The wave of old school chassis restoration and restomods that have been flowing throughout the U.S. in recent years has dramatically increased, and with that comes new levels of creativity, best practices, and even more reach as those outside the circle take notice of the possibilities. Often times it's a matter of locking eyes with "the one that got away" or even a bit of deja vu as a quick glance at an old Z car stirs up some old memories and the process of obtaining and building begins.
In Japan, however, the art of restoring and often times modifying during and after restoration has always held great value. A sense of pride packed into a once neglected chassis, somewhat modernized and served up with a healthy helping of style and functionality, without getting too far away from its roots, is commonplace overseas.
Like the long-running domestic-centric shops of the United States that carry a certain level of respect due to the sheer number of builds, in varying degrees of modification, Japanese shops dedicated to cars like '70s-era Skylines and multiple generations of Z-cars are often heralded and the cars they churn out set the tempo for home builders and up and comers.
At this year's Tokyo Auto Salon, some of the heavy hitters of the Japanese restomod world brought out their flagships and, as expected, did not disappoint in the slightest. Here's a look at some of our favorite ol-school build standouts that pulled plenty of crowd attention during TAS '19.
If you were lucky enough to own a '70s-era Skyline and wanted an authentic Japanese restomod touch, you'd be hard pressed to find a better pair of shops than Rocky Auto and Speed Forme, of Japan. For this year's show, both camps brought out their versions of the Skyline "Kenmeri" and both looked strikingly similar.
From the front, both carry the requisite fender mirrors and both rely on bronze TE37s, but the front lower air dams used are different and the Speed Forme fender flares, slightly larger with a more rounded appearance that makes them just a tad more aggressive—the result of which is a lower offset wheel setup.
The most noticeable differences in the rear are the single and dual exhaust exits and the trunk lip each camp chose. Both are incredible examples of a piece of Nissan history.
This signature Toyota R300GT was also from Rocky Auto—essentially an ode to the iconic 2000GT but fitted with far more modern amenities like power rack and pinion and powered by Toyota's 2JZ. The concoction is masterfully done and this gold version is testament.
The "Bunny Truck" made an appearance on the show floor in its raw form. This left-hand drive Datsun 521 has been fitted with a Rocket Bunny front air damn, side skirts, rear spats and fender flares, and still in place is its original paint, unabashedly faded and interrupted by sizeable gashes in its bed.
We've yet to run into a first gen. Nissan Cherry X1R and doubt we'll ever see one as clean as this restomod version. Serving as Nissan's first front engine, front wheel drive vehicle, the Cherry made its way through Japan and the European market under the Datsun banner in the early '70s.
You can't really put together a story about old-school builds in Japan without mentioning Star Road. The group has a knack for bringing out the very best in classic chassis like this green and black Hako with unique touches like the modern, carbon fiber mirrors and the external oil cooler, a long-standing tradition with classic chassis in Japan, uses precision brackets to clean up the look.
Star Road has never shied away from Z-car builds and this one, armed with custom painted fender flares that play off of the low offset wheels, carries stunning paintwork, a cleaned up rear end and is oozing with unmistakable Star Road style.