We Attend ASEAN's Largest, Most Elaborate Modified Automotive Show

Gerald Yuen
4 Jul 2022

The automotive scene in Thailand never ceases to amaze even the most hardcore of petrolheads. Apart from traditional events like Bangkok International Motor Show and Thailand International Motor Expo that prioritise new product launches, we can also look forward to plus-sized exhibitions in the form of Bangkok Auto Salon - ASEAN’s largest custom car show, and arguably the most extravagant in Asia apart from Tokyo Auto Salon.

Now in its 8th installation and held from 29 June - 3 July at Impact Challenger Hall, organisers during their pre-event press conference acknowledged the ever-changing landscape in the world of automotive customisation. Surely that had to do with the proliferation of EVs, but we can confirm that old school metal propelled by highly-tuned internal combustion engines are still very well received in this part of ASEAN.

Perhaps even more so when taxes for imported accessories are tagged at 300% in Thailand. It is common to find a stripped-down Mitsubishi Lancer “restored” to full Evo spec here - understandably so as it gets to skip CBU-related fees.

A 50th anniversary CBU R35 Nissan GT-R (if you can still get your hands on one) costs more than half a million SGD in Thailand (THB11.3 million), equivalent to the price of eight locally-assembled Toyota Camrys (CKD). I guess that elevates the appeal of these full imports in Thailand, perhaps even more so than Singapore’s automotive scene since all cars are imported and taxed on multiple fronts anyway. At least until Hyundai leaves its mark in Jurong West with locally-made EVs.

All eyes were on full imports - thoroughbred JDMs headlined by Top Secret’s glitzy R35 GT-R, RE Amemiya Super G NA-7 Mazda RX7, a Suzuki Jimny Sierra fettled by N’s Stage, FE Honda Civic by Blitz, EVA Supra for anime lovers and a widebody Subaru BRZ tuned by Kuhl Racing.

Other highlights include an EV section with independent groups of engineers promoting full EV conversions. There’s also an area reserved for decked-out off-roaders that double as camping companions. Editor James could entirely relate having spent a weekend “glamping” at Goodwood Festival of Speed under the hospitality of Porsche. Over at the far end sat a mouth-watering display of auction cars ranging from Japanese performance wagons to fast German sedans.

This show did not only feature precious modified metal from Japan although we reckon they would be the highlight for most, including us. There’s reassurance from tuners in other markets like China and Vietnam that offer interesting go fast bits and visual upgrades for cult cars. They are pushing hard to move the game - a direction we believe is crucial to maintain regional interest in the aftermarket scene.

We reckon that this level of intensity and enthusiasm could not be sustained without the spirit of the local car scene, with streams of car clubs lined outside the loading bays of Impact Challenger stretching way past the main exhibits. Passion knows no boundaries, quite literally so. Stanced wagons with negative cambers, K24-swapped Civics, supercharged classic BMWs, Dakar-inspired Hiluxes as tall as concrete mixers and drag-ready exotics - sensory overload at its finest.

With the custom car scene increasingly reserved for a handful with very deep pockets, it is still encouraging to witness the intricacies of this culture on such a large scale. Now made more accessible with border restrictions almost back to pre-pandemic level, a 2-hour flight plus 30-minute drive from Singapore to Impact Challenger Muang Thong Thani for the next show is more than worth it!

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