After a three-year hiatus attending Tokyo Auto Salon, I wanted to come back to the halls of Makuhari Messe with a vengeance. So, I teamed up with ENEOS Motor Oil to do something special by creating a few one-off trophies and awarding them to the top three builds of the show. The three winners would also receive photoshoots at a later date, so you can bet you'll see more of these amazing cars later this year. And, luckily for me, I didn't have to do it all alone as I'd be getting some help from Formula DRIFT champion and ENEOS pro driver Dai Yoshihara acting as Super Street's guest editor and judge for the event.
Now as you can tell from our Auto Salon coverage thus far, TAS ain't your average rodeo. We tend to compare TAS to SEMA, as it's the closest thing we have in the States. But picture this... SEMA (which is industry only) clears about 160,000 people over the course of four days, while this year's TAS stomped the record books with a total of 336,060 heads over what's basically two and a half days. That's simply ridiculous! And while we keep hearing assumptions that people aren't into modifying cars like they used to be, the growing attendance of both of SEMA and Auto Salon seem to demonstrate otherwise. Anyways... with an official 800 registered vehicles on display, Dai and I had our work cut out for us, considering we only had one and half days to comb the show for the three most elite cars.
Similar to our Super Street SEMA Ultimate Award with Meguiar's, the criteria for the Super Street x ENEOS Tokyo Auto Salon Award would consist of project cars that are carefully thought out, well-executed from top to bottom, and have a certain "wow factor" about 'em. In the end, Dai and I selected the following three, which just so happen to be three great representatives of some of the most iconic Japanese cars of all-time—a Skyline GT-R, Silvia and AE86.
The 2020 Super Street x ENEOS Tokyo Auto Salon Award
(To keep things short 'n sweet, I've jotted down my top three points for each car here. We'll have more backstory and details when we feature these builds later this year!)
BEST OF SHOW - GARAGE ACTIVE - NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R (R32)
1. Since '92, well before Super Street was even conceived, Garage Active's reputation in Japan as a shop not to mess with was well established..What started out as Kazushige Sakamoto opening up a used car dealership and repair shop has become one of the world's most reputable businesses, specializing in all things GT-R. This pristine R32 is just another testament of what Garage Active stands for.
2. Your eyes aren't deceiving you...this R32 features a carbon-fiber body modeled from Kei Miura's Pandem kit. It's been tinted with a red clear coat to achieve a unique appearance as opposed to the exposed carbon which they've shown before at TAS in 2018 or a blue tint in 2019. While it's the third year we've seen Garage Active's R32, it never gets old and this red example is a brand-new build as you'll see under the hood.
3. Smoothed, tucked and yummy to the last nibble, this Skyline doesn't rock your typical turbocharged inline-six, but rather a naturally aspirated 3.1-liter utilizing a RB30 block and RB26 head. Also outfitted is a custom one-off individual throttle body setup. Sakamoto-san is aiming for 350hp once he finds time to tune it after the show. This R32 might not be the car he takes to battle on the drag strip; however, for a tight road course, cruising around town or sheer audible enjoyment, this Skyline is his new weapon of choice and unanimously our pick for Best of Show!
TOP HONORS - G-CORPORATION - NISSAN SILVIA (S15)
1. At Super Street, we're prone to love all things S-chassis, especially the coveted S15 Silvia which we never received back home. There were four top-notch S-chassis builds at Auto Salon, but this yellow S15 was the most complete of the bunch and it belongs to G-Corporation - a tiny shop located just a few miles from Makuhari Messe in Chiba and run by 20+ year owner Go Nakamura.
2. The '99 Silvia debuted at Auto Salon eight years ago and was painted blue at the time. Since then, Nakamura-san has continued to update the car with new styling, which is developed in-house, such as the aero, suspension, side mirrors, LED lighting and more. The S15 also has the full gambit of the very best JDM parts from brands like Tomei, NISMO, Trust, Project Mu, Work Wheels, and Kazama Auto.
3. Funny story... At first, Nakamura-san didn't want to talk to us, then tried to tell us his car wasn't deserving. He's old school and extremely quiet and humble (looks old enough to be my dad, too). He's not the type you'd find in front of the camera and probably hasn't even used social media before. But it's what makes these unsung heroes of the JDM car world so special. G-Corporation has been helping with show and drift cars in Japan for more than two decades, and this S15 is the pinnacle of what this small shop stands for. It's the textbook definition of what we appreciate about the Japanese tuning and drift scene.
TOP HONORS - KADAN BODY CRAFT - TOYOTA COROLLA (AE86)
1. I originally saw this AE86 during setup day, and it already made my top three. Everything from its paint quality to fit 'n finish was A+. So, when I returned to the show Friday and Saturday, I was totally caught off guard when I learned this Hachiroku wasn't built by a well-known shop or seasoned builder, but 13 young students from Kadan Body Craft - a school that specializes in teaching kids how to restore cars and further their craftmanship in custom fabrication and more.
2. This particular AE86 was used by the students as a practice car for basically all types of restoration and repair duties. It even had a shitload of rust from what one of the students told us. When the school decided to register a car into Tokyo Auto Salon, the students went all-in, utilizing both regular school curriculum and after school hours to finish the project in only three-month's time. You can have a look at how it started here.
3. Getting to meet these kids and telling them how much Dai and I appreciated all the hard work that went into the car was the most gratifying part of this year's Auto Salon. So much of today's scene is focused on what's hot and who's popular, even in Japan. These kids don't have the clout of a Liberty Walk or Rocket Bunny, but they're showing that they have heart, imagination and what it takes to make it. They set out to build a car that's true to its JDM roots while applying a few very custom touches, like the ghosted graphics in the paint, hand-painted emblems, shaved 'n tucked engine bay and more. We hope the best for these young cats as they pursue a career in body work and fabrication. We'd hire them in a heartbeat if they lived stateside!