Being A VIP At TAS
Cross-mixing styles

We’ve seen the more performance-oriented cars that stood out the most at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, but now we will have to plunge into what’s been taking Japan and its car culture by storm: style. Most of the cars you see here share one thing in common: stance – the popular term coined when referring to how a car sits, and the relationship between its fenders and the wheels it’s fitted with. Most of the cars here are of the VIP variety, an impossibly Japanese style that has been copied the world over, interpreted in different ways, and then sent back to the Japanese who have re-embraced it with their usual colorful take. Scroll down and you will see the various cars and forms it takes, a selection spiced up with the odd vintage ride – of which there were very, very few this year.


It’s come to the point where a lot of people in Japan are asking themselves, ‘What is VIP anyway these days?’ For me at least, the Junction Produce look is one that I will forever hold in my mind as the basic, unmolested style. While they too have embraced newer cars and at times even imports, their simple black menacing domestic sedans on deep-dished polished rims have always led the way in the scene. Except that scenes and tastes change, things evolve and it’s probably why in 2014 it’s considered ok to have a pink bippu ride like this J-Unit new-gen Crown at the RAYS booth.


It also probably explains why Junction Produce weren’t at the show this year: in a time when shocking colors and over-accessorized eye-catching interiors are all the rage, there probably isn’t space for the more subtle, authentic approach any more. It’s sad, but unfortunately it’s also true. Imagination is key and standing out has taken precedence over anything else. It’s precisely why this post contains some interesting additions, like these Hello Special Kei trucks sporting the ‘Works’ look with overfenders draped over old school Work rims, a bumper-mounted oil cooler and bucktooth front lip spoiler.


For a second you would think they’re trying to emulate the baby blue Liberty Walk Kenmeri. Oh, wait! That’s precisely what they’re doing and it’s a good example of the cross-mixing that exists in so many of these style-oriented movements in Japan. This is Kato’s personal car and a great addition to his already ridiculously cool garage filled to the brim with Works-style vintage road racers and bosozoku bikes. More on this Ken & Mary Skyline later on this month!


With how VIP has evolved, its core application remains the sedan. Every year at TAS, I’m always impressed by the J-Unit cars and this year was no different. So many shops out there have already done so much with the new Crown and that strange new grille Toyota has slapped on its face, and this widebody kit is one that really seems to work best next to those angular lines.


No matter what angle you chose to view it from, this is one mean machine and a good example of how to go about doing something really aggressive with what is in essence a Japanese grandad’s car!


Ok so there are even wilder takes on this and a lot would argue this is not really VIP! It might be a bit too much but I at least liked the side exit exhaust on this particular Celsior.


I’m trying to get a point across here, and cars like this LS at the Universal Air booth are perfect to show one extreme of it all. VIP purists will tell you that their cars need to still be able to be driven; despite scraping the ground and not being particularly comfortable, they should still have some sort of function. Show cars don’t do any of these things.


So let’s get back on track here and focus on the cars that are somewhere in between what we’ve seen so far: rides like the ST Garage MarkX which manage to achieve such a nice look with a few choice parts.


Final Konnexion had a totally contrasting approach to their MarkX., going for a more extreme take with copious venting around the bumper and front fender area. Look closely and you can see that the car is stripped out, and has a roll cage and only two seats. Perhaps a new D1 car?


Vossen wheels brought this custom painted Skyline 370GT sitting on their new VVSCVT.


With Vossen getting more well known in Japan lately, I’m sure we will be seeing more cars running their wheels in the next year. Curiously enough, the VVSCVTs on the Skyline are asymmetric, with two models available, having the spokes twisting either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on which side of the car they will be fitted to.


Star Road, the Fairlady and Skyline specialists, were at the show with a couple of their demo cars both fitted with Glow Stars, their original brand of mesh wheels made by Work.

VIP and its different faces

This FR-S at Aimgain may possibly combine three styles, starting off with the euro look, where JDM cars are given a European feel – the German numberplate is a must and you can pick it up at shops like Autobacs. The angular Rocket Bunny-style fenders sort of give it a menacing sports car feel – a time-attack look perhaps – and then of course the VIP style flavor with the black paint, Weds wheels and custom interior. Yes, it confused me quite a bit!


I showed you guys a pic of this Kuhl ZN6 in the preview post but I had to share another image as the intricate paint – yes it is paint and not a wrap – is nothing short of mind-blowingly complicated and time-consuming, but the result is truly art.


This may sound like something I’ve just made up, but the Prius along with other hybrids are some of the most tuned cars on Japanese streets. People do a lot of aesthetic work to them and it’s getting strangely widespread. This particular car at the AMS booth was showing off a Smart Eco Grille which is back-lit and can alter colors. A must have for the eco-crew I suppose.


Kei vans: a strange Japan-only phenomenon which has, ever since their inception back in the nineties, been extremely popular. They are affordable, cheap to run, don’t require a parking permit – a biggie in cramped Japan – and come in all shapes as long as you like the mini-toaster on wheels look. They populate both countryside roads as much as city ones so it’s not surprising they fall prey to those with a case of the customizing bug.


R-pride had this slammed Wagon R featuring some kimono-fabric-style vinyl wrap on the hood and front bumper, proudly hinting at the whole uniqueness of this little sub-genre.


Of course vans come in regular sizes too. I love the use of of Italian in some of the names VIP tuners and part makers use. Apparently the kit on this Amistad Alphard is called Ricercato which means ‘wanted’, as an escaped criminal would be wanted. All part of the Japanese charm!`


One side of vanning that we have liked here at Speedhunters for years, is what the Japanese do with the Toyota Hi-Ace. It may be nothing more than a delivery van to most people. but for those with a bit of imagination, well, some pretty crazy things are possible. This Essex Japan Hi-Ace was my favorite van at the show this year. It was stripped out, had a roll cage and a pair of Bride buckets not to mention a wild race car inspired stance. Check out that big intercooler up front too!


For most of the first day I thought that Bee-Dragon didn’t have anything at the show other than their old Q45, but boy was I wrong. Next time I have a chance to drop by their shop in Gifu, I need to take a closer look at this elegantly-styled Crown Athlete. Can you say dish?


The Athlete was parked up next to this Absolute King Celsior, which I thought was a superb, and very well-executed interpretation of the more extreme looks you often see on kaido racers.


If you look at the profile, you’ll probably understand what I’m trying to say! It’s raw and wide, with so much venting and louvering happening, but yet it’s so flowing. The trunk spoiler is a great touch too.


Session, a Kanto VIP shop located in Yokohama, often plays around with all sort of styles. This Nissan Fuga however was a great example of how simple you can go about your body mods.

Is pink the new black?

MJK Customs decided to embrace the strange ‘pink thing’ that is happening with the new Crown – yes you can get it pink directly from Toyota – and applied it on their Athlete. Might not be for everyone but I did overhear a horde of young Japanese girls screaming “Kawaii” as they walked by it – which means they thought it was cute. Job done for MJK!


And how about a pink wagon? On top of the bespoke exterior, V-Vision really went to town on this MarkII, extending the pink effect all the way to the wheels and even the interior.


Ok, I promise this is the last one. This time from the 326 Power crew and with plenty of onikyan to equally satisfy and piss off many people out there.


Their Aristo however – that is at the cutting edge of what custom style with a little hint of VIP is all about right now. We shall call it Hiroshima style.


The best way to categorize the VIP movement would be to say that it all falls into two main categories: you have those that are satisfied with aftermarket, off the shelf body additions with only a little custom work thrown in to get the car to sit just right, while you have those guys that are on a constant drive to impress with full bespoke conversions. This Crown Athlete from Yamanishi Body and KBC falls firmly into the latter category. I mean just look at that rear bumper diffuser section with stacked exhausts.


Lots of metalwork has gone into pumping out the car’s track and getting the tires to tuck cleanly into the fenders.


I’m pretty sure this Union Celsior’s fender flares were inspired from a Lorinser S-class aero package, serving as yet another example of how owners strive to stand out.


T-Style had one of the coolest VIP rides of TAS, boasting what I can only refer to as the ‘sporty look’. Ok, there may be nothing functional about what you see on this Athlete, but you can’t deny it just looks damn good on those old school SX five-spokes!


There have been way too many Toyotas so far, so how about this gold-themed Gloria from Sense Brand? It may not be one of the most popular models out there, but it has its charm.


K-Break from Osaka are among the leaders in ‘forward-thinking VIP style’. Wow, there’s the proper term I’ve been looking for! Seeing their cars on show reminded me that I must try to get back out to Osaka for their big King of Sedan event this summer. When it comes to VIP, that’s one meet you must see at least once.


This Aristo was on display right behind the pink Liberty Walk Murcielago, and believe me it got just as many looks as this thing was sick with those flared fenders.


The new-gen Crown assault on TAS continued as I made my way to the very last hall where I came across the hybrid version of the car, tuned by M’z Speed sitting right next to their Lexus LS.


It wasn’t the only hybrid at the show either, as earlier in the day I got stopped in my tracks by the Black Pearl demo car which – how can I put this – prefers to take the more complex and angular route on the aero side of things.


Aimgain as ever had quite the display area. This LS460 F-Sport was finished off with a set of front and rear overfenders. Along with some of the other cars we have seen in this post, I though this car in particular was probably a good representation of things to come as the Rocket Bunny look gets carried over into uncharted territory. Let the haters start the hating!


The Aimgain IS hybrid had a simpler execution, some lower body aesthetic additions, big wheels and a considerable drop thanks to some air suspension. Simplicity never fails, does it?


2014 is shaping up to be a big year on the VIP and custom car side of things, and as the Japanese economy continues to pick up, there’s no doubt we will be seeing some new awesome cars being built in time for the new show season.

Shall we look at some European rides next?



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Nice coverage Dino! Love that skyline, what color is that? Looks like Yas Marine or French Racing Blue. Love it.


one word: obnoxious!


the diablock paint on that Zuhl ZN6 was fantastic! 
speaking of Hi-Aces... how about a proper pic of the batmobile ;)


What is the definition of VIP?


it's such a broad term these used to be just luxury sedans, low, wide body kits, some camber & fancy rims. And most of the time only black or white!


VIP style is moving so fast...these are probably the most creative cars in japan lately.


Hey Dino, awesome job on covering TAS. Do you have any pics of that purple yellow transformers van in the pic behind the Absolute King Celsior!?! What was the original vehicle and what is the name of this genre?


midgeman I usually try to visualize what a japanese mob-boss would drive in a hollywood-movie.. Works more often than not :-P


Can you do a feature on the K-BREAK crown athlete? My dream car


Very nice examples, but since it is about VIP, make a post with the interiors, please! It is an area of great importance and one that will generate many ideas in everyone's mind. 


What rims are on the black Kei Truck? I must have them for my MS65 Crown!


What rims are on the black Kei Truck? I must have them for my MS65 Crown!


teamsleepnine   Kraut fanboy.


Post about VIP - Includes Liberty Walk car that definitely isn't VIP

This Liberty Walk/TRA Kyoto bumming is getting silly now. 

I've been a big fan of the site for a long time, and whilst I understand that these are two big players in the scene right now, comparing two totally different cars just to mention their name seems a bit silly. Also seeing as every other post has something Liberty Walk/TRA Kyoto related in it, i'm starting to get a bit bored of what they're doing. Shame really because I'm a fan of these Japanese tuning shops and like this look alot.


When I see the pics of the Kato's baby blue car, I immediately think of Richard Petty's charger or superbirds. Shrugs. Perhaps it's because I watched a show on it the other day.


When I see the pics of the Kato's baby blue car, I immediately think of Richard Petty's charger or superbirds. Shrugs. Perhaps it's because I watched a show on it the other day.

turbo BEAMS ae86

JoeH91 read at the bottom.  they're partner of this website.  thats the price of all this great free contents, they gonna plug their friends cars sometimes too.


id like to see the interiors of these vip cars, from what i understand there is just as much work if not more on the interior of cars rocking the vip style.


I wish some of those baby vans and trucks could be brought into the US, a couple of them, like the Hi-Luxe were beyond cool -- almost bought a Subie 360 the other day, just so I could have one....
But the question I have after looking at these cars -- is it form over function or function over form??????
Guess I rather have a ugly fast car over a fendered/spoiler/aero show car


I wish some of those baby vans and trucks could be brought into the US, a couple of them, like the Hi-Luxe were beyond cool -- almost bought a Subie 360 the other day, just so I could have one....
But the question I have after looking at these cars -- is it form over function or function over form??????
Guess I rather have a ugly fast car over a fendered/spoiler/aero show car


Terencey the original was a Toyota Hiace. genre - crazy japanese vanning!


Great coverage again Dino, I think it was mentioned already, but we NEEED moar pics of that crazy purple and gold Boso van behind the Absolute King Celsior!! It took me almost a minute to figure out it was even a vehicle!


Wildcardfox  Exactly what I thought as well. Any car looks amazing in Petty blue and I definitely think this is a nod to classic nascar styling. Besides the mandatory boso front mounted oil cooler and slanted headlights :)


JoeH91 VIP, slammed cars and customized kyusha go hand in hand, I don't see people complaining when I go to a Stance Nation or Slammed Society event and post pix of VIP rides next to oldschool ones. Plus seeing there were all of 3-4 classic cars at the show I thought I'd combine them in here. Is that really so bad? Oh and there isn't one car here which is RB, and Liberty is not our partner ;)


@eddien Yeah it's just hard at TAS as most cars are locked, owners away and/or you have to wait for access to the stand to get in there. Seeing I was covering the show all by myself this year, and my clones were off on vacation that's the best I could manage :)  But yeah, some of those interiors are wild!


psikyo Could do if I visit them this year. What makes you like it so much?


Terencey  Well since I added a shot of it in the preview post:

I didn't post others in here as it was all covered up and hard to shoot. And yes it's an Hiace, called the Batman, front end rises up so it can make tight turns. The thing was ridiculously long!!


Dalton Bedore Indeed, and they sure are but there is a lot more out there to see as VIP these days is done on a privateer/individual basis so meets and gatherings are probably the best way to see what's out there.

osvaldo matamoros

are there anymore pictures on that GS Lexus? Them flares and stance got me sweatin~


FredrikDavidsen midgeman Yeah that used to be the point of it all. Taketomi at Junction Produce once told me that a VIP car should scare people that see it, make them wonder how on earth young guys can afford such luxurious and customized cars. It should make people assume you are part of the Yakuza. That was what it all boiled down to back in the nineties. As you can see things have moved on since then...


ILoveDrifting19 Thanks!


Fiatdude 360 is cool! Saw one the other day at a Cars & Coffee meeting which you will be seeing soon. As for your answer definitely form over anything else really...


@Mike Yes interiors are wild


speedhunters_dino It doesn't seem to be there. I think you only posted to fb..not here


speedhunters_dino Fiatdude Had a choice between a '70 360 truck or a '69 360 van -- couldn't decided immediately -- couple of days later decided on the van and by that time both were gone --- WAH
The paint on all these cars are magnificient though


speedhunters_dinoI believe many others will agree - I'm finding myself to be looking more and more into details as the years have past by and the interiors do provide quite a lot of inspiration. 
Thank you, Dino, for the great coverage!


speedhunters_dino Bless you. Now I have to figure out how to order from this site!


i like the front bumper of the black pearl demo car but the crown is one of those awesome toyotas that aren't in the US... however LS 460 F sport is something closer to home tho and i really like what they did to the ls as well. i'm in the market for a cross over suv due to the growing family...but seeing the luxo sedans with cool aero make me want to get that instead.


d_rav Don't do it! Stick to a sedan! haha  But seriously, either a wagon or a large sedan will offer just as much practicality than an SUV without the added weight, fuel consumption and sheer size.


osvaldo matamoros Which one?


@flushpoke LOL it's just that after the set up day they put so much crap around it, it was hard to get a nice clear shot of it. Maybe I should do a shoot!!  Will require a very large location and extra-wide lenses hehe


Fiatdude speedhunters_dino Speak to Rocky Auto, last time I was there I think I saw 6-7 sitting out back!


@flushpoke Wildcardfox  Petty blue, that must be the name of it hehe


@jtc3d speedhunters_dino Glad to be of help :)


@eddien speedhunters_dino Will make sure to capture more of those interiors for you next time I'm at a VIP meet!


azmedaj speedhunters_dino Shit you are right, I'm loosing my mind!  haha


I can't help but feel this scene is getting ever closer to mid-2000's Max Power type stuff..

turbo BEAMS ae86

Sad to see no Junction Produce showing..


@turbo BEAMS ae86 Yep, they were definitely missed


Seems like VIP in Japan is getting to be the equivalent of the donk here.  lame.


speedhunters_dino JoeH91  however you are partners with Rocket bunny, who designs and manufactures the kits for Liberty Walk / TRA Kyoto, yes???


That LS460!!! Gawd! Awesome!


speedhunters_dino Terencey 
This van is crazy awesome! Can you do a feature on this vehicle or a spotlight on the history of this genre. I remenber reading a good article on modified Japanese dump trucks aka Dekotora. I enjoy reading and seeing pics of this stuff because we just don't have anything of this nature in North America.


jonnyanalog77 How's so? Most don't go over 20 inch


Diggin those Kei trucks. 
Are they mid-engine or cab over setup?


speedhunters_dino Thats probably half the reason it took me so long to realize what it was lol. Too bad they basically covered it up. A full feature might not be that bad of an idea, that amazing Dekotara truck was a huge hit, and that cool orange boso van you featured a few years ago might have been a little too subtle (I cant believe I just said that lol) either way I think the extreme sides of Japanese tuning culture is usually very well received if not controversially debated, either of which is great for the site..


Is there a picture of the rear end of that FR-S at the top of the page? I like the car, but I hate rear end and I'm waiting for someone to do something with it that I actually like.


hypodermic speedhunters_dino I guess I came off a little brash haha, not my intention at all. I have nothing against the kyusha style, or slammed or anything like that. I guess I was more sort of disappointed to see yet another LB car in what was supposed to be a VIP post. Don't get me wrong, love the work you guys do, its why i'm such a dedicated viewer to the site. I guess I didn't really understand that you've gotta keep it running somehow!


Candycoated delights yea


When are you guys gonna Help the little guy make his dream come true


Sir, do you PROMISE we will see more on the bleu K-M???

Other highlights from this for me were the Bee-Dragon Q45, the sporty Hi-Aces, and as ever the Hello Special Keis… do they really work? Shop visit??


What is the old blue car with the black arches..never seen it before,dream car


@Rag  it is kenmeri skyline by liberty walk


Hello. OP do you know where to get this front bumper of white 180 Zero Crown? (10th photo of chapter 3) any website or any idea?