Tokyo Auto Salon 2016 Shows Off Its Curves, Leaves a Bit in the Boot for the Future

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Lean lines and low profiles were on display at this yearly display of customized automotive goodness.


Text and pictures by Nayalan Moodley


Tokyo Auto Salon, the largest tuner car show in the Eastern Hemisphere, concluded this past weekend at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center in Chiba. This year boasted record numbers both in attendance (325,501 people over the three days) and in exhibitors (4,265 booths and 880 vehicles).

Surprisingly, this year, the large automakers seemed to have a grander presence than in years past, with Mazda and Toyota in particular showing some good support for the future of the scene, while Nissan – once again – had no idea. The big names in tuning seemed to have scaled back a bit, and the effects of Abenomics were subtly evident throughout the show with a lot more carry-over stuff (booths, girls’ outfits and even some cars) from 2015.

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Lamborghini? Check. Pink paint job? Check? Crystal finish? Check!

Dress-up trends seem to have stagnated a bit, with many shops, following in the footsteps of Liberty Walk and the “stance” trend, by sticking overfenders to everything and/or then slamming it with air suspension and deep dish rims. Meanwhile, truly original looks, like the KRC RX-7 and RX-8, despite being a massive hit at SEMA in Las Vegas, were greeted with a lukewarm response in Tokyo. In the end it was the subtly modified cars, like the modernized classic 240Z and Hakosuka Skyline from Star-Road that really stood out, as both extremely desirable and actually drivable.

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Dark green machine

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Impressive car, equally impressive mohawk…

While the rides were getting lower and wider, “companions,” in general, went the other way. being generally more slender, fitter and a bit taller than years past. I’d be interested to see if, as cars slim down again in the future, more companions with 80s curves will find work. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s 300K participants were there more for the ladies than the rides, as without the magic power of the media pass, getting anywhere near a booth when the ladies were strutting their stuff would require starting a mosh-pit.

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In the speed department, there was more interesting stuff. With the two main, new Japanese sports cars (the Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5) being slower than a variety show talento’s mental processes, the big performance brands, like Greddy and Blitz, have easy bolt on turbo kits to do what the factory should have done from the start. Smaller parts fabricators were also moving toward extremely high quality production, to compete, with top-notch Japanese standards, where they cannot in price.

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What was massively lacking however was anything spectacular on the electric front. There are many, original, electric car builders in Japan, but none seemed to be present at Auto Salon this year. Let’s hope they step up their game a bit come 2017.

Tokyo Auto Salon 2016 seemed like an extension of 2015, rather than a showcase of the newest and greatest. On the bright side, there is now plenty of space for new, creative ideas and innovation, it will be good to see which small shops, innovate and rise to the challenge, which of the larger shops adapt to stay on top, and which ones rest on their laurels, while the tuner scene drives ever forward.

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See you next year!
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