As good as it is, Osaka Auto Messe might not be able to match Tokyo Auto Salon when it comes to things like overall size and media coverage. Although improving, a soft economy still keeps a lot of companies and OEMs from exhibiting at both TAS and Auto Messe. With that said, there are some areas where Auto Messe really is king – namely when it comes to VIP cars.
Before going to the show I'd heard a little about the quality of Auto Messe's VIP cars, and once I walked into the VIP-themed hall at Intex Osaka on Friday, all was confirmed.
The place was an absolute mecca of VIP style tuning. Slammed luxury sedans filled the hall from end to end.
I'd had the chance to see some VIP cars at Japanese events in the past, but this was at another level. I can see how Dino felt when he visited the King of Sedan event last summer.
The group included a mix of parts company demo cars, shop projects, and privately owned vehicles.
The styles ranged from the smooth and simple, as modeled by the "Funny Fellows" Aristo…
…to wild and over the top. This is K-Break's ridiculous Aristo convertible for example.
Of course the interior is fully done to match the outside. Want to pick up some girls and head to the beach on a summer day? This is your chariot.
As I wandered around taking in the cars and looking over their details, I began to have some deeper thoughts about both the VIP movement, and car culture as a whole.
At one time there was an image (at least in the US) that "real" VIP cars had strict standards. It was said they could only be built from certain platforms, only be painted certain colors, and only look a certain way.
But it's quite clear now that's not the case. VIP builders in Japan are always evolving and trying new things with their cars.
There are endless amounts of thought, effort, and time put into building these cars, and that's something that should be respected – regardless of whether you "like" the style or not.
For instance, many of these VIP sedans run extreme amounts of negative camber, and that's something that will always generate heated discussion in the comments section on blogs and websites. But really, is it something that needs to be argued over?
I'm sure the owners of these cars are well aware that their tires don't have ideal contact patches and that their suspension lacks proper travel. It's simply a matter of personal style, and many folks are very proud of this look.
That brings me to my main point. While in the United States, I spend a lot of time around the Hot Rod and custom scene, and I see a big parallel between today's VIP builders in Japan and the legendary American custom builders.
If you just Imagine these Toyota Celsiors and Nissan Cimas as '49 Mercs or '54 Chevys, the similarity becomes very clear.
Japanese VIP cars and American lead sleds may be separated by decades of technology and thousands of miles, but their spirit is very much the same.
The more I think about it, the more similarities I notice. For starters, they are both big, low, and in many cases loud. Hell, many of them even have the same V8s with straight pipes.
In fact, a few cars at Auto Messe this year were even running long side exit exhaust. A VIP version of the iconic "lake pipes".
Just as it is with classic lead sleds, interior customization is a big part of the scene. Just replace tuck 'n roll upholstery with TV screens and high tech audio systems.
You can even throw in a tribute to your best girl (celebrity or otherwise).
While on the subject of decked out interiors, who can identify the famous Japanese anime series playing on this screen?
Many of the top VIP cars in Japan have lots of handmade body work – the bulging fenders on the Auto Styling Aristo for example. Again, not too different from the cars built by people like Roth, Winfield, and Barris.
Radiused fenders or chopped tops, it all comes from the same universal school of trying to make your car cooler.
Custom projector and LED setups might as well be the Frenched lights on the Hot Rods and customs of yesteryear.
There were a few VIP sedans at Auto Messe so heavily modified that it took a few moments for me to identify the base car.
Again, this is something I run into often while shooting Hot Rod and custom events. In case you were wondering, this is a Q45 built by O&T Car Trading out of Kanagawa.
Another HG50 from O&T, slammed and side-piped for maximum attitude.
You could even see different body styles among the VIP crowd at Auto Messe, be it an open top car like the Lexus SC430…
..or a traditional station wagon in the form of a Toyota Crown Estate. A lot like the wagons and convertibles you see at a show like the Long Beach Motorama, right?
I could go on further with this, but I suppose what I'm getting at is the common bond that's shared by car people across both continents and generations.
If you consider these VIP sedans to be modern Japanese versions of the classic American lead sled, it might just help ease some of the tension and hostility between the various camps in today's automotive world.
Of course I'm far too young to have experienced the golden age of American Hot Rod and custom building myself, but I imagine things were different then. I can't picture 1950s era quarter milers and lakes racers hating the lead sled and custom guys because their cars lacked performance or "function". With the same token, I doubt lead slead drivers made fun of the racers because their cars weren't "cool enough".
Yesterday's car people still had their own tastes and preferences of course , but it seemed there was a mutual respect shared by everyone. Or at least everyone was so busy enjoying their own automobiles that they didn't waste time being bothered over what others did or didn't do to their cars.
It really doesn't matter whether you are talking about VIP cars and lead sleds, or any other automotive style or subculture. I think in the future if we take just a little time to remember these common bonds that us car freaks share, our little world might be a better place.
It's now almost 4:00am here in Tokyo, and what started out as some simple event coverage has turned into a bit of commentary on our car obsession as a whole.
Feel free of course to sound off with your own thoughts on this below.
Wagon Obsession kicking in again!! haha but yea dude you said it. Stop hating guys. I was the same way about Dub cars and all the chrome but I got introduced to Japanese VIP and then noticed the resemblance in both. Im still not a fan of all the chrome but very much love aluminum polished. I see it as the American VIP just on the different side of the sun in the sense that it shines off the chrome a little more than polished haha Definitely good write though...
the anime is onepice and the character is sanji from the early episodes can tell from the animation lol i ama nerd but yes loved all the vips
Looking at the pics againand just noticed this... The second pic of the LS, the rearbumper is custom made with a E39 M-tech...now that's clean!
All i have to say is IT'S A CAMBERS PARTY!!!!! how you do that to a car want to do that to my 240sx so any body tell me
Indeed, this is Speedhunters...most (95%) of these cars do have the power to back them up, from inline 6 turbos to the twin turbo V8's
The Crown Estates you guys have shown are pretty sweet and something to lust over...are big wagons making a comeback to the tuner scene?
Great write up. The differences between the US scene and Japan as you mentioned, is night and day. They take it to a whole new level which often takes us years to accept. Most don't understand the concept the evolution in the scene. People get stuck on what they first seen when they got into VIP styling which is Japan circa 05-07 styling and feel this is the only way to do it. There is so much more to the style and the possibilities are endless. I am glad you are bringing light to this.
Interesting article. People should just try to build their own car before commenting about others. Realizing the effort that needs to be invested first hand will build respect for others, no matter what the genre.
i think the main reason we have so many haters, is because of the internet. i mean you can say whatever you want without any consequences.
These cars are deceptively complex. It would appear on the surface that they are simply dropped and shined with giant rims slapped on, but the amount of hours, money and sweat that goes into creating these rolling pieces of art is astonishing.
The anime is One Piece! And like a true champion the character on screen is their chef, Sanji, in one of the earlier episodes.
Good comparison, and I've always thought of the VIP scene as Japan's Lead Sled movement too. If I were building my own VIP car, there are some things I would not do, such as the oni-camber, loud exhaust, or brightly-colored interior. But the creativity and labor going into these cars is impressive. And as is often the case with the Japanese, it's at the highest level of craftsmanship.
Great coverage like always Mike; i'm 100% on your thoughts on the VIP scene..Japanese styling's are quite unique, built at exceptionable levels. I hope VIP fans all over the world take notes on the craftsmanship and work ethic of the Japanese culture at large and build high quality vehicles like these; even with demon camber and crazy amount of bodywork. It's an inspiration..
these car are freaking nuts!! and i love them....its makes them unique rather than following the trend in thier own little way, compared to people who change their car to please other people, rather than themselves. nice write up Mike!!
OG hot rodders hated muscle cars and the people who drove them at first, that type of silly animosity is by no means new.
Agreed with you Mike. People need to stop all this hating on other styles/regions, and just start to respect the entire car community.
Give me a simple Junction Produce demo car over one of these things any day. This is an interesting comparison though.
Hey Keats, in case you havent noticed, Speedhunters posts about every type of motorsport and every type of style.
Ohhhh man, I'm middle aged and I know that its Sanji from One Piece. But I like cars so does that cancel out my anime nerdness? Crazy cars by the way.
Great article, as well as fresh take on an old debate. Keep up the great coverage of everything automotive!