Want to build a VIP Style car? Here’s our favourite picks for the best VIP Style project car…
Of all the niche and not-so-niche trends on the global tuning scene, there’s none more gangsta than the VIP look. We’re talking massive luxury saloons, panscraping stance, blingin’ rims, eyewatering camber… although there is actually a bit more to it than that.
Known domestically as ‘bippu’ (Japanese for ‘very important person’), VIP-style originated with the Yakuza – the bosses of organised crime syndicates wanted big flashy cars, but knew that rival gangs and the police would be immediately suspicious to see them in European luxury cruisers.
So instead of rolling in top-flight Beemers, Mercs or Rollers, they set about up-speccing JDM cars like the Toyota Crown and the Nissan Gloria.
As time moved on and the scene evolved, today’s bippu cars are characterised by high-end wheels with loads of dish, very low ride height, huge negative camber, aggressive skirts and lips, and very glossy paint – usually in a subtle black, white or silver.
VIP, then, is a style – this means that, while it’s logically and usually applied to big-ass luxury cars, it’s a set of values that can be affixed to any car you like. There are oodles of Kei VIP builds on the scene, and VIP minivans – you name it, it’s out there.
So if you fancy rocking the scary, moody VIP style but you’ve got a Corsa parked on the drive (or you feel like giving your grandad’s Previa a bit of a makeover), there’s nothing stopping you.
However, if you want to go traditional bippu – and let’s face it, why the hell wouldn’t you want to? – we’ve pulled together our top ten base cars for a boss-level VIP Style car project…
1. TOYOTA CROWN ATHLETE
The Crown’s been on the VIP scene since its inception. Hardly surprising really, as the first-generation Crown came out in 1955, so the model’s as deeply interwoven into Japanese culture as rice wine and clichés about karaoke.
This iconic model is now running in its fifteenth generation and is showing no signs of slowing down, and the one we reckon would best suit your needs for a VIP project is the eleventh-gen Crown S170, built from 1999-2003.
Why this one in particular? Well, this is the one that Toyota decided to fit with the 1JZ-GTE engine – the turbocharged 2.5-litre straight-six with BEAMS tech. The one you want is the ‘Athlete V’ spec; you’ll have to put up with an automatic gearbox, but you’ll also have close to 300bhp.
Brilliantly, they came with optional factory air-ride, which can presumably be fiddled with to dump the thing on the ground. (Or just rip it out and slam it on coils!) Rear sunshades and rear-mounted climate and audio controls were optional, so you’re already halfway to being a Yakuza boss.
How much? £5,000
2. LEXUS GS300
Remember what Alan Partridge said about Lexus? “It’s the Japanese Mercedes.” Well, it can’t possibly get any more bippu-style than that, can it? Lexus is the very definition of what VIP cars are about.
It may seem more logical for us to talk about the flagship LS models, but we reckon the GS is a better shout for a UK VIP project.
The LS is pretty polarised between knackered older ones and very pricey newer ones, but in the middle ground you’ll find oodles of GS300s, and they’re by no means a poor relation.
The second-gen GS (1997-2005) was available with the 2JZ-GTE motor, so you get hilarious amounts of power to go with your plush, opulent seats and shiny walnut burr trim.
Oh, and if you can track down the obscure-but-interesting GS400, you get a 4.0-litre V8 – or a 4.3-litre in the later GS430. These slab-sided brutes look outstanding sitting super-low over posh rims.
How much? £3,000
3. BMW 760LI
If there’s one thing mob bosses really love, it’s having absolutely buttloads of legroom. Being able to put your feet up at full stretch, possibly using a bound and gagged business rival as a bloodied footstool.
You see, this is an essential part of the ‘bippu’ or ‘das bippu’ lifestyle as your henchmen whisk you under the city streetlights. So what you really need is something impressively long – say, a long-wheelbase 7 Series.
OK, European cars aren’t in-keeping with traditional bippu culture, but the world’s moved on. And when you clock the depreciation figures of these brutes, they’ll really start to make sense to you as a used purchase.
Just take a look at the E66 (2001-08) 760Li. This mile-long goliath packs a creamy-smooth 6.0-litre V12, giving you 439bhp to outrun the fuzz – and imagine what that’d sound like on open pipes!
The optional soft-close doors offer proper Rolls-Royce levels of VIP swank too. Do it! You know you want too!
How much? £15,000
4. NISSAN PRESIDENT
A very important part of Japanese tuning culture is to do things which outrageously and unashamedly take the piss. The bōsōzoku are a keen example of this, waving two fingers at every global scene and just doing whatever the hell they want.
And look at all the street-racers strapping turbos to their Civics as if to say ‘Yeah, the VTEC’s great, but you haven’t tried hard enough, Honda’.
And so it is with the Nissan President. Turning one of these into a VIP project is the same as running up to a government official and planting your boot in his plums.
The Nissan President was a car aimed at ministers, royals and other posh types, and the third-generation (PGF50) car is the one you want.
Sold from 2001-2010, it had a 4.5-litre V8 and, if you opt for the four-seat rather than the five-seat version, you’ll find acres of fanciness: advanced Bose audio and a central armrest that controls all sorts of devices.
Ooh and let’s not forget the ‘relaxing seat’ – which means that the front passenger seat can be slid all the way up to the dash, so the plutocrat behind can relaaaax. Aaaaaaaaaaaah lovely. Now pass the Cristal Jeeves!
How much? £9,000
5. MERCEDES-BENZ S600
There are no cars in the world more advanced than the Mercedes-Benz S Class, that’s just a solid-gold fact.
Sure, there are more expensive cars, and faster cars, and cleverer cars, but the S Class has always been the model that pioneers new technology before any other manufacturer in the world has a chance to catch up.
Since 1972, the S Class has been revealing world-firsts from padded steering wheels to airbags, LED lights to Magic Body Control.
Much like the BMW 760Li, the S Class depreciates like a stone through a wet paper bag. Our hot tip is the W220 – the one sold from 1998-2005.
It came with a baffling range of engines – fourteen different ones! – so you might as well just say ‘sod it’ and go for the S600, because that’s got a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12, and life’s too short to be sensible.
Get the rims, get the camber, get the pipes, and throw dollar bills at the peasants as you rumble by. Move it poor people, coming through!
How much? £9,000
6. VOLKSWAGEN PHAETON
VIP ain’t just for high-rollers. The very essence of bling is to create the appearance of wealth. If it’s all an illusion, who cares? The impact is exactly the same.
So there’s nothing wrong with mapping out your project budget and diverting almost all of it to the wheels and the suspension, and leaving next to nothing with which to buy the car.
Will this work? Of course it will. Because the Volkswagen Phaeton exists, and the Phaeton is a very stupid car indeed.
Alright, no, it’s not the car that’s stupid. It’s Volkswagen. Because they thought people would be prepared to pay massive amounts of money for a luxury saloon, and the sort of people who’d be happy to pay those prices took one look at it and said “Er, no thanks, it looks like a big Passat”.
Their loss is your gain. You can get a Phaeton for under three grand now, which isn’t bad for a car based on the Bentley Continental floorpan which was designed under a brief to be driven all day at 186mph, in 50-degree heat, in total comfort.
Budget gangsta? Hell yeah, we’ve got time for that.
How much? £3,000
7. ROLLS-ROYCE SILVER SHADOW
We’re going to have to open this one with a disclaimer: please don’t blame us if you buy a Silver Shadow and it breaks, and then you have to sell your house and your children and all your records to fix it. That… that might happen. But what a way to go, huh?
It just makes sense to include this in the Top Ten – after all, cars don’t get any more luxurious than a Rolls-Royce, and the Silver Shadow is the classic Roller shape.
And while trad-bippu may insist that VIP builds be JDM, we don’t see anything wrong with slamming a Shadow – it’s got the perfect proportions and dimensions for a VIP build, as well as a sodding great motor (which, once again, would sound like a race car if you ran it unsilenced), plushness for days inside, and obviously it’s a goddamn Rolls-Royce.
And that factory hydropneumatic suspension is so fiercely complicated, frankly it’s the right thing to do to just tear it all out and fit a proper air-ride system.
We were going to put a Jaguar XJ6 on this list, but the Silver Shadow didn’t like that idea and we had to do what it said. You always have to obey a Rolls-Royce.
How much? £12,000
8. HYUNDAI XG30
If you’re dead set on using an Asian car for your VIP build, you still don’t have to confine yourself to Japanese rides. How about popping across the water to South Korea? There are plenty of options there too!
Our pick of the bunch is the Hyundai XG30 (which you may also find badged as the XG300, or the Grandeur). Built from 1999-2005, you’ll be guaranteed exclusivity on the UK-VIP scene owing to the fact that there are fewer than a hundred of these cars on the road here.
But if you can find one, you’ll be able to pick it up cheap, and you’ll get a 3.0-litre V6, heated memory seats, electric moonroof, Infinity audio, electrochromic rear-view mirror with built-in garage opener, and all sorts of other Yakuza crap.
This is the first time the XG30 has been mentioned in Fast Car, and we’ve only ever seen one modified (yes, in the VIP style, with 3-spoke Freelander wheels), so now’s your chance to build something unique. Go!
How much? £2,000
9. NISSAN GLORIA
If you ask a bippu connoisseur what the ideal car would be for a VIP project, there’s a pretty decent chance that they’ll suggest the Nissan Gloria. It’s a scene icon.
But which one should you choose? It was in production from 1959-2004, spanning eleven generations. The answer is that they’re all good, but we’d fancy the penultimate one, the Y33 – this one was available with the revered RB25DET engine (coupled with AWD and ATTESA E-TS, like a stealthy Skyline GT-R!).
It could also be had with the VQ30DET if you fancied getting similar power from a V6 instead of a straight-six. It’s not clear why they did this, but let’s not question it.
Whichever way you go – and even if you go for the slightly boring Gloria diesel – you’ll be getting the archetypal VIP shape: a three-box saloon that looks like those generic unbranded cars in early versions of Grand Theft Auto, which will give you maximum scene points and knowing nods from Japanese gangsters. Sick transit, Gloria!
(At time of writing, we can’t actually find any for sale in the UK, so you’ll probably have to import one yourself – which will just make your project cooler, obviously.)
How much? £5,000+
10. ROVER 75
Okay, okay, don’t laugh! Before the British motor industry collapsed like a soufflé in a warm cupboard, Rover used to fly the flag for everyman luxury cars in the UK.
The top-spec models were opulently appointed and luxurious-ish (well, compared to their rivals from Ford and Vauxhall anyway), and even the lesser ones had the option of fake plastic walnut trim.
If you can find one, the perfect donor for a VIP project would be the long wheelbase version, although we’ve checked with the DVLA and there’s actually only four of them left in the country, so that might not work.
What we’d recommend is the post-2004 facelift V6 Connoisseur SE – this has a 2.5-litre V6 (don’t be fooled by the earlier V6, that’s only a 2.0) which sounds frickin’ awesome on straight-through exhausts.
And the top-level spec includes electric leather seats, 8-speaker Alpine audio, electric sunblinds, chrome wing mirrors – you’re on the way to bippu before you’ve even chopped the coils!
Also, you can buy a really decent one for well under two grand as well. This is even more budget gangsta than the Phaeton…
How much? £2,000
So finally, VIP essentials, and where to get them
The basic ingredients for a VIP build are: high-end wheels with aggressive fitment, super-low ride height, imposing body upgrades (i.e. wide skirts or widened wings – but not ostentatious bōsō-style spoilers and so on; you simply want to accentuate the car’s existing lines), extreme camber, and loud pipes.
So where do you get all this stuff? Well, for wheels, you could talk to WORK, VIP Modular, Leon Hardiritt or SSR. Suspension? Coils may not get you as low as VIP demands, so talk to Air Lift Performance about bagging the thing, and prepare yourself for some serious chassis notching while you’re at it.
Wing-widening? The UK is full of custom bodyshops eager to tackle this sort of caper – South Coast Workshop, DC Customs, Fullyloaded Cars, all sorts.
Powerflow can put together those noisy straight-through exhausts for you. Driftworks can sort you out with camber arms and chassis/suspension upgrades, although you’ll need some fabrication work to get the angles to those eye-popping extremes!
And the essential flourish is the interior. After all, VIP needs to really mean VIP, so you’ll need an opulent retrim and a high-spec multimedia audio install. Plush Automotive are the guys to talk to about this – they know a thing or two about plushness, that’s why they’re called that.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the car needs to be ridiculously clean. Like, never-seen-rain, never-been-outside clean.
Meguiars can hook you up with all the products you need. You’ll have to set aside some time, there are no half-measures with VIP!
Words Dan Bevis