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2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

One man’s journey making the transition from raw and fast to classy and a little bit flashy

Yuta Akaishi
Oct 18, 2013
Photographer: Patrick Lauder

The story of how this IS300 came to be may be one that many of us can relate. Charls Monasterio was just 16 years old when he purchased his first car, a Honda CRX. The year was 1998, and import drag racing was at the height of its popularity. Charls and his friends quickly immersed themselves into the world of B-Series swaps and quarter-mile passes at Sacramento Raceway. This exciting lifestyle was not without its risks, however, which became painfully apparent one morning as Charls stepped outside his house to an empty driveway. After considering every other possible scenario--did he go to a party the night before and leave the car at a friend's house, or perhaps this was some sort of prank--he faced the cold, hard truth. His car had been stolen. Due to necessity, Charls bought another car--an Integra this time, swapped in a Type R head and went back to the dragstrip. The CRX was never recovered.

As time passed, his tight-knit group of friends slowly grew apart; careers and families took precedence over 60-foot times and trap speeds. Trips to car meets, the 'strip, and general car-guy stuff became rare occasions and eventually nonexistent. Charls found himself listing his Integra up for sale in hopes that he could find something a bit more reasonable to daily drive. In his case reasonable came in the form of a '01 IS300. The IS300 had been a car that Charls admired for some time, the perfect blend of sporty and luxury in his eyes. A clean car was located locally in San Jose, and Charls met the seller halfway in the east Bay Area. The car checked out, and a deal was made.

2001 lexus IS300 JDM rear bumper 02 Photo 2/9   |   2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

Although Charls had little interest left for racing, the excitement of buying new parts and personalizing a car is something that is not easily forgotten. With performance low on his list of priorities, Charls was able to concentrate on the appearance of his car. It was not long after purchasing the car that a set of coilovers was ordered. Tein Basics fit the bill perfectly--an adjustable ride height may have been the main reason for this modification, but the smooth ride just slightly more aggressive than what the stock valving and spring rates provided sealed the deal. Keeping with the casual nature of this build, driveability was always considered when making purchases. With that in mind, a set of wheels slightly wider than stock and a Wald lip kit were ordered and installed. The car was complete, a mild yet stylish mode of personal transportation that was reliable, easy to drive, and required no more upkeep than any other IS300.

The low stress lifestyle of driving such a car can be a breath of fresh air to some, and Charls was no exception. He was, for the most part, content. He was able to focus more on his job as a wireless consultant, take more time to enjoy his other hobbies and enjoy the Bay Area nightlife. All that changed when he ran into a familiar face, Lloyd Morales. Morales was an old friend from Charls' drag racing days; they had been in the same car club, and their friendship was quickly rekindled. Morales had also stayed a car enthusiast and was still active in the scene, though he had made the transition from racing to showing his car. Charls and Morales fell back into their old groove, spending more time with each other and other car enthusiasts. Through Morales, Charls made new friends, started attending car meets again, and became acquainted with local shops.

2001 lexus IS300 bride brix II seats 04 Photo 3/9   |   2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

Naturally, the car that he had put together with a focus on simplicity started looking a bit lackluster; the convenience of driving it anywhere became boring and uneventful. Charls began to see his IS300 in a new light, as a blank canvas once again. The first parts to be replaced were the wheels. Although the current set was a considerable improvement over stock, they lacked the character and individuality that a more aggressive set would bring to the car. Charls decided on a set of 18x9.5 and 10.5 Work Meister S1Rs in a bronze finish, the aggressive sizing did require the fenders to be rolled and slightly pulled but, with the help of TNT Autobody, proved to be a simple task. To better suit the wider stance of the car, an order was placed for a full Vertex body kit. When the full bumper replacement kit arrived in Sacramento it was immediately installed. Rather than paint his new bumpers and side skirts to match the car, Charls opted for a full color change. Sunset Bronze Mica from the Toyota Venza was chosen to keep it in the Toyota family, so to speak.

Charls has spent the last couple of years enjoying his car as much as possible. Although you won't see it on the track or the 'strip, it is plain to see that it brings just as much joy to the owner as if it were built for speed. Successfully adapting a passion to suit one's changing lifestyle is a skill that many attempt and few accomplish. It's all too easy to forget how much something as simple as enjoying cars can mean to an individual, especially if we stop going out of our way to keep this passion alive. Luckily for Charls, his friends and perhaps a little bit of chance allowed him to reconnect with the side of himself that created such unique and beautiful machines. Charls shared with us that now that he has a second car (another IS-this time a 250) he plans on replacing the aging 2JZ; he just hasn't come to a final decision. He is tossing around the idea of a 2JZ-GTE or even an LS1 swap. Either way, he is set on a manual transmission. Perhaps some things never change after all.

Behind The Build

Name.
Charls Monasterio

Location.
Benicia, CA

Occupation.
Wireless consultant

2001 lexus IS300 vertex king of vertex steering wheel 03 Photo 7/9   |   2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

Hobbies.
Snowboarding, poker, golf, boating, wakeboarding, concerts

Build Time.
5 years

Feedback.
cpm0781@yahoo.com

Motivation.
"(Because he is a) car enthusiast, to spend time with friends and other (car) enthusiasts."

2001 Lexus IS300

Engine AEM short ram intake; Greddy Ti-C exhaust; gold dress up bolts; painted engine covers.

Suspension Tein Basic coilovers; Cusco Type 40 front strut bar, Type OS-T rear strut bar.

Wheels/Tires 18x9 +25 and 18x10 +25 Work Meister S1R; 225/35/18 Nankang NS-II; 235/35/18 Falken ZE912; Project Kics Neo Chrome R40 lug nuts; Ichiba 50mm studs

Brakes WP Pro six-piston calipers, four-piston calipers; Orange Stuff pads; steel braided lines; 332mm cross-drilled and slotted rotors

2001 lexus IS300 cusco type 40 front strut bar 07 Photo 8/9   |   2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

Exterior Vertex body kit; JDM rear bumper; Seibon carbon-fiber hood; pulled fenders; Sunset Bronze Mica paint; painted black headlights; painted red taillights; 8K HID bulbs; 5 percent window tint; Aerocatch hoodpins; LED reverse lights, parking lights

Interior Bride Brix II seats, fabric on rear seats/door panels; custom rails; Takata four-point long harnesses; Vertex King of Vertex steering wheel; Splash hub; Works Bell quick release; TRD shift knob; LED dome light; Alpine W902 head unit, Type-R 12-inch subwoofer, MRP M500 amplifier; Monster wires

Gratitude "Tony at TNT Autobody, Jay and Dat at Speed Alliance, David Huang at Imperial Works, Kris Yu at 5Fifteen Autobody, Lloyd Morales, Jon Delos Santos, friends, and family for their support."

2001 lexus IS300 vertex front bumper 08 Photo 9/9   |   2001 Lexus IS300 - Natural Selection

Sources

Vertex
San Diego, CA 92111
888-383-7839
http://www.vertex-usa.com
TNT Autobody
Glade Hill, VA 24092
540-483-4868
www.tntautobody.net
Imperial Works
Sacramento, CA 95822
916-238-8583
www.imperialworks.com
By Yuta Akaishi
42 Articles

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