A Prelude To Tokyo Auto Salon

Welcome to Tokyo Auto Salon 2019, time for the Japanese tuning world to give us a glimpse at what they’ve been up to in the months prior to this legendary event, and what they have planned for the year ahead.

I delayed this usual preview post from the set-up day to coincide with the unveiling of Liberty Walk’s latest show-grabber, the Ferrari 308 GTBL, where the ‘L’ stands for Liberty.


Think of it as a bosozoku take on an iconic Ferrari shape, one that will no doubt spark conflicting opinions and become one of the most talked about cars of this year’s event.


Kato-san is very good at stirring things up and challenging people’s opinions, and I’m keen to hear what you guys think of this car. We’ll have to feature it properly away from the show floor, but until then, yay or nay?


When TAS time rolls around every year, I always wonder how tuning shops can continuously come up with fresh ideas and new ways to modify cars. If you then think that the whole Japanese aftermarket world is not what it used to be, you can begin to imagine the challenges these guys are faced with.

But in a way it’s allowed things to get more specialized. There are now more companies than ever focusing on specific cars, helping to evolve things in a way that they never could have before. We’ve seen quality lifted as a result, and over the course of the weekend ahead that’s what Ron and I will be looking for as we tackle the massive halls at Makuhari Messe.

Do you think RS Watanabes work on a 911? I’m not entirely sure, but when Tokyo Custom Works built this carbon-clad 3.0L 930 they wanted to ensure they’d end up with something totally unique. From what we hear, the mechanical side of things will be very special indeed, and the best thing of all is that TCW is trying to get the car finished in time for the Speedhunters Live event in September. How cool is that?!


If you thought there’d be plenty of new-gen Honda Civic Type Rs at TAS 2019, you would be quite right. This is the RC20GT, Mugen’s way to launch a few basic tuning products for the FK8.


On top of the oil cooler, air intake system, suspension, brakes and exhaust upgrades, Honda’s performance arm also went to the trouble of creating a carbon fiber aero package which will probably never be put in production because its cost would be astronomical. Design-wise, they’ve certainly improved on the base car’s complex and overly-fussy features, but I’m still trying to figure out what happened with the front grille…


One man who’s always working around the clock to ensure his cars are show-stoppers is Mr. Rocket Bunny, Kei Miura. Kicking things off for 2019 is some Pandem treatment for the Mercedes-Benz W201.


If you like girth in the posterior region, then you’ll be salivating at the effect the two-piece rear overfenders create. I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of people around the world jump on this kit and create more in-your-face interpretations of the 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 Evo I/II cars.


Fan of Lamborghini’s forged carbon fiber? Well, Varis has managed to create their own version called ‘Chopped Carbon.’ Components made from it will only be offered as part of a compete aero package (Nissan R35 GT-R and Lexus LC for the time being), and they’ll run about 40% more expensive than Varis’s regular carbon offerings. While a little heavier than the usual material, the new stuff does have impressive stiffness.


One company that never fails to keep our interest alive is HKS. Their constant drive is what keeps the industry going, from engine parts right up to their very own research and development cars. The little TRB-04 is based on a Suzuki Swift, sports a central driving position, and was engineered to take the front-wheel drive record at Tsukuba Circuit.


But it’s their R33 GT-R that really caught our attention. This is the car that HKS used back in the mid-1990s for the legendary 0-300 km/h runs at Yatabe, and one they’ve spent the last few months refreshing. More on this soon.


It was so nice to see an R34 GT-R back at Kansai Service’s booth. We’ll have to go around for a proper look in the next two days.


The pre-event work continued well into the night as cars were driven in and positioned, and displays were set up with array of parts to show off.


It was a bit of a mess even at around 6:00pm, but there was always the odd gem to be spotted along the way.


The Top Secret booth has always been one to stop in for a look at, but in recent years it seems to have all turned into a big used car yard. Most of the cars you see here will be up for sale – obviously the most profitable thing to do these days if you have a brand name to support it.


Not too far away was Voltex with their newly-released aero kit for the Honda S2000, which we first saw a few months back at SEMA. For some reason, any aerodynamic treatment, no matter how complex it is, always looks best when left without stickers or coloring. Simple is always best.


I spent quite some time with the BH Auction guys shooting some of the cooler cars in the line-up of 50 special pieces that will be auctioned off from today. There’s a lot of interest being generated around important Japanese cars from history as well as rare imports, and you’ll see all these in their own post once we find out what each car ended up being sold for.


As expected, TAS has gone Suzuki Jimny mad. The new generation pocket off-roader has captivated the minds of Japanese tuners, and the wildest one of all is this creation from R31 House. Cutest monster truck ever?


Only in Japan!


Why is Toyota still teasing us with camouflaged A90 Supras? Well, the longest drawn out unveiling in automotive history continues because they couldn’t possibly show the car at such a low key event like Tokyo Auto Salon. For the actual release, we’ll have to wait for the day after TAS when the Detroit Motor Show opens it doors. Or at least it better happen there.


Still, we get to see the GT500 version of the A90. Sometime today anyway…

That’s enough from me for now. We’ve got a lot to share from the Makuhari Messe in coming days, so make sure you check back often for TAS 2019 updates.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
Daniel P Huneault

I've never wanted a Ferrari 308 as badly in my life as I do now! Just look at it!!!


Woohoo love some and hate some but this is easily my favorite moment on the automotive calendar.


The 308 looks excellent, the flares remind me of the Group 4 rally cars by Michelotto.


I'm *really* excited about the 308. Totally agreed that the Koenig cars look better, as does the Button car, but glad to see my favorite, old platform getting so much love lately! It really does look like a Michelotto Gr.4 setup on steroids and air. Looking forward to the feature!


The 308 deserved box-styled fenders(like the pandem kit), which looked way more better than round ones.
This example looked way BETTER in any angle.


I get what you're saying, but I highly disagree! She looks amazing with round fenders! The contrast is perfect.


I must say that to me this is the first Liberty Walk kit that provides a real visual enhancement over the original car. Those fender flare do work way better on an old car design such as the Ferrari 308.

It is not perfect though. I'd have preferred it either with the flare in the same red or with the hood in the same black color as the flares (à la Group 4 De Tomaso Pantera).


With all due respect, Dino, but that Liberty Walk stuff is so boring. Their stuff with the overfender and all has become so repetitive. Is it truly amazing to you, still ? If you're really asking us/me if we need a feature on that, I would say no. But I assume that question was rethorical anyway. But I will agree that Toyota's marketing strategy regarding the Supra is outright ridiculous. Almost everyone by now, knows what the car looks like, the hype is long gone, for me at least.

Kind regards


THIS! LW ist the same stuff over and over again. Absolutely no adjustment to the form of the car itself, it is simply adding forms that have been added to other cars. Comparing the 308 to the button built 328 for example, the difference between those builds becomes obvious. The 308 just has bolt on overfenders with bags, whereas the button built 328 has a widebody kit which is based on the original form of the car, giving it a subtle yet refreshing and aggressive look.

Same story on the Rocket Bunny 190. Why does the kit not match the original shape of the car (look at the top edge of the front overfenders and the top edge of the fender)? It would have been an important detail in my opinion...

But I am really diggin the 911. Looks really badass




That 308 is bonkers! Actually flows so well!

Not too sure about that Mugen Civic at all.


Personally I am tired of the stanced "lets add more weight" nonsense. These cars like the 308 are classics and cutting them up for a current trend is saddening to me especially seeing how Enzo himself was behind that car and they aren't making anymore of them. This is a great entry level Ferrari for someone and if you look under the fenders and see all the hack job cutting and gluing these installers do you loose interest in these LB kits real fast.


The thing is though like Sydney from RWB has said, these old cars are being given a re-birth into something new and exciting. If you would have seen an OEM 308 however nice and nostalgic a car it may be, you wouldve scrolled or walked right past it. Re-inventing these cars into something more aggressive and wild is giving them a second life.


That 308 looks really good, especially with the large ducktail spoiler on the back. I do think it would have flowed better with the flares done in red but its still a sharp car.

That Mugen Type R needs a new front end BAD! Its like they tried to mix Bugatti and Audi grills together and it just doesn't work at all.


The liberty-Walk '308 is brilliant. Give it 700hp, instead of the anemic 240, and it would out-sell Marinello's new offerings.


Eh not digging the Kei Mercedes. The Ferrari on the other hand..yes please I'll have some more.


I love how the liberty walk kit for the Ferrari compliments the lines of it while also giving it a more rugged race-car look. Kato is a mastermind and absolutely crazy all at once.


That 308 GTB makes me weak in the knees! I can't stop looking at those first 3 images and although I've wanted a GTB for many many years, I feel like I must have one now!



Dino, I find it interesting that you're surprised with Toyota and drawing out the official release of the Supra. If you recall the release of the GT86/FR-S/BRZ...they did the same thing. It was YEARS of teasing prototypes and minor tweaks. Mind you, at least with that one it wasn't wrapped in disguise. That wrap has been on there so long, I wonder if they will offer it as a special edition :p


Tokyo Auto Salon has to be one of the best shows with the best cars
Some of the cars that stood out to me are the Civic Type R Mugen, Swift Sport HKS, Supra A90, Skyline GTR R34, and that Jimny which is one cute monster


Love the Mercedes 190 kit!.. please feature it


Yeah, looks like now i can realize my budget 190e Evo II DTM street steed


I've never really liked any Liberty Walk car, in addition to pandem/rocket bunny ( well, the zenki s14 kit I like ). However that LB 308 looks great, as well as the Pandem C-Class - well done.


Imho, I feel that the LB 308 is on point. I know that LB gets hit with criticism from every angle. but you really cannot go wrong with their kit on this model. Ferrari 308's can be had online for around $80K all day long... so who can argue? However, I do understand the controversy over their conversion to the rarer and more valuable Miura last year, but it was still pretty kick ass...I would rock it if I had the money to burn!


It wasnt a Miura. It was a GT40 kit car.


I've always loved the R33 GT-R, and that HKS one hits home so bad! I begin to feel that the want never died about this car.
I also love the 308! I'd personally paint the fender flares the same color though, but looks spot on still.


That 308 is the sexiest car I have seen all year ;)


Not a huge fan of Ferraris but that 308 looks dope! Really digging the Rocket Bunny treatment to the Mercedes as well. Always interesting to see which chassis Ken Miura is gonna dabble in next. Thanks Dino!


Being a Honda junky, Mugen working their magic on the CTR is what I've been anticipating the longest, and I gotta say... I thought I was looking at a Hyundai concept car when I scrolled into that frontal shot. Mugen has always worked in fiberglass, haven't they? They could just mass-produce it in that. But it's still ugly. Is there seriously no saving that car? C'mon, Spoon, we're waiting! J's Racing, you too maybe?


That HKS Swift is probably my favorite sighting so far...


The LW ferrari looks lazy. The trend is becoming gratuitous, and this example is a waste of a car. Try again lol.


So much this. Soon sick of it. If I was a come up tuner who truly did something new, I'd be sooooo pissed with Speedhunters CONSTANTLY glorifying LB and RWB day after day. Yeah I used to love them too, but you can't watch the same porn movie over and over and still enjoy it. Come on guys, you have the power to make a difference and give credit, fresh content fresh outlooks, please....I wana know what's going on outside of the R.B and L.B and RWB booths. I can guess what those three are doing, they are more predictable than the porsche design evolution.


gotta love some pornog every now and then.
you got a porn name you know that?


The LBW 308 presents an interesting market opportunity. Like Porsche in the early 2000’s, the biggest competitor for Ferrari could be used Ferrari’s “done right.” Check the red 348 in Super Street, or the yellow one Matt Farrah reviewed.


Any Koenig car is so superior to any LB build. All day. Every day.

Christopher J. Thomas

This is a great write up. Dino great job! As far as 308 is concerned. LB they ruined the car. They cut into a timeless work of art. Why do I say this? I am Ferrari salesman. How does the car look with the LB touch? Well. Yes, it looks mean. It looks fast. But it turns my stomach to see supercars that get this over fender bolt on look. It reminds me of Bushwhackers on Jeeps. I know that it appeals to most and that is Okay. The HKS Swift is more my pace. I have out grown the NISMO JDM desires. I drive a hatch in Japan and find the mid-size hatch is just so fun to drive on Japanese roads. The Benz, again with the box over the fender. Why do this to timeless piece of art? I like the look of the E500 Benz fender. Just a natural look and stance. I hope it would this style would come back at some point. When the lip looks like it is part of the body. Just a nice finish touch. I have one here in my shop. I will upload a photo. Thanks for the write up!


Please please please do a feature on that 911! That’s literally my dream build!

Franck Blanchard

I do love this Tokyo Custom Works 930! amazing carbon body. Is there anywhere I should find some more information about it? BTW nice job Dino as usual


Dino, it's been a year but you still didn't do a coverage about this GTR. I actually would like to know more about it. Btw that Mercedes is really attractive.