The Ardmore Showdown, a slightly ambiguous name, and it doesn't…
Through the eyes of a TAS Virgin
A bucket list tick.
I think back to the first time that I ever saw pictures of this event, seeing the plethora of amazing rides all in one place at the one time. Rides so next level that if you saw them on their own, they would amaze, but when bunched together under the one roof, they melted the mind. We are talking about the Tokyo Auto Salon, held annually at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Tokyo, Japan. It should really be called the ‘Mec-car’ as it should be a compulsory pilgrimage for anyone into Japanese car culture. So for the stars to align and have the opportunity to attend the event, excitement levels were at an all time high. I also promised myself that I would not overhype the event, so when I finally arrive that it is not a let down. In hindsight I don’t think you can overhype this event, it is just extraordinary.
A gargantuan event.
Lets just say that when we pulled up to the event out of our taxi, the scale of the event was finally apparent. The Makuhari Messe is colossal, if you are from New Zealand you know the size of the ASB showgrounds in Auckland, times that by ten and you get an idea of the size of how huge this event is. In fact an official press release from the TAS team boggle the mind. All in all there were 840 cars on display. There was a total number of 425 vendors that had displays which varied from having a car with some stickers on it, to fully fledged, high-end showroom level displays. And to view the cars on display almost 300,000 people purchased a ticket to attend. Add the paying public to the massive army of staff (which did a stellar job of making sure that the event ran smoothly, might I add) and you have one of the largest car shows on the planet.
From the angle of the organisers the attendance numbers are first rate, but from the angle of media this was a nightmare. Why you ask, well I will tell you, Friday morning till after lunch is the only time you can get an unobstructed photo, as this is the ‘press only’ allocated time. Good luck trying to take a photo on the Saturday, it is just mental. On the subject of mental, most companies hire promotional models or ‘race queens’ to parade around on their stand for a few minutes at a time throughout the weekend. When they do come out to pose, all hell breaks loose, a swarm of (usually older) men congregate in-front of the girls with their high-end DSLR cameras and ultra zoom lenses, and fight for the attention of the girls to take photos for their personal collections. It was bizarre to say the least, but I am told this is normal behaviour at TAS.
Another big difference between shows in New Zealand and TAS, barriers around cars were almost non-existent. Besides a handful of high-level race cars, none of the vehicles were roped off. But they did not need to be, people got close to the cars but never touched any of them and gave them a bubble. This also meant if you had the opportunity you could get some good photos without any annoying tape or ropes in the way. New Zealand definitely needs to take a leaf out of these books.
Quality and quantity.
In most cases, pushing for large entry numbers leads to a decline in the standard of vehicles on display. At TAS this rule does not apply. Amazing rides are everywhere; you get overwhelmed by all the awesome that is around you. In New Zealand, we are always working with small budgets and big dreams. As Kiwi’s have amazing ideas, and are always trying to come up with new things. We could always do simple things amazing well, and stay within our budgets, but that wouldn’t be individual or pushing the boundaries. If you are going to put your car on display at TAS you are putting your pride on the line. One of the things that we noticed is that, even if your company was selling a few products it would still need the car to appeal on all levels. For example, say a company was selling a custom front lip and side skirts. This company would have to modify the rest the car with the best wheels, suspension, brakes and interior mods. And this is all so your vehicle doesn’t look out of place amongst all the other pristine rides. We can only imagine the amount of pressure the workshops building the cars before the show must be under. Completing vehicles on this level under secrecy and super tight deadlines must create, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ pressure cooker level tension.
Age is just a number
So in New Zealand there seems to be this mid 20’s ceiling to modifying Japanese cars, something that I personally hope will change, as I feel the best cars of your life will built between you 30’s to 50’s. This age range is when you will be able to enjoy the car and still be able to pay for the modifications that you want. This is also beneficial, as by your late 20’s girls have wizened up to your antics, and are no longer into you because you have a sweet ride. So you now modify your car because it is something that you do for yourself.