Yes, you will $strip first, but the trick behind the space retention is the fact that you're adding to the beginning of the variable.. not the end. (demonstrates for rela)

var %s = $chr(32) $+ %s (works)
var %s = %s $+ $chr(32) (does not)

THAT is the trick behind this method.
Me personally, I prefer binvars.

Well. At least I won lunch.
Good philosophy, see good in bad, I like!