The Real TAS Is The Car Park
JDM At Its Best

Comparing professional drifting to grassroots drifting is like comparing the Tokyo Auto Salon to the parking lot at the Tokyo Auto Salon.

One represents the perceived state of the JDM tuning scene, the other a direct and very real representation of the JDM tuning scene. So where you’ll see a slammed R35 GT-R at the 326 Power booth running 15-degrees of negative camber and looking exceptionally photogenic, you will also know that there’s no way anyone will actually be driving a car like that around. It’s why said GT-R was rolled onto the show floor with a higher ride height and on factory wheels.


Taking a walk through the expansive parking lot at Tokyo Auto Salon is something we started doing back in the day. Before the police intervened in their usual unnecessarily protective manner, TAS Sunday mornings in the Makuhari Messe lot were a true party. Bosozoku types would drive in, in their wild kaido racers and various other kyusha rides to the sound of rhythmic exhaust revving, while bikes zoomed in between their convoys.

But those days are long gone now, and it’s one of the reasons we haven’t dedicated too much time to the Tokyo Auto Salon parking lot in recent years.


But I kind of missed it, and stepping outside after three days and almost 45km of walking inside in the halls, it was a refreshing break from the actual 2019 show.


The antisocial chaos of previous years may be gone, but it’s been replaced by an honest and impressively diverse selection of cars to check out.


The first interesting car I came across was this stunning example of a DR30 Nissan Skyline, appropriately lowered on SSR Formula Mesh wheels and boasting some subtle black fender flares to pull the whole look together. Just look at the chunkiness of those sidewalls. Perfect. 


Not too far away was this JZS161 Toyota Aristo, which I’ve seen before at HKS Premium Day, wearing the full Ridox (by Varis) body conversion. Apart from a painful ding on the front carbon lip, it looked stunning. Varis sure killed it with the design of this kit back in the day.


From a distance I spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a Mitsubishi GTO, so I had to go in for a proper look. This is not exactly what I would have done with my own car if I owned one, but it still had some decent aftermarket parts attached, including Advan Racing RGII wheels and a big brake kit.

You have to wonder what the hell happened with a car company that used to make some pretty cool and very advanced models… Mitsubishi really is a shadow of its former self these days.


The variety of cars in the parking lot was quite representative of what you see on a daily basis in Japan, such is the passion for all vehicle types here.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the TRD JZX100 Chaser with its perfectly period-correct ’90s look, and be surprised at how quick the VIP guys are are slamming the new Crown on big polished rims. Oh, and a stock S15? Wow, I didn’t even know something like that still existed…

Infinite Inspiration

My soft spot for the FC3S Mazda is still very much there, and every one I come across has me thinking about what I’d do to one if I had an RX-7 project car…


Did you spot the Camaro next to the FC? I also saw a new-gen version, which managed to look surprisingly compact sandwiched by two JDM vans.


As I cut across the disabled lot there was no avoiding this Porsche Cayenne SUV.


I didn’t even know that Wald offered a full aesthetic kit for this panzer. If you really need to stand out in the big cities, there’s no better way to do so than with a ‘Black Bison’ edition Cayenne S.


The Toyota Hiace phenomenon shows no signs of ending, even if this model remains Japan’s most stolen vehicle. People love to do all sorts of things with them, no matter if they’re for personal or business use.


Talk about sticking out in the crowd. I love Japan for this very reason; the culture forces people to conform during the working week, but come the weekend there are no restraints and nobody would ever come up to you and criticize you for it. That’s when you pull out your lifted Hummer and cruise down the road.


Hiding behind the Hummer was a Toyota JZX110 Mark II. I almost shed a tear, remembering how in around 2007 I came so close to buying one as a daily, only changing my mind at the last minute in fear that I’d take funds away from my GT-R when it came to tuning it. In hindsight, I should have done it and blown all my money on tires.


Here’s another car Toyota should ask BMW to bring back for them, the Starlet GT Turbo. There’s a real lack of fun, sporty little hatchbacks in Japan right now; I can only think of the Suzuki Swift Sport and Nissan Note as decent and affordable entries into fun motoring. Maybe there are a few more?

In total contrast to the New Year Meet at Daikoku PA, the parking lot didn’t have many interesting imports to shoot. I did find this VW bus and a pristine BMW 635i, though.


And a Corvette.

Here’s a trio of R34s, specifically a pair of GT-Rs and an GT-t sedan that reminded me how good Enkei’s multi-spoke RS05RR looks. The Nismo Z-tune look remains unbeatable, don’t you think?

The Real Stance

Flush and tuck is a rule of thumb for making big Lexus and Toyota sedans look their best.


This Crown Majesta looked amazing literally millimeters off the ground. I had a peek but couldn’t determine if it was static or on bags, but this being Japan the former is very much a possibility.


Let’s talk about Hondas for a moment…

Inside the show, the S660 and the new Civic Type R remained favorites on display stands; they are still the cars tuners and parts manufacturers are dedicating their efforts to, developing and bringing upgrades to the market.


I did see a few FK8s in the lot, and it’s great that Honda is thinking of enthusiasts and still creating exciting cars. The Insight, though, was a reminder where Honda has really been focusing its efforts over the last 20 years.

I’d rather we’d go back to real Honda Type Rs honestly, but that’s probably wishful thinking.


An FD3S on RAYS Volk Racing ZE40s is as close to motoring perfection as you can possibly get, especially if the car in question has a few well-chosen aero bits to give it the right look.


We saw a completely stock S15 further up, and this is a completely stock NA1 NSX, ride height and all. What a unicorn.


A five-strong group of STIs was a sight I spotted from a mile away. These cars still captivate the minds of enthusiasts, despite remaining pretty much mechanically unchanged for how long now?


This Blitzen Legacy was the result of a collaboration between Subaru and Porsche Design. A similar special model was made with the BP5 generation Legacy, but for some reason I never thought it looked quite as good as the original BH.


Check this trio out: A stunning S30 Datsun Z with 432R coloring, boosted looks-wise with fender flares and a rounded off front lip, and RS Watanabe wheels – can you get any more Japanese? Follow that up with an Evo, and an RX-8 on CE28Ns and you can’t help but drool.


In total modern day Nissan fashion, the current generation Nissan Elgrand has been in production for far too long, but man oh man can it still be made to look mighty attractive. Just throw in air suspension and some tuck and you have an awesome family hauler.


Others really take it to serious extremes.

Toyota Really Is In Our Minds

Now that the new Supra has been released, I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking back at all the cars that have helped make Toyota a true sport car manufacturer. Obviously I’m referring to many years back, because its latest offerings are either made by Subaru (86) or BMW (Supra).

Still, if it really wanted to, Toyota could make some really amazing cars, and Yamaha could make equally good engines to go along with them. But unfortunately, there is no need (in Toyota’s eyes) to invest so many resources into what are essentially low-volume models. Who wouldn’t want to see a contemporary iteration of the first-gen MR2?


Seeing this immaculate example on tri-spoke wheels really made me think how Toyota went crazy creating so many different sports cars. The market demanded it, Toyota wanted to impress, and the costs involved weren’t quite so astronomical as they are these days. If only…

Since we are on the subject of 4A-powered Toyotas, I can’t help but throw a super-clean AE86 into the mix.


And a Supra. I’ve got no idea if this is a legit TRD-built 3000GT, but I don’t think it matters – it looked imposing with its widened stance and it emphasizes just how wrong of a direction the new Supra is.

As I commented in Paddy’s post on the new car, the A90 should have been derived from the Lexus LC, the new model possibly being given the job of reviving the Celica namesake. It makes sense in my head, at least.


On a totally different note, here’s a Nissan U12 Bluebird that thinks it’s a rally car. Those are proper vintage graphics by the looks of it.

Drift much?


I had heard rumours that Veilside would make another attempt at returning into the scene with a booth and a few cars at TAS, but all I saw of the once legendary tuner was this Z34 in the parking lot.

That’s Project Drop Top in the background sitting on its stock wheels, ready to go to its annual check where it must absolutely not be wearing wheels with an aggressive offset.


Even after a good hour walking up and down and zig-zagging across the massive expanses of the parking lot, my hunt was far from over.


That’s when I came across a rather clean JZX100. But wait, roof rails?


Moving to the side a bit revealed all. Obviously this Nissan Stagea had been involved in a front shunt, which always opens up possibilities for cool front end swaps. But a Chaser front on a Stagea is definitely new – talk about confusing.

Hybrids like this Toyota Aqua aren’t left alone either. If there’s a will there’s a way, and so many cars you’d never look twice at if they passed by you get customized in Japan.


A simpler take on a JZA8o wearing a set of dark Enkei NT03RRs.


I realized I hadn’t seen any R35s and then all of a sudden this Kuhl-kitted 2017 model came into view.


Still, it was this wide-body ER34 that I spent more time looking at. The lure these cars have is unavoidable to car guys of my generation.


We saw the Starlet earlier on but here’s  an even earlier EP71 Turbo S powered by a 1.3L 2E-TE. This more angular ’80s version is even more attractive now that I look at it properly.


Wow, so many Toyotas. Maybe all these owners came to check out the Supra, which at TAS was still camouflaged ahead of its unveiling on Monday morning in Detroit.


Hopefully this selection of very real, very Japanese cars have given a bit of balance to what we’ve so far seen from our TAS coverage. But next it’s time to head back into the halls as we aren’t quite done with our coverage…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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These builds are more professional than the ones at car shows around here... I disagree about the thoughts about the new Supra, I think in this current time the A90 is about as good as it could get. Just waiting for some great aftermarket for it to appear and it will be a great time for everyone involved! :D

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy that they did make it, but at the same time I can't help but think what I said above under the TRD3000


Love the parking lot tour. Always one of my favorite things to check out. Real cars, driven by real people.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Then you shouldn't miss a cool post I've got coming from Nikko circuit this week. Grassroots drifting is just as good as parking lot hunting for that "real" take on JDM culture :)


So what you are saying is your new project is an rx7?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I'll get to one eventually, I've always wanted but no, the new project has pistons...


That Bluebird is based on the SSS-R, a rally spec version with the CA18DET and Attesa 4WD, a pretty wild machine.

Sherwin Araniego

I saw one in the Nissan Heritage Collection


Is that a Soarer front bumper on the Mitsubishi GTO??


No it is a Pit Road M front bumper. They are one of the few companies in Japan that work on the Mitsubishi GTO.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I shot that thing back in the day! Would be cool to do a retrospective story on it, I think it was pushing 900+ HP and looked pretty wild

Matthew Everingham

This made me laugh. "Here’s another car Toyota should ask BMW to bring back for them, the Starlet GT Turbo."

Also, way to make me sad that I missed out on this year's show!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha glad you spotted that. Sorry Toyota, I just couldn't help it haha. Maybe a 1-series would make for a good base?

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

RWD Starlet? What's not to like?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I wish Japanese people started liking sports cars again so we could have a repeat of the nineties!


Fun to see the Legacy Blitzen, had one for some years here in Sweden. I really miss that car.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

White donuts are tasty :)


Toyota does not really care about it's enthusiasts and bringing out these pseudo rebadged cars is evidence enough. But I am glad you showed some love to the Mitsubishi GTO. I know Mitsubishi is under Nissan's control but it was a time when they made cars that could compete with the best of them.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

"Toyota does not really care about it's enthusiasts".

At least it's better than Mitsubishi killing off all their performance models in their efforts to go green.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Hey hey, come on, they have put all their resources in making the 10 year old Delica van an automotive abortion!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I was about to ask "is that Project Drop Top" when I saw the VeilSide picture, and then Dino said it is. LOL!

Anyway, the Lexus LC is the successor to the Soarer/SC. So if we are to use a Lexus to be the A90, it should have been the RC instead. It's the more logical choice.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

The LC is the newer platform, it would make more sense. Plus that LC is getting the V6 TT sometime next year. But at the end of the day, whatever, we should be happy they actually made a Supra, it's real and it's here now. I'll take it and embrace it!


They should have used that twin turbo V6 in this Supra. My question now is how soon will it break. BMW is not exactly known for reliability. The B58 is by no means a 2JZ. And the way that inline 6 is laid out maintenance is going to be a PITA.


A five-strong group of STIs was a sight I spotted from a mile away. These cars still captivate the minds of enthusiasts, despite remaining pretty much mechanically unchanged for how long now? <— that’s EXACTLY why enthusiasts love them! They aren’t hybrid electric junk as of yet and people want what works. I honestly think most manufacturers would be well served to look at Subaru and learn a lesson in running a CAR manufacturer the right way instead of trying to be Apple/Google/Microsoft.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Nah not really, what I was thinking when I said that is that sure it's ok to use the same engine but for the love of God evolve the bloody thing? Maybe get more power out of it, not 5PS ever 4-5 years? Thrown in a dual clutch transmission to align with the times? Don't make it look like an Evo X? You know, stuff like that...


There’s also a lot to be said for an unchanging aftermarket support on the Subaru’s as well


Like Ford has tottally lost me as a fan and customer


I thought S15's were never sold in yellow in Japan?


I regret not doing it as I was EXHAUSTED by the whole day of walking though all the halls this TAS had to offer, but just walking back to our car delivered some nice content though
very nice post, japan speedhunters are best speedhunters


Question about the Camaro. Are USDM cars like this sold new in Japan or was an import?


Thanks Dino for this, I always look forward to your parking lot content.

Also I have to say , I now understand why many of the imported Japanese cars have cracked dashboards, out of all those cars I saw three owners who went the extra mile to place a shade over the dash. :)


I need a slammed and fast minivan in my life.


I'll admit, I am not the biggest fan of the R31, other than for it's place in the Skyline history. But that white example makes me say "YES!!"