Tuesday, March 24

Detroit Speed and Engineering, The Top Dawg

In recent years, the Domestic scene has been split between cars going bags and traditional coil setup. The main players are Airride Technologies and Detroit Speed and Engineering. Many of the cars we get at Goodguys events are running air but the main concern is how does air handle compared to coils?

Airride Technologies and Goodguys started the Street Challenge Autocross 2 years ago to have this question be settled on the battle field. Enter Detroit Speed, or a.k.a DSE.

Kyle Tucker of DSE has campaigned their many "Test Car" Camaros at the Street Challenge events. To say the least, they have dominated year after year. I believe they won 7 out of 8 events last season and judging by our first event at OC, they will continue to strike deep into Airride and bag owners in the industry.

Bottom line is, you just cannot compete air bags with steel coils.

Congrats to DSE on their first win of the season and we hope to see more great things from the company.

More info here: Detroit Speed

Friday, March 20

VIP IS300 "Back in the Days"

There's this saying, the first car you ever build will probably be the one you will miss most. You've spent so much time, research, energy, and money and now that first love is gone and in somebody else's garage or stripped and molested. Those that are fortunately enough, have sold the car across the country or internationally so you will never see it again.

This was my first serious project car. It was my daily, my show car, my everything. Purchased new spring 2002, while driving the car home from Pleasanton Lexus, I was a kid in a candy store. I quickly added 2 mods; a JDM Altezza grill and a RMM lip wing. I even opt to have it painted directly for an extra $100 bucks. And the car stayed that way for a good year. I wanted to learn a rear wheel drive car and boy was this car fun in the turns. During this time, I would research parts and what others were doing. Joining IS300.net and Clublexus further fueled my desire to build the car right. Then HyperRev magazines were introduced and I was hooked on rare JDM parts.

When the time was right late 2002, a good friend of mine, who also had a IS300, went to MACHIII in San Francisco and dropped huge deposits on our first big purchase. I ordered a set of VOLK Racing GT-C in gunmetal, HKS Hypermax LS coilovers, and a HKS carbon/ti exhaust. 2 months later parts started to arrive but the VOLKS did not show up for 4 months. Another good friend gave me his authentic C-west front bumper for Christmas and it got pretty serious after that. Cusco under body braces and bars were all added including the rear v-bar for the struts. AEM intake, XERD headers, HKS hyper ground were all added. Apexi AVC-R, Apexi RSM controller were added to monitor the fuel system. JDM black mirror covers replace stock ones and I showed in the main hall of HIN for the first time that year. HIN was amazing. Strobe headlights were the in-thing and I have to thank Bruce Nomura for introducing me to HIN. After HIN, the thurst for more was clear.

I took my car to Seramonte Lexus in Daly City for a quick oil change. I figure, I was driving-by and the car was still clean, why not add a oil change too. 2.5 hours later the service writter came out and apologized. They dont know what happened, but the front bumper was shattered and cracked. I quickly lost it and it was a day to remember for Seramontte Lexus GM. I called Kenric at BOZZ Performance in Fremont to come in for their rare JDM support. After considering many bumpers, the ultra rare Vertex S-type bumper was ordered for air freight along side a pair of BRIDE Ergo buckets and a pair of TAKATA 4-point racing harnesses. The Vertex bumper served as the only one in the states for the longest time. Infact, to this day, I only know a handful of that bumper in the entire country. BOZZ had a slightly used Rando Sport carbon fiber hood in the warehouse, so I slapped that on too. But an incident that resulted with a dented roof and broken hindges pushed me back to the stock metal hood.

After the newly bumper was painted and installed, the racing buckets and harnesses went in aswell. The new race-car look was very well received from the locals, online members and got the attention of Team Hokori, one of SF premiere show car teams. I joined, showed for half a season and got one first place trophy at Infinion Raceway. Throughout the time with Hokori, I have met so many great people in the industry. At the same time my Club Lexus family started to grow too.

The very expensive UGO roof wing was ordered and installed and I wanted to continue the race theme with the first Cusco 6-point roll cage in the states. Troubles with the cage was appearant during the initial test fit. Turns out we ordered the cage for non-sunroof models. Bruce Nomura was called in for the help. Within 5 days, the mastermind was able to take off an inch from every leg and weld back the mounting plates, shaved, primed and painted all for another show in San Mateo. The cage was beautiful. The car was stiff and mean. People gave thumb-ups and were in awe most of the time. The cage was interesting, I had to sacrifice my sun visors for that. But it was well worth it. 2003 Summer we debuted the car at Club Lexus End of Summer where it took center stage with 4 surrounding Lexus GS. At that event, we were successfully able to blend the IS300.net members with the older more mature CL family. My job was done.

Version 1 of the build was finished. I now had a very extensive list of rare JDM parts on my car. I was winning shows and people wanted to see more of the IS300. At that point, a good friend has been working with Junction Produce, a VIP company that specializes in large platform based Toyota and Nissan applications. The passion for race inspired quickly shifted to VIP tuning. Since my car chassis is not considered a VIP platform, that fuel my desire to attempt a cross between VIP and sport. So the decision to sell the cage, buckets, harness, Cusco bars were in effect. The items I kept were the wheels, suspension, bumper, wing and I added a pair of RMM skirts. So I cruised around like so for 6 months before Version 2 was in full swing.

I came across an ad on Craigslist one day. It was a heavily modified Supra from Stockton. It was red and had fender flares painted in flat black. The combo of colors were so aggresive, I had to try it. Called my good friend at JONARI and picked up a set of WALD fender flares. Many people that added the flares did not go the extra mile and cut the inside stock metal to actually utilize the extra space from the flares. Another good friend and I spent an afternoon and carefully measured and trimmed off all four metal fenders and quarters so the flares could be functional. It was scary to say the least, b/c there wasnt any turning back. The rear flares were drilled directly into the body, but the front flares had to be modified. Why? WALD designed their flares to work inconjunction with their aero kit. So since I had a VERTEX bumper, careful alterations were made. Luckily, another friend had a set of R-Spec flares where I used as a template to minic the cut and mounting. It was perfect. I had the flares painted in Toyota OEM black trim and also scored another ultra rare item, JDM Toyota rear bumper and lip. All OEM. The exterior was coming together quiet well with an addition of black housing taillights and headlights. HID bulbs were also upgraded to 9600k of slight violet hue. Many cheaper 9600k HID's look extremely blue, not these.

Junction Produce is the godfather of VIP. He started the VIP style back in the early '90s. A friend of mine worked at RCREW in Brisbane and he was able to source a set of used Junction Produce OZ Scaras in 18 with step lip and tires. Retail the wheels cost over $8k. I paid under $2k shipped. The offset was perfect with the correct stretch tires already installed, I was finally in the final stages of dressing-up the build with all the right parts. I always believe that wheels can make or break a build. It was cruisal that offset, brand, style was all working together to achieve that low and wide aggresive stance of VIP cars. Version 2 was looking good.

Other parts added was a Vertex hood bonnet and Ganador side mirrors. VIP cars in Japan ran curtains, so during that time there was only one person, one shop able to get such an item; Endless USA. Dom and Kent was truly helpful and sent out 2 sets of Anceltion Casual curtains in black. I was the first Lexus with VIP curtains and boy did I get mixed reviews. Dom wanted to sponsor the car with ENDLESS brakes so I dropped deposit for ENDLESS 6-pot mini's finished in gold. I already had Project Mu rotors, pads, and lines so I just opted for their top quality calipers. But when the calipers arrived, we had fitment problems. I had to order longer wheel studs for the front and ran a 5mm and a 3 mm spacer to clear the Junction Produce OZ Scaras. Once it was installed, boy did that turn heads. The car was reborn with a brand new look and theme. Chrome door caps and windor virsor were installed and I made my socal debut at the 1st annual JTUNED gathering. It was so well received JTUNED came up to the Bay Area several months later to shoot the car for a feature.

HCI Magazine also shot the car and ran their feature in 2007. I couldn't be more happy. One of the final big modification on the car was the custom built UAS air system. Airrunner was the king and everyone dumped $5k on Airrunner. But people started to complain how soft the ride was and that was when I turned my thinking-cap on and started researching for options.

Universal Air Suspension was a company in SoCal that made air bags for custom applications. They started 20 years ago with hydraulics and mini trucks, but developed an air bag a few years back. The difference between UAS bags are simple. They were designed and engineered with spring rate inmind. Airrunner, Airlift, Airbaggit, Easy Street, all used off the shelf Firestone bags for universal purposes. So, right off the bat, UAS bags had an advantage. Their bags are poly synthetic grade rubber that is not prone to corosion and breakage. Zack at UAS sponsored the car and Dave at MemoryFab donated a set of CST coilovers. UAS had to modify the rear dual adjustable lower shock mounting sleeve to accomadate the UAS bag. I had the entire system in less than a week and a few locals and I worked on this for the first time little-by-little. A month later, it was complete. 5 gallon stainless tank, 2 VIAIR compressors mounted on solid steel "L" brackets in the trunk. Valves mounted behind rear bumper and underneath behind each side skirt. I had a total of 5" inches of height adjustability. No more broken bumpers.

Custom gold chrome vinyl pin strip was designed from SESSIONS versions and laid on the car. Another custom chrome vinyl "S" design was added to the fenders. The car was truly complete with the addition of a Pioneer 7" inch screen inclosed into custom fiberglass housing. Monitors behind each headrest and that was the last of the mods.

I miss this car. Maybe b/c I know what it looks like today or the fact that nobody else has tried to duplicate this extensive look. But at the end, it was my first project car that got me here today. It was truly my first love.

Thanks for reading.
- Solo

Thursday, March 19

Black Pearl Celsior UCF31 *Updates 2009*

Black Pearl Japan has just updated their company demo car yet once again. These guys truly push the envelope on this platform. This time around, they have ditched the all white theme ad when with a 2-tone black and gold appearance.

The redesigned front bumper is much cleaner and adds a hint of the current UCF40 in the lower grill. The 2-tone was very interesting where it dips in the front fender to follow the fender grills, it almost resembles a tri-five '55 Chevy Bel Air. The wheels are incredible. Besides dialing the perfect stance, the black painted lips are so aggressive with that Nascar appearance. The interior has also been redone to match the new exterior design. Hats off to Black Pearl Japan on this excellent build.

Check them out here: Black Pearl

Slammed LS430

This sinister LS430 belongs to a member on ClubLexus.com. Check out that evil stance with complete tucked rollers front and back. The wheels are Sevas 3 piece painted in flat matte black face and red barrels.

The drop of choice in this example was Megan coilovers that were modified to allow another 3" inches of height adjustment.

Not bad!

'68 Camaro @ Orange County

This pass weekend, Goodguys kicked off the 2009 season at Costa Mesa, Orange County Get-Together with over 1,500 cars and more than expected amount of foot traffic to please the vendor sections.

The Street Challenge Autocross had one of the best turn outs ever. Saturday, a total of 360 passes were laid and cars came from all over to challenge their skills and push the limits on their cars.

This particular Camaro caught my attention. It was rocking step-lip HRE wheels with a matte black face. The mesh wheels are perfect to show off the AP Racing BBK 6 piston front and 4 in the rear. The owner drove the car down from Canada is on a week to week tour hitting all the shows. In fact, he is staying down in OC and will be attending our Del Mar Nationals first weekend of April. Beautiful car!

Parotech VW Tourareg

Parotech had this incredible VW Tourareg at last years Geneva show. Yes, this SUV is dipped in matte white with gloss medium gray as the accent color. The wheels are matte white and so are the BBK calipers. As a designer, I appreciate many styles and forms, but I was floored when I first saw this car. Perhaps it was the platform that Parotech used as their 2009 demo vehicle.

The body work is just stunning. From the grill to the bump to the flares that wrap this big SUV together, this is a work of art. Notice the white/gray theme throughout the interior. Looks like SONY was called in to do a complete ice system.

Absolutely breath-taking.

More info at: Parotech

Wednesday, March 18

Artisian Soarer SC430

Artisan Japan debuted their latest aero kit for the Lexus SC430 or Toyota Soarer at the TAS earlier this year. When I saw this car, the front bumper looked very similar to the newer WALD designs for the Benzo C63 and had a hint of BMW M3/M6 lower grill opening. The fenders, in my opinion is another Brabus or Lorinser take-off.

What floored me was the rear bumper. Artisian was able to take a very contour egg/jelly bean shape car and mate it to a very aggressive chiseled racing rear bumper. The semi black painted area creates a GT car racing appearance, possibly hinting at the supercharged 4.3 liters of V8 power. I can almost see a NSX GT rear with dual exiting exhaust right under the license plate.

Artisan chose to continue the square edgy lines with their quad stacking exhaust tips. I personally never liked this look starting with the Lexus IS-F, but that is a quick fix.

This design gets a 8 out of 10 in SoloBook.

Tuesday, March 17

Billet C-Cup suspension: Platinum VIP

Just got off the phone with John over at Platinum. Not sure if others have known about their latest and greatest Cup kits (similar to Roberuta).

This is what I know:

- They claim the system is compatible with all coilovers.
- Height travel inbetween 4-5" inches (depending on vehicle and dampers)
- When fully inflated, Cup holds 48 PSI.
- Highest grade materials used
- Fittings, guages, lines, etc are supplied by AAC Airrunner
- Tank and Compressor supplied by AutoGear.

The system retails for over $4,400. The current special is $3,000 installed for all 4 corners. Currently, they have 7 plus cars with this system mainly in the Southern California area.

Is this truly better than Roberuta? Only time will tell.

Sunday, March 15

GPS ANGEL: Speed Camera Detector

GPS Angel has an on-board database of thousands of speed camera and red light camera locations in the US.

As you drive, GPS Angel checks your vehicle's location to this database and provides visual and audible warning when you are approaching a camera.

The camera database is updated regularly and you can download updates over the Internet by connecting GPS Angel to your PC with the included USB cable and the GPS Angel Manager software. GPS Angel includes FREE unlimited lifetime updates to the database. Other GPS detector products charge a fee for updates, which can be over $100 per year. GPS Angel has no update fees and is the most accurate and affordable red light camera & speed camera detector.

So does it actually work? See for yourself:

GPS ANGEL for more information or BUY NOW at AMAZON