Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tokyo Auto Salon 2019

Crazy to think about it, but we are already halfway through January, which according to the Japanese car event calendar means one thing: Tokyo Auto Salon.

This year I woke up nice and early on a mission to go through the whole exhibition in less than 3 hours. If you are a fan of aftermarket parts and highly questionable bodykits TAS is as close as it gets to heaven on Earth, but for me is more about spotting the really interesting stuff while dodging hordes of middle aged men going crazy with their cameras over Japanese models.

Spreading across that behemoth of a convention center that is the Makuhari Messe, navigating TAS (and attempting to take photos) can be a lengthy affair, so I directed myself straight towards the booths that I really wanted to visit.

Starting from HKS: their restored BCNR33 democar was definitely one of the highlights of the stand and one of the very few Skyline GT-R present at the show.

Seems that, not only the car was brought back to its former glory, but also updated with new engine components.

I don’t play video games as much anymore, but it’s incredible to see how Gran Turismo has evolved over the years: from a simple game on the original PlayStation to a global partnership with the FIA and car manufacturers. Their virtual driving academy has even allowed young players to have a go at professional racing and some of them, like Jann Mardenborough, now compete full time for Nissan in the top class in Super GT - amazing.

Speaking of Nissan, their stand was huge and hosted a few interesting creations, like this curious Juke that could be fit for a Star Wars movie.

One of the crowd favorite was the GT-R Naomi Osaka Edition: finished in an unique Midnight Opal color and limited to 50 units for the Japan market only.

Definitely an interesting color option, although it needs really strong lighting to shine, otherwise it tends to be a really dark purplish maroon most of the time.

The GT500 machine was also on display, although 2018 has been a disastrous season for Nismo in Super GT. The new drivers and teams lineup for this year are going to be announced in early February and a major reshuffle is expected.

The Top Secret stand was pretty much same as last year, so I didn’t spend much time visiting. Interesting though, every single car on display was for sale and it’s not unusual for them to actually close some deals during the three days of the show.

Finally, I headed towards the huge Toyota booth to have a close look at the Supra. And no, not the new A90 (which was still wearing its camouflage wrap) or the Super GT concept that everybody came to see.

But rather this Supra: the 2002 JGTC winner machine. This, along with three other cars, was on display behind the main area as a tribute to the racing heritage of the new model.

I wrote about this many times, but watching (well, watching photos) of these cars racing back in 2001-2002 was one of the main reasons behind my growing interest for Japan as a kid.

The exaggerated lines combined with some of the coolest liveries ever (little did I know that au is a major mobile phone carrier in Japan) and the unique landscape of the old Fuji Speedway were Japanese GT racing at its very best.

These cars are usually stored at TRD in Yokohama and it’s much harder to run into them compared to the old Skylines that are often on display either at Omori Factory or Nissan Global HQ.

I spent a good 30 minutes drinking in all the details and couldn’t help but think how cooler the new Supra would have been had it retained a bit more of the DNA of its predecessor.

Another TAS is in the books; hope everyone’s 2019 is off to a great start.

Until next time.

1 comment: