EVENTS: 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon, Part 04 – JNC Staff Picks


For our final installment of our 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon coverage, we asked some of our JNC team Tokyo staff to identify the coolest whips they encountered at the annual mega-fest of Japanese automotive excess. Here’s what they came up with.


Brandon Kelley, Senior Correspondent.

First up, a vehicle that should be thrown right into production, the Toyota HiAce “pickup” conversion by Free-Style. What started surely as a funny idea drinking chu-hi 8 percents on a Friday night has turned into a masterpiece The HiAce sports a swing-tailgate to gain access to the two bosozoku bikes stowed in the back. R

ather than toss out the original back door, it has now been integrated into the back of the cab area to separate the cab and pickup bed — and it swings open as well just in case you needed more space. Topped off with more negative camber than a broken tie-rod and sitting on an air-ride suspension system, this custom gets my seal of approval. Now to source a HiAce….


Star Road is a master restoration and fabrication outfit just west of the Edogawa River. This year, they brought out a few Fairlady Zs but the one that caught my eye was this emerald green resto mod. Unfortunately, there were no specs on-hand in the special showroom of race cars and top customs, but keen eyes will spot a new Star Road “front spoiler grille set, projector headlamps, and smoked-bronze Glow Star wheels in 15×8 front, 15×12 rear.

The rear is finished off sans-bumper with the original curves designer Yoshihiko Matsuo intended from the start. You may notice that there are no windshield wipers or mirrors. Again, keep it clean. Although, there remain connection points for the wipers and the fender mirrors can be attached by removing the rubber grommets covering the holes.

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Next, we come across a Cresta yankii chariot, or do we? From the outside, we get a pretty outlandish sled with sharknose front, silhouette racer-inspired deppa front spoiler, number plate oil cooler (wah!), and an exhaust that looks like a Godzilla’s cigarette.

In actuality, this is a Nissan Bluebird from the early 1980s. NATS, an automobile college, has their best and brightest (and craziest) students team up to make seemingly ordinary cars into works of art. This ride was brought to us by Team Expendables. The interior is completely decked out in crushed red velvet and hand-painted gold. It is so ludicrous that you can only smile. There were huge crowds around this one all day.

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No words needed other than “Oh, mama.” With inspiration from the legendary 787B and modern American Le Mans prototypes, the Mazda LM55 Vision GT Concept is a real-life build of a car originally designed for a video game.

As part of the latest Gran Turismo racing simulator series, creator Kazunori Yamauchi asked the world’s top automakers to design a car that best embodies the Gran Turismo ethos. Most companies chose to render their creations in pixels only, but a few, like Mazda, actually built life-size versions of them. All the Vision Gran Turismo project cars a downloadable in the Gran Turismo 6 game.

The LM55 name references their historic Le Mans win, achieved with the #55 767B back in 1991. This would be definitely a worthy successor if they decide to build it. Please build it!


San Mamiya, Illustrator

Flex Auto specializes in customizing Toyota Land Cruisers and Hiaces, and is famous in Japan. The Flex Hiace exude the charm of an old Hiace with the flavor of a vintage American van. However, it’s actual a late-model H200 series Hiace that’s been completely modified to sport an H50 Hiace front! I love the seats in this van, which look to be tweed. I want to draw this!


Toyota celebrated the 40th anniversary of TRD at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon. This yellow Toyota Aqua (sold as the Prius c in the United States) was described as a rally car for beginners. Toyota is very active in motorsports for eco-cars. I love this philosophy!

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As part of the commemoration of Toyota’s 40th Anniversary of TRD, they also unveiled the TRD Prius. This is a simple custom car. The spoilers add functional beauty, and the new TRD wheels and exhaust are cool. Though the Prius is not a sports car, it looks sporty, and that is important in Japan.

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Hiroshima-based tuning house Leg Motor Sports brought a Mazda Roadster (or MX-5 Miata in the United States) with a classic twist. Cleverly called the LEG ND Roadster, it takes the latest Mazda sports car and paints it in the iconic Mariner Blue color of the original NA Miata.

I love this style of ND Roadster. The modest spoilers enhance the Roadster’s already plentiful charm, and Mariner Blue is my favorite Miata color of all time. All the modifications, including suspension and wheel, do not try to change what Mazda’s engineers or designers intended, but supplement it. All the parts are there for fun driving. I love this “whole car” tuning philosophy.


To me, these picks are the essence of the Tokyo Auto Salon. It’s one part ingenuity, one part majesty, and 98 parts letting your peacock feathers fly. With plenty of incredible cars from Skylines to AE86s and new Mazda Roasters (tons of these) and everything in between. It was nice to see young and old, men and women enjoying their car life.

That’s all for our 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon coverage, but in case you missed it here’s our TAS Preview, Part 01 – Old School CoolPart 02 – Callbacks, Part 03 — Tunertopia as well as a spotlights on the Liberty Walk S30 Z and RE Amemiya Mazda Chantez.

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7 Responses to EVENTS: 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon, Part 04 – JNC Staff Picks

  1. Scotty G says:

    Being a Prius lover, and owner, I’m drawn to those two picks first. I drive mine hard, and I mean hard; about 40,000+ miles a year all over the US, between March and November, as my business road trip vehicle. I don’t want to be that guy in the Prius who’s holding up traffic in any way, shape, or form; so I drive it hard. (did I mention that?).. (zzzzzz).. I’m a firm believer that a skilled driver (I consider myself a pretty skilled driver, at least a skilled-public-roadways-type-of-driver) can drive any vehicle with passion and enthusiasm, and also hammer the heck out of it with skill and grace. Whereas, a lot of drivers seem like they wish they could evolve a third hand to death-grip the steering wheel with when taking a curve at more than 40 mph. Those drivers are usually ahead of me just when nice corner or on-ramp presents itself. Sigh.. But, I digress (as usual)

    I’m all over the HiAce Pickup next! I could see my two vintage Yamahas in the back of that beauty. Very, very cool.

    • Ant says:

      Can’t agree more – it’s entirely possible to drive a Prius briskly and still get great gas mileage from it, so it’s a pity their image has been ruined somewhat by those who drive everywhere excruciatingly slowly.

      I own a Mk1 Honda Insight – it’s hugely economical, but also pretty good fun to drive quickly, and very receptive to carrying speed and smooth control inputs. Carrying momentum goes hand-in-hand with both speed and economy.

      • Scotty G says:

        Nice! I almost bought one on eBay a couple of days ago in rare citrus green but the seller ended the auction early and then raised the price $3,000 and started the auction again.. hmm…

        Plus, a manual transmission is available in the Insight!

  2. Robin says:

    I would like to say something cool… allow me to say something cool. not sure if the pictures are meant to be grainy but it looks cool as F… (can i swear?). From a designers point I am loving it.

    then onto the flex hi-ace, i think its meant to look like the old hi aces… i could be wrong but that sticker that runs from the front to back is similar to this as well as the front headlight cluster


  3. JovaTecH says:

    Cute but still slow with TRD accesories -Prius Problem

  4. Ant says:

    The Hi-Ace looks fab. As does the Mariner Blue ND – that definitely should have been a launch colour.

    My own pick from TAS would have been the Honda S660 NeoClassic concept in the preview piece. Absolutely love how that was executed.

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