The Homemade VIP Hero
A Japanese Icon

If you were to put together a list of the greatest Japanese cars of all time, there are few models that would receive unanimous nominations. The Skyline GT-R would probably be one of them, so would the Fairlady Z, along with the Mazda RX-7 and the MX-5. A good case could be made for cars like the Supra and the Honda NSX as well. One car, however, that I personally feel belongs near the top of that list is the Lexus LS.

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Sure, it might not be a legendary backroad burner or motorsport hero like some of the others I mentioned, but it was an absolute game changer. The development of the original LS400 was one of the most ambitious (and expensive) projects in automotive history. It also proved that the Japanese could build a true world-class luxury sedan. And without the success of that car it’s doubtful that the Lexus brand would have gone on to become what it is today.

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Aside from its historical significance, the LS is a damn cool car in its own right. It has a velvety smooth quad cam V8, classic luxury sedan looks, exquisite build quality and it’s known for being one of the most reliable automobiles ever built. It’s the type of car that makes me think turning into an old man might not be such a bad thing…

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But beside from its original target market of well-to-do businessmen and old folks, the LS and its Japanese market twin – the Toyota Celsior – also have a very strong following among customizers. It’s one of the quintessential vehicles of Japan’s VIP scene, and in the past decade or so American builders have been following suit with their own unique takes on the Bippu movement.

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That brings us to an American-built 2004 LS340 representing a group called Squad One. What is Squad One you ask? It’s a fellowship of VIP enthusiasts out of Las Vegas that includes the car’s owner Vireak Sar, and his friend Jonothan Carino who is responsible for building it.

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Vireak and Jonothan have known each other since junior high school and Jonothan has always been the major gearhead of the duo. He’s an experienced mechanic and bodyman with an automotive history that includes everything from Honda race cars to a customized ’67 Impala.

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So when Vireak acquired the Lexus back in 2009 with the idea of converting it into a full-on VIP machine, it was decided that all the work would be undertaken in Jonothan’s garage rather than paying a shop to do it. Over the last several years, with the help of their Squad One buddies, they’ve turned the LS into a car that’s surely one of the top VIP builds on US soil.

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Accomplishing that required much more than just a nice set of wheels and lowered suspension though. A lot of the 430’s inspiration was taken from VIP cars of Japan, which typically feature one-off bodywork along with fully customized interiors. I’ve got to say that they’ve succeeded in their mission – the LS looks like it’d be right at home parked in front of a hostess club in Osaka.

Recipe For Style
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Body styling is the key to any good VIP build, and the guys could have easily sourced any number of attractive off-the-shelf kits from Japan for the project. But instead of that, Jonothan decided that he would build his own body parts from scratch.

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The custom kit includes a one-off front bumper with carbon fiber lip, side skirts and rear bumper. The parts certainly don’t look homebuilt, and that’s a strong testament to Jonothan’s body skills.

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The factory steel fenders have also been custom-widened with integrated vents added to the front for a more aggressive look.

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All of that is set off by simple roof and trunk spoilers from AIMGAIN, along with a nice coat of Mercedes-Benz Artic White paint and some subtle striping.

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Nothing is more crucial to pulling off the proper VIP look than ride height and wheel setup. To get the big Lexus sitting tough without sacrificing comfort on the road, the LS has been fitted with Tein Comfort Sport struts mated with a Universal air bag system. Pressure comes from twin Viair 444C compressors fed by a 7-gallon tank, with adjustments performed by a 9-switch controller.

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The other part of the equation is wheels, and I don’t think you’ll find many objections to the choice of Super Star Leon Hardiritt Ordens with a diamond machined finish. There’s just no arguing with the traditional large face, five-spoke design on a car like this.

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The wheels measure 20×9.5-inch in the front and 20×10.5-inch in the rear, while the tires are 225/30R20 and 235/30R20 Falken Azenis FK453s respectively.

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Like on most VIP cars, the 3UZ-FE V8 beneath the hood of the LS has been left stock. There is, however, a custom exhaust system that helps give the Lexus the rumble it deserves.

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Dress-up work has been done though, and includes a smoothed and painted engine cover, and chrome plating on the radiator support, hood hinges and many of the nuts and bolts.

First Class Accommodations
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When I asked Jonothan what his favorite part of the car was, he said it was the interior. Once you see what’s gone into the LS430’s cabin, it’s not difficult to see how he arrived at the answer either.

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The upholstery has been completely reimagined in rich red leather with a diamond stitched pattern, and the dashboard and other interior panels have been dyed to match.

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Along with the the custom upholstery, all of the requisite VIP interior additions are present and accounted for. Jaguar rear seat tables? Check. Neck pillows? Got it. Rear seat monitors? Yep.

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Pop the trunk and you’ll find wooden flooring with piano black trim, red leather paneling and custom housings for the air suspension setup and Alpine audio equipment.

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Not to be forgotten is the custom lighting throughout the car, including two-color halo headlights, LED marker lights and LED accent lighting both in the cabin and in the trunk.

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It’s always been the personalized touches that separate the truly impressive VIP builds from the crowd, and this car is packing enough of them to put it at the forefront of America’s ever-growing VIP scene.

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Whether or not you agree with my view of the Lexus LS being one of the greatest Japanese cars of all time, there’s no denying the effort that has gone into this build.

It’s not only an appropriate tribute to the Japanese roots of the scene, but the homegrown touches and high quality of work have given Jonothan, Vireak and the rest of Squad One something to be very proud of.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike
mike@speedhunters.com

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor
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36 comments

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1

Butter smooth LS

2

Gorgeous VIP build & the custom DIY work @ this level of fit+finish just makes it so much nicer.

3

Make sure you guys check out presentation mode. I added a few bonus images to the end!

4

I'll never understand it.

5
Gianluca FairladyZ

Man these pictures...!  That's awesome!!!! Love the Orden's..! All time favourite VIP Wheel..!!

6

And we're back to this...

7

kphillips9936 Each feature we publish is catered to a different audience and that's the way it's always going to be. Variety will always be the spice of life here at Speedhunters, so if you're not a VIP fan, that's not a problem! :)

8

Taryn Croucher Why don't you guys feature more cars powered by jet engines! Gosh!

9

kphillips9936 And what exactly is wrong with "this"?

10

Taryn Croucher kphillips9936 No problem at all. It's a nice vehicle, just not my cup of coffee.

11

CEL400 kphillips9936 Nothing. Relax. Nice ride, just not my preference.

12

Always been a fan of the LS series so I couldn't agree more with your statement about it being a japanese hero. Also love the fact that he didn't get carried away with camber. Lastly I love the location you picked here in San Diego, I've gotta know your night photography secrets Larry Chen !!!

13
turbo BEAMS ae86

Vip is ALIVE in nordamerika...many are here doing gods work..Even like me some are from other lands..enjoy it

14

Too much. An LS should be an extremely powerful sleeper with as stock looks as possible.
The red interior resembles some shady nightclub and the lights on the outside resemble some circus act.
Its ok when japanese do these, since they're from Mars, apparently.

15

@Epoxy 'Should' according to...?

16

pure sex imo...but i do agree that coulda put some bolt ons under the hood though..

17

@Epoxy So one group of enthusiasts can do something to their car and it's "cool", but if someone else does it, then it's "too much". Your logic is astounding.

18

kphillips9936 Taryn Croucher Don't click the link, then. Easy enough.

19

Could've used a bit of camber in the back, aside from that its well executed.

20

cgpexcoupe kphillips9936 Taryn Croucher How about I click to see what all the hub-bub is about and comment how I like. Sounds simple enough?

21

@Epoxy The whole point of the outside and interior of this car is to resemble Japanese VIP tuning style.

22

kphillips9936 
And we're back to this...(has a negative connotation which infers you don't like this) which is why people are wondering why you don't like this feature.

23

Terencey kphillips9936 Ugh, here we go again. Why is it on topics of these type of rides that everyone get so touchy? 
Can't even raise an eyebrow w/o everyone and their mama getting a severe and contagious case of butt-hurt? Just find it funny that the post are all awesome with racing, drifting, muscle cars and so on...but then we slow things down for these rides. As I stated, it's a nice care just not something you'd find me driving.
Not bashing or trashing so chill out.

24

Larry Chen Taryn Croucher How about more features minus stance, assbo whatever the hell his name is and vossen wheels? And also give me a job!!

25

I love it!! And the best part to me is the custom aero its as high as customizing a car can get Very unique....great post

26

Larry, you skill as a photographer baffles me on a regular basis. Hands down some of the coolest backdrop for a shoot!

By the way, "That brings us to an American-built 2004 LS340" should read LS430 :)

27

JustinBrostrom Haha, it's cool that you recognized the location. What a great place to shoot!

28

kphillips9936 If whining with impunity is your idea of freedom of speech, count me out.

29

kphillips9936 Au contraire: "and we're back to this" IS in fact a subtle form of bashing. Wake up.

30
Glenn_Quagmire

WOuld rock it till the wheels fell off. Two thumbs up.

31
702tatted_Aplus

I am a huge fan. I used to live down the street from these guys who built the car. I seen all this before anyone did and man it makes me smile from ear to ear every time I see it. I see the car owner in my hood to this day. This car is 100% dope

32
702tatted_Aplus

I am a huge fan. I used to live down the street from these guys who built the car. I seen all this before anyone did and man it makes me smile from ear to ear every time I see it. I see the car owner in my hood to this day. This car is 100% dope

33
AgustinJonjonFiger

702tatted_Aplus Brah, I live in vegas too. Do you know where they got the diamond stitch leather seat covers from?

34

I always thought the GS was cooler. This car is pretty rad though. That interior...

35

my father in-law recently got a nearly new yellow Audi Q3 SUV just by some part time working online with a computer.  look at more http://tinyurl.com/dailyjobs04

36
Christian Gonzalez

NICE RIDE!!!

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