February 23, 2024

The Big, Small, Weird & Wonderful At Tokyo Auto Salon 2024


I know, we’re all here for the tuner cars from the biggest names in the Japanese automotive aftermarket, but for some reason, being a car nerd means having an unhealthy interest in weird, oversized and undersized automobiles too. Vehicles that sometimes make no sense at all.

If there’s one thing you can count on from Tokyo Auto Salon, it’s the big, small, weird and wonderful. And the 2024 event was no different.

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Maybe we’re not all this way inclined, but we know from previous TAS coverage on Speedhunters that there’s plenty of interest in the other sides of this huge event.

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Let’s start off with the oversized SUVs and pickups. While mostly designed for off-road use, here in Japan these vehicles typically spend their lives as gargantuan grocery getters, taking up two car spaces and getting stuck under low bridges.

Off-road style isn’t just reserved for the expected makes and models either. AutoVeloce in Shiga normally design and build body kits for supercars, but they’ve really gone off the beaten path with their Cross-V Bentley Bentayga.

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If you’re feeling like a bit of a city escape, why not ask Direct Cars to whip you up one of their BR75 Hilux SUV adventure campers. It won a Good Design award last year, which is not at all surprising considering the efficient use of space, which sleeps four.

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Next up are the little ones – city cars that have mutated into all kinds of things. There is nothing these kei machines can’t do.

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For instance, DAMD will turn your Suzuki Jimny into an awesome Renault Turbo II or Lancia Integrale look-alike.

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Or you could ask United Aomori to transform your kei truck into a rolling sauna. Because who wouldn’t want one of those?!

We saw this rotary-converted 1972 Mazda Chantez GF-II from Goda Bankin in Nagano at last year’s Tokyo Auto Salon, but how could we not take another look?! With a TD06-equipped 13B from RE Amemiya up front and fender flares almost as wide as the car itself, classic kei cars don’t come any wilder.

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Pro-Staff is a 4×4 specialist from Osaka who builds a lot of custom kei cars and trucks for off-road use – or style at least. Having also modified Porsche Cayennes for extra off-road-ability, their latest project is a lifted Porsche Boxster 986 drop top with bash bars front, side and rear.

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Tokyo Auto Salon always has its fair share of the bizarre, and this year there was plenty of head-scratchers and a few builds that could empty your stomach post haste. But we love them all.

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Built by students at Shizuoka Professional College Of Automobile Technology Sports (SAT’S for short), the Hoty Roty is a modified HH4 Honda Acty Street kei van body with American hot rod styling, sat over a custom chassis featuring Formula Suzuki Hayabusa underpinnings. The Acty body has been lengthened, widened, chopped and sectioned, while the Formula Suzuki Hayabusa’s GSX1300R engine – which is good for 237hp – sits right behind the driver’s seat to power up the giant rear slicks. This thing is crazy!

Parked alongside the Hoty Roty was another school build, this time from the International Information Technology and Automobile College in Fukushima. There were two inspirations for this V36 Skyline Coupe-based build – Nissan’s iconic Skyline Super Silhouette race car, and Machine RS-1 from the 1980s Japanese television series Western Police.

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Obayashi Factory in Ome are well known for their crazy custom builds, but their Monster Leaf Custom 2230, which features wild, futuristic body work and hydraulic doors and roof is just next level.

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This all brings to Nihon Automotive College, otherwise known NATS, an acronym for Nihon Automotive Technology School. Their Tokyo Auto Salon booth never disappoints, and for 2024 there were three real standouts, starting with the NATS Corona-OG. Based on an RT20 Nissan Corona, the car’s student builders looked to American custom culture for inspiration. With lead sled design cues and lowrider-esque hydraulic suspension from Skipper, it’s an amazing build.

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Next up is the Phantom Chibi Meri, which NATS students fashioned in Kenmeri Skyline style from a 1983 Suzuki Mighty Boy .

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Last but not least is a car you’re sure to have seen somewhere online over the past week – the NATS Jimny J1. It may look like a Hummer H1 that’s been stretched sideways in Photoshop, but in reality it’s a heavily-widened JA11 Suzuki Jimny body – with an extra pair of doors – draped over a Suzuki Escudo (Vitara) frame. One of the students’ main goals was to have the J1 sitting as low as possible on air suspension, and I think we can all agree that they definitely achieved that!

Toby Thyer
Instagram: _tobinsta_
tobythyer.co.uk

Additional Photography by Rick Muda
Instagram: ardskellig





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