While all the new unveilings at the 2022 Tokyo Auto Salon are well and nice, the real appeal of this show comes from the various tuners on show. While previous Tokyo Auto Salons had had a fair mix of serious performance mods and laugh-out-loud creations, this year’s installment was slightly more on the serious, commercial side of things. There were no Mazda RX-8s dressed up as bees, no cars with a replica of Osaka Castle on top. While most of the show went for a more grown up tone, there were a few exhibits that stayed true to the wacky side of Auto Salon.
One exhibitor you can always count on for a good time is the Nihon Automobile College, or NATS for short. Each year, students display their best school projects, usually a mishmash of various cars for inspiration. This year they had a combo inspired by American lowriders but with a Japanese twist. Instead of being based on ‘50s American classics, NATS students took Toyota’s luxury Crown and Century sedans (well, a stretched limo in the case of the Century) for an Asian-American fusion. Speaking of fusion, in true NATS fashion they fashioned a Supra Spider out of an old Toyota Soarer/Lexus SC430 and did a face- and tail-swap with the current generation Supra.
If Toyota won’t make a convertible Supra, these guys will.
Another niche in the market NATS explored is the family-friendly Jimny. Suzuki expressed interest in making a four-door Jimny, but the students at NATS beat them to it. I have to say, the current generation Jimny definitely suits a four-door body style. On the subject of Jimnys, there was also a Jimny-based Mater from the movie Cars. Finally from NATS, was a face-swapped Nissan 350Z in case you wanted a different take on a modern Z with a retro face.
One of my personal highlights at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon came in the shape of a mini big rig truck. Dubbed the Midget II Type Convoy and built by WIZ, it’s literally a Daihatsu Midget rig. The Daihatsu Midget of course is a small kei-sized truck, so appropriately the big rig version would only carry smaller cargo. The concept is to be able to bring your bikes or go-karts on the back to your track events. This is the kind of out-of-the-box ingenuity I love to see at TAS.
Just as silly in the same sense was the Yaris JR built by the Saitama Automobile College. Seeing a theme here with these automobile colleges? You may have already seen photos of this thing floating around Twitter late last year. It’s a face-swapped Toyota iQ, but as if that wasn’t enough to grab people’s attention the students have stuck a four-cylinder Kawasaki Ninja engine behind the seats. Not only is this a junior GR Yaris, it’s also a modern day Renault 5 Turbo.
Speaking of silly engine swaps, why has no one ever put a Honda S2000 engine in a Nissan Figaro before? Surely that’s a natural engine swap, right? What about throwing some NSX brakes on it too? Add a widebody and wing that’d make a McLaren Senna green with envy and you’ve basically got this amazing creation by Racing Factory Yamamoto. GR GT3 Concept aside, this was my highlight from TAS2022.
Though, I did also enjoy all the Lexus LM face-swapped Toyota Alphards. The Lexus version of Toyota’s luxury minivan isn’t officially for sale in Japan (yet) so impatient fans have gone down the faceswap route. The guys at Outclass Cars went one step further and turned into a lifted off-road luxury minivan to conquer all your school run or end of the world needs. Whichever comes first.
Speaking of end of the world stuff, in the last couple of years domestic travel in Japan has seen an uptick and personal camper vans have shot up in popularity. Almost a quarter of the halls on accommodating the Tokyo Auto Salon at the Makuhari Messe convention centre were filled with campers and outdoors related cars. From humble kei trucks to Hiace and Delica vans, there wasn’t a roof on a tall-riding car without some kind of tent or storage unit in place.
An iconic tuner name also made a comeback at this year’s TAS. After what feels like an eternity, we finally have a new Veilside car. Based, of course, on the new A90 Supra, the show car here was actually intended to be painted in the Fast and Furious 9 Supra orange and black color, but it unfortunately wasn’t completed in time. With the throwback chrome five-spoke wheels and widebody kit, it’s unmistakably Veilside but with a modern twist. I’m all for this.
Of course we can’t talk about widebody kits without talking about Liberty Walk. Luckily this year there was no controversy with, shall we say, noise complaints with other tuner shops. Instead, they had more or less the same stuff as before including the widebody Mitsuoka Orochi, now with a different livery, and their old car/new fenders for this year was based on a Ferrari Testarossa. If anyone out there is bold enough to cut the fenders on a Ferrari Testarossa for this look please form an orderly queue.
With the recent launch of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, the twins proved to be a popular base for tuners at TAS this year. The 86/BRZ, Jimny, and GR Yaris were by far the most common cars at TAS2022. Most had cosmetic upgrades, a couple had performance tunes, but I guess we’ll have to wait another year until we see some truly bonkers creations based on those cars. Here’s the best of the rest. Until next year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, hopefully we’ll see some Fairlady Z-based creations by then, also.