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article imageWacky Cars Abound At Upbeat Tokyo Motor Show

By Martin Bensley     Nov 5, 2001 in Technology
TOKYO (dpa) - The Tokyo show is the second major car exhibition after Frankfurt to be overshadowed by world terrorism but Nippon won't allow anthrax and angst to spoil the fun at what promises to be a festival of wacky and extravagant new cars.
As a mark of respect to the victims of U.S. terrorism on September 11th the Japan Motor Industrial Federation opted to cancel the traditional opening ceremony and reception for the 35th Tokyo Motor Show which is open to the public from October 27 to November 5.
Otherwise it will probably be business as usual at the Makuhari Nippon Convention Center in Chiba although security measures are being beefed up for the world's biggest car show with around a million visitors expected to attend.
Japan's overcrowded cities are ideal for small cars and they will feature prominently among the 50 or so new models set to debut. German maker BMW has chosen Tokyo to show off the most powerful model of the new Mini to be offered so far, the aggressive-looking Mini Cooper S.
The "maxi" version of the Mini will go on sale in early 2002, with a 1.6 litre, supercharged engine under the bonnet. Top speed is nigh on 220 kilometres an hour.
The Japanese adore the old Mini so there is a good chance of BMW notching up impressive sales with the Cooper S which is recognizable by its chunky bonnet air intake, colour-matched bumpers and central twin exhaust pipes.
Ford partners Mazda are promising 16 new cars by 2005 and the firm has a new image campaign called "Zoom-Zoom". Mazda is aiming to boost its market segment in Japan from 4.7 to 7 per cent and become the BMW of the domestic market, without losing touch with the grassroots.
"We're not presuming to be a premium marque but we can't survive in the anonymous midfield," Mazda boss Mark Fields told Germany's leading auto motor und sport journal.
As usual many of the models displayed in Tokyo will never find their way out of the country. Take the Mazda Secret Hideout, a cute, retro estate with old-fashioned style "suicide doors" ie the ones that open backwards.
The handsome new Mazda RX-8 sportscar marks a renaissance for the Wankel rotary motor and will be available in versions of 210 and 250 horsepower. Starting at 28,000 dollars prices seem very competitive. The new Mazda 6 series saloon also gets an outing.
Toyota's sexy-looking FX - Future Experimental Sports is a low- slung headturner which makes its appearance before the marque's Formula One debut slated for next year.
The Toyota POD may look like a tin shed with a wheel at each corner but it's actually a mobile Internet cafe complete with bar and swivelling seats. This runabout can also measure the pulse and pespiration levels of its driver and automatically flood the cabin with soothing music to relax stressed-out occupants.
"This concept explores the possibilities of communication between man and the automobile," said a Toyota spokesman.
File under weird and wonderful along with the martial-looking Isuzu Zen, a crossover concept with bamboo mats in the loading bay. The Nissan Nails is dingy-like pick-up with only a zip-up flap between the driver and the load he's carrying while the Suzuki Lapin is a gaudy green and white "fashion car" that looks a little like an electric toaster.
Not to be outdone Germany's Mercedes is a showing a concept that seems tailormade for worldsaving Caped Crusader Batman and his sidekick Robin.
The F 400 Carving is a two-seater roadster with wheels that automatically change their camber to cope with twisty roads and asymetrically-profiled tyres. Strictly a testbed with no production perspective it allegedly goes around corners as if on rails and boasts gadgets such as like fully-electronic steering and hydro- pneumatic suspension.
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