The VIP Journey Begins…

Well today was the day.

I said my final goodbye to Snow White. It all happened so quickly – I remember wanting it so bad at one point and now recently, wanting to get rid of it so bad. It’s weird because like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I don’t really develop any kind of attachment to a car. I get it, I work on it, I get bored, I move on. Sure, I miss how the Civic used to look but I don’t regret anything. Sure, I miss how the STI used to look, but I don’t regret anything either. I’m happy I got to build two great cars and I’m looking forward to the next one.

I know I said this before with the STI, but I really do want to try and keep the LS a little longer. I want this to be my main ongoing and long-term project. I want to take my time and build it up slowly. One thing is for sure – I really want to do something that nobody has done yet and maybe even bring a little more attention to the VIP scene around here. There are a lot of hybrid VIP-style cars, but nothing true to the VIP scene. It’s tough because it’s an older chassis so it’s rare to find something that hasn’t been done. I worked on the Civic and STI when they were still brand new chassis’ and was able to pave a different road while I could.

I got this from the vipstylecars.com forum… A good read about the VIP scene.

“I think the problem with someone trying to do VIPstyle on a non traditional platform is they don’t know enough about the style to really it acheive that VIPstyle look. Sure, any one can slap on nice fitting wheels, slam the car and put a bodykit on and call it VIPstyle, but does it make it VIPstyle? Maybe or maybe not, and who is there to say that is not? If everyone did this, then VIPstyle would get lose in the translation. The style would be as meanless as “JDM”, which in it’s true form are nothing but original OEM parts (or cars) from Japanese that wasn’t available for international consumption.

Call me a purist or elitist, just because I believe that VIPstyle belongs on certain platforms. But if nobody stands up to the real tradition of VIPstyle, then the word “VIPstyle” will be thrown around like any generic term “because it’s the next coolest thing to come out of Japan”. Do we really want VIPstyle to blow up and be a household word, not me if it’s for the wrong reasons. I would rather get respect from the originator of the style than have a US version of VIPstyle so it will be more marketable for the US manufacturers. This is what it really boils down to, VIPstyle is the lastest trend to come out of Japan. And as with any style that comes out of Japan, alot of people want to be a part of it.”

——

Standing in the middle of a convention hall outside of Philadelphia, Takahiro Taketomi looks a bit like Bogey. His eyes are stern and focused and ringed by the charcoal hue of lost sleep. His short black hair is neat and smoothed and shines. He doesn’t smile. In fact, he speaks with a grimace and like he is always about to light a cigarette.

Taketomi is one of the self-proclaimed founders of VIP style, the next great Japanese micro-trend to surface in America. “Bippu style,” as it is colorfully known in Japan, starts with a high-power luxury sedan. The car is slammed on ultra-thin tires and trimmed with boxy body kits. At first glance, a VIP style car might look like any tuner sedan on its way to Hot Import Nights, but there are specific details that set it apart.

A VIP style car might have a billet grille or metallic trim lines or polished wood inside. Window curtains are big. So are aftermarket emblems and hood ornaments. The look is a bit like Scarface Goes to Japan. And legend has it VIP style has roots in the yakuza (organized crime in Japan). True or not, Taketomi makes a strong case on its behalf.

Through a translator, Taketomi tells us he built his first VIP style car, a Nissan Cedric, in 1993. Three years later he founded Junction Produce, which specializes in products for VIP style cars. Today it is one of the best-known marques in VIP tuning and has its brand on everything from body kits to wheels to cuff links and bracelets. Junction Produce is also the first company of its kind to make a big push into the United States.

According to Taketomi, true VIP style tuning is limited to only 10 Nissan and Toyota models: Nissan President, Cima, Gloria, Cedric and Fuga; Toyota Celsior, Century, Aristo, Crown and Majesta. That’s it. Since most of those models come with powerful turbocharged engines in Japan, VIP style cars are rarely tuned for performance. More important is that they’re slammed as low as they can go on the widest wheels possible. Most of the other tuning parts somehow assist in this goal.

VIP stylers use air suspensions to raise their cars to install the wheels and tires and then lower the car on top. Tires are stretched beyond their limits to fit on oversized wheels. Extreme offsets are used so the wheel lips kiss the fenders. And it’s not unusual to see 245/30R tires on 19×10.5-inch wheels—the tuning equivalent of Fat Albert wearing the shorts of his enunciation-challenged friend Mushmouth.

Kelvin Tohar of Falken Tires, which is helping to spread the word in America, says, “It’s not the safest thing to do and Falken doesn’t recommend you do it for daily driving, but it’s the style.” Falken has partnered with Junction Produce to hawk its line of FR452 tires. In exchange Falken promotes Junction Produce at tuner shows and SEMA events, like the International Auto Salon, where we met Taketomi.

Tohar, who has his own VIP style Lexus GS 300 that he calls by its Japanese moniker Aristo, tells me elegance is the underlying statement. “At car shows, most [owners] won’t raise their hoods because it disrupts the flow of the car,” he says. “Even the Junction Produce exhaust is more of an aesthetic.”

Elegance is the word that’s repeated like a mantra by VIP style owners and companies. But it’s a strange sort of elegance. VIP style companies like Junction Produce, Wald and Auto Couture have logos that look vaguely Oxford Street but are more a Japanese version of mafia royalty, without any ironic subtext, like you’d imagine the parts delivered in purple velvet bags, à la Crown Royal.

And the parts aren’t cheap. Outfitting a car VIP style can run up to $20,000 and beyond. But as Tony Montana says in Scarface, “You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”

With that all said and done – and minus the controversy about what makes a VIP car, I’m excited to get started. It’s a whole new universe and I feel like I’m learning everything about cars all over again. Tomorrow, Galen and Dan from LevelOne are going to be checking out the LS for me and we’ll see where it goes from there. I’m hoping it checks out good and it should be in my garage before Christmas. A little gift for myself!

Anyways here are the last iPhone snaps as Peter drove away in Snow White…

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