DSport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour 2017 Day 3 - Not Your Momma's Salon Part 2

Part 1 of my posts on Tokyo Auto Salon already had a massive amount of photos but as you can guess a place as huge as TAS is a prime hunting ground for the avid car photographer (and girl photographer too of course) so get ready for more in this second part!

We left off last time with the R35s at the Varis booth so this time we'll start off with another R35, this time at the nearby Ray's Engineering stall where this brand new 2017 GT-R was showing off Volk Racing's latest addition to their huge wheel lineup: the TE37 Dura.
The TE37 name should be easily recognizable to import car fans since it's been a favorite wheel design for ages. When our ancestors were carving the first wheels out of random rocks some clever Japanese caveman was probably making the first TE37 for his Flintstone-power ride. The latest version keeps the TE37's classic six-spoke format and forged construction but makes it out of stronger Duralumin alloy (hence the name) and adds a new twist:
The Dura has machined spokes that shed excess material and lighten each wheel by 300 grams over the earlier TE37 Ultra design. Initially Volk Racing will just be offering the Dura in 20 inch GT-R and Lexus RC F sizing. To be honest the overall design isn't doing it for me though. Apart from the hollowed spokes - which you don't notice at first glance - it doesn't look very striking and the shape doesn't give the deeply dished look that instantly conveys visually that a car has some meaty rubber on it. BBS has also come out with a hollowed-spoke wheel with its FI-R but that's a much more visually striking design than the Dura I'm afraid. I love Volk's wheels and have them on both my GT-Rs - including TE37 SLs on the R32 - but this time I'm not really impressed especially since the Dura is intended to be the flagship of the TE37 line from this point on. I hope Ray's decides to come out with at least a contrast finish version to add some much-needed visual punch.

Visual punch isn't something that's lacking with Nagoya-based Kuhl Racing. The past couple of years they've really attracted a lot of attention - and seared a lot of eyeballs - with their two striking engraved GT-Rs, one silver and the other gold. This year Kuhl Racing had two vehicles at their booth sporting their trademark etched paint. First there was this Subaru WRX STi.
I thought this Vellfire was even more visually arresting than the Subie though. Mommy's little boy will be the coolest kid in the schoolyard after being deployed from this thing...or he'll be permanently traumatized from all the jokes at his expense. 

On a side note, I wonder how it would look with "Free Candy" etched into the sides?
This Alphard had also been given the Kuhl Racing treatment. It may not have the full engraved paint treatment but that gaping maw looks ready to swallow any person, domesticated animal, or small moon that wanders into its path.
Kuhl Racing's R34 may be more your cup of tea though. Nevermind the splitter and skirts that seem to have been victimized by a whole classroom of preteen girls and their bedazzler machines, it had this awesome hood treatment:
That flowing design isn't just a pattern on the surface of the paint. Instead it's a deep 3-dimensional effect that streams across the hood as light plays across it. Very nice.
One last Kuhl Racing creation I had to take a shot of was this blinged-out Patrol. I'm no fan of the hey-look-at-me-I'm-Paris Hilton look but it's certainly hard to ignore...just like a train derailment is hard to ignore. One of Kuhl's reps noticed me taking the photo though and started talking to me with amazingly good English. He was curious about the new US-model Armada and it was rare to find anyone in Tokyo as fluent as him so we had a nice chat for a bit.
Leaning more towards the cute end of the scale than the Patrol was this pink Suzuki Jimny at the Toyo Tires display. I've always like the Jimny since it's such a small but capable off-roader. I see them all the time when I visit the Philippines and have always wanted to take one for a spin.
If that Jimny was a little too tame for you then check out the custom Kinokuni version. Not only does it have a lowered tube frame chassis and that crazy widebody aero but the open hood reveals its party piece:
A tuned SR20 jacked from a Silvia! With a much more potent motor powering it this little Jimny hovers less on the "cute" side of things and instead hangs out over in "brute" territory.

Heading over back to the cute side of the spectrum was this awesome Honda T880 concept from Honda's Access division that mainly specializes in developing OEM Honda car accessories but throws out special projects for TAS on the side. This year they brought out a tiny roadster, a crossover, and this adorable T880 which is their take on what a thoroughly modern kei-sized pickup truck could look like. It's so lovable you can't help but smile - just look at the huge grin on that guy on the left!

It wasn't just the cars that were cute at TAS of course 'cause there were plenty more models to ogle at as I scoured the show floor. That bottom shot of the two UpGarage girls is my personal favorite since it's a bit more candid looking than the others. The models at TAS are easy to approach for pics by the way despite the language barrier. Just wait for a chance and usually you simply have to say a polite "sumimasen" (excuse me) while holding your camera and you're good to go. "Shashin kudasai" (picture please) may be helpful to know but usually totally unnecessary. A respectful bow of the head and thank you - arigato gozaimasu! - and you can move on to the next lovely subject.
Not all the booth models were of the 3D variety - this being Japan and all. Was it rude that I didn't say arigato after snapping her pic?
The anime character wasn't the only thing to catch my eye at the Kyoto Tool booth - I really liked the design of these snazzy toolboxes. They don't have the character of the vintage metal one I use now but the sleek looks make me think of a toolbox version of a Zero Halliburton briefcase (preferred cash and drug carrier of all Hollywood villains).
Here's something we sadly don't get here in the States but from our cheese-eating, Jerry Lewis-loving friends from France instead of Japan. I'd seen the RenaultSport Megane before on a trip to Australia and still totally would love one as a daily driver. Good-looking three-door hatch body with a 275hp turbo four (whose engine code is F4RT - oh, you crazy French!), race-style seats, and Nurburgring-honed handling, what's not to like? Badge engineering is normally something to frown upon but if they threw some Nissan logos on this thing and sold it in the States I'd be all over it like boom on an a-bomb.
Aero parts company C-West had this R35 GT-R GT3 to draw attention to its comparatively subdued display.

Lexus is really getting a lot of attention with its latest F series cars and this nicely done-up RC F at the Tom's booth is a good-looking example.

Regular readers will know I'm a sucker for itasha (cars decorated with anime characters) so on my way over to Hall 4 I had to snap a quick pic of this one. If you don't recognize the car underneath the geeky decor, it's a Honda Jade - a three-row compact MPV that's sold in Japan and China. It's like a Honda version of the Mazda5 basically.
Modern vans like the Alphard and Elgrand aren't the only ones that have a strong following. The classic Volkswagen Type 2 Bus is well-loved by hippies and hipsters alike here in the States and apparently the affection is shared by the Japanese as well.

After finally crossing over into Hall 4 I was momentarily distracted by some shops selling all sorts of car-related knickknacks (including a vintage-style Nismo keychain that I grabbed for my R32) but I soon spied Impul's stall which was packed to the gills with display cars. Of course the one that grabbed my attention the most was their GT500 GT-R. Nismo may get most of the glory being the factory team and all but I've always had a real soft spot for the iconic Calsonic blue cars and I was sad to see them just miss out on the 2015 SuperGT title. Maybe this season they can get that monkey off their back.
Right in front of Impul's display was the large Honda exhibit where the latest version of the SuperGT NSX was drawing in the crowds. 
The latest-model SuperGT cars weren't the only ones that made an appearance at TAS. Motul had this R35 from the 2013 season on display. As you can see, my gaijin charms were lost on the model at first.
But she finally took pity on me after a while.

Nearby at Aimgain they had a wild 'roided-out GT-R that looked like it was trying hard to outwidebody the famed BenSopra kit. The much more subdued NSX kit beside it was more my taste though.
I profess to not caring for the Pagani Huayra's looks as much as its predecessor the Zonda - "racing catfish" is what it always made me think of - but classic black always enhances a car's appearance. 

Even wild exotics like the Huayra aren't headline stuff at Tokyo Auto Salon though so to really get the crowd's attention you have to go full retard such as a weird creation that looks like it swallowed the TV department at your local Best Buy or a Lamborghini that seems to have crashed into the glitter rack at Michael's. Bling baby, bling.
Attracting attention is easy though when you cheat and bring in a hot foreign model. If any more photographers had joined the fracas at Rohana Wheels they could have probably obtained critical mass and imploded the whole convention center.
Good old American muscle can also be a nice attention grabber at TAS. Just like we go gaga over a decked-out R34 here in the US 'cause we rarely see them, the Dodge Challenger is treated like a unicorn over there in Japan. A big, angry, people-eating unicorn.
Big and angry are hardly what you'd use to describe this little kei van from a shop with my favorite name of the show - Dream Factory Blow. Apparently they're a shop that specializes in turning kei cars into miniature lookalikes of vintage American vans. I wonder though if they know their name sounds like a manufacturing plant for sexdolls?
Speaking of names laced with innuendo, do you think I could really pull in all the ladies if I drove around in a Suzuki Hustler?
 I think I'd have better luck with one of these though.

I rest my case, Lambo's definitely attract beautiful ladies better than a Suzuki Hustler. Who'd have thunk?
Since we're on the subject of Lamborghinis, fans of the raging bull might recognize this guy. With TAS being the largest tuner show in Japan there's a good chance of running into some of the celebrities of the Japanese modification scene that you've only seen in YouTube videos like Smokey Nagata of Top Secret or Akira Nakai of RWB. Shinichi Morohoshi of Fighting Star has a style all his own and it's a love-it-or-kill-it-with-fire kind of thing but you have to respect how he's built a thriving business giving Lamborghinis a look that probably has old Ferrucio himself spinning in his grave.
Case in point is this Pikachu Aventador that was fronting his shop's display. I was tempted to get his autograph but Lamborghinis are way above my pay grade.

Another well-known Japanese modding icon is Wataru Kato of Liberty Walk. There were a lot of people at their stand so I didn't get a decent shot of him. Most of them were probably waiting for him to unveil what was under that cover. I missed the unveiling but I at least could see that a sexy Ferrari 488 was hidden underneath.

I can't afford a Ferrari either - with or without the LB treatment - but a 240Z is another matter. With GT-Rs eating up my spare cash I don't think I ever could have a sweet S30 Z like this one but it's free to look! This car debuted at last year's TAS but it's still a really cool one to gawk at with its mix of modern styling ideas and more nostalgic touches inspired by the JDM kyusha/gracha scene.

Sticking to old school, this vintage Nissan pickup was almost sickeningly clean.
Oh, and pickups aren't the only trucks that were at TAS. Commercial truck manufacturer Hino had one of its rigs parked in the hall with this stage in the trailer.
Big rigs aren't really my thing of course so I went looking for something sportier. This sexy black M2 from 3D Design fit the bill nicely.
I'd rather have the nimble and right-sized M2 instead of the Merc SL but I liked her outfit. That is all.
The DSport tour attendees had pretty much all gone their own way once we got into TAS since there was so much to see and people had different stuff to check out. By the time my stomach started signalling it was ready for some grub I got hold of a couple of the other guys, Kao and True, to see what their lunch plans were. They'd just arrived at Hall 9 which was over on the other side of Makuhari Messe and since Top Secret was over there we agreed to meet up. On my way out I ran into this thing. Apparently this is called the Dazer kit and it gives the Prius a 5 cm lift, bolt on overfenders, and even offers the option of a bull bar. All it needs is a kit to make it roll coal for maximum irony.
After wading through the increasing crowds I made it to Hall 9 where this sweet R30 Skyline caught my eye first.
Just around the corner was another non-GT-R Skyline - the pimped-out R31 at Gontaya's booth. Now when I say pimped-out with this car, I REALLY mean pimped-out. First off are those programmable LED taillights - the company's specialty. 
Then there's the pink and white leather interior and that crazy steering yoke. This car is so '90s it needs its own cheap TV series. Not hating by the way - it's not my cup of tea but it brought a smile to my face nonetheless. Oh, but the R31's interior wasn't the most pimping thing about Gontaya. While researching the company for this post I ran into pictures of their models - who weren't there when we swung by - and the company owner, and I'm now 100% convinced the dude is a for real pimp.
Evidence number 1 - these were Gontaya's booth babes. Those outfits are skimpier than the Western politics section of North Korea's central library! That's not my photo by the way, credit goes to I-can't-read-the-URL-cause-it's-in-Japanese.com. Gomen, random Japanese website.
Evidence number 2 - THAT'S Gontaya's owner in the middle of this shot from their website and his photos always show him with that expression of a man who as Jeremy Clarkson would say "is a bit of a cad". Yup, he's a pimp - or the world's greatest Jaaag owner - or maybe both. My hero.
His wasn't the only stall that was straight pimpin' though.  Active Japan obviously thought the sex appeal approach had merit too. After seeing this maybe the sexiness was getting to me - or probably just the fact it was well past 1 pm - but I was getting hungry at that point. Me, Kao, and True therefore went on the hunt for some meat of the edible kind which we found in the form of some nice fried chicken bento and hot dogs at one Makuhari Messe's convenience stores. Yes, that's right, there are convenience stores right inside the convention center. In addition there are small temporary restaurants set up all along the back of the various halls and the best part is that the prices are NORMAL! Unlike conventions and trade shows in the States you don't have to sell your body just to get a bite to eat. Good job Japan!

There was still one shop that I totally had to check out at TAS before I left though so after grabbing some nourishment we made our way back into the hall and headed for Top Secret's stand. Of course as expected from Smokey Nagata's legendary shop the display was wall-to-wall GT-Rs.


Normally it would already be super-cool to see Top Secret's World Time Attack Challenge R35 but this being Top Secret even a 1000+hp, full carbon aero GT-R wasn't the big attraction.
It was this car. You may be thinking "What, Oliver, an R32? You're off your gourd saying this got more attention than a WTAC R35 build." Well yes, it's a fairly unassuming-looking modded R32 at first glance until you check out what's inside.
Your eye's don't lie. That's a tuned VR38 plucked straight out an R35! Smokey's crew transplanted the entire driveline including the rear subframe and tranny to create what he's calling the VR32.
With typical Top Secret attention to detail they also grafted in most of the R35's interior and made it look factory. It's no wonder this hybrid creation won Best Tuning Car of the show. No need for hooker booth babes with a headline attraction like this.

Phoenix's Power is another famous JDM GT-R tuner but they didn't have anything to top Nagata-san's VR32 so they adopted the Gontaya philosophy and had a whole troop of sexy nuns vying for people's attention. I swear sometimes its hard to tell if you're at Tokyo Auto Salon or Japan's answer to America's Adult Entertainment Expo. Scratch that, I bet if Japan had something like that it would be even freakier. Where's the tour for that one so I can sign up?
Oh yeah, Phoenix's Power did have cars at its booth. It was just hard to see them through all the drooling manfolk.
It's a shame they didn't have girls in devil outfits to counter Phoenix's Power 'cause I thought this tastefully modded R35 from Art Tech Hanatsuka needed more lovin'.
Maybe they should have done a shooting brake conversion like this GT86. It was made by Toyota's Australian division as a design exercise - funny how the back end looks so much like Honda CR-Zs.
Race cars are always a crowd pleaser of course, like the SRoad CraftSports GT500 GT-R.

A couple of final R35s caught my eye but it was getting close to 4 pm by this time. The tour group wasn't scheduled to leave until 5 (TAS is open until 8 by the way) but a couple of the veteran attendees had advised us to head out early so we could scope out the rides in the parking lot that regular Juichis had driven to the show. In that one hour of time we saw plenty of sweet rides but those pics will have to wait until my next post so be sure to check back for that one where I'll have loads more Skylines, Japan's ugliest car, and one of the world's greatest shift knobs!



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