Since 1996, Turbo magazine has sponsored a tour to Japan for the Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS). The tour was a reaction to the reader feedback we got after covering the show in 1995. In 1999 we had our biggest tour ever with 55 guests and even with Y2K travel warnings, we managed 42 for 2000. While the tour is designed for the benefit of our readers, we have had a number of aftermarket companies join us over the years to make overseas business contacts. With six Tokyo Auto Salons under our belt (five tours) one would think the show would become a novelty. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Tokyo Auto Salon is the ultimate experience for anyone who lives and breathes import performance. Many trends start here and the craftsmanship of the cars is absolutely outstanding. While we have not grown tired of the show or Japan, we have taken a beating on the exchange rates the last couple of years.
For 2000 the biggest trend was not in a certain part or collection of components-it was in the cars themselves. Toyota was clearly the leader of the pack with the Altezza (Lexus IS300) still shining bright after last year's strong debut and new entries such as the Celica and MR-S roadster getting the nod from many tuners. Supras are still sold in Japan and there were a number of nice examples. A new twist on Supra performance is running a turbocharged 3S-GTE Altezza engine in place of the inline six. Why do this you ask? Weight savings, good power production and it's different. Will it catch on here? Time will tell. Of course the performance king is still the Nissan Skyline GTR and powered-up R34s were a common sight at the Makuhari Messe convention center. Nissan had a mean one-two punch this year with its impressive S-15 Silvia getting a lot of tuning attention, especially the high-performance Spec-R model (for more on this car see the February 2000 issue).
While Hondas were not as big this year as they were in '99, Top Fuel's booth sported nothing but Hondas. Its CRX drag racer (June '99 issue) was on hand as well as a new car-a wild rear engine, rear drive del Sol. This car is in the shakedown testing stages and Top Fuel reports no plans to bring it to the U.S. yet. If the company comes to race, they will most likely bring the CRX. Speaking of coming to race, the Apex booth was a popular stop for the Turbo tour. Apex was displaying its wicked twin-turbo, tube-frame Integra that is slated to appear in America. The car features a center-seat funny car style driving position and an innovative engine configuration. The game planned called for the use of a Xtrac gearbox. The Xtrac transmission requires clockwise input so the engine had to be converted to clockwise rotation. However, leaving it at that stage would result in a car with multiple reverse gears and one forward gear. Therefore, the engine was installed flipped around backwards with the valve cover lettering appearing upside down. This moved the transmission to the other side of the block and provides the proper number of forward gears. Look for a future "X-Files" style article on this beast in a future issue. Signal Auto debuted a new chop-top Civic drag racer at TAS. The Peach-colored screamer is also due to appear on U.S. shores in 2000. Stephan Papadakis' world's quickest Honda (Cover January 2000) was on display at Trust's booth. Trust, the parent company of GReddy, which has pioneered choreographed production at TAS, flew Steph in on our tour to appear with his car. The Nuformz-built Honda was a big hit, coming under close scrutiny from showgoers and Japanese tuners alike.
Other impressive cars in attendance included a carbon-fiber-bodied road race Altezza from HKS, a buffed-out RX-7 from relative newcomer R-magic, Trust's S-15 Silvia, a crazy S2000 from Mugen dubbed S2200, Top Secret's MR-S, RE Amemiya's FC RX-7, a mind meld between a Toyota Stagea and a Porsche 911 and Massive's wild, wide-body Lexus luxo-cruiser.
For more on the proceedings check out the accompanying photo gallery and if you want to go in 2001, contact us at www.turbomagazine.com or write us at Turbo, TAS Tour 2001, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870.