Nagoya, Japan | April 5-6, 2009
When you think of Japanese shows the name Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) will no doubt be the first that comes to mind. It's the one where the biggest names gather to showcase their latest products and newest demo cars. But since 2007 Daijiro Inada, the founder of TAS and Option Magazine, has been organizing a smaller more focused kind of car show, the Exciting Car Showdown. Held in April at the Port Messe exhibition center in Nagoya, this event is only by invitation, and most of the cars on display have been selected by Inada-san himself. It's a way to touch base with all the smaller tuning shops from the far corners of Japan, shops that create stunning machinery but can't make it to the bigger, more high-profile shows. As soon as we set foot inside the arena, we were confronted with an impressive selection of highly tuned cars-everything from the latest D1 drift machines to 1,000-plus horsepower drag racers.
The atmosphere was open and friendly, there were no busy stalls, no campaign girls, just stunning cars to look at. Inada and Tsuchiya-san were openly walking around the place talking to show-goers and signing the odd autograph, while famous D1 drivers like Kumakubo and Nomuken showed their new cars to the crowds.
What became instantly obvious as we began to look at the cars on display was that the main focus was performance. Every car was special and in some way unique; in fact, probably every single ride there deserved a full photo shoot. The offering was really that good and it assured us that the tuning scene in Japan is still alive and well, it has just been forced a little bit underground by tightening regulations.
The southern part of Japan seems to be churning out some pretty interesting machinery these days, like the Garage Ito ER33 Skyline TypeM drag car or the Phoenix Power twin-turbocharged Nismo 380RS. The current trend in drifting shows no signs of diminishing with a simply amazing selection of fully built drifters like Kumakubo's new EVO X and the crazy chopped roof S15 built by Paint & Make
Engine swaps were all the rage with RB26s and 2JZs being put into all sorts of cars. We also spotted a couple of SR20DETs in strange cars like a Nissan Rasheen, a Nissan Gloria and even an old Subrau Forester. There was a great mix of older rides, too-from the popular Hakosuka Skyline to the rarer classics like the Top Secret-tuned A57C Mitsubishi GTO. Apparently, Nagata-san has dropped a 4G63 under the hood, but it's still a work in progress and definitely one worth checking into once completed. We have selected some of the most extreme and unique cars from the show, so time to let the pictures do the talking.