Encountering a General Motors automobile in Japan, that’s well cared for and not rusting away in the corner of some farm plot is like opening a Wonka chocolate bar and discovering that there’s a golden ticket folded up inside. But coming across a couple of crazy aero enhanced and bagged C8 Corvettes, as well as a menacing SS Camaro in one afternoon, well… let’s just say that’s like winning the Japanese lottery while nibbling said chocolate bar.
This analogy pretty much sums up how I felt a few weeks back, as I stood at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Nikon camera in hand, and baffled expression upon my brow. For being labeled as “The SEMA of Japan,” there sure weren’t a whole lot of “SEMA quality” builds to be found, at least, from an American muscle viewpoint.
So when I came across not one, but two, slammed, aerodynamically enhanced, and all-out bonkers C8 Corvettes within a sushi roll’s throw from one another in the same event hall that weekend, I nearly passed out from surprise. Throw in the fact that a ten-minute walk away would lead me to an ornately painted and unorthodox outfitted 2017 Camaro SS with loads of attitude, and the need for a fainting couch became clearly apparent.
Where was I? Was I still in Chiba City, just outside of Tokyo, nestled deep within the gaping folds of the sloping, multi-structured convention complex known as the Makuhari Messe? Indeed, I was still here, and the builds that stood in front of me demanded an explanation. For it is not every day that one encounters a JDM influenced “GM import,” and discovering more than one in a single weekend most certainly warranted a quick write-up in LSX Mag.
Liberty Walk C8 Corvettes: Love ‘Em… Hate ‘Em… Can’t Ignore ‘Em
Over the years, Liberty Walk has earned a name in the aerodynamics arena. With virtually every automaker bearing a European badge, a supercar nomenclature, an engine that isn’t out front, some form of Japanese sports car heritage, or a six-figure sticker price earning a spot in the Japanese firm’s portfolio.
So when I encountered both versions of the LB-Silhouette WORKS GT C8 Corvette at TAS this year, I had to give the company’s only GM offerings a thorough inspection. For me, “aero enhancements” such as these bring forth conflicting feelings. Like every other Liberty Walk concoction, the craftsmanship that goes into each C8 aero kit is spot-on, the appearance slice of the pie is undeniably impressive, and the fitment is on an OEM level. But the practical purist in me cringes too.
Part of me wants to fawn over a Corvette C8 that has been enhanced with Liberty Walk widebody aero parts and a rear spoiler the size of the Texas panhandle. However, another part of me wants to faint over the fact that the vehicle’s lines have been so augmented that they have begun to resemble a celebrity with entirely too much plastic surgery.
Packing a price tag that tops $21,000, the carbon fiber aero enhancements on these cars walks a complex tightrope between outstanding aesthetics, questionable downforce disbursement, and undeniable impracticality. Bagged and outfitted with LD97 forged rollers on every corner, both C8’s garnered a massive amount of attention at the show, like exotic American immigrants on forbidden foreign soil.
Beautiful and Bizarre: The Rohan Izawa Art Design Camaro
Founded around a man who is considered one of the greatest automotive engravers and painters on the planet, Rohan Izawa Art Design always does things differently. The automotive brainchild of Takahiko Izawa has crafted quite a few “American imports” over the years, with one-off widebody Challengers, immaculately engraved ’58 Impalas, and custom choppers gracing the Rohan stage at TAS.
This year, a 2017 Camaro SS grabbed my attention at the Rohan booth. Complete with heavily modified OEM aero ducting and bumpers, one-off under spoilers/diffusers, custom emblazoned in-house side skirts, and canards at every corner. Slammed to the cement, the exterior of the SS was made all the more memorable by a set of 21×10-inch front, 21×11-inch rear Rohan original GSR GS-1 wheels, which are but one of the many offerings provided by the brand.
A quick scroll over to the Rohan Izawa Art Design Facebook page and a glance at the company’s photo uploads provide all the info one needs to figure out what this brand is all about. Talented and teetering on the tip of being labeled as extreme (even by Japanese standards), Rohan’s builds are both beautiful and baffling to encounter in person.
But I digress…
Turning back to the SS, you will see that it sports a unique external motif. This is no ordinary paint job either, but a patented “Grinder Tattoo Wrapping Sheet,” which is not vinyl at all but swaths of engraved and custom painted aluminum plating. This most recent technological advancement allows Izawa-san to put down his angle grinders for a change. His patterns are printed directly onto the aluminum before being finished with whatever painted pigments and fluorine coatings are desired.
Produced exclusively for Rohan and produced 100-percent in Japan, the brand’s patented original “Grinder Tattoo Sheets” are just as ornate and unique as the vehicles that it clads. Coupled with the company’s invested interest in the UV immune paint called “IZ Kandy,” and becomes clear that there’s a whole lot of show to go with all of the 2017 SS Camaro’s LT1 “go.”
But much like the Liberty Walk C8 Vettes, the Rohan Camaro is not for everyone. But even if these builds are not your cup of green tea, you have to admit that they sure are fun to look at. And that there is no denying the level of creativity, skill, patience, and technology that goes into transforming what most Americans consider to be ordinary GM offerings into wild “Japanese imports.”