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February 27, 2018

Showtime: Day 1 at the Makuhari Messe. I’ve been to TAS a few times in the past, but this was the first I actually witnessed the sheer amount of work that goes into setting up the booths. It’s one of those things many often take for granted when attending large events such as this. I expected the show would be ready, because why wouldn’t it be? Yet still, after set up day, I was in awe at how fast everything came together, seemingly overnight.

The Tokyo Auto Salon is an amazing place to be. Some may say it’s a bit “touristy,” but, honestly, who cares, just enjoy it for what it is. Name another place on Earth where you can see all of these legendary tuners of the Japanese cars you know and love under one roof? Definitely not SEMA. It’s TAS. If you ever have a chance to experience this, I highly recommend you do, while the magic is still there.


Our first stop was once again Varis. We wanted to check in with the guys and see how everything went the night prior after we left. The cars were done, the booth was clean and ready for business. Shunsuke’s “Supreme JZA80” Supra sitting front and center.


The Varis STi really stood out to me. It is almost overly aggressive, which is what makes it appealing. It very much matches the sounds that come out of the boxer-engined machine. Vents and carbon fiber bits galore.

Now, what about that Hurtling EVO? Varis is hoping this kit is sure to be a popular choice for CT9A owners. It actually flows quite well with the factory lines.



As I was capturing the EVO, I noticed a huge crowd around the RE-Amemiya booth. I thought it was due to the demo car, but alas, I forgot I was at TAS, which has another aspect to it other than cars. This is where I spotted my first booth model/race queen, and realized what was to come of this day and weekend. More on that later.


She was loving the attention, but I was far more interested in the new RE-Amemiya demo car that was missing the day before. 


The X-RESPONSE-7. An all-new design for the FD3S. It’s pretty amazing how much potential this chassis has. I believe this one off design was done by TAMON Design. Who designed all of the well known RE kits from the 90’s. Check out some of the details.

Not too far off was the man himself, Isami Amemiya. He was in the middle of an interview with some sort of TV personality. A very common site at TAS. Not sure who the person was, but as Ama-San showed him around, the models were asked to step away. This allowed us common folk able to snap some shots in peace.


Dropping knowledge. Notice the “You probably have no idea what I’m talking about” facial expression on Amemiya-San. Pretty sure that’s just my imagination running a wild though. He proceeded to show the TV crew and his guest every detail of his latest build. There’s just something about the energy that surrounds him and his peers. One of the founding fathers of JDM street car culture.

Easily my favorite car at TAS.


Couple more shots of the purple wangan runner FD I had spotted the day before. I wonder what types of stories this car has.



HKS was near, and so I stopped by to take a closer look at their Time Attack beast, the HKS TRB-03. This car recently set a record, a 49.445 second lap time at Tsukuba circuit. There seems to be some debate on this though, as the car was on slicks. Check out the Speedhunters article for more thoughts. Also, here’s a video of the actual record lap.


Next up was Kuhl Racing. They made a name for themselves at previous TASs for bringing a couple of sculpted R35s. This year, they’ve returned with an equally complex design, only using a different medium. The attention to detail is very artistic. I can’t help but wonder how many hours they spent on this and whether or not the guys at Kuhl enjoy pain. This looks fantastic, but also very daunting. 


The YokohamaWheel booth is always a favorite. There’s always a proper Japan street style demo car on display. This year being the Runduce FRS fitted with the new ADVAN TC4s.



A closer look at the TC4’s spoke design


While the new TC4’s are looking pretty enticing. I’d love a set of Advan GT’s personally.


The US, unfortunately, can’t get the S660, as it is pretty tiny for our roads. Still, it looks damn good after a few modifications. This is actually a Liberty Walk kit, which is far different than what we’re used to seeing from that brand. Check out the endless brakes as well. For comparison, this car is about half the size of an FRS. If you look closely, you can see Orido in the photo. For some reason, we kept awkwardly bumping into each other at TAS. He walked right into me as I was snapping away. Then at least three more times later on. It was hilarious after a while. Pretty sure he hates me though. Probably thought I was following him the whole time, haha.

The RAYS Wheels booth had a completely unexpected demo car by TAMON DESIGN. A contemporary and somewhat risky design, which caught most people off guard. Not sure if this kit is for sale, but the car definitely did its job at capturing the attention of many onlookers.


Using wheel covers to market wheels, that’s definitely a first. Luckily the other side didn’t have a cover over the rear wheel.

Much respect to RAYS and Tamon Design for pushing the boundaries and creating something new. It may not be for everyone, but what is?



At this point, I decided to spend some time with some of the private companies and owners. Street cars are what we can all relate to. The first, BLACKBIRD. Loved this carbon fiber body Porsche. The owner handed me this piece of piping, then told me to take a look below, to which I obliged. That exhaust is a work of art.


For the AE86 fans. A couple of fine examples.



Car Modify Wonder had a couple of beautiful cars on display. This Zenki S14 had me feeling some type of way. I’ll definitely finish mine this year. In fact, I placed an order for their hood.



This Mark II was fantastic as well. Street style.



The looks of another wangan runner, Racing Factory Yamamoto NSX.


Not sure what company this Chaser is from but the custom work set it off quite well.



On the complete opposite spectrum, a street car from yesterday. A wild Kaido Racer had most people either hyped or disgusted. Seems in the west, we love these things, but in Japan, they are sometimes looked at as a bit of a nuisance and embarrassment. I showed these to a Japanese friend of mine who isn’t into cars at all, he started hysterically laughing and calling it lame. Perhaps it’s just a sub-cultural difference. I thought it was damn cool, personally.


Nomuken’s URAS S15. Another widebody approach for the ever popular S-Chassis. Notice, no brake calipers, drift or die.


Wild custom Mark X. An example of how VIP style has evolved over the years. In fact, now that I think about it, there weren’t many classic VIP cars at TAS this time around.


This Crossbone LS is more of what was representing that sub-culture. This is a pretty wild example, however. The current trend for VIP style in Tokyo seems to be just buying a G55 Wagon and calling it a day.



SAND Design introduced a full conversion for the new MX-5, which transforms the entire look of the car. We don’t see many of these complete redesign types of ideas much anymore. Smokey’s V12 Supra being the last I remember. What do you think?


Nearby was this beautiful HAKO by “Speed For Me”


For comparison, the latest version of the PANDEM kit for the R35. Things sure have changed since the HAKO days.


While on topic, the Padem EG was definitely another favorite for many. The intercooler was in place just for show but you can bet on Kei Miura to change that in the near future. This is one of his best designs in my opinion. The build itself was great to take in. Loved the tucked TE’s as well. More details on this one over at Speedhunters.


I made a quick detour to the Option area. It’s a smaller hall, off to the side of the main ones. Most people that go there to line up for hours to pick up a few Tomika cars. Drift Tengoku and Option magazine set up their booths there. You can find a lot of the former Option cover cars along with a view vintage classics. I wasn’t able to capture much here due to the sheer amount of people around. I did spend some time with two very interesting Nissans however.


The first being the latest iteration of the Tommy Kaira R35. Wild, is all I can say. Side note, I wonder if are R35s cheaper in Japan? There at least 60 of these at TAS and highly modified.

The latter, being the quad turbo 2JZ’d jet engined S14, originally introduced to the world by Noriyaro.


This shot reminds me of the robot scouts from the Matrix. I’ll give it up to him though, his car was one of the only builds in the entirety of TAS that did not require a girl to draw a crowd. Not sure if that was the goal anyway, but I really admire his passion for this build. Definitely, give the Noriyaro video a look.


Those quad turbos are a tough act to follow, so I’ll end here.


Next post, I’ll go into some of the realities of the Tokyo Auto Salon and car shows in general. While it’s true, there are some amazing cars to see, one can’t deny that the attention of many of the attendees is often skewed. While discussing that perspective, I’ll go into some of the other notable areas and builds, and finally wrap up our TAS content.

For all of you out there reading this and checking out the photos, you have my gratitude! 


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...