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

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