I often sit and wonder; had I known how deep down the automotive rabbit hole I’d fall, would I have started the descent at all?
If I were ever foolish enough to tally up the hours spent and time invested in this hobby, I’m sure I’d wind up questioning my own sanity. Realistically, I don’t think anyone plans to get as deep as they do. Usually the decent into madness is gradual, spurred on by ample amounts of peer influence bordering on peer pressure.
When Taylor Enriquez described his own start as an automotive enthusiast and later a VIP car culture aficionado, it all sounded very familiar to me. A spark for cars was always there, but it was ignited into an obsession by the automotive community itself.
Cars are fantastic bits of metal plastic and rubber, but people are often what make or break the overall experience. Surround yourself with the right people, capable of both encouraging and supporting your ideas (good and bad), and no matter the location, platform or genre, you’re bound to get hooked.
Taylor’s first foray into modification started with a Subaru BRZ. “It had several phases, with the final being both the most in-depth,” he told me. “A lot of people came to know the car.”
As first cars tend to do, the BRZ taught Taylor plenty of lessons regarding the finer points of car modification. But the most important teaching it bestowed was the importance of using quality components.
The ZN6 platform has nearly an endless supply of aftermarket parts, but they are certainly not all created equal. Saving a few extra dollars and doing a bit more research often nets a much better end result than going for the quick win influenced by instant gratification.
As the BRZ neared the point of no return, Taylor was left wondering which direction to head next. That path revealed it self at a Slammedenuff show in Las Vegas. It was there he saw his first VIP build in person.
Birthed in Japan, VIP centers around a ‘less is more’ ethos, combined with a genuine appreciation for fine craftsmanship. The style isn’t exactly new in North America, but VIP still has a relatively small following in comparison to other genres. In Taylor’s native Colorado, the following is even smaller.
But regardless of its popularity, VIP struck a cord with Taylor, particularly the artistic side of his personality.
Switching Things Up
Not a suitable platform for the type of VIP build Taylor wanted to execute, his BRZ was sent down the road and replaced with a third generation Lexus IS 300.
Interestingly enough, the size and sports nature of the IS 300 make it only just eligible to be considered a VIP style vehicle. Traditional VIP platforms are required to be manufacturers’ flagship sedans. While this might seem like splitting hairs, traditions like this are taken quite seriously in VIP circles.
However, building an accepted VIP-style vehicle is perhaps a greater challenge, and Taylor rose to that challenge – with some help of course.
“I received a lot of valuable input when building this car from Pure VIP, to the owner of Junction Produce himself,” Taylor mentioned as he shared the process of really getting to understand and appreciate VIP car culture.
With the guidance of local friends and a renowned icon of the VIP world, the IS 300 began its journey.
Painting The Canvas
Black is a staple VIP color, and getting the paint on point was a crucial step of the process. The factory Nebula Gray was stripped away by Andrew at Glass House Paint Studios in Englewood, Colorado before an NIA Auto Design front lip was added, joined by NIA side skirts and rear bumper spats. A Vicrez ducktail was molded to the trunk above a Glass House-refined rear bumper. Finally, new Lexus Obsidian was laid down.
The engine bay was not painted black, but to keep things cohesive under-hood, all the OEM plastic has been hydro-dipped in a Nebula Gray and a black woodgrain pattern. Accented by Downstar engine hardware, the end result is certainly different, but at the same time not overdone or unbecoming of a Lexus.
Hiding under the ‘wood’ is a Takeda intake, and an Exhaust Pros custom exhaust snakes out from beneath the well-hidden header. A powder-coated Megan strut bar ties the two towers together and provides an extra bit of eye candy in the engine bay.
The prerequisite VIP posture comes by way of Air Lift Performance 3P suspension, PBW front upper control arms, and upper and lower rear traction rods. PBM rear toe rods and modified upper control arms also help the wheels tuck in to park and straighten out to roll.
The car’s stance might not be performance-minded, but it is exactly what you would is expected from a VIP-oriented build: low.
Behind the 19×10-inch SSR Executor CV04 wheels is a Wilwood big brake conversion. The open spoke design of the wheels opened up an opportunity to powder-coat the calipers metallic silver.
Diamonds Are Forever
Luxury is an important part of the VIP culture, and as such a true VIP-style interior needs to be leagues above what came from factory. In the case of Taylor’s IS 300, everything from the seats to floor mats has been redone in double diamond stitching.
Taylor did much of the work to this car himself, but like the paint the interior was outsourced, a local lowrider shop laying the stitching throughout. This makes sense if you consider that lowriders are probably North America’s closest thing to VIP cars.
The cabin now more closely resembles a luxury sitting room than it does a car’s interior. Black and silver woodgrain carries through from the engine bay onto interior woodgrain accents.
Rear occupants are able to utilize a custom VIP Aesthetics center console fitted with an ice tray, ash tray, and cup holders. For those not very familiar with VIP culture this might all seem quite excessive and unnecessary, but these cars were centered around top-tier enjoyment.
If you were to be driven in this car rather than drive it, then items like the Junction Produce pillows and curtains would certainly enhance the experience.
And if you were to look at it through the lens of an interior designer, the fact the curtains match the shot glasses truly brings the entire room together.
The list of modifications and refinements made to this car is far more extensive than my words can convey. There are so many small details packed into a small area, that the initial ‘wheels and a drop’ glance hardly does Taylor’s Lexus justice.
If you’re not familiar with the IS 300 platform, then the added Ulterior Motive front and rear fender vents are easily overlooked. As is the IS 350 F Sport diffuser that’s been expertly tucked into place.
If you are familiar with the Lexus platform, then you’ve probably also noticed the aftermarket Luxury Abstract double diamond stitched door pillars. These tie in with a diamond stitched license plate cover.
Much of the car came together with the help of Pure VIP and Bechtech teammates, but Taylor served as both the primary art director and executor of much of this project.
With this car, Taylor plans to continue to immerse himself in VIP culture and help properly represent the modifying style in the United States. Not for clout or awards, but rather a genuine respect for the principals of VIP culture.
Cars have always been an escalation for Taylor, and this one isn’t quite at the top floor just yet.
Photos by Keiron Berndt