SEMA 2013: JDM Taste
Japan does Vegas

Let’s be honest for a moment. If someone were to ask me where they should go to see the latest and greatest in Japanese tuning and car customization, I wouldn’t say SEMA. For that you’d be much better off skipping Vegas and heading to Makuhari Messe for Tokyo Auto Salon in January.

With that being said, SEMA still provides plenty of interesting stuff for fans of JDM style, and the show has become an increasingly popular place for Japanese builders and companies to show their stuff to a global audience.

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So for this story I thought we’d take a look at some of the modified Japanese cars and Japan-derived styles that made an impression at this year’s show. Whether it was aftermarket companies, private owners, or OEMs, there was lots to see.

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Let’s just get this out of the way now. It seemed like a good 75% of all the Japanese vehicles at the show were a Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ of some type.

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Among the FR-S and BRZ crowd, there were many different styles present. Some builders were showing off track-oriented cars…

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…while other cars like this airbagged BRZ on matte black SSRs went for the street look.

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Of this FR-S and BRZ group, it seemed that at least half of the cars were equipped with Rocket Bunny kits of some sort.

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Miura-san’s bodywork has really become the de facto choice for these cars, and you’d almost believe the FR-S actually left the factory looking like this.

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Of SEMA’s Rocket Bunnies, I think the most impressive specimen was the 2014 Greddy Drift FR-S.

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It’s looking like this car will become Ken Gushi’s chariot during Formula Drift next season, and besides the new V2 Rocket Bunny styling…

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… it seems the team is leaving the flat-four behind in favor of a 2JZGTE making 750 horsepower. This should be fun to watch come next year.

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Had your fill of Rocket Bunny? There were other wide-body machines being shown, like this BRZ wearing a Varis kit and also sporting a Kraftwerks supercharger beneath the hood.

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Bulletproof Automotive’s FR-S was also running a Varis wide-body conversion, with a Powerhouse Amuse turbo kit providing extra grunt under the hood.

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Here we have the Project Mu FR-S demo car looking like it was plucked directly from the halls of Tokyo Auto Salon.

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The Super Pro booth was home to the familiar shape of the Evasive FR-S , now featuring new coloring and some additional bodywork since the last time we saw it. When it comes to the US tuners, it doesn’t get much better than this.

VIP mania
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Aside from the FR-S/BRZ wave, VIP cars also had a strong presence at the SEMA Show this year. When you think about it, these heavily customized Japanese luxury sedans are really a perfect fit for the show.

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They might be more subtle and detail-oriented than the majority of the outrageous SEMA show cars, but I think they have an appeal that expands beyond the traditional VIP fan.


During my time around the show, I spotted lots of hot rodders, truckers and others checking out these VIP cars – admiring their bodywork, ride heights and precise wheel fitment. It’s all part of the blend of people that SEMA brings out.

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And who can blame them? In the last couple of years, the level of VIP cars in the states has been rising quickly. Where we once saw basic aero kits and off-the-shelf parts, we are now seeing one-off bodywork, creative fabrication and other more personal touches.

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Here’s the latest version of the Lexus GS looking pretty choice with air suspension and a matte blue wrap.

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Even the OEMs were getting down with the VIP thing. Acura brought out this 2014 RLX with some tasteful body upgrades, 21″ Advan wheels and additional tuning from Evasive Motorsports.

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Of course the VIP influence expands outside of the traditional four-door luxury sedan. Here’s a wild-looking Lexus IS convertible with Aimgain aero and a set of iSS Forged wheels.

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There’s Mark Arcenal’s Nissan Quest minivan, which has gone through the not-so-easy process of being converted to a JDM-spec Nissan Elgrand. I’d say the result is worth the effort though.

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What better way to balance all the crazy lifted trucks outside than with Kyoei USA’s airbagged Prius? I’m totally down with this.

The other guys
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Elsewhere, Mazda can always be counted on to bring some cool cars out to SEMA, and this year their booth featured both the new Mazda3 and the Mazda6.

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This is the ClubSport3 Concept, with upgraded suspension, OE aero parts, Brembo brakes and a set of 19″ RAYS 57 Motorsport wheels.

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Perhaps the coolest car in the booth though, was the Mazda6 diesel competition machine. Surely one of the most interesting Japanese factory race cars in a while.

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Moving on to some of the other assorted Japanese machines now, I came across this cool Rocket Bunny-equipped S13 notchback with an LS1 swap. Another example of the popular military/warplane theme.

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Here’s the R’s Tuning Z34 370Z which is equipped with a Speedhunters tow strap, tirebomb kit and a radiator from our friends at CSF Radiators. Thanks for the support!

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One of my favorite Japanese cars of the show was this FD3S RX-7 in the iSS Forged booth. It’s wearing a full widebody conversion from Japan’s Total Car Produce Magic…

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… and the 18″ iSS wheels are a perfect match for the car’s circuit-inspired bodywork.

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One thing you won’t see a lot of at SEMA are older Hondas, so that’s why it was nice to see this super clean and super functional EG hatchback.

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The Civic’s highly detailed engine bay was filled with a K-series swap and a Jackson Racing supercharger. Yeah, that’s gotta be fun on the track.

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Felix from Fatlace brought out his newly refreshed Kenmeri Skyline, which I think was the lone Japanese classic car represented at this year’s show.

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Naturally, the Skyline was wearing a set of Fatlace’s new 15″ F/ZERO wheels.

Not Japanese, but…
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Aside from the cars that are actually made in Japan, SEMA also featured plenty of non-Japanese cars that had been customized by Japanese builders or had a strong Japanese influence.

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For the past few years RWB Porsches have been a big part of SEMA, with Nakai-san’s latest American creation being this flat-spoilered beauty in the Toyo booth.

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Representing the great state of Texas, I also found the Catalina RWB 993 in the iSS Forged booth. That paintwork is stunning.

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This is a Chevy Sonic, but Peter from Modified Magazine equipped his project car with set of bolt-on flares and Volk Racing TE37Vs. Cool.

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You’ve already seen the Liberty Walk treatment on two-door BMWs, but how about on a wagon? This 3-series wagon was put together by our friend Mickey Andrade, and it’s hard not to love it.

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And why not finish with the car that set the internet on fire? Love it or hate it, the Liberty Walk 458 is the perfect way to close out the Japanese side of the 2013 SEMA Show.



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Owning a Pre-LCI E91, it's awesome they chose to do one, along with a full conversion to M3 kit too. Damn I'd love to own it.


It's a pity there was only one JDM classic.....far more interesting IMO.
Rocket Bunny 86's are the new RWB Porsche's for me. All over the net in more or less just different colours/wheel set ups, and really not that interesting....seeing a stock bodied 86 is refreshing now!


Missed the insane Job Design LS!


Spaghetti Lol those old japa car are rare in the states and not really worth bringing it in for what u get.  Its like saying pity theres only one 1980 camaro at tokyo auto salon.


that Fatlcae Kenmeri has  F/Zero rims on 1 side and F/Zero 2 on the other?


Nice to see Bippu style on the rise.
No UCF 10 Toyota's ? Old school VIP's are more affordable.


VIP, the worst automotive fad since chrome spinners and Altezza lights.


FunctionFirst its more than a fad....


The 3 series Wagon is so rad. It's so wide, at first glance I thought it was a lowered X5M......Also, please tell me there are more pix of the Rocket Bunny S13 w/ the "zero" Paint scheme.


that 3 series wagon is awesome.


FunctionFirst Not sure if serious.


apex_DNA FunctionFirst Actually even if he doesn't realize how long it's been around for his handle is amazingly apt.


Too.  Many.  BRZ/86's.  Nissan, for the love of God, please bring back the Silvia/240 to kill the monotony.  I'd pray for Mazda to do the same for the RX-7, but looking at the direction their going with SkyActiv it appears that's far less likely to happen.
Mayday's Brandywine RWB has always been my favorite. 
That RX-7 is a little more extreme than I like, but it's slim pickin's these days for RX-7's at SEMA.  I see a bit of the Varis GTR kit in there too.
Gushi's 86 reminds me of Tuerck's, but more awesome.  No idea why more Scions aren't running 2AR motors though.  It's not like the performance hasn't been proven.


Simply P because despite being the much better engine, it takes a little more effort initially to get power out of it and this will probably only ever be a show car so more jdm tyte fans will talk about a 2j than a 2a


MatthewDear You're going to love what I have lined up to shoot in the UK next week Matthew :)


The first red FR-S and the Evasive Motorsport car. Two completely different approaches but I would be proud to own either. Beautiful.


Amazingly I didn't see the girl on the SuperPro stand move in four days... Awesome promo skills. She must love the Evasive car.


Simply P Agreed! Need some variety in the Japanese sport compact scene. Too many BRZ/FRS but that's really the only 'new' car out now. Nissan, Mazda, Honda time to step up! Bring back some good cars, people want them!


any more photos of that 3 series, it just proves that bolted on arch extensions can look good if done well, and shows what liberty walk can do. I'm just being picky here, but they could have extended the rear arch another 3" to meet the bumper extension, it just doesn't look 'right'


Simply P  Can't argue with more variety in a car segment we all love!


EdoSNTRL It's amazing to me that Nissan is leaving so much money on the table for Toyota/Subaru to gobble up.


777 Absolutely correct.  MotoIQ does a really in-depth write up of how well engineered the 2AR is straight from the factory.  Papadakis has been making high, reliable horsepower with that engine for a little while now.  In a perfect world, the BRZ would have the flat four and the FRS would get the 2AR.


I'm so over the GT86/BRZ now. You almost can't read an article on Speedhunters these days without seeing one. Not saying that's your fault, they are literally everywhere. I still appreciate a well modified and interesting example, even if it wears the same rocket bunny kit as every other one out there, but I think it says it all when you say that the kit is so popular it looks stock. We need something new from Nissan and Mazda now. And even Honda. New genertion S-chassis, RX7, and S2000. When Toyota first released the GT86 I thought we were going to see a resurgence of Japanese sports cars. I'm still waiting.


Speedhunters_Bryn I get it...


Jordan_Burgess While I still like the cars a lot (and kind of want one) I agree with you. If rumors are true, we might be seeing something big from Nissan in a couple weeks :)


Speedhunters_Bryn It's like one of those royal guards you got over there in jolly old England!


Simply P It's coming! (hopefully)


Mfabs Yeah, no goin' wrong with a badass wagon.


jzx81 Yeah you don't see people doing much with the older cars, but pretty soon they'll be classics in their own right, won't they?


azmedaj I think so.


EdoSNTRL Yeah man there's always one or two cars I manage to completely miss somehow. Damn SEMA and its insane size...


EdoSNTRL Yeah man there's always one or two cars I manage to completely miss somehow. Damn SEMA and its insane size...


One of the UK E91 M3s? Need an assistant? I'm free! ;)


i love liberty walk styling, don't get me wrong, but i hate the whole non-functional stance craze. i do think it looks good sometimes, but i wouldn't do it to my car.  I want to see more gt86 being used for drifting and less for "sitting pretty" during car shows because the platform is capable of so much more than what it is being used for.


that wagon!!!!! mmm!


Just thought I would point out that the Sonic doesn't come in 5 lug, makes those wheels even more interesting to see on there.

And Mazda please bring us the 6 diesel!


Jordan_Burgess nah, you can't read an article without at least one appearance of a 2JZ swap either, but thats how the tuning world works a the moment. Wondering from year to year which engine the tuners will jump on next, but its still the JZ, and it gets squeezed in whatever engine bay one has to offer ;)




This year I went to Tokyo Auto Salon, and half the cars there were SEMA is the same way.
I'm going to TAS next January also, but it will probably be another GT86 meet.


Mike Garrett EdoSNTRL I spotted it! :) To be fair, it only arrived on the last day - I believe it got stuck in Customs on the way over.


Anyone know what that dark car behind the Chevy Sonic is? Those rims are interesting!


i love m3 faced wagons. that has got to be the coolest conversion i've ever seen on a 3 series wagon. you should have posted more pics of the front!!! or maybe a feature???


Love th


Love that R’s Tuning Z34 370Z!  Can't believe I missed it!  Very clean, but aggressive at the same time!  Matte wraps really looks good outside in the sun.


MattAtDoyle i think the rims are rotiforms. (these maybe