Hall to Hall | Osaka Auto Messe 2020 Part#1

Between the time spent in Japan from visiting that trackday in Tsukuba, to arriving in Osaka, me and Luke did some cool stuff in the interim such as: catch a guided tour through the Samurai Museum; see Mount Fuji (a lot, which is a rarity); drove both an R34 & R35 GT-R (at the very conservative Japanese speed limits); caught a couple bullet trains from Tokyo – Odawara – Osaka. I have a fair few photos of all that but, to be honest, I would rather get the bulk of the material uploaded first, which happens to be what will result in an event coverage blog post split into two. Its only right to do so, as it was my primary intention to visit the Kansai region’s version of Tokyo Auto Salon, so chill and sit back to scroll through all of what the show had to offer.

On the Saturday that we went, it didn’t feel crazily busy, although the footfall came in at 207,479 which is child’s play to the big TAS which saw a count of 330,666 visitors (2019). We got to the entrance just after the opening time I think, and joined the wave of visitors patiently waiting to get through the ticket gate. I say patiently, however, I remember there being one kid slipping past everyone needlessly. Maybe he really badly wanted those HKS ratchet-spanner keyrings on sale.

Before checking out the display halls, we saw a large gathering of people around a couple Super GT cars. I did get a mobile phone video of the Wakos Lexus LC500 GT500 car being fired up, but no revs occurred so I won’t bother uploading it. Juichi Wakisaka is actually the Team Director who was involved in the team’s securing of 2nd place overall last season, only to be left behind by Team KeePer / TOM’S and their Lexus by 1 point. Wakisaka-san was definitely the funniest Best Motoring host drivers, but not exactly the guy you would expect to be heading a Super GT team, no offense.

The first hall started off with a load of camper conversion MPVs and SUVs. Luke and I weren’t expecting this, but I suppose the event has to cater for everybody. We skimmed past all of that and headed towards the buzz – the Kuhl Racing stand. You can spot their demo cars from a distance, as you can’t help but be drawn in by their majestic, artisanal handicraft that is ‘Grinder Tattooing’.

Other than the bodywork finish, the R35’s low-slung swan-neck carbon wing and double-stepped carbon front splitter were elements that were very Kuhl to me.

Toyota and their Gazoo Racing division capitalized on the majority of the space in that same hall. The amount of width and aero applied to the WRC Yaris was pretty substantial to say the least. The automaker also had the all new 2020 GR Yaris on display but there was no chance of me getting a clear shot of it with my 50mm lens. There was a drivetrain layout display of the new hot-hatch’s 4WD system, something else I struggled getting full view of. A lot of hype and anticipation around Toyota’s all-new homologation special. I hope they have more success with them in the UK, unlike the last Yaris GRMN which was a great car on paper but didn’t sell a great amount. I am just bored of seeing Ford Fiestas left, right and centre to be honest, that’s all…

Seriously serious rear portion. Props to Toyota for pulling off some of the most coolest livery designs aswell.

Supra-ise! This car was in abundance at the OAM, clearly being the next big thing for Japanese/German sportscar enthusiasts. Snide remarks aside, I really do like the look of the next season’s Super GT car. I’m excited to see this thing go wheel-to-wheel with Nissan and Honda’s works-backed GT-R and NSX in the GT500 class.

After coming across a very weirdly customized Toyota Prius of the future and then a Gazoo Racing rep trying to sell us the idea of how their groundbreaking formula bottled in the form of a spray/wax/liquid sealant, can single-handedly counteract aerodynamic drag and body roll, we felt it was time to transport ourselves to a different hall.

Enter the world of V.I.P.

Luke wasn’t a fan of what we came across in this part of the Intex convention centre. Personally, I don’t mind this type of build style. Low, big-body Japanese metal looks great when done tastefully. A little (~3 degrees) negative camber is a good amount of aggressive alignment; excessive camber to a point where it looks awkward can sometimes appear nonsensical though. Saying all that, I have seen some wild cars before, most of them being online so I can’t comment on the fit & finish etc, and they have been executed really well.

More than a couple of cars wore these new SSR Formula Aero Spoke wheels which were a breath of fresh air. Its an off-trend approach to the VIP-look. A bit daring as the wheel looks smaller than it actually is, but it kinda worked, I dunno maybe time will tell.

This is probably the photo I should set as the thumbnail when sharing this article online. I think its a Toyota Crown, not sure, but it had more than a few exhausts. I cannot confirm which of these in actual fact dispelled any burnt gases, or if they were just ornaments…

…The Kanji characters stamped into the silencer shrouding were a neat touch.

For some reason, I instantly thought of Gundam looking back at this 350Z. I don’t even watch the anime, but its got that type of vibe going on.

Nizo-Low (an aftermarket aero/dressup parts maker?) had that blue Ferrari California on flat-bronze TE37s on show last year. Nothing mega-crazy in 2020 though, just this casually lowered 488 Spider.

As soon as we entered hall No. 3 (that probably wasn’t the hall number, it was just the third one we browsed) it was Euro-mania. Even WORK Wheels’ stand had a BMW 8-Series convertible showing-off their latest set of hoops. I have noticed over the years, Japan really knows how pay respect to the German marques when it comes to customizing them. You can tell there is a popular fondness of BMW over there, ranging from the classics to modern chassis. Oh and of course, RAUH-Welt Begriff has unquestionably made the Jap-mad worldwide take notice of old Porsches.

As if the standard 993 Turbo isn’t wide enough.

Internally, I was having a party when I caught sight of this 2002 built by a Euro importer. Every detail was just so on point, I couldn’t help but take photos of it. Whether it be the all-aluminium face Hayashi Racing Type ST wheels, custom carbon air scoop, rear screen louvres, the licks of chrome across the metallic green body, that carbon-fibre rear wing, or the jaunty side-exit exhaust tailpipe – or maybe its the culmination of all the above – this machine had a bunch of character. And those ITBs tell me that it must sound like a tune to every bone in your body.

A Toyota Celsior fashioned with the classic two-tone top-bottom paint option, plonked on a set of Walds…

… hard to look bad, especially with that stylish 3-piece ducktail boot spoiler.

This establishment is a staple in the automotive industry, both for showcars and competition cars alike. The all-new TE370 wheel is really cool with its pocketed spokes. I can already see every other GT-R wearing those seen as though RAYS will probably only make them in sizes above 19″. I remember that booth being really busy, so it was an in-and-out job. I did pick up a brochure though, of course!

WORK Wheels and their setup was nice, almost showroom-like in the way the wheels were all hung in their own recess built into the wall. And the lighting was good, so the photos make the wheels look very fresh. This dual-element design WORK and SSR are doing is pretty nifty, take a look at the WORK Crag T-Grabic intended for outfitting offroad vehicles. Thats the new 14″ version, which looks miles better than the larger diameter option in my opinion, taking the spoke count down and simplifying the look of the wheel. Oh, and the (prototype) WORK Emotion CRs were on display in forged guise!

Pretty certain this photo of the underbelly of a A90 Supra was captured at the Kakimoto Racing Exhaust booth…

…could be wrong, either way the company showed off their components installed on a demo car in a trippy way. The mirror was so clean and well positioned, I thought there was a pit in the floor!

Finally, BRIDE decided to produce some genuine articles of the [in]famous BRIDE backpack, along with a cool helmet bag too. Man, I always used to see people wear those “BRIDE/TAKATA” backpacks at college; shit made me nauseous.

Not usually a fan of the new-gen style of wheels, as they tend to overdo things, ending up in a good-looking car ruined. These HREs on the other hand are next level, and are actually more concave than they appear on camera. Dwarfs those brakes on the new Supra though, don’t you think?

Okay, so remember how I said it didn’t feel crazily busy at the start of this blog post? Well, I was chattin’ out of my arse abit to be honest. If you’re stood looking at a car, you’ll be able to breathe. But when a model comes out of nowhere, all the ‘keen photographers’ come out the woodwork and you’re screwed in terms of getting a decent photo of the car. This TOYO Tires D1GP Supra was different though, because a lot of people were hoarding the car to take photos of that, and not the female stood posing in front of it. I did manage to get some shots of the rear, illustrating the girth of the Rocket Bunny Pandem widebody. Cameras in place of the wing mirrors were also interesting.

That’ll do for Part#1, hope you enjoyed the read. Keep an eye out for the second accompanying post where we come across the real Osaka-style builds.

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Suited & Booted, Kitted & … | Fitted UK 2019

Late July just gone, I decided to head over to Manchester and see what the north can offer when its time for the gladrags to be donned. Fitted UK is, from what I can tell, a pretty well established automotive outlet, and I have always been intrigued by the online content I have seen in the past: vehicles set up on 2-foot high stage platforms dotted about the main hall.

So, since I have been a bit slack on the blogfront, here is a image-heavy post for your viewing pleasure.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the reg on this R34 GT-R, as it spells out my initials. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the owner about to be able to tell him I want the keys back now, haha. As we all know, the Bayside Blue bombshell is a timeless klassik, so not much modification is needed to be honest. Tastefully executed, this V-Spec model had a few touches that made it stand out, like the inlet hardpiping, polished & engraved fusebox cover, and well-fitted black TE37s.

A hard combination to beat: Millenium Jade on an R32 GT-R equipped with a TRA-Kyoto Pandem widebody. I’m a sucker for this generation of Skyline just in stock form, but this tough-looking machine by JapSalon blew me away.

One of two “Midnight Purple” tinged R32s, this one wearing a set of Work CR2Ps under what seemed like a stock body sans the front and rear bumper add-ons. I found the assymetric headlight-intake unit quite kool, as was the purple underglow.

Yet another Pandem R32 Skyline that was getting a shedload of attention from the crowd gathering around it. It must be that metallic shade of purple doing justice to those body lines. That widebody conversion is incredibly well done; designer Kei Miura knows how to sculpt automotive art.

A few R35 GT-Rs made an appearance, of course, being the most popular and relatively more accessible of the “godzilla” selection. My top ranker was this all-carbon, Overtake-bodied model, with some TE37s in a colour rarely specced on the legendary wheel. This bodykit is featured on GTRs around the world, particularly those that destroy literally everything on a dragstrip, so rest assured its not just all for the sake of showing of that new weave.

The Pandem kraze was spreading like wildfire it seems, as this striking R32 in red was in attendance, with a set of wide Work VSXX 3-piece barrels shrouded by those girthy widearches.

Interesting take on this 4-door 4th Gen Civic, and it properly suits it. A style I wouldn’t mind seeing more of to be honest.

Back to basic and clean bodylines with this white-on-blue EK Civic.

I currently am unsure how I feel about this ‘Kanjozoku’ look being replicated outside of Japan. It is almost sacred, and the origin of the tribal car culture has deep roots, which I think is best left to those who run the real loop in Osaka. At the same time, there were a few decent builds that actually pulled off the street-runner look quite nicely.
That grey and white EJ Civic with its cut-up rear bumper was a kool thing.

Slightly left-field was this EF Civic with some pretty negatively cambered stance using Work Equip 40 wheels with chrome lips to polish off the look of this hatchback.

My fave Civic of the day has got to be this EG in two-tone, with its heavy duty rollcage (bolt-on or welded, I don’t know) and aggresive poise.

I love that look reminiscent of the Japanese 80s, with the top-bottom two-tone exterior paint.

Front and centre of the main stage sat this Phoenix Yellow DC5 Integra Type-R, a paint option never offered by Honda for the final generation fast FF coupe. Not only was it wearing an unusual colour code, the rare Mugen kit was a bit of a blast from the past. Saying that, the ‘Teg’ still looks fresh and modern till this day. Klap klap Honda, designers of timeless machines.

Very loud looking NA MX-5 hunkered down on some sprawly wheel fitment…

At first I thought the rollers under this NB MX-5 were Weds Bazreia, but I misjudged, as I soon found the centre caps read Euroline. Never come across these two-piece wheels by the one and only Work, which impressed me and proved how this this build is not your average low roadster. Would be mint to see this turbocharged Mazda moving swift out on the road. The touches of exposed carbon break the mould also, not to mention a bodykit I’ve never come across. A lot of cool details on this that some would overlook.

Emoji horn button doing a great job mirroring the driver’s reaction when they katch a full send in a roadster. Ahh, I do miss mine…

Its hard to make an S2000 look terrible. Some interesting choice wheels on that red one; orange Honda was cool playing the safe set-up.

Some more sick roadsters outside in the overflow.

My first car was a Toyota Aygo, not as radical as this LHD model from Finland (if I remember correctly, probably totally wrong).

First time seeing one of Khyzyl Saleem’s lifelike renderings come to, well, LIFE. This 86 he created sporting a Rocket Bunny widebody, was definitely a eye-katching machine, from its striking livery to the sharp trio of canards mounted low at both corners of the rear bumper. I kept going back for more, as the numerous photos exemplify.

Refreshing to see something other that panda white on a Hachiroku. Why I didn’t take more pics, I’ll never know…

Some dude was revving the arse off of some car, but I couldn’t stop gawping at this 86 and its wastegate/screamer pipe setup plumbed back from a BorgWarner turbo mated to, yep you guessed it, a 2JZ-GTE in place of that measly four-pot boxer lump.

Pretty sinister styling on this BRZ. Bit of fresh air from the typical look you find these cars built with. Very meaty wheel and tyre combo, paired with the edgy semi-paint, semi-carbon bodywork. And that rear diffuser looks like its ready to tear up a rally stage.

Silvias apleny at Fitted, but one in particular was my pick of the bunch…

The S13 has a charm in factory form, that cannot be paralleled with the other S-chassis. But this modified example has got the perfekt balance between aggression and elegance. I saw this car online months, even years back, and it struck me instantly. The ‘Miyabi’ bodykit produced by Spirit Rei really does flow with the S13 body, and those incredibly colour-coordinated Work Meister M1s crammed into the wheel arches do the entire ordeal justice.

The Z33 350Z is a nice all-rounder of a Japanese sporty gran-tourer. I really do hope Nissan bring the Fairlady back into production, with the same grunt and purity as the current and previous iterations…

A “Japanese Mercedes”?…

Or would you rather have the native original?

Plenty of klassic Bimmers, this E9 3.0 CS stood out with ease. Pillarless coupes will be missed, a design feat unfortunately left in the decades long gone.

Loved every bit of this E30. So neat and tidy, but at the same time going against the grain.

Regal 190E, looking even more dapper with a two-tone paint job. Cars from the 80s are getting better and better with age.

Pleasant surprise seeing a Cayman, of all things, with Work CRs mated to its hubs! That tartan and tan interior was found in the Porsche 924 next to it by the way, I was just feelin’ that helmet matchup.

Thats all I got for you here in this episode. Bit late in the day, but atleast you got to see some of what I thought camera-worthy at Fitted 2019. The quality of standards is pretty high for a UK car show, and it obviously shows in some of the entrants. Its a nice and diverse show, which will always attract the people from all backgrounds and interests, which is a positive I guess, bringing various walks of carlife together.

Thanks for stopping by, I’ve gotta dive into the Germany stuff on the next post, but I might switch it up in and amongst those posts just to keep you on your toes, and showcase some of what I find interesting – call them spotlight features or something of that nature…

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Japanese Dream: Another Trip to Tokyo, and Beyond

Here we go, again.

Back in 2016, after returning from Japan, it was in my heart that I knew I had to get back out there, so before I knew it, later that year, flights were booked for late June 2017, and a more structured itinerary was put down in preparation. It went something like this: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hiroshima – Kyoto – Yokohama. All within a two-week timespan.

This post is a recollection of the memories, stored within the photos. Looking back at them, without sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet, my shooting skills also seemed to step up a marginal level.

I hope you enjoy, and maybe you too will take the leap to the farthest east.

Me and my sister landed in Narita International Airport around evening, and by the time we were out of the terminal and on the train to Suginami it was 9pm. The sunsets earlier than it does in the UK, so even in the summer the daylight passes sooner, unless you wake up and start your day very early.

I caught this MX-5 RF the morning after our arrival in the morning traffic on the main road a few minutes from the AirBnB. A Club / Launch edition in that Reflex Blue Mica on factory BBS wheels is a quality sight. This car will take a very long time to get old.
A classic VW Beetle sat outside the apartment building we stayed in whilst visiting the Tokyo area. Even this car’s owner installed a double DIN multimedia system on the dashboard, but this is not surprising as the majority of vehicles on the road have them built in from factory, most with broadcast television!
An enthusiast’s machine. Not my ‘cup of tea’, definitely slow, but atleast the paintjob livened up the concrete jungle scene.
One of the coolest things Toyota created. I would grab one in a heartbeat, and I am not even into SUVs or offrading.
The infamous Shibuya Crossing. We did not spend much time here, as we were only passing by to get to Shibuya station, nor did we partake in the scramble. I know, how boring of us… Whatever.
We set out to Odaiba, which is an artificial island in Tokyo’s Bay Area. It is mainly home to entertainment and shopping outlets, attracting many tourists thanks to its scenic nightlife and modern architecture. This photo was the back end of the Fuji TV building, which I had no idea of at time of taking the picture.
In my experience, the service I received all over Japan is impeccable. This was at a typical city restaurant in Shinjuku. You sit in a private booth, with a service ringer at hand if you need a waiter’s attention. Oh, and they cook the food right in front of you, which makes for a more engaging experience.
Now onto the exciting part of the journey…
You probably saw this coming if you read my last Japan blogpost. I revisited the guys at ‘Fun2Drive’, and this time it was time to get behind the wheel of the one and only ultimate supercar of the Japanese 90’s. First stop, Fuji Speedway.
The way the tours work, if you opt for the ‘Ultimate Hakone Drive’, is a steadily paced roll out on the touge leading to the area surrounding Mount Fuji, and then the afternoon is literally an all-out blast through the mountains and forests behind what was this time a definitely-modified, wailing-wastegate Subaru WRX STi, just like the one Bunta rips in.
Unfortunately, on this excursion, Mount Fuji was being a shy bugger, hidden behind the clouds.
I feel this car is so special, it deserves a full report. But for now I will keep it short and simple….
… this car is a driver’s dream. It was equipped with what I was told, a KeiOffice exhaust system that made a glorious naturally-aspirated V6 tune. I assume the suspension was standard, by looks and feel of the sensible ride height and shock absorption. This is the definition of sportscar, and I undersand why it was a supercar in its day. It shook up the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, nevermind the domestic rivals such as Nissan’s GTR, and Mazda’s RX-7. I am not ruling out the Toyota Supra, but that was a more GT vehicle, with a little more of a civilised character. Pushing this car to limits was an absolute joy, especially when you are behind an R35 GTR (that was driven by another member of the tour party) that struggled with all its weight in the tight and technical sections. I can and will never forget having the honor of taking the NSX for a ride.
Just about caught this snap of what I think is a Daihatsu disguides as a classic Mini? The owner kept/fitted a UK number plate behind the Japanese one, which I thought was funny.
There is not one bad angle on this machine
Just before lunch, two more joined the party.
Man, stock R32 GT-Rs look too good its bonkers. Simple body lines, subtly pronounced arch flares, those iconic 5-spoke wheels. I bet this was fun to drive…
We got about Hakone in a rented out Honda Fit (aka Jazz). Public transport is great in the major cities, but once you go off grid so to speak, it only makes sense to traverse the dreamy routes of the Japanese touge in a car. This new generation Fit/Jazz was a bit appalling though to be honest. The CVT gearbox was naff, as you would expect, droning through the ratios. But even the steering felt Audi-like, so numb. No complaints, as it was roomy and comfy enough, however.
The day after the NSX experience, before leaving for Hiroshima via shinkansen (bullet train), we decided to visit a local shrine in Hakone, almost as if we were ritualistically receiving blessings, but this was not the case.
Both, Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples dotted about all over the country are peaceful and tranquil places to visit.
So, after trekking about the western regions of the country, we hitched a bullet train once again to Yokohama City, which borders Tokyo’s outer area. This time the rental car was a Mazda Demio (Mazda 2). In comparison to the Fit, this was the better performer. And, Japan get these in an All Wheel Drive variant?

That night was the 7th of July. That only meant one thing. Time to hit the expressway and join the rotary klan…

Again, this year, the plan in my mind did not materialise in the way I had pictured.

Using Google Maps, we navigated ourselves to Daikoku Parking area in the Demio. This route to this spot is a headache and not as straightforward as you might think, with the rest of Japan’s transportation systems being so streamlined. It wasn’t meant to be, I must have driven through the same toll gate twice, but couldn’t find a way in. Luckily, the police were shutting the parking area down at that time.

If I remember correctly, I think we were about to give up and just abort mission, but as I was about to make way to Yokohama, I spotted this guy with a backpack on foot who looked either lost or eager to get to where we wanted: 7’s day gathering. So, for some reason, I pull up, roll the window down, and ask him if he is a local in hope of getting some direction or assistance. Turned out he was from the States, and was in the same situation I was in last year. We told him we would give him a lift, as he had a good-enough idea of how to get to the secondary meetup location: Tokyo Bay Aqua-line…

On the last day, we took some time out to visit the Nissan Global HQ Gallery, which includes a floor completely open freely to visitors, where both new and old vehicles and technology are put on display. Not only that, but there was also a live RC-car race hosted by Tamiya.

So, there you have it. My second Japan journal entry, hopefully you saw some stuff you thought was cool and intriguing, some maybe even motivated you to get yourself out there to explore the epicentre of car culture.

More to come…