By Steve Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
For the second year in a row, I hopped aboard a Japan Airlines jet and flew 5,000 miles from Los Angeles to Tokyo to experience one of the most amazing custom car shows in the world.
The Tokyo Auto Salon is held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, the former site of the Tokyo Motor Show. There’s something here for just about everyone including customized vehicles, parts and accessories.
Our story begins with Toyota and Lexus. Be sure to see our additional stories in this five-part series.
Lexus Gazoo Racing
To get a good angle on the Lexus Gazoo Racing press conference, I stood in one spot for more than an hour waiting for the presentation to begin.
I’ve had the good fortune to attend auto show press conferences in Japan for nearly 25 years. Although everyone knew what was kept under wraps for this one, being up-close-and-personal with priceless vehicles, witnessing firsthand global vehicle debuts, and jockeying for good camera spots with international media still makes me tingle with excitement.
Lexus Gazoo Racing said it will introduce the new RC F shown here in GT3 class races in Japan and the U.S. for the 2017 season. Following its planned debut at the 24 hours of Daytona, Lexus says it will campaign two of these cars.
In the U.S., the RC F is slated to compete in the GTD category of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship series under 3GT Racing. While in Japan, it’s targeted to compete in the GT300 class of the Super GT series under LMcorsa.
Following the press conference, I made this walkaround video of the Lexus Gazoo Racing display.
“Lexus is embracing new challenges as a luxury lifestyle brand as it strives to inspire customers with amazement and excitement that exceed the imagination,” said Tokuo Fukuichi, President, Lexus International, in a prepared statement.
Lexus says it will put more focus on participatory motorsports with the production model-based RC F GT3 racing car, strengthen the performance image of the brand and offer “surprise and excitement to an even larger audience worldwide.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing
The new Toyota C-HR recently went on sale in Japan and Toyota offers nearly endless ways to customize it. Check out Gazoo’s C-HR G-T version in my video.
From the racing track to the street, Toyota Gazoo Racing strutted its stuff in this fabulous display that featured the new C-HR compact crossover.
A tantalizing display of performance parts was located behind the vehicle. While the C-HR has yet to go on sale in the U.S, I had the good fortune to check out several customized right-hand-drive models at the show. I’m hoping that some of these custom parts and accessories find their way to the U.S. market.
With microphone in hand, I play the role of an on-camera reporter to introduce this video walkaround of the Toyota Gazoo Racing display at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
The press preview of the Tokyo Auto Salon was staged only for the first half of the first show day. In the afternoon, the halls began to fill with thousands of people who had been waiting patiently outside for hours.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s theme for the Tokyo Auto Salon 2017 is “Open Pit, Open Garage,” introducing cars that have competed in various motorsports activities, as well as cars that have been developed as a result of these competitions.
The cool Yaris WRC (above), slated to compete in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), was exhibited in Japan for the first time.
In addition to the Yaris WRC, the exhibit featured vehicles that have participated in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, alongside successive generations of cars that have competed in the WRC.
Do you recognize this car? It’s a customized version of the Toyota Aqua, called the “Prius C” in the U.S. Toyota Gazoo Racing under its “Gs” series banner has given it a custom treatment in an effort to appeal to women buyers. The marketing tagline is “G’s Meets Girl.”
Toyota Technocraft TRD
Toyota Technocraft allowed us to make this quick walkaround video (inside, outside and under the hood) of its new C-HR TRD Extreme Style model.
Separate displays in another Makuhari Messe building included Toyota Technocraft and its familiar TRD brand. TT offers customers the chance to take the C-HR to the next level with the TRD “Extreme Style” look. Based on the image of extreme outdoor sports, more muscular and blacked-out fender arches make the C-HR’s ride height appear higher without raising the vehicle.
As shown in our video, the interior is also given a customized treatment. I really liked the sports seats with red piping. Note that the blocked out area in the center of the dash can be filled with Toyota T-Connect navigation and a choice of 7- or 9-inch screens.
Under the hood, the engine compartment looked pretty much stock for the model on display. C-HR choices in Japan include the all-wheel-drive S-T and G-T grades with a 1.2-liter turbocharged engine coupled with Super CVT-i and 7-speed sports sequential shiftmatic. S and G models feature the front-drive Toyota Hybrid System II with a 1.8-liter gas engine and reduction gear.
I made another quick walkaround video, this time of the TRD exhibit. Check out the cool 86 models including the one above on jack stands.
TRD displayed several different vehicles, including the 86 sports coupe, a customized van and pickup, plus a large array of parts and accessories at its booth.
This video highlights a customized Toyota Tank at the separate Toyota Modellista display. Yes, it’s really called Tank – as in “Think Tank.”
Toyota recently introduced the Roomy and Tank model vans in Japan. They’re built for Toyota by Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd. at its Ikeda plant. A custom grade is available with a newly developed 1.0-liter turbo engine that Toyota says is capable of producing torque equivalent to that of a 1.5-liter-class engine over a wide rpm range.
The customized Tank in our video is fitted with cool parts and accessories by Modellista. Roomy and Tank are based on the “1LD-CAR” concept, which combines a spacious interior with ample driving performance. (We wish Toyota would bring them to the U.S. market.)
Over at the Wb Style area, I spotted this cool customized Toyota i-Road. The ultra-compact, personal mobility electric vehicle is being test marketed in several areas. Yet I’ve never seen one quite like this.
The Prius PHV (called Prime in the U.S.) gains a cool new look thanks to the addition of parts and accessories by Toyota Modellista.
Click on the links below for our additional 2017 Tokyo Auto Salon stories:
2017 Tokyo Auto Salon Part 2 – Honda Racing, Civic, Type R, NSX, Modulo and Mugen
2017 Tokyo Auto Salon Part 3 – Nissan, NISMO, Autech, Skyline, GT-R, Fairlady Z and Serena
2017 Tokyo Auto Salon Part 4 – Daihatsu, Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki
2017 Tokyo Auto Salon Part 5 – Custom Cars, Cool Classics, Racing Machines and Rally Drivers
CarNichiWa.com thanks the Tokyo Auto Salon for providing us with media passes to the show. We also thank Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota and Lexus Gazoo Racing, Toyota Technocraft Co. Ltd., and Toyota Modellista International Corp., for granting us access to film display vehicles for this news report.
Note: Production vehicles, parts and accessories for Japanese market models in this story are subject to change without notice by the automaker and its suppliers.
Story, photos (as noted) and videos © 2017 CarNichiWa.com