Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tokyo Motor Show 2017

The brightest stars of the Tokyo Motorshow 2017 are perhaps the cars that didn't make to it: after the inspiring concepts of the 2015 edition we were all expecting to see the new Supra or hints of the new Fairlady Z (or even the new Silvia that is rumored to be in the works?), but unfortunately none of these models were on display. In line with the times, this year's edition was themed around the future of mobility, which translated in a show dominated by hybrid power and autonomous driving, with very little space left for, well, fun.

As expected the recently launched new Leaf took the main stage at the Nissan booth, alongside the IMx, a rather futuristic concept of a hybrid crossover.

The new Leaf Nismo concept was also on display, but it didn't really catch my attention as I was rather focused on taking a photo of the now 10 years old R35, which was actually the only model to remind visitors that Nissan also makes sportscars. 

Lexus had several models on display, like the LS+ concept which, as cool as it looks, is probably just another styling exercise.

On the other hand, the limited edition RC F looked like a quality item that I'm sure my friend Aki appreciated.

The HV Sports concept from Toyota was quite a letdown, basically a restyled GT86 with fancy headlights finished in matte black: boring. Where is the new Supra?

The new Century was quite cool and is one of those few Japan-only models that are left in a completely globalized market.

In a recent coverage on Speedhunters, my friend Dino went on and stated that Mazda has probably the most inspired design amongst the Japanese makers at the moment. After the stunning RX-Vision that we saw in 2015 and the new Vision Coupe on display this year there is no arguing with that statement.

Most of the exotic European makers unfortunately have been ditching the TMS in recent years, but Porsche was there with the new 911 GT3 to remind us what German engineering precision is all about.

Not to mention the sister Cup Car - possibly the ultimate "reasonably priced" track toy.

Always cool to see makers paying homage to their heritage too: the 356 Speedster looked better than most of the latest concepts.

Far from being a BMW fan, but I liked the new Z4 concept, well, minus the horrid color choice.

Mercedes, with the recently unveiled AMG Project One, was flexing its muscles as the only maker with a hypercar-level model on display.

Not that I'm in a position to afford one, but I wouldn't hesitate one second to invest the 2.3 million dollars it demands into something else, like a Pagani Zonda. I'm sure that performances will be off the scale, but it looks as appealing as a LMP1 prototype and is the perfect example of how makers are losing touch with emotions in the endless pursuit of numbers. 

Not a bad Tokyo Motorshow, but also not a great one; after missing R's Meeting in September I look forward catching up with the JDM scene and GT-R community at Nismo Festival later in November.

Until next time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Chasing Perfection - Visit to Worx Autoalarm

Back in April, in an act of extreme courage, my friend Aki handed me the keys of his beloved BCNR33 as we drove to Worx Autoalarm where the car was planned to undergo some serious electronic and interior refresh. After 5 months of patient wait and endless photo teasing, the GT-R was finally ready and Aki, Dino and I headed to Chiba for delivery. Things were going to get interesting.

But let's go with order and make a step back: our first trip during Golden Week was also my first time ever visiting Worx and meeting the owner, Nakamura-san, and ex "salaryman" who, against traditional Japanese customs, ditched corporate life to follow his passion: cars and electronics. Years later Worx Autoalarm has become a cornerstone in audio, security system and electronics installation and customization, especially amongst GT-R owners.

The shop is exactly what would you expect from an artisan and oozes a vibe that really reminds of toy shops, especially thanks to the owner's passion for American toys, signals and memorabilia. Despite the colorful and relaxed atmosphere, the workshop packs some serious machinery and tools of the highest caliber - the ultimate man-cave.

Nakamura-san is a proper gear-head and GT-R fan himself as he owns a BCNR33 with a tuned N1 engine as well as a BNR32 custom painted in Bayside Blue.

Recognized as one of the best in its field, Worx Autoalram is regularly featured in GT-R Magazine and customers from all over Japan entrust Nakamura-san with upgrading their cars, like the owner of the LM that we found at our arrival. 

A wrecked BNR34 in the backyard was indeed a painful sight to behold. 

A stern reminder that these cars, despite their incredible capabilities, demand respect.

Besides completely overhauling the electronics, Nakamura-san was going to be responsible for the final fitting of Aki's handmade interior, finished with supercar-grade leather.

To say that the consultation was lengthy, would be an understatement.

Fast forward to last week and we headed to Dino's with a two car convoy and a surprise as he had on loan a Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge that simply redefined my concept of luxury - everything you touch and feel is absolute quality.

Unfortunately, while Aki was traveling in style inside an exquisite bubble of leather, carbon and aluminum, I was riding shotgun in Dino's R34, all the way to Chiba without air conditioning.

With the V-cam setup now installed Dino estimates 550ps, however, as the ECU tuning is not finished, shifting was limited to 5,000rpm. Nonetheless, as we left the expressway and went through a twisty secondary road, the ride with Dino reminded me once again how poor of a driver I am. What we missed in power though was compensated by handling as this was the first proper outing since he fitted his custom made, 1 of 1, KW suspensions. While the difference is not very noticeable in the city, things totally change once you start going through bends at decent pace: they are absolutely fantastic. 

Once at Worx we found Aki's car ready for delivery just outside the air-conditioned workshop area where it was stationed for the past half-year. Going through all the options of the new audio and security system took a good two hours. I won't spoil the surprise, so make sure to follow Aki's blog for the unveiling of the finished result.

Coincidentally, as a customer BNR32 was in for some work, we had all three RB26 powered GT-Rs sitting next to each other.

After a late lunch close to the beach and a second quick stop at Worx to fix a stubborn reverse light bulb we headed back to Tokyo, not before refueling the car.

And ourselves.

Days like this are a good reminder of what cars are really all about - when it's all said and done, it all comes down to the memories you make and paths you cross with them. 

Thanks guys.

Until next time.