WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS...
Hard-dropped S2000 is the lord of the stance in sunny Las Vegas
PHIL ARBOLEDA’S AGGRESSIVELY STANCED S2000 CAME SCREAMING STRAIGHT OUTTA LAS VEGAS LIKE A THUNDERBOLT, DECIMATING ALL IN ITS PATH. AND THEN, AS QUICKLY IS IT ARRIVED, IT VANISHED. EASY COME, EASY GO...
The essential problem with human existence is that nothing lasts. All of our achievements, no matter how seemingly significant, will ultimately boil away into dust, the base elements returning to the cosmos from whence they sprang forth. It’s a truism to say that our lifespans, when taken as a percentage of the Earth or the universe as a whole, are so mind-bogglingly insignificant that there’s no purpose whatsoever to anything we do, but at the same time this little pocket of near-nothingness that we inhabit is still our nothing. It’s mankind’s prerogative to make things better for that brief flash of time in which we get to enjoy them, and it’s for this reason that great and inspiring art has always characterised man’s achievements; why architecture is often beautiful as well as functional, why clothes are colourful instead of drab and uniform, why food is tasty and pleasing to the eye rather than merely fuel, and why we build silly cars. We don’t need to spend all this money on making our cars different. But whoever cared about ‘need’…?
It’s for this reason that Phil Arboleda created the shimmering S2000 that you’re now gawping at with undisguised animal lust. (Seriously, put your tongue away, people are looking.)
Phil’s got a pretty clear idea of the nature of the cosmos and his own infinitesimal position within it, and it’s his overt aim to maximise that speck in any way possible. We’re going to start this story with a massive spoiler – no, not that kind of spoiler – and tell you that this car no longer exists in the form you see it here. Phil’s returned it back to stock and sold it on. Aha, but the car did once exist in the form you see here, splayed so lasciviously across these pages, and that’s the most important thing. Things don’t have to be in your face to be worthy of merit – the fact that they reside in posterity is the clincher. The world knew this S2000, and it was good. And then, like Keyser Söze, it was gone.
‘This all started at an early age for me, working on my dad’s old first-generation Mazda RX-7 in his garage,’ Phil reminisces, neatly sowing the seeds for all that was about to spring forth in his fledgling years. ‘Working with him instilled a fascination and love for cars within me, and it's had something of a snowball effect. Out of the twelve cars I've owned over the years, none of them remained stock for long – there was the ’94 Civic hatchback with an H22 swap, Integra Type R transmission and dual 76mm throttle bottles, a couple of other Civics, a Miata, two RX-7S, a Mazdaspeed Protege, a Mazdaspeed 3 and a Toyota Cressida...and, of course, the most recent build, the Scion FRS.’ The man just seems to be unstoppable in his modding aspirations; take a Japanese car, do unseemly things to it, then move on to the next project like he’s ticking all of his dream builds off some vast celestial wishlist. Perhaps he is. He certainly seems to have some sort of connection to the mainframe of reality itself, rippling through the fabric of space-time in a string of green ones and zeroes. That must be why everything that comes out of his garage is so utterly flawless.
So why an S2000 this time? Well, they’re just awesome on toast, aren’t they? ‘I’d always wanted one, and when they came into my price range, I just had to jump on the opportunity,’ grins Phil. ‘When I found this one, it was in decent condition and near enough stock. It wasn't the colour I wanted, but it eventually grew on me…’
You can certainly see why – Honda’s Suzuka Blue is one of the all-time great blues; at once steely and creamy, harshly abrupt yet warmly welcoming, it’s a dichotomy wrapped up in a conundrum. The sort of colour that starts arguments, that songs are written about, that inspires dreams.
Phil pricks our whimsical musings on the colour blue at this point, thank goodness, by returning to the facts at hand: ‘I wanted something classy, really – that’s what inspired the purchase of an S2000. I was tired of having fast cars that weren't fun to drive. And as soon as I’d got this one home, I started modifying it right away. In fact, every penny I was earning went into this car!’
It’s important at this juncture to take a step back and consider the stance scene as a broad picture. You see, for better or worse, people in the scene tend to fall into one of two camps: there’s the newcomers, who’ve latched on to something fashionable and are merrily throwing their credit cards at their rides in order to build a
personal vision of a show car with the latest fashion-forward rims and technologically befuddling airride system. There’s also the old guard, the pre-stance survivors whose passion for modifying is baked right into their very souls. We’re not knocking the former group, of course, but Phil is very firmly in the latter. It’s the base of childhood passion that’s shaped the man he’s become today, and his cars reflect this rich cultural history.
‘I've always been fascinated with the stance scene, and have been pushing the envelope on fitment with this car since I've had it,’ he says, from the fortuitous perspective of having seen the whole phenomenon roll out right from its genesis. ‘The car’s had numerous sets of wheels and looks, from TE37S to Gram Lights, Victrix, Work Meisters, to the Rezax it's on for this shoot.’
Phil’s put a fairly incredible amount of thought into the chassis settings that allow the S2K to get this snake’s-belly low, with that rakish camber, poke and stretch. It’s like playing stance buzzword bingo. The front wings have been cut and widened to accommodate all that’s going on beneath, and the rear arches have had more than a little tickle, too; Stance Suspension coilovers get the bulk of the thing down (oh, yes – static, and proudly so), while SPC camber joints and J's Racing driveshaft spacers work together to get it all exactly where it needs to be. The front wheels are 10in wide – and there’s an extra inch of girth for the rears – and he’s running 6.5 and 7.5 degrees of negative camber, respectively.
‘I’VE BEEN PUSHING THE ENVELOPE WITH FITMENT SINCE I GOT THIS CAR’
‘Most of the work with the build was done by my brother and I, with the exception of the painting and paint preparation,’ Phil explains. ‘The only real hurdles we encountered came with making wheels fit that weren't meant to fit! A lot of customising of the control arms was required to get the camber adjustment needed to fit the rims and still have the ride height where I wanted it. I went through multiple sets of tyre combinations and alignments just to get it right…’
A lot of effort, no doubt, but unquestionably worth it to achieve the results you see before you. And bear in mind that this was happening before this sort of behaviour was usual, and carried out by all and sundry for clickbait and Instagram likes – Phil was blazing his own little trail here. ‘I would enter car shows just for fun,’ he recalls, ‘and at first people frowned upon what I’d done with the car. But eventually, a year or two later, it started to become accepted because the stance and fitment movement had gotten so big.’ But that’s not to say that Phil was altogether bothered by the notion of being ‘accepted’, of course – this was his car, built entirely on his terms, and anyone hating on that could go and poke it, frankly.
Phil, then, had achieved all that he set out to achieve with this almost aggressively sparkly S2000: it was a fast car that was actually fun to drive, it had a pioneering stance that was absolutely on point (and engineered by himself and his brother in the garage, no less), it was a bona fide neckbreaker that didn’t so much upset the applecart as crash right through it and pulp it all into cider, and it accentuated the smooth lines of Honda’s design to an almost cartoonish degree.
But like we say, this car doesn’t exist in this form any more. Not that it matters a single iota; it’s better to have loved and lost, as Alfred Lord Tennyson said, than never to have loved at all. And as a solid representation of the sheer pointlessness of existence, combined with the thrilling complexity of harnessing that lack of direction to create beautiful and unique art forms, this car stands as a pretty good totem for mankind’s creativity. Much like humanity itself, this project didn’t need to exist, but it did. And it was pretty bloody spectacular.
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