely unplanned shot of Tadao San of Varis on my memory card as I was editing when I finally sat down. Loved the pose!


Seems lots of CT9A owners were interested in the new Hurtling fender offerings as well. I caught a couple of shots. I’ll have a few more in the Day 1 post to share.


The RE-Amemiya booth happened to be right next door to Varis. The street demo car had not yet arrived, but their new D1 demo car was undergoing final preparation. It was interesting to see it in it’s bare form, pre-stickers. Some may actually prefer it like this.


The aisle adjacent to the booth had a couple more Rotary builds. The classic COSMO was incredibly clean. Loved the vintage/modern approach.


I was absolutely in love with this purple FD. Classic 90’s Wangan Midnight style. Back in the forum days, these are the types of cars we all used to source .wmv or real player video files for footage of them in action. Back when Japan seemed to be this far away dream land we would never be able to get to, other than in videogames.


We then made our way across to the separate hall, where some of the other well known tuners were setting up. Nice and seemingly random PUMA GT race car just sitting in the hall. Something about this scene with the PUMA boxes I found to be dope.


Fist sighting in the next hall, this restored HakoSuka by Rocky Auto. Seems the prices for these are skyrocketing as of late.


Nice Vertex EDGE S15. 2JZ inside, looking almost OEM. As I was standing there admiring this build, I felt a tap on my shoulder, signaling we were moving on. I turned around and bam, TOP SECRET. 


How does Smokey do TAS? With a fleet of GT-Rs, of course. I believe the total was 10, to be exact. Mostly R35s. Last year’s TAS winner, the VR-32 GTR made a return as well. V standing for VR38DETT. Essentially an entire R35 swapped into the chassis of an R32. Knowing that alone, there’s no reason to doubt why it won top honors at TAS last year.


It looked like Top Secret had finished up their booth preparation. They were mostly placing decals on the cars and horsing around a bit at that point. Which was fun to see. The crew was in good spirits. Smokey and the Bulletproof crew got into a deep conversation, so I wandered off a bit.

Loved seeing these drift cars from “HardTuned” and Original-lab. Another “TAS moment” would suddenly occur as I was admiring these two. The sound of a flat bed truck approaching prompted me to turn around. It was then when I saw the Top Fuel S2000 being delivered. It’s pretty surreal just seeing these famous builds randomly appear before you.



Such presence. My next journey to Japan needs to include a Time Attack track day. It’s easy to forget these are race cars and not just demo cars that will go into storage after the show.


More walks through the halls, seeing what other sort of activity was occurring.


Quickly passed by JUN AUTO, as they were in the middle of set up as well.


We came across R31 House, which had a couple of eye catching builds on display. We don’t see many of these on a regular basis. I suppose the R32 is still stealing all of the shine. I honestly thought these two were among the coolest looking cars at TAS this year though.


The Do-luck crew were in the middle of staging their R33 as we walked by as well. Seeing all of this activity occurring was somewhat of a surreal experience. It’s as if you are inside of an actual Option magazine or video.


Noticing a pattern here? Tons of GT-Rs in this hall. Greddy had a classic bayside blue version displaying their new line of parts designed to support the aging chassis. Can you believe the R34 is 19 years old? I was honestly surprised to hear that, since it’s still fresh as ever to my eyes. Perhaps it is because people like us view these previous generation of Japanese cars with an altered perspective. I find R34’s so much more appealing than their newer R35 counter parts. Would you agree?


A monster has appeared in Tokyo. Where GT-R’s are known for their Godzilla nickname, this Nissan Patrol has got to be the equivalent of Unicron or Galactus. TRUST/GReddy have created some sort of planet eating machine. A 2000 HP sand dune killer. Greddy are out of their minds, in a good way. Talk about unexpected. Greddy is developing a new SUV line of parts. Not sure if it’ll work on in the US or Japan even, but in Dubai and the middle east, it’s a no brainer. Dino over at Speedhunters recently got a chance to shoot it and describe the build in detail. I highly suggest you check out the read. It’s very reminiscant of the HKS Patrol that was built some years ago. Here’s a old Option Video of NOB and and HKS crew with that build: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CMyZ0S8hSw


Really looking forward to seeing vids of this thing terrorziing the streets of Dubai.


Speaking of Speedhunters, the last GT-R I came across was Dino’s very own R34. It was the first time I met Dino in person after all the email correspondence we’ve had over the past couple of years. He was debuting his very own Speedhunters Project GT-R at TAS as well.

Dino happened to be parked right by what would become the Rocket Bunny booth. Only the Cayman was there for now. 


We then somehow ended up in the Exotic/Euro area of TAS. It’s really easy to forget exactly how much money is just floating around in this hall. Easily in the tens of millions. As this pink Aventador approached, directly behind it was a pair of Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeos. Whoever was driving them was having a blast revving the hell out of them. That was fantastic to see and hear.


Directly behind the Lamborghini’s was this McLaren 650s fitted with a full catalog of Liberty Walk aero pieces. The driver was just casually hanging out, talking to his homies. Made for a couple of interesting captures. Rich people things I guess. Some may hate this style, but it definitely has a presence in person. Photos never really do these cars justice, especially not my mine.


It’s an interesting concept, because on the surface, most people who think logically would consider this overfender style on exotic cars, an utter waste of a car’s value. That is only if you actually care about the car’s monetary value, which most of the people in this tax bracket, simply don’t.


The Liberty Walk booth itself wasn’t far off. Their slammed lip kitted NSX being the first to be spotted by us.


The rest of their booth was still under construction, much like everyone else, but they had already staged their main demo cars earlier in the day. If there’s one thing Kato-San does well, it’s branding. Even going as far as making custom covers for his main TAS project cars.


One of the only non-covered cars at that moment was their latest version of the R35 kit. Loved the color and new bits like the canards and fender vents. A bit over the top but that’s LB style.


Rauh-Welt Begriff, also in preparation mode. Nakai-San’s own “Stella Two,” which I don’t think many have seen other than on Instagram. The matte black fits RWB style so well.


Our last stop of the day was over to Voltex. Their presence was a bit small this year, consisting of only their 2018 front end conversion fit for the older R35.


We checked in on Varis and Shunsuke one more time before heading back to central Tokyo. At this point, we were already pretty exhausted, as the Makuhari Messe is a giant event space. Exploring all of the halls on foot is no small task, that’s for sure. Yet still, the excitement was constant. Just being around the energy of it all gets you inspired and motivated to explore.


Our exhaustion, however, was nothing compared to most of the booth owners and staff. You could tell they had been working all night and day, and will probably continue late into the night again. We left around 7 PM and the place looked nowhere near ready for the opening day, which was only a few hours away. The all but common 頑張って!and 頑張ります!(Ganbatte! and Ganbarimasu!) were the phrases heard throughout the day. Translated into English, “Do your best!” and “I’ll do my best!”

Still with me? I hope so. That wraps up my set up day experience. Next up is the actual show. Thanks for reading!

Born, raised and living in NYC. Love cars, Japan, graphic design, bass music and chillin'. Digital production at The New York Times. PRIME, Bulletproof Automotive, Fatlace and east cost/global car life. Tokyo Extreme Racer and Bronx street racing was where it all began...