Big, bold and brash body kits are back with a bang for this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon. We check out the madness…

Japan will always be Japan. It’s a bizarre place, full of contradictions, a country where beauty meets function and where the impossible often becomes possible. Car culture is thriving, after taking a minor hit a few years back, it’s now truly in full bloom once again. Flavours and tastes have changed – or should I say evolved – but expectations have not, which is precisely why walking through the halls of the Tokyo Auto Salon this year has further emphasized the fact that Japan still rules supreme when it comes to fettling with cars.

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First off it’s the overfender craze. Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk are the names behind the most recognisable cars of the show, from the Pandem kitted MX-5 at the GReddy booth to the long line of exotics at LBW which included a widened Huracan, a pair of Maserati Gran Turismos and an Audi R8. Kato-san, the man behind Liberty, plans to unleash his unmistakable style on the McLaren 650S this year much to the dismay of purists but that’s something he really doesn’t care about. Aimgain has embraced the overfender craze too and created an all  new flare kit for the Toyota GT86 as well as the new MX-5. And the little Mazda was quite the hit as you can imagine at this year’s TAS, presented in so many interpretations all attempting to better what is a very good canvas for modifications.

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So aside from the aero stuff, there was plenty in the way of turbocharging options from GReddy and Blitz who both had top mounted in-your-face applications, both returning a decent 50bhp gain. Our favourite however was AVO Turboworld’s take on it all, the Aussie company preferring a more stealthy application which still gives similar gains from the JDM-only 1.5L motor, but is more suited to those that want to stay under the radar. And while we’re on the subject of engine modifications Tomei Powered presented a new line up of products which included new turbo kits for various applications and a new 2JZ stroker kit which adds a whopping 600cc to the already plentiful 3L capacity. This in fact hints that good old-fashioned tuning is alive and well, sure probably not at the levels it once used to be during the glory years, but not too far behind.

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We had a good chat to the guys at Top Secret who seem to have rediscovered themselves, Smoky having just put the final touches to a 1000 bhp street driven R34 customer car and a fresh R32 build employing the same old RB26 engine he built over ten years ago for their D1 350Z. And there seems to be a lot of that happening with most tuners moving away from more modern cars like the R35 and playing around with older stuff. We were in fact surprised to see that Pit Road M has just built a Mitsubishi GTO! When was the last time you heard anyone name that car! And with a monster 1000bhp engine, it’s a pretty serious build.

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If one were to draw a conclusion from the mayhem that was this year’s show, it’s hard to ignore the obvious energy Japanese car culture seems to be enjoying right now. It’s evolving on a variety of planes, from the  style and stance oriented movements, to the growing popularity of older cars with tuners being able to do so much more with them now that technology has allowed them to extract more power and drivability.

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Something that’s not to be sniffed at is all the other stuff that’s going on in Japan, from the VIP movement with their vast array of cars to the vanning scene where Toyota Alphards and Vellfires rule supreme. Then we have hybrids, a slice of the market which strangely continues to attract more and more demand when it comes to customisations. Top this all off with the growing popularity of imports of every shape and form and aftermarket tuning is indeed a 360-degree, multi-million pound industry in Japan, an industry that everyone around the world continues to draw inspiration from.

Words and photos Dino Dale Carbonare

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