Back from my second go of Turbo magazine's Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS) tour I am happy to say I enjoyed things better this time around. It could have been that I had more realistic expectations of TAS this year than I did for my virginal visit. Knowing that all my tuner hopes and dreams wouldn't unfold right before me was a good start. I was pleased to see numerous quality vehicles that brought together both originality and performance.
For me, the most memorable vehicle was the twin-turbo V8-powered 240Z. The owner stuffed a Q45 engine in the 240 and twin-turbo'd it complete with titanium I/C piping and custom surge tanks. Another notable vehicle was the all-carbon fiber Lotus Elise. The Lotus' outer shell was completely constructed from carbon fiber, from the roof to the side skirt.
There is also a growing number of supercharger kits from Blitz, HKS and now GReddy. With much stricter emissions laws throughout the world, turbocharging is not as viable an option as it once was. HKS' booth had several supercharged vehicles ranging from an RX-8 to a BMW 3-series.
Although vans and minivans are not my cup of tea, TAS was filled to the brim with them. I still wish there were more tuning shops at TAS but just like SEMA, exhibiting at TAS is big money and the smaller shops don't really have a chance.
I would say the best part of Turbo's TAS tour is the opportunity to visit things beyond TAS itself. My personal highlights were getting to check out the impressive library of collectibles and books at the Super Autobacs and the historical collection of Toyotas at MegaWeb. MegaWeb itself was pretty cool, there really isn't anything quite like it in the U.S. It's part showroom, part Speedzone for kids of all ages. The coolest activity was where children were able to wrench on carts and then take them out on the track.
We also checked out the eight-story Mr. Craft car hobby store in trendy Shibuya. I'm actually glad we don't have a store like this back home because I would just spend too damn much money there.
Getting my fix of 1:43 scale replicas, I dropped more money than I care to mention on rare models I could never find here. I was also shocked to see how much people pay for 1:43 scale cars there. There was shelf after shelf of cars in the $200 to $500 range. We can also report that Turbo magazine's own matchbox size car that you can pick up at your local toy store is going for $13 in Japan. One floor was completely devoted to F1 merchandise, signed pieces, and memorabilia. My favorite piece was a $13,000 steering wheel signed by Michael Schumacher.
Having mastered the Japanese Rail system, I ventured out to explore other sights. I trekked out to Ikeburo to the Amlux Toyota Auto Salon which ended up being a smaller version of MegaWeb. There were lots of cars to check out but unlike MegaWeb there were loads of TRD products to buy which aren't available back home. It would be a worthy destination for TRD fans with money to burn.
My lowlight of the trip was hiking around for two very long hours trying to find the Honda museum. I wanted to bring back some photos for all you Honda-heads out there but sadly my map and the streets would not cooperate. Tokyo is unfortunately not laid out in square blocks, which makes it almost impossible to navigate.
What you won't see pictures of are the events that took place after the show. Some of guys on the tour went without sleep most nights and partied until 6 a.m. and then rolled back out for the 9 a.m. bus departure. They thoroughly checked out the legendary nightlife of Rypongi and the clubs of Shibuya. Just like Las Vegas, what happens in Tokyo stays in Tokyo!
Aside from all the car stuff, Sport Compact Car editor Jared Holstein, fellow Turbo editor Mike Kojima and myself ventured out from Tokyo and checked out the many temples of Kamakura. A day away from the bustling crowds of Tokyo was relaxing and gives you a better feel of what the rest of Japan is like.
All in all it was great trip. I hope to see more of you next year on our Turbo magazine TAS tour. There is plenty to do and see, so start saving up those yen. Until then.