The Evolution of American VIP Style
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when VIP style landed in the U.S., but most would agree Bippu builds in America began to pop up around 2004 or 2005. By that time, the movement was already quite established in its birthplace of Japan. In the years since, the American VIP scene has evolved, in some ways following the trends from Japan and in other ways developing its own identity.
During the recent Autofashion VIP Festival in San Diego, there were VIP builds of all eras and styles to be found and we thought it was the perfect time to take a look back at how VIP cars have changed, particularly here in the U.S.
The Original VIP Style
When a small group first started bringing the Japan-influenced VIP style to America, the cars were pretty simple in execution—not unlike how most of the VIP builds in Japan were.
You'd start with something like a Lexus LS or GS or an Infiniti Q45, drop the suspension, fit a mild aero kit and also add a set of wide, but not obnoxious, wheels to fill up the fenders. Add a few subtle interior bits and you'd be good to go.
These early cars were relatively subtle, but given how rare and unknown the style was in America—a clean sedan dropped on a nice set of Work Eurolines or Junction Produce Scaras made a big impact.
Evolving VIP Style
As time went on, the modifications began to get more extreme and further bespoke in nature. There were full repaints, custom upholstery and one-off body work to help fit increasingly aggressive wheel and tire setups.
And with the "stance" movement blowing up in the first few years of the 2010s, VIP builders continued to push further and further with the negative offsets and crazy negative camber—again not unlike the VIP cars found in Japan.
While traditionally painted in black, white or silver, VIP cars were soon sporting a rainbow of color choices—everything from bright red to heavily metallic yellows and greens.
Looking for even more ways to stand out, VIP builders started doing things like custom painting their engine covers, building entirely custom light setups and other one-off modifications that couldn't just be bought and installed.
And when it came to the bodies of the cars, what was once subtle and elegant became increasingly aggressive. Gone were the understated lip kits, in their place bumpers that brought to mind exotic cars, heavy on angles and in some ways being inspired more by race cars than by luxury cars.
Over the years, the VIP scene in America has expanded to include non-traditional platforms. Reaching beyond just Japanese luxury cars, minivans, European imports, along with a few domestics, like the Chrysler 300C, have been added into the mix.
A few years later, when the Hyundai Genesis arrived on the scene, that too began to be modified with a heavy VIP influence.
The Future of VIP Style Builds
With the traits of VIP style limited not limited to only Japanese cars, the U.S. movement has become more diverse and that has allowed it to stay fresh and exciting.
Meanwhile, as new luxury sedans and coupes from brands like Lexus and Infiniti are released, the aftermarket was right there to welcome the new cars into the VIP movement
Perhaps the biggest observation I had during the Autofashion VIP Festival was when I saw the brand new Lexus LC500 from T Demand. Not only did the car look stunning, but it got me thinking about the evolution of VIP style and how things might be coming full circle.
In recent years, Japanese automakers have gotten a lot more extreme with their styling, with luxury sedans looking completely different from the simple designs of the '90s. This should bring along with it a big effect for the future of VIP style.
If you look at current Lexus and Infiniti products next to their counterparts from the '90s, the difference is astounding. Gone are the conservative designs of the past, replaced with much more angular and sweeping body shapes.
Take the aforementioned LC500 for example. In stock form it's a very bold design, with a wide profile and aggressive details. So when it comes time to modify one, it's amazing what some simple suspension, wheel and modest body work can do.
Does this mean that VIP style will go back to a simpler, more subtle approach with less extreme camber and more conservative body changes? It wouldn't be surprising given how much the cars have changed.
At the same time companies and builders are embracing the latest cars, there's still lots of love for the original VIP platforms—many of which are over 25 years old at this point. It's cool to see that there's still plenty of appreciation for these early '90s luxury cars.
Time will tell what the next evolution of the VIP scene, in both Japan and America, will be—whatever happens, it's clear that scene is strong and we are excited to see where it goes.