The show must go on, as they say, and so that's exactly what organizers of the much-loved annual Tokyo Auto Salon did, taking the 3-day event that usually happens in Chiba's Makuhari Messe convention center and translating it (metaphorically, not literally; it was still largely in Japanese) into both streaming video and 3D. Auto Salon TV was the video part of it, and backed-up broadcasts are still available to watch if you missed them live; Virtual Auto Salon was a bit more experimental, providing sort of clunky, generic simulated interactive "booths" to move your cursor through. If you looked at any of it, though, you probably saw one theme emerge from the JDM aftermarket: they're in love with Toyota's GR Yaris (after being in love with the GR Supra a year earlier).
It was not the perfect solution to replace being there in person, but when COVID axed original plans TAS had to pivot quickly to a Plan B, and coupled with what was being communicated by each brand through their respective social media and blogs, it did begin to feel like an actual Auto Salon had happened by weekend's close. Below we've rounded up a few of the bigger announcements from the '21 Virtual Auto Salon for your approval. ICYMI, we've also previously posted pieces on what tuners Top Secret had on tap for this year, as well as OEMs Toyota and Daihatsu.
The Honda tuners at J's have engineered a new Black Series Damper RR for the FK8 Civic Type R, a multifunction track- and street-spec shock absorber that seems to be a little more on the aggressive side. Codeveloped with our friends over at RS-R, J's characterizes the Black Series damper as suitable for circuit time attack as well as street sports driving and sell it in a coilover kit that includes - you guessed it - RS-R springs. The setup also comes with new front antiroll bar end links, height adjustment wrench and damper warning cancellers (which they note are not available separately). Check out the J's Racing website for more info.
We previewed one of HKS's VR booth debuts - its time-attack GR Yaris - last week, and through Virtual Auto Salon we got another, its second GRY, but this one with prototype body kit. Engineered using 3D scanning, CFD, and low-pressure molding, the aero includes a front spoiler with carbon bargeboards on each end, canards, side skirts with carbon bargeboards, spoilers for the rear corners, side carbon bargeboards, and a rear GT carbon middle spoiler. Also, apparently in development are a dry carbon engine cover and fuse box overlay, with the carbon bits scheduled for a spring '21 delivery. HKS additionally has some pretty cool new facemasks in its shop, but those may be sold out by the time you read this.
So you want your J tuner car to be refined by only Japanese artisans, but you don't have the half million to buy a classic GT-R and send it to NISMO - might we interest you in a GReddy'ed-up Toyota 86? That appeared to be one of Trust's big Auto Salon announcements, that they will take your new or used ZN6 platform and install a bevy of bolt-ons in what it calls its GReddy Complete Package 86. The virtual booth also had GReddy's new Suzuki Jimny parts; information about Trust's Street Damper comfort suspension; and an announcement that Trust will be accepting orders for custom exhaust fab work.
Engine mods for the GReddy Complete Package 86 consist of turbo kit and oil pan with magnetic drain plug, aluminum intake pipe set and AIRINX-B filter element, radiator hose kit and cap, water temp adapter, oil filter, FA20-SP oil, circuit-spec oil cooler, and Power Extreme R exhaust. The system additionally comes with GReddy Performance Damper coilover suspension, aero front skirt, engine hood struts, SIRIUS OBD SET VISION gauge, shift knob, steering wheel, and a T518Z ECU. The car takes about a month to put together, and if our math is right the conversion comes out to about $37k U.S. for the whole shebang, which certainly seems a lot less than half a mil.
Toyota tuners TOM's used Auto Salon to roll out their GR Yaris development car, which features its new body kit with front and rear bumpers and side skirts, and teased future upgrades its planning with the input of Gazoo Racing pro rally driver Takamoto Katsuta. They're also continuing to tweak the A90 Supra and other Toyota/Lexus fare they specialize in, and provided an update on the iconic JGTC Mk4 Supra they restored via YouTube, which appears pretty close to complete.
Brakemakers Endless outfitted their Auto Salon GR Yaris with freshly developed bigger binders fore and aft, switching to slotted rotors (multipiece discs up front) as well as their forged monobloc 6-piston calipers for the front and 4-piston for the rear. The hot hatch project also flosses ZEAL coilovers, Fujitsubo exhaust, Bride seats, and Enkei NT03RR wheels on ADVAN Neova rubber.
RAYS always hits TAS hard, and even though there wasn't a live event this year, they still had a steady stream of new product coming out through the course of the past 12 months. Among them are a handful of new '21 models from our favorite RAYS brands Volk Racing and Gram Lights, but the one that piqued our interest most debuted in Japan on Christmas day and throws it back to classic rims from another era. Forged one-piece VR21C wheel features design elements like a wide step rim and, specifically, dimpled spokes that share DNA with the old-school Volk Gr.C wheel.
Super Street fam Jonny Grunwald (of TCP Magic FD RX-7 and Rocket Bunny RX-8 notoriety) scored a set for his widebody FD3S - the first in bronze to be on a car - and RAYS is using the photos to market the wheels (which were originally supposed to debut globally in the Mackin Industries booth at the '20 SEMA Show). RAYS says the VR21C will be released to the public in May '21, as will a supposed 10th anniversary edition of the TE37V.
Honda Japan's official aftermarket parts arm, Honda Access, adds to the quirkiness we witnessed from the OEM last week two "concept" vehicles, the e-based e-Drag EV subcompact (that's a lot of e's) and the N-One RS-based K-Climb city car. As you may have guessed, the e-Drag is meant to be a drag racer that seemingly will keep its rear electric motor and RWD but will lose almost everything else, with the interior gutted and lightweight CFRP body panels planned for the exterior (currently only the roof has been swapped out to the composite material). The e also has a racy suspension and repurposes 17-inch first gen. NSX wheels to stay with the svelte theme.
For hill climbs, Honda Access built its N-One K-Climb, adding coilovers, carbon front and rear bumpers, grill and hood for weight savings, and new overfenders to the turbo FF Kei car. More info for both concept vehicles can be found on Honda Access's special Auto Salon microsite, where right now they are taking votes on which liveries these wacky little racers will sport.
Forged wheelmaker ADVAN had a trio of new additions for Auto Salon, starting with their big 5-spoke GT Beyond wheel, which was just released last year in 19-inch fitments; designed for modern cars with a lot of space for big brakes, GT Beyonds are now available in 18- and 20-inch sizes, too. The fourth generation of ADVAN's original lightweight 6-spoke RG wheel was introduced, the RG-4, with improvements in spoke design; and finally, ADVAN is now offering its 3-spoke Oni 2 rollers, an old-school looking rim that is engineered for Kei cars alone, coming in only 14- and 15-inch sizes.
Auto Salon TV had two live car show specials that featured some 79 vehicles, several of which have ended up in our photo gallery. The motley crew includes a few fairly wild builds, like a 1JZ-powered 86, an off-road Nissan 370Z, even the world-famous Craftplus Hiace (and yeah, a couple of GR Yaris snuck in there, too).