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 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 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


Anonymous said...

I miss this car too...

jeremiah said...

I miss that car almost as much as you do. I hope that the new car has filled some of that void. If not I have a 6 point cage that would help

BOXCAR said...

Did you cut your window visors to fit the ganadors?

Yih said...

This is an amazing car, Solo! I'm glad I read the whole piece, spelling errors and all ^_~

It's truly inspiring and reminds me of my own showcar build (trophies, magazine feature, etc.), although mine still sits in my garage waiting to be sold =(

It's unfortunate that life interrupts tuning with mortgage, and in your case, a beautiful daughter.

It's all good, just a matter of time and we'll all be awesome like Arcenal =D