NATS always has a big presence at the Tokyo Auto Salon but it’s not the only school with cars to display. There are many technical colleges across Japan that all get to display their projects at the country’s biggest custom car show. The projects range from serious to seriously wacky, but here are some of our other favorites from 2024.
Students at the Tsukuba Institute of Science and Technology decided to restore an S13 Nissan Silvia. Countless examples were sacrificed to drifting, and the one TIST students found to restore was no different. It started out as a purple drift machine that had been driven hard and put away wet.
They patched up holes with reshaped 0.8mm bonded steel, reupholstered the heavily worn and cracked interior, and painted the car in a factory pearl white and gold two-tone. Some liberty was taken with the aero and exhaust, but it makes for an interesting commentary on the state of available projects. These days it may be harder to unearth a barn find, even a dilapidated one, than to find an abandoned drift missile and de-mod it.
Remember the Toyota S-FR concept that came out in 2015? It was meant to round out the “three sports car brothers” vision that Akio Toyoda had. Sadly, Toyota never put the ultra-light rear-wheel-drive sports car into production. That didn’t stop students at the Saitama Automobile College from creating their own.
We had always suspected that the S-FR and NC Mazda Miata had something in common, but couldn’t prove it. The Saitama Automobile College students must have thought so too, because they used an NC Miata as the foundation for their S-FR. They removed the fender flares and reshaped the nose and tail, but the unmistakable bones of the NC lie beneath. The headlights are said to have come from a Mini Cooper and the taillights a Daihatsu Cast Sport. Toyota could’ve probably produced this without much trouble.
Last but not least, we have a killer throwback by students at the Nissan Automobile College. Except, this Cube has been retro-fied with the face and tail of a 410 Nissan Bluebird. The concept was a car that bridges past and present, and we love the result. It looks so proper that Nissan should have offered this as a factory kit. Aside from the grille, lights, and bumpers, students reshaped the hood, fenders, and front doors to mimic the Bluebird’s distinctive lines and creases.
The Bluebird’s taillights are a nice fit on the rear, and the old style steel bumpers look right at home. Naturally, RS Watanabe 8-spokes anchor the old school vibe. The students said that they were inspired by Nissan’s Pike Cars of the late 1980s — the Figaro, Pao, and Be-1, and thought about what a modern Pike Car would look like. We think they pretty much nailed the look. If Mitsuoka’s retro masqueraders sell, so can this.