We live in a world of collaborations, where well-known brands work with others to craft bespoke and often limited-run products lines. When executed well, the outcomes of these partnerships can be extremely successful, and I really enjoy seeing different names from different industries working together and spawning unique creations.
While Liberty Walk and VIP specialist K.Break – the collaborators on this Toyota Crown – are both cut from similar cloth, the two Japanese companies mostly work with different types of cars. That said, Kato-san has generated a style that can so easily be applied right across the automotive board – from supercars to kei machines – so it was really only a matter of time before bippu got a look in too.
Kato’s practice of overfendering anything on four wheels is usually met by as much admiration as it is criticism. But in my mind, the big-body Crown couldn’t be a more perfect subject for a fresh wide-body treatment.
When I started covering the Japanese tuning scene many years ago, VIP, or bippu, seemed like a JDM modifying style that was very set in its way. The cars were all domestic, all black, all fitted with dished and polished wheels, and all rode hard on lowered suspension while making a racket thanks to open exhausts. You have to admit, it’s a pretty solid recipe too.
But little did I know then, that this traditional style would someday become the backbone of one of the most progressive modifying trends the custom car world has ever seen. Yes, I’m talking about stance.
With aggressive wheel fitment, a lick of fender persuasion has always been needed, and that’s only inspired people to go more extreme.
One of the earliest adopters was Imamura-san of Bee Dragon. Over the past decade, his fabrications skills and innovative interpretation of VIP style have spawned some of my favorite bippu cars of all time.
Funnily enough, my absolute Bee Dragon favorite – the Q45/Cima I featured way back in 2012 – was sitting on K.Break wheels, so I find it quite interesting that now – eight years later – the car I’m going to share with you today has a K.Break connection too. This is the LB Nation x K.Break Crown.
Overfenders on VIP cars can be considered as yet another evolution of the established style. Will everyone appreciate it? Probably not. But who does things like this to cars in order to conform?
What I see here is a mean S180 Crown, dumped to the ground and looking menacing sitting on SSR Formula MK-III Neo wheels that have been color-matched to the body for a perfectly executed black-on-black appearance.
As a whole, it manages to combine the almost sporty Bee Dragon VIP aesthetic that Imamura-san pioneered, but presents it in an up-to-the-minute way.
By using overfenders, both the cost and time to complete a wide-body conversion is cut considerably. Months of work spent massaging metal fenders to swallow up wide wheels is replaced by an angle grinder cut and color-coded overfenders that can be applied in hours.
Now, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here. The metal fabrication approach will forever yield the most kudos, but we live in a day and age where instant gratification leads the world, and if you can end up with a similar result in a shorter timeframe with less financial outlay, many people will take that option. It’s not wrong, they’re just two different approaches to creating a wide-body car.
Likewise, how low you go is no longer dictated by how much of a hard ride you want to live with. Air suspension has made the lives of many low car style-seekers far more comfortable, and it can be road-legal too.
For those that want to keep it traditional with a static setup, companies like Bee Dragon will still do it the old fashioned way, modifying suspension mount points and cutting and re-welding floors higher to get the look just right.
With bags, you just need to make sure the wheel and tire combo has somewhere to park itself when you air-out at a parking lot or show.
On top of the overfenders, the The LB Nation x K.Break kit adds front and rear bumper lower sections and a pair of side skirts to fully emphasize the low ride height. The burbly exhaust is an added option; owners can go with whatever they want here.
The demo car’s interior was bone stock, but in the world of VIP that’s totally OK. Personal flavor really comes in here, but for myself at least, the simplicity of a factory-fresh cabin wins. Mind you, I’d probably add black curtains and lace to the seats for some throwback style.
The 2GR-FSE is no 2J, nor is it as glorious-sounding as the 1UR-FSE from the Majesta, but it still provides a deep, creamy V6 burble which is perfectly fine. VIP cars were never intended to have true performance, just the potential of it through an intimidating exhaust note.
This nine-piece aesthetic transformation can be achieved for just over the equivalent of US$4,000, with some more budget needed to nail the wheel and fitment – and the air suspension, if that’s the direction you want to go with. Overall, it’s a viable and affordable way to achieve a modern day VIP look.
And really, this is precisely what I want to see Liberty Walk doing more of: Giving accessible base cars the LB treatment, allowing kids to get in the game and have fun for an acceptable cost. It fits in beautifully with the times we are living in.
Dino Dalle Carbonare