By Steve Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
The Tokyo Auto Salon is the largest custom car show in Japan and may be the biggest of its kind in the world. I spent two days trekking through the massive Makuhari Messe convention center complex in Chiba near Tokyo and still didn’t see it all.
The show traces its roots to the “Tokyo Exciting Car Show” that started in 1983 with the goal of “establishing a custom car culture.” It continues to draw huge crowds with more than 325,000 visitors this year, a grand total of 440 exhibitors, and more than 880 vehicles of every type imaginable on display.
From customized cars, vans and trucks, to parts and accessories, “goods” (collectible and wearable stuff) and more, there’s something for everyone here. To demonstrate the importance of this show, major automakers have their own exhibits. Let’s take a look at the Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Lexus displays in Part 1 of our coverage.
Honda long ago established a cult-like following for its cars and motorcycles. Catering to legions of fans in the performance and modified car, van and bike markets, Honda also showed some of its racing vehicles that ride on two wheels and four.
With the European Civic Type R preparing to launch in Japan, MUGEN (M-TEC Co. Ltd.) and Modulo (Honda’s customization brand) plan to introduce performance parts and accessories to make the car even hotter. We captured the MUGEN version in our video above during a walk-through of the Honda display, and in greater detail in our separate video take below.
MUGEN says its parts for this Civic Type R Concept were developed to further improve aerodynamic performance, and are based on the expertise that MUGEN has gained from motorsports and development through repeated wind tunnel trials.
Honda’s Modulo offers its own Civic Type R accessories shown in our next video above. The lineup includes forged wheels, carbon-style exterior treatments, LED foglights, and red accents. This car had a long line of folks waiting to slip behind the wheel so we’ve inserted a photo from Honda below that captures the look of the cabin.
The interior of the Civic Type R is pretty spicy direct from the factory. Modulo offers upgrades to increase the fun factor with an enhanced steering wheel, carbon trim throughout the cabin, upgraded floor mats, door sills, infotainment system and speakers.
The Honda S660 launched last year in Japan evokes classic Honda roadsters of the past while featuring a modern 660cc DOHC Turbo engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox or CVT with paddle shifters. This MUGEN RA Prototype takes it to the next level with its super-clean looking parts and accessories upgrades.
There’s no denying the fact that the S660 could use a little extra cargo space. This Modulo S660 Study Model is fitted with a special lightweight roof-rack and luggage carrier for overnight excursions, while a speaker upgrade inside helps passengers enjoy the journey.
I spotted this N-ONE minicar on the Honda stand wearing a full kit of Modulo accessories. The stripes, wheels and color scheme give it a racy retro look. I’m still waiting for the N-ONE to come to America.
Nissan fans were drawn to its display that showcased the Japanese market lineup dressed with “NISMO Customize 2016” and “Nissan Customize 2016” parts and accessories.
This family portrait shows the Nissan GT-R NISMO wearing the NISMO N Attack Package; the Nissan X-Trail with the NISMO Performance Package, and the Nissan Serena with its own NISMO Performance Package.
This MOTUL AUTECH GT-R was a crowd pleaser at the show because it’s the 2015 Super GT Champion. I thought that was the main reason it drew so many photographers to the stand. Yet I have a feeling that the fashion models also caused plenty of heads to turn.
The Nissan Rider by AUTECH collection includes this two-tone Leaf Aero Edition. It’s also offered in monotone black that looks even sportier. Other Rider models include the X-Trail Mode Premiere, Sylphy S Tuning, Dayz Bolero, Dayz Rider, and Elgrand Rider High Performance Spec Black Line.
Nissan’s Serena with the NISMO Performance Package makes it an object of desire for minivan fans. The parts catalog includes performance wheels, exhaust, springs, and body kits. Vans are incredibly popular in Japan so offering hop-up parts makes a lot of sense.
Toyota had two separate displays at the Tokyo Auto Salon. The first and largest was this one under the GAZOO Racing name. Toyota GAZOO Racing was created in April 2015 to unite the activities of GAZOO Racing, Toyota Racing, and Lexus Racing under the same roof.
Toyota GAZOO Racing announced the entry of three vehicles, a Toyota C-HR Racing, a Lexus RC, and a Lexus RC F, in the 44th 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race to be held in Germany from May 26 – 29.
The 24 Hours of Nürburgring is said to play an important role in Toyota’s motorsports activities. The 2016 event marks the 10th year of Toyota’s participation in the race under the GAZOO racing banner.
Our video walk-through of the Toyota GAZOO Racing exhibit above includes a look at some of the historical racers on display.
When asked to look back over the last ten years, “team representative” Akio Toyoda said, “I remember GAZOO Racing first taking on the challenge of the Nürburgring in 2007 in an Altezza like it was yesterday. There are so many memories running through my mind–the interaction with the roads of the Nürburgring, whose characteristics seem to change with each shift in the weather, the meeting, and parting with new and valuable friends.”
“I think that the commitment we show under these harsh conditions has a positive impression on our customers,” he said. “That’s why Toyota, under the banner of Toyota GAZOO Racing, will continue to take part in motorsports to build ever-better cars, boost the number of vehicle enthusiasts, and bring a smile to the faces of our customers around the world.”
Speaking of smiling, when I saw the Toyota S-FR concept at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, I wondered what the next step would be for this modern-day tribute to the Sports 800? Would Toyota put it into production?
Now Toyota is turning up the heat by building a wildly tricked-out version called the S-FR Racing Concept. Toyota GAZOO Racing reimagined the concept as a track-ready race car shown in my photo above and video below.
With flared fenders, eye-catching hood vents, and the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic canards and front/rear spoilers, this concept represents Toyota’s vision of the S-FR as a performance vehicle born for the racing circuit. While the model displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show had more simple styling, the S-FR Racing Concept aims for a substantially more aggressive look.
With the announcement of the C-HR Racing for the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, Toyota showed this C-HR concept (above and below) that we saw at last fall’s Tokyo Motor Show. It rides on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) that’s also used for the new Prius.
Toyota showed renderings of a more aggressive C-HR version for the racetrack with a tall rear wing, larger wheels and hood vents. The production Toyota C-HR is expected to debut this year. It will be coming to the U.S. market too.
The separate Toyota Technocraft TRD display included this new version of the Super GT class racing car based on the Prius. It was flanked by a TRD-accessorized Japan-market regular production Prius. Check out both cars in our video above.
This new Land Cruiser fitted with TRD parts was also on display along with a TRD Aqua concept, Noah Sportivo and Style Mb and Gb models. The former is based on the Toyota Sienta minivan while the latter is on the Mark X.
The Style Mb (above) looks considerably different from the Sienta that we tested last fall in Nagoya. The unusual grille treatment combined with the pink and white interior was a radical change from the production model we drove with its Air Yellow paint and black interior.
While Lexus has been sold in the U.S. since the creation of the brand more than 25 years ago, it’s only a decade old in Japan. Unlike the plush exhibits we’ve seen at U.S. auto shows, this Lexus display at Tokyo was like an urban loft with a minimalist approach.
Our video above offers a quick tour of the Lexus display that featured this very cool RC F. Both the RC and RC F will participate in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring that we mentioned in the Toyota section above, with the C-HR.
The Lexus GT500 class Super GT is stunning to behold in person. I liked the super-low, wide stance of the car with its huge wheels housed beneath massive fender flares. Slipping behind the wheel was discouraged so my viewpoint was limited to the exterior of the racer.
Click on the links below for our additional 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon stories:
Story, photos and videos © 2016 CarNichiWa.com