It fascinates me that stance enthusiasts will take perfectly comfortable cars and then proceed to make them drive in less than comfortable ways. And this is especially true in the Japanese bippu, or VIP car world, where static suspension setups still reign supreme.
When authenticity rules all else though, it’s a price that many are willing to pay, and that includes the owner of this Lexus LS400.
Pavel is a modest guy with arguably the best VIP-style car in all of Europe. Granted, there are only a few genuine bippu projects on European soil, but I’m struggling to think of one with a modification list as long as this car. Let us know in the comments section if you know otherwise.
The Lexus has been a labor of love for Pavel for many years, and over that time it’s continued to evolve into the form it takes today. This is how the car looked when I first photographed it in 2013 – riding on air with tucked wheels. Nice and clean, but in its owner’s eyes just not radical enough.
The lengths that Pavel has gone to in order to make his LS400 a usable static bippu is mind-boggling, and it all started when he saw some Japan-built VIP cars on an online forum. Right away knew we wanted to create one.
At the time he owned a Honda, but that was quickly sold and the funds put towards this UCF20. The reason for going down the Lexus route is simple – they’re the only bippu base cars readily available in Pavel’s home country of Estonia.
Today, the car is definitely more of a showpiece than something used daily, but that doesn’t mean Pavel’s given up driving it on the road. Although legally he’s not able to do so in Estonia anymore, which is hardly surprising given the 16-degrees of negative camber.
What is surprising is just how far he’s willing to drive the Lexus like this. It’s been driven to Russia a number of times, and the last trip Pavel did was to Poland for the 2019 Raceism event in Wrocław, a journey of 930 miles each way. This guy might be mad.
During the shoot day, a stance crew from Ukraine were filming alongside me, which worked out quite well. You can check out our clip of the LS400 rolling around the city at the end of this story.
When I asked Pavel why he went down the static suspension route, he said it provided a challenge where you need to apply much more knowledge and work.“You think that in Japan bippu cars are static because of good roads, but that’s a myth. I am lucky to have been there and see it for myself. If I am going to put all my resources into a car, it should always look good, not only when it’s parked. To me, when a bagged car is driven the whole point of stretched tires and hellaflush fitment loses its purpose.”
While air suspension provides a good compromise between form and function and can be fitted with relative ease, doing something like Pavel has with coilovers requires some serious commitment. I have an engineering background, and find it quite hard to comprehend that Pavel basically sat the Lexus on the ground and then set about creating the clearance he needed for it to move.
For starters, the engine and driveline assembly was raised up into the body on higher-mounted subframes front and rear. The floor was cut out and relocated 30mm higher. The fuel tank was lifted. The suspension arms were modified. The fuel and brake lines were remounted, and all the wiring needed to be completely re-run too. Then, anything unnecessary under the car was shaved off, resulting in a body-to-ground clearance of 20mm.
In fact, the body is so low to the ground that the Aimgain body kit fitted needed to be shortened all around.
If you refer back to the image of the car when it was blue, you’ll see that a lot of work has also gone into the fenders. There was only one method Pavel was going to use for this, and it’s the good old fashioned Japanese bippu way – cutting out the original arches and forming new ones in metal.
After researching as much as he could, he went to work. The front fenders were relatively straightforward, but the same can’t be said for the rear where the back doors needed to be shortened – necessitating the handles to be moved – and the arches rebuilt from scratch. Finally, the exterior color was changed to pearl white in order to really highlight the tire-to-body clearance – or lack of.
Speaking of tires, they’re 225/40R18s and 285/30R18s on Weds Kranze LXZ wheels measuring 18×10.5-inch and 18×13-inch front and rear respectively. In my opinion, the fitment is spot on for a static car.
Being a high-spec car from factory, Pavel saw little need to mess around with the LS400’s leather interior, other than to retrim the door panels himself and add a few accessories. Under the hood, the original 280hp 1UZ-FE V8 engine remains, only enhanced through a exhaust featuring a custom triple tip setup fashioned from table legs of all things.
All in all, the build took a few years to complete on the ground in Pavel’s garage, which is impressive. “I didn’t need much motivation to stand up from the sofa and work on the car. My thought was that if the Japanese could do it, so could I,” he says.
Despite all the work put into the Lexus, this article is a swan-song of sorts for Pavel’s UCF20 project. The trip to Poland for Raceism 2019 was his final goal for the LS400, and it’s since been dismantled and parted out; he didn’t think it was right selling such a personal project as a complete car.
But it’s not end of Pavel infatuation with bippu style. His mind is fully set on the much newer LS430 that he just brought back from the UK, but this time Pavel wants to find the limit of a road-legal car in Estonia. So while the new build will likely feature less camber than the LS400 had, we can still expect the boundaries to be pushed with a very low and wide Lexus with millimeter-perfect fitment.
This madman wouldn’t have it any other way.