EVENTS: 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon, Part 02 – Callbacks

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One of our favorite types of customization is when a new car references something old, whether its Japanese motorsports history, an ancestor in its lineage, or just a general obsession with nostalgia. Here’s all the cars that are rolling inside jokes to those who know their Nihon car history.

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Among the under-appreciated happenings at the Tokyo Motor Show was the return of the Suzuki Alto Works. For the Auto Salon, Suzuki decked out an Alto Works with the livery of its Ecstar MotoGP team. If there are any serious modifications beyond the graphics or the suspension and wheels Suzuki isn’t saying, but it’s rather fun to see some cross-departmental fun at the company.

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The coolest Alto, however, goes to the “Yancha” Alto GT-RR built by Hello Special, a company that makes aftermarket parts with a heavy bosozoku style for kei trucks. “Yancha” means naughty or mischievous in Japanese, and the GT-RR references its many hakosuka Skyline styling cues plus the fact that Suzuki once named the sport model of its most popular kei car the Wagon R RR. We didn’t fall asleep on the keyboard — “Wagon R” was the base name and “RR” was the trim level.

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The car has obvious Skyline cues like the lights and wing, but also zokusha tuning parts like the chin spoiler, bolt-on flares and rear valance resembling a slit spoiler. Best of all is the livery from Motoharu Kitano’s 1972 hakosuka Skyline GT-R works racer. The “86” in the roundel refers not to the hachiroku, but the Hello Special 86, a kei-sized wheel of the company’s own design. They strongly resemble SSR Formula Stars and complete the car’s old school feel. The good news is that this body kit is now for sale. The bad news is that Altos aren’t for sale in the US.

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Flex Auto had a bit of fun with several popular Toyota trucks. Their Toyota Land Cruiser 70, which was officially re-released by Toyota in Japan in 2014, sports visual references to the FJ Cruiser, including a wide C-pillar and white roof.

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If your Land Cruiser 100 is a bit too, um, modern, now there’s the option of equipping the front mask with that of a 70-Series as well. Add whitewalls and faux wood paneling and you’re ready to roll down to the marina in style.

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Toyota wanted in on the fun too, showing off the FT-1 Concept. Its designers said it took inspiration from the 2000GT and the Supra. When it was debuted in 2014 CEO Akio Toyoda described it as a new direction for Toyota, one that created cars with wakudoki, Japanese for “a palpable, heart-pounding sense of excitement.” Combined with the Lexus LC 500 that was unveiled less than a week before — not to mention cars he’s already fast-tracked to production, including the GT86/Scion FR-S, Lexus LFA and RC F — we’d say his promise is taking shape nicely.

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Speaking of which, here’s another sports coupe to fit the Akio mold. The Toyota S-FR rear-wheel-drive coupe concept, a car inspired by the Toyota Sports 800, was a mega-hit at the Tokyo Motor Show last October. Now at the Auto Salon, a racing concept version has debuted, and it wasn’t just a dressed up version of the yellow car, either. All signs point to a production sports coupe in the near future.

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Toyota’s BFF Mazda is doing their part to increase our heart rates as well. What else can we say about the Mazda RX-Vision that we haven’t said already? The outrageously sexy concept promises a return of the rotary engine and is the most angelic shape to land on the automotive world in decades.

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Slightly less bewitching is the Dendomushi Z, but smile-inducing nonetheless. Unlike the other cars in this installment, it’s not a new car trying to look old; it’s an old car trying to look like an entirely different old car. Built by students at the Saitama Institute of Automotive Technology, it’s combination of two Japanese classics with an electric drivetrain. It took 18 undergrads four months to combine an S30 Fairlady Z with a Subaru 360 and give it a Wangan Midnight blue-on-gunmetal Wats Devil Z look.

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The name is a play on the words den for “electricity” and tentoumushi, or ladybug, the nickname for the Subaru 360. While a real-life melted Choro-Q may not be everyone’s cup of tea, we love it for this reason if nothing else: combined with the Nihon Automobile Technical School’s bosozoku Bluebird, it would seem that there are plenty of Japanese youths who have enthusiasm for building not only cars, but nostalgic ones.

We’ll have more 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon coverage coming up. To be continued…

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7 Responses to EVENTS: 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon, Part 02 – Callbacks

  1. Ant said:

    Love the Yancha Alto.

    Incidentally, always been a fan of the Wagon R RR, but never thought much about this until now: Can anyone better versed in the language explain how they would have pronounced that in Japan?

    The “arr” sound doesn’t really exist in Japanese, does it? It’s difficult enough to enunciate in English without it sounding like you’re doing a bad pirate impression… “Wagon Arr Arrarr!”

    • Censport said:

      I wish I could have been at Suzuki’s after-hours “office meeting” at their local Shizuoka watering hole when this name was proposed. It must have been a blast. Great – if not outright wicked – sense of humor those Suzuki guys have.

    • Ben Hsu said:

      It’s not the “are” sound that doesn’t exist, it’s the “rrr” sound when you curl your tongue that’s not native to the Japanese language. So a the Wagon R RR would simply be pronounced “wagon aru aru aru”

  2. Scotty G said:

    I wish that my automotive class in high school would have had a project like the Dendomushi Z? At least I would have found out years ago that I don’t fit in a Subaru 360 instead of waiting until I get it burned on my brain that I want one and then find out! (not bitter)

  3. Michael said:

    I want to like that 360/Z because it was built by students and hats off to them, but it just doesn’t work at all.

    Love the hako-alto though….having seen a few(regular models) on display in one of the main train stations in Japan this time last year(maybe Osaka or Kyoto) and picking up some sales brochures, it makes me wonder why these cool little kei’s aren’t on offer in too many other countries.

  4. Henry Watson said:

    Hello . can any one convert a lancrusier 100 for me would love one

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