Turbo magazine has been covering the Tokyo Auto Salon since 1995 and we've never seen a new car dominate the show floor at the Makuhari Messe like the 350Z did this year.
The previous show's shooting stars include the R34 Skyline, S15 Silvia, Altezza, WRX and RSX. Most of these stars have retained a presence at the show, but the Skyline has always been the big dog. The lack, then, of Skyline GT-Rs at Makuhari in 2003 bordered on the sacrilegious. Other strong showings were put in by the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi EVO.
Some exhibitors at the show pointed to the slump in the Japanese tuning market over the last two to three years to explain the popularity of the 350Z. Tuners are embracing the new Nissan in hopes of reviving the scene.
With Nissan axing the GT-R and Silvia in 2002 and Toyota's similar move with the Supra in 2000, Japan has few new high-performance cars to embrace.
Materially speaking, Titanium was a hit. From Top Secret's impressive 350Z turbo exhaust manifolds to exhaust systems for about every car roaming the Rising Sun highways, the lightweight alloy was big.
As far as products go, Volk Racing unleashed some dope wheels and a number of new titanium exhaust systems and body parts under the Gram Lights banner. The HKS booth had some real eye-openers; namely, a 3.4-liter 2JZ stroker kit, 2.2-liter SR20 stroker kit and a new T04 series turbo. Trust/GReddy had a turbocharged Mazda 6 in its booth and its PRofec e-01 boost controller was a popular destination for tuners and enthusiasts alike.
Tein has added a twist to its innovative remote adjustable shock damping system-programmability. The Super EDFC (Electronic Damping Force Control) can be programmed to adjust shock performance via vehicle speed. The system also allows the shocks to be adjusted from infrared sending units mounted on the steering wheel. Pretty heady stuff. ARC displayed a trick intercooler with a heavy-duty fan behind it. The company used temperature sensors to display inlet and outlet temps. We were surprised at the absence of Spoon Sports, JUN, Bee Racing, Pro Drive and Feel's at this year's show.
Will the 350Z breathe new life into the Japanese tuning scene in 2003? Time will tell. Will we be back in 2004? You can bet on it. The Turbo Tour was a real hit with attendees-the sightseeing portion of 2003 never materialized, and while disappointing, many call this deviation the highlight of the trip.
On the way to Kamakura to see the 37-foot Buddha and surrounding temples, a five-minute bathroom stop turned into more than an hour of revving engines and screeching tires. Check out page 84 for our tour's encounter with Top End, a bitchin' NSX car club.
For 2004, we're working to offer a staged package to make it easier to stay a bit longer by eliminating issues with language barriers. We may also add organized outings to the expanded version. Stay tuned and check out kintetsu.com and turbomagazine.com.