WHAT HAP­PENS IN VE­GAS...

Japanese Performance - - WHAT’S IN - WORDS: DANIEL BE­VIS PICS: VIC­TOR BENYI

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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