Be Cool, Be Chic" directed signage in the Honda booth at the 2007 Tokyo Auto Salon, as if suggesting its cars were a ticket to instant hip-ness and acceptance. The rallying cry may have been meant to inspire, and probably did in Japanese, but in English it seemed more like the cutesy, awkward, paradoxical language that sometimes comes out when JDM marketing-speak gets translated. Seriously-isn't the expression "chic," like, from the '70s? How cool is that?
Leave it to car magazine nerds to quibble over word choice and undermine the significance of the SEMA-style event, now in its 24th year. Touted as the largest custom car expo on the planet, the Auto Salon lived up to the hype, drawing nearly 250,000 attendees over the 3 days of January 12-14 to the Makuhari Messe center in Chiba Prefecture. They came to explore some 600 customized vehicles, including tuner and sports cars, concepts, and dressed-up luxury whips, plus kiosks for all the related aftermarket paraphernalia. And we can't overlook the curiously large number of dancing girls throughout the event, another endearing cultural phenomenon we're still trying to figure out.
We submit our humble little report from Chiba.
In the Honda booth, the automaker paraded a trio of cars that likely won't make it stateside, the Fit Daily Active and 2 Stream concepts, the Hyper-sports and the Exclusive.
Advertised as the next generation of MUGEN's S2K project, the Open-Top Pure Sports concept AP1 caught a lot of stares. The Championship white roadster had been chopped (or at least it's A pillars were) and decked out in polycarbonate windscreens, seamless front fender flares, and a host of other futuristic gear.
We also noticed this sweet-looking "Hybrid Racing" FD-chassis Civic sedan race car in the OEM's show lot. Wonder if Honda management knows what the number on the rear plate means...
Also on display, MUGEN's Courage LC70 LeMans racer, rocking a 32-valve, 4.5L, V8 MF458S engine. In 2006, the Courage ran enduros at Sportland SUGO, Twin Ring Motegi, and Okayama International Circuit, where it emerged victorious.
Another in its line of Fit imaginings, the Vivid blue pearl Spec-D by MUGEN is a finalized version of the prototype rolled out last year and features a supercharged L15A under the hood.
As in previous shows, ASM rolled out its pair of immaculate S2000s. We're sorta partial to the one with the Toda prepped 2.4L stroker motor with throttle bodies.
Tokyo Auto SalonForgoing all subtlety, the Top Fuel/Zero1000 Type-RR AP1 was the epitome of carbon-fiber extravagance. The stroked and turbocharged F-series mill, and ADVAN RGII rims on AO48s, state the S2000 is more than a looker, though.
As one could expect, the ATS & Across S2000 was built with an emphasis on hooking up. The driveline products company equipped its project roadster with one of its 2-way LSDs, Swift springs, and Rays CE28 wheels shod in Advan stickiness.
J's Racing was reppin' with dueling Fits at TAS. On the wild side was its Type-GT model, flossing a full competition cage, a Recaro TS-G bucket with Takatas, Volk RE30s shod in Yokohama ADVAN AO48 rubber, and a swapped K24A mill with ITBs in the engine bay.
Racing Gear's DC5 Integra rocks RG's JTC'N1 circuit dampers and Power brake pads, in addition to SSR Type C wheels wrapped in Dunlop Direzza rubber.
The more demure Fit of the duo, the Type-ST is a veritable rolling catalog of J's Racing engine, drivetrain, and aero mods. Non-J's fare on the sub-compact includes Bride Zeta III seats and similar Volk rims on Yokohama DNA S.drive tires.
In the Spoon Sports booth, 2 cover cars: the FD-spec CTR, from our Feb./March '07 issue, and the Spoon S2000, which graced our sister mag Turbo's April offering.