The Jet Black 1998 Infiniti Q45 you see pictured carries a bit of a stigma upon its widened, precision-crafted shoulders. Not unlike other builds from various genres that were once owned and built by their original owner, then commandeered by someone new who gradually progressed the project, these sorts of cars are often seen as "bought not built" by those with way too much interest in how others spend their time and money. In the case of John Krueger, current owner of this VIP Q45, that often disparaging catchphrase has to be reworked considerably in order to relate to this sedan's storied timeline.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Ask Krueger about the car's transformation from briefcase-toting, business not-so-casual luxury sedan of the '90s to its Bippu-inspired look and then grab a seat as the vehicle's history isn't your typical "just a few bolt-ons that eventually led to a build" affair that you've become accustomed to. The car's nickname, "BrokeY33," is actually the first builder's nickname. Krueger adds, "Josh and the car always pushed the envelope for U.S. VIP in the early days. This car was used by Part Shop Max/PBM to develop coilovers for the Infiniti Q45 and Nissan S-chassis cars. Majority of the work was done by Josh and his friends, including the metal wide-body, rear tubs and custom bumpers."
When Opportunity Knocks
In 2016, after over 13 years with the sedan, Josh decided to part ways and the car was sold to the owner of VIP'd Out in Tennessee. A little later, an ordinary trip home from a car show would be capped off by an accident which totaled the car entirely. That should have been the end of this Q45's run, but that's when its third owner stepped in.
At the time, Krueger had his hands full with a '00 Lexus LS 400 that he'd just completed wheels, suspension, arms and brakes on. He notes that he was actually getting ready to send the car off for a metal widebody and paint treatment when he got word about the accident. "Then the Q45 popped up—I knew I had to save it."
The totaled Q's history was enough to prompt the purchase and with thoughts of restoring it to its former glory and adding his own personal touch, it would mean taking on yet another project. "I ended up selling my LS 400 a year after I got the Q45 thinking I would build two VIP cars. The LS kept getting put on the back burner so I figured I'd sell it to someone who could finish it."
Starting Over in Order to Progress
Significant damage to the rear quarter panels, trunk and rear bumper meant that not just any body shop would be able to bring the car back properly—the one-off metal widebody treatment made sure of that. "I found a body shop near me that specializes in hot-rods and classics and they were willing to take on the work. They repaired the quarter panels using new sheet metal and reshaped everything to match the previous widebody." The custom rear bumper was also repaired, and Krueger ordered a brand-new trunk and rear window from Infiniti to complete the rebirth.
Making Things Personal
With so much work put into the body it was the perfect opportunity to come up with his own color scheme, and to that end Jet Black from a GT-R was chosen, but only after having hits of blue, green and gold flake integrated for a combination that glistens in direct light.
Up to this point, other than the unique color, the modifications all fell in line with restoring the original look. "After I got the car back from the body shop, I started adding my own touches, working on the two areas that hadn't been touched yet: interior and engine bay."
Parts Hunting in the West
Krueger served as a judge for StanceNation events for quite some time, and some of those events took place in California. During one of his trips to the West Coast, he came across a set of Altina seat covers from Japan. "I thought the blue/black colorway would be a nice direction to go with the interior. I matched these with some custom floor mats that a friend made for me at his work." Additional plans called for the color theme to continue onto the door panels and headliner but with the global pandemic underway, the upholstery shop he chose shut its doors for the time being and that portion of the build will take place once the country gets back to somewhat normal. Until then, along with the Altina covers you'll find a wooden Nardi wheel surrounded by dazzling D.A.D. crystal touches throughout the dash and requisite bubble shift knob.
In regard to the engine bay, the parts bins aren't exactly overwhelmed by performance goods for the VH41 and that's just fine by Krueger, as this build leans much further toward style rather than ripping down backroads at full throttle. Still, the V8 growls a little deeper now thanks to an A'PEXi intake and custom exhaust system that no doubt bumps power slightly.
Keeping it Local
On the rare occasion that Krueger opens the hood, you'll notice the mundane plastic V8 engine covers have been customized. He adds, "One of my staples is to commission a local artist to do some paint work in my engine bay, and I found someone through my group of friends that's a pretty good graffiti artist and I had him tag my engine covers and airbox."
A self-proclaimed wheel whore, Krueger's current rolling stock consists of massive 20x13-inch rear and 20x11 front VIP Modular wheels that he actually sourced on one of his trips to SoCal. Perched perfectly underneath the widened metal fenders, they're a completely custom affair with chrome step lips and machined faces joined by copper-plated hardware. Even the most finicky "fitment gawds" would approve as the 315 rear/255 front Toyo tires narrowly avoid rubbing shoulders, most of the time, with the fender work.
Finding the right combination of suspension components for a ride height like this and not constantly dealing with bacon fenders is an art in and of itself. Browse through the suspension changes in the accompanying spec list and note the cross-platform additions that come from the S-chassis family, then realize it's much more than just dialing down coilovers and clenching every time you see a road surface inconsistency.
Taking on someone else's previous build can be more trouble than it's worth. Dealing with electrical gremlins, hidden issues or previous cover-ups can often pop up and the headaches begin mounting. In the case of BrokeY33, the original owner and his friends didn't take any shortcuts, leaving the new owner with a solid foundation, even after the unfortunate accident. As a result, the real challenge for Krueger was paying homage by bringing the car back to its original status, then making it his own—something he's been successful in doing with more plans for progression set to take place in the near future.
He closes with this, "I want to finish off the interior and then bring the car back to California and the West Coast to show it as a bit of a homecoming. A lot of the OG US VIP guys have reached out and connected with me since I got the car and brought it back from the dead. The car has a lot of history to the community and I'm glad to keep the car alive. The build will never fully be mine, and I'm fine with that. I'm happy to be the caretaker of this car knowing its history in the US VIP culture."