Let’s face it; some cars are built purely for attention whilst others tend to go under the radar in a much more subtle way. Chris Philips is most definitely a car builder of the latter variety. He's the most laid back, unassuming car guy I've met in a long time. The word humble doesn't even come close.
I first knew Chris by his seriously clean and ridiculously low G40'd 6N Polo. There’s a clear theme with Chris and his cars. He’s the type of guy who builds a car, rocks up to a meet in easily one of the hardest stanced cars there and shrugs it off as if it’s nothing. No keyboard warriors, no Instagram hype, no crying out for attention. Chris just lets the metal do the talking.
After parting out the Polo and in search of a new project, Chris took to the internet for inspiration. In the USA, the IS model Lexus is a more common sight at modified meets and Chris wanted to bring some US flavour to the UK. A nicely worked IS200 is a rare sight on UK roads.
When the IS200 was released in 1999, it was stylish but expensive. Being Lexus' first foray into 'compact executive' and a market flooded with BMW E46's and Audi B5's it was a tough place to be.
The modified car scene responded to the IS200 in a way that no-one at Lexus could have ever imagined. Those iconic rear lights started a trend literally overnight. Make no mistake these were game-changers.
Aftermarket light manufacturers reacted to meet demand in a big way, producing IS200 style lights for all and sundry. At the time, if your Saxo, 106 or Corsa wasn't wearing a set of 'Lexus lights' then you were probably working double weekend shifts at Tesco to save for them. You couldn't flick the pages of Redline/Max Power (gone but not forgotten) without seeing 'Lexus lights' on all your favourite modified metal. Along with other infamous trends like M3 mirrors and Impreza/Evo/F50 bonnet vents, the term 'Lexus lights' will forever be a part of modified car history.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand, Chris' IS200;
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking this car is the outcome of a simple wheels and suspension swap. Such is Chris' subtlety and meticulous execution, the IS looks almost OEM. Chris' day job as a high-end vehicle detailer and his OCD eye for detail certainly shows in his IS200, from top to bottom.
"Vertex front bumper & side skirts teamed with a TRD rear lip"
The IS200 wears some very choice overnight parts. Vertex front bumper and side skirts teamed with a TRD rear lip complete the deeper setup. All of the light clusters are smoked versions, including those aforementioned rears to darken things up, leaving all eyes on those polished goodies hiding tightly under the arches.
Chris' stepped up RS 320/321's are a thing of beauty. I guess if you were to be critical, you might say not the most ground-breaking wheel choice, but looking at the result it’s hard to argue that they don't tie in perfectly. The late 90's lines and deep black paintwork of the IS200 were made to wear those three letters, BBS. Finished in silver with polished dishes and full height hex nuts, the timeless RS’ are as relevant as ever. Personally, I could never tire of seeing that RS mesh on any car, not least one with fitment like this.
"BBS RS 320/321 stepped up to 18" 9.5j front, 10.5j rear"
I really cant believe we're this far through Chris' feature without mentioning suspension... THIS ISN'T ON AIR.
Chris' car does exactly what it says on the tin. No c-spanner show drops, no compressors, switches or air tanks, just one static setting. LOW.
HSD Coilovers with custom shortened and stiffer springs along with Megan Racing camber and toe arms get this sat as you see it.
In a scene dominated by cut and paste builds, it's refreshing to see something unusual for a change. Chris' Lexus is testament that building a car for yourself and no-one else is the best way to stand out from the crowd.
Words: Aron Norris
Photography: Alex Carroll
Videography: Thom Williams