The culture and many of the styles in Japan might be completely different when compared to those of the U.S. enthusiast, but a longstanding common thread is the obsession with engine swaps. Popularized during the hot rod era, engine swaps in the import enthusiast realm are not only a regular occurrence, but a staple that grants the end-user the ability to add a little power, a lot of power, or change the direction of their build entirely.
During the Tokyo Auto Salon, the swaps were everywhere and we definitely took notice. Here’s a list of our top 5 favorites throughout the show:
1. Top Secret needs very little introduction here. They’ve been regarded as one of the best tuners in Japan for years, have been featured countless times in the pages of Super Street, and have built a number of time attack and demo cars that belong in the JDM hall of fame. For example, you might recall their twin-turbo V-12 Supra and twin-turbo V-8 Skyline. The R32 that they displayed at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon is just another amazing piece of machinery to add to an incredible resume. The Skyline has been a customer’s car for several years – clean, built RB26, proven on the track; however, for TAS, the legendary Smoky Nagata and his crew decided to go bananas and make a statement by transplanting the entire R35 GT-R VR38 engine, all-wheel drivetrain, and interior into the smaller chassis. And like any Top Secret project, the transplant wasn’t done before adding Top Secret’s signature turbo upgrade. You won’t find any loose panels, exposed wiring or any holes or gaps. The fit and finish on the swap is picture perfect, which means that all of the electronics, gauges, instrument cluster, and paddle shifters work like factory, too. An R35 GT-R with a Top Secret turbo upgrade is already a beast in and of itself, but imagine that same power in a chassis that’s significantly lighter! Great job, Smoky!
2. While Top Secret shows us what a big budget tuner in Japan can do, SuperMade is a smaller shop that you don’t want to forget about. They’re also no stranger to Super Street, with a few of their customer’s cars featured in the past, as well as their white S15 Silvia Spec R demo car, which was on the cover of our “Stance Issue.” We’re not exactly sure if this S15 is the same as the original demo car, but there are similarities, such as its Super Made Instant Gentleman body kit. What we did enjoy was the smaller sized TE37V wheels (smaller wheel sizing is a staple in the SuperMade build blueprint), pearl red paint, and a beefy RB26 swap in place of the S-chassis’ original SR.
3. We spotlighted this Mitsubishi Starion a few days ago on our website, but it’s simply too cool not to show you again. As you can tell, it’s a work in progress and still a little rough around the edges, but under the hood is an RB26 engine and drivetrain, while the rest of the project consists of a custom widebody, stripped interior, full rollcage, and more. What’s really dope is that the Starion is being built by a group of students as their school project!
4. We awarded the Kinokuni Suzuki Jimny “Best SUV” last year and it’s since been updated with all-new aero, wider fenders, trunk-mounted radiator, Tomei-upgraded SR20DET, Volk TE37s, Fortune Auto suspension, and much more. We’ll have more on this beast later!
5. The VIP scene is one of the most well represented forms of the aftermarket at TAS. Every hall you enter, you’re guaranteed to find plenty of dumped sedans with cush interiors, but this particular fourth-gen Toyota Crown Majesta really caught our attention. Not because of its Work wheels, Brembo big brakes or ridiculous audio/video in the trunk, but under the hood we found a naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE. The motor has been built to 3.1-liters and features a Toda valvetrain, plenty of HKS parts, and individual throttle bodies that’ll make any car guy appreciate this beauty.