DSport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour 2017 Day 3 - Parking Shots

As I mentioned in my last post, the DSport tour group was scheduled to leave Tokyo Auto Salon at 5 pm but several of us started making our way to the bus early on the advice of a couple of the veteran attendees. The reasoning was simple - the inside of Tokyo Auto Salon is chock full of awesome project cars from the top tuners of Japan but if you want to see the cars that Joe, or rather, Juichi Public drives you need to check out the parking lots.

It started raining by the time we got out there and the sky was this very moody overcast so we decided to sit inside the tour bus for a bit to rest our tired dogs. Even through the windows of the bus we could already see some interesting stuff outside however.
We tossed around some theories as to what this gutted hachi-roku was doing sitting forlorn on a car transporter but couldn't make up our minds what the deal was so we went back to fiddling with our TAS swag while we let the rain die down.
After about ten minutes the rain relented enough for us to venture out and after taking a closer look at the poor 86 we found this oddity. We'd have waited to see if Pedobear's Japanese cousin jumped out of it but we had plenty more cars to gawk at.
Kei cars are of course one of the more interesting things to look for being a creation of Japan's unique automotive landscape. Just like animals such as the pygmy mammoth or dwarf hippo evolved to be smaller on tiny islands, the unique environment of highly-urbanized insular Japan led to the kei car. With parking space at a premium and most people living in big cities like Tokyo, the Japanese government created a special class of small cars that were tiny and had less horsepower than your average sneeze (capped at 63 to be exact) but benefited from significantly lower ownership costs. Not only do the mandatory periodic inspection fees (the shaken I've mentioned before in a previous post) go up with a larger car but in addition most areas require you to prove you have a parking space for your car of sufficient size. Add the cost of gas in Japan which is almost twice as high per gallon than the US and you start to get why such a tiny car would be appealing.

Most kei cars are very practical hatchbacks or rolling boxes but even a frugal Japanese gearhead can't be blamed for wanting something a little more fun which is why you have the Honda S660 above. It may only have 63 horses but they canter out from a mid-mounted engine and get to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual (unless you were drunk and ordered the available CVT).  And look how short it is versus that normal-sized sedan beside it! It must be a hoot to throw around!
Well before the S660 came out in 2015, Mazda already decided that kei car buyers didn't have to settle for something depressingly practical and came out with the Autozam AZ-1. Just like the S660 it has a mid-mounted 63-horsepower tea kettle trying to do its best impression of a real motor but it was released way back in 1992. And that means it's already 25 years old so you can have one of these imported to America now to let you play chicken with semis, pickups, and your fat next-door neighbor. Why would you want this little roller skate other than its Hot Wheels size? Because it has gullwing doors my friend. Doc Brown would approve.
This Suzuki Alto is more typical of the average kei car though. Most don't have this one's snazzy paint job but it at least is the Turbo RS version with...wait for it...63 horsepower in a better handling chassis than the lower trims.
Of course, there were lots of cool normal-sized cars in the TAS parking lot too like this stock but oh-so-awesome Nismo R35 GT-R.
Another car that looked bangin' in black was this lovely S15 Silvia that kept it simple with some tasty wheels and a nice drop.

Near the S15 we thought we had our first R34 GT-R sightings but both of these red sleds turned out to be something else - a two-door GT-T up top and a four-door 25GT in the lower pic. Red's not a common color choice for the R34 though so these were a unique sight anyway - especially two of them so near each other.
We did find a GT-R but it was the current king of the monsters, the R35. This was my first time seeing the MY17 car in white and I've yet to find a color that doesn't look good for the latest version.

Not surprisingly an R32 was the first RB-powered GT-R we ran into and again not surprisingly it was gun metal gray.
 Ooh, finally an R34 GT-R....ah nuts, another GT-T. You need some side skirts, mate.
At last, a true R34 GT-R and this one had some tasty mods. Classic TE37s never go out of style and black accents on an overall white car is always a nice look.
Blue on white isn't quite as cool especially with no other blue trim to match but otherwise this clean RX-7 is a nice example of how great the FD still looks despite being designed over 20 years ago.
Can't say the same about this fugly thing. We were all shocked on first seeing it and wondered what the hell it was and which portal from hell it crawled out of. The designer must have been thinking of a bull elephant seal in heat when designing that awkward front grill!
Thankfully the owner had kept the badge on the back so we knew what to call this monstrosity. It turned out to be a Toyota Verossa. Sold from 2001-2004 exclusively in Japan (thank God) it can best be summed up as a rear-wheel drive Camry - which should earn it cool points if not for that misshapen nose. We ran away soon after learning its name so we could avoid throwing up our lunch.

A couple of simply done-up R32s restored our faith that Japan wasn't in the throes of an epidemic of blindness.
This was unexpected however. It made me curious about whether the Japanese think USDM cars like the Camaro hold the same cachet that import fans over here give JDM cars like the Skyline. Sadly, there wasn't a Japanese dude handy to ask. And we didn't want to hang around very long anyway since we didn't want to get murdered.
I mentioned in my previous two posts that vans are a big deal in Japan. Modded Toyota Alphards like this one aren't an uncommon sight. 

As rare as FD RX-7s seem now in the States there were plenty in the TAS parking lot. The yellow one looked like it had just leapt out of the pages of Initial D with its paint job and RE Amemiya body kit aping the look of Keisuke Takahashi's ride of choice.
Speaking of Initial D, Takumi Fujiwara was apparently at TAS too. Didn't find any tofu in the back though.
No shocker that more than a few Hachi-rokus were to be found in the TAS lot.
How about this for a unicorn? A STOCK R34 GT-R! Stock exhaust, stock wheels, stock wing, no body kit. This thing will fetch a pretty penny when it turns 25!

Here's another rarity - a Lancer Evo VI Tommi Makinen. I really like the Evo X (RIP!) but the VI is my favorite body style of all the Evos. This one looked in need of a bit of TLC but nothing a good buffing and some elbow grease couldn't fix.
Bet you've never seen a Subarth before! I'm going to hazard a guess that this homage doesn't quite have the quickness of its Italian inspiration.
Now we're getting properly exotic! There can be no ride more baller in Japan than a 4th-gen Chevy Caprice wagon complete with wood paneling and antenna topper. It seems funny until you realize this car probably has more room inside than the average Tokyo apartment - and must cost a fortune to keep legally driveable.
It might even be big enough to swallow this S660 whole complete with that giant wing - or maybe it's a handle? The S660 is small enough you'd be forgiven for mistakenly trying to treat it like a shopping cart.

On the other hand, big wings don't look out of place on these cars. I was of course happy to see that Japan hadn't run out of clean Skylines to try and snatch up when they come of importable age.
This one's already well past importable age and I'd be more than happy to have it looking swag in my driveway. No, it's not the uber rare GT-R version but even four-door Kenmeris are a rare sight and this one had the right period-correct touches to make it even more of a head-turner.
Despite being a legit Japanese classic as well, the first-gen Corolla doesn't exactly inspire lust like a Kenmeri Skyline would, especially when it sports a patina reflecting its age. The owner of this one seems to have found another way to add some lustiness to his ride though...
Yeah, that has to rank high on the list of world's greatest shift knobs...as long as you don't mind being forever single.
Fittingly, the last parking lot ride we had time to check out was this sweet R34 sedan. After giving it a quick look though it was time to board the tour bus and head back to the hotel.

Once we got on board, head honcho Mike asked us where we wanted to eat that night. While some people went to find a good steak place and others separated for parts unknown, about half the group including me took up Mike's offer to find a good yakitori (barbecue chicken skewer) place.
After getting back to the hotel and dropping off our stuff we soon headed out to the nearby Shinagawa train station and I got my first taste of Japan's super-efficient public transport. With the Suica cards that I mentioned in my first DSport tour post it was child's play to hop a train heading to the nearby district of Shimbashi. After only about fifteen minutes we were walking around Shimbashi on the hunt for some good eats.
Although there was no shortage of restaurants in Shimbashi unfortunately it was a Friday night and so the streets and all the local establishments were overflowing with people on a night out. What made the search for a good yakitori joint even more difficult was the fact that most Tokyo restaurants are much smaller than what we're used to here in the States. Our group of sixteen would have basically taken up a whole restaurant by ourselves and since most were already full we resorted to splitting up the group. A small bunch here, a small bunch there, until eventually there were only four of us left to tag along with Mike and Mikiko, DSport's Japanese-born intern, to find our own dinner arrangements. After quite a bit more walking we ran out of options for yakitori so we settled on another izakaya like the one me and some of the others had been to the night before.
After about an hour of all-you-can-eat food and endless beer we made our way back to the train station and rode back to Shinagawa bringing an end to day 3 of the tour. We were tired from all the walking at TAS but we hit the sack looking forward to tomorrow when we'd do some sightseeing around Tokyo.