If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’d like to return to Tokyo Auto Salon for a moment with this story. While TAS 2013 was an amazing show, one of the things that impressed me the most at Makuhari Messe that weekend was not even a car. Ok, so it was a car , but instead of one real automobile it was a display featuring dozens of small ones. How small? 1:64 scale to be exact.
Everything you are about to see is a result of the work of Mr. Tetsuro Sato.
Sato-San has a monthly column in G-Works Magazine where he gives detailed breakdowns of how he customizes diecast cars and provides step by step instructions for those that want to try for themselves.
Because of his association with the magazine, the G-Works booth at TAS featured a display case full of his miniature creations. Based on the number of people that were swarming around the case, it seemed just as popular as any of the “real” vintage cars in the G-Works display.
With the amazing amount of detail in these cars, you’d think they were much larger than they are. You expect to see 1:24 scale models or large scale diecasts with this amount of detail, but we are talking 1:64 scale here. For those that aren’t familiar, that’s just a bit larger than your typical Hot Wheel!
While I know that my uncoordinated hands could never pull off this sort of feat, I couldn’t help but be blown away by both the quality Sato-San’s work…
…and by the amount of personal style he’s been able to inject into these small scale miniatures.
It can be hard to tell looking at the finished products, but most of the diecasts he uses as his base cars are from brands like Aoshima and Tomica,
Whatever the case, nearly all of the details found on real Japanese kyusha can be found on Sato-san’s scale replicas. Sometimes it’s as simple as a set of over-fenders, wheels, and paint.
But other times, the cars are much more extreme in their modifications. Just like their real life counterparts it can be hard to tell what sort of car they started out as. As you might imagine, all of the custom bodywork was scratchbuilt by hand.
He finds the inspiration for his miniature builds in a variety of places. These cars for example are built as smaller scale replicas of vintage model kits. They might be a few times smaller in size, but there’s nary a detail left out.
Sato-san told me that the S30 Fairlady Z is one of his favorite cars, so it’s not surprising that the display was full of custom san-marus done in all sorts of styles.
Some were sporting some radical engine swaps and custom wide body conversions, along with fully detailed interiors.
Check out this amazingly detailed works style 240ZG. You can even see the spark plug wires and trumpets on the carbs!
Another one of the S30s had a blown V8 sticking out of the hood and was set up on a miniature drag strip.
Here’s an S30 that he modeled as a restoration project in progress. This brings me to another cool part about this display. It wasn’t just the cars that impressed, but the scale scenes built around them.
Among the dioramas he’s built are a miniature tuning shop complete with wheels, racing seats, nitrous kits, and steering wheels on display in the showroom.
Another one of Sato-san’s miniature scenes portrays a Mobil service station that’s been overrun by a group of modified kyusha.
It’s the perfect place to show off the working headlights and taillights he’s managed to put in some of these little cars.
Then there’s the largest and perhaps the most impressive of all of the dioramas…
It’s a highly detailed replica of a highway parking area that’s been taken over by a group of Kaido Racers. A sight that should be familiar to anyone who knows Japanese car culture.
Glancing across the lot you can see all matter of Kaido Racer machines recreated in perfect detail.
Here, for example, you can see a full works style Mazda Savanna parked alongside a a Celica LB Group 5 replica. Again, just about all the modifications on these things were done completely from scratch.
Ah yes – the makeshift convertible, a common sight in Kaido Racer circles. You just gotta love the details like the Pocari Sweat hood and the pipes popping through it.
How about this S30 with a custom hatch and scratchbuilt takeyari?
The whole scene is just so detailed and so convincing. Not just in the cars, but in the scenery as well.
You can almost hear the sounds of screaming engines and musical horns…
Like a lot of kyusha fans in Japan, Sato-san loves Shakotan Boogie. Among his diecasts are replicas of all the major cars from the manga, including versions of Akira’s Z and Jun’s Hakosuka.
And of course Hajime’s Soarer as well – complete with figures inside.
He’s even gone as far as replicating exact scenes from the comic, with accurately modeled cars, characters, and background scenery.
This particular diorama recreates the scene in which guys pull their machines outside of the local all-girls high school to compete for the attention of the opposite sex. It’s a theme that pretty much runs through the entire series.
It’s all just part Sato-san’s deep passion for recreating kyusha and shakotan culture in scale form. Better yet, he’s just as excited to show others exactly how he’s done it. If you ever get a chance, check out his stories in G-Works Magazine.
In terms of physical size, this was one of the smallest displays at Tokyo Auto Salon – but it was also the one I spent the most time looking at.
Given the madness of Auto Salon, I guess that’s saying quite a bit.
Mike ! Over the Sato-san's enthusiasm, your photo excellency makes the mini almost real look and his caged world were extended to exciting screen world. Greatly appreciate.
Those are just epic! I want them! I'm just curious if those are metal or plastic. I'm guessing plastic.
Gvk Most of them started out as metal diecast cars, but a lot of the custom stuff is done from plastic - if that makes sense.
Halfway through the article it hit me - I absolutely LOVE car culture (sometimes you have to remind yourself of that).
I have seen the stories in g works. Some of these cars are famous in Japan.
I have a few of the 1/24 kits some of Sato-Sans cars are modeled after.
(Those turbo Violets are just like the pictures on the kit boxes).
jzx81 Yeah I noticed a couple replicas he built of actual cars I've seen at events in Japan.
Wow! To say that it's impressive would be an understatement! This is so much better than the HW's that my son has.
@apex_DNA - Yes, but this is one of a kind, that is what I would prefere above one made by HW. ;)
Simply amazing work!! Any links to some of the articles on how he modifies the cars? The manga HW is what got me collecting HW's again!! Love this style! Wish they sold diecasts like that!! Thanks for such a great article!!!
J671 Thanks a lot! As far as I know the G-Works stories have never been posted online. Perhaps sometime in the future though?
Awesome!!! I'm extremely interested in Sato-San's stories in the mag, bu I'm in the US. =[ Any way we can take a gander? I'd love to modify some of my Hotwheels cars!
@MartinBrandan You should be able to pick up G-Works online or at a Japanese book store if you happen to live near one.
Utterly amazing work from Mr. Tetsuro Sato. Oh god how do I love scale cars.. for me it's just like a real car; seeing it makes me happy! Thanks Mike for this amazing post!
@Lukemorron Thank you! There's no doubt Sato-San had more time invested in these things than some of the "real" cars at the show.
Unbelievable attention to detail, and serious craftsmanship! Thanks for sharing this Mike, very, very cool!!