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2003 Lexus IS300 - VIP Dreams

Forgoing fast in the name of luxury

Aaron Bonk
Apr 14, 2017
Photographer: Tyler Kapper

Drive a beat-up '80s Civic hatchback long enough or a war-torn 240 for a couple of years and all of a sudden something with a heater and leather seats your aunt would approve of starts making a whole lot of sense. Roy Moncada likes it when things make sense and found himself in the driver's seat of an '03 Lexus six years ago. It was an Integra Type R build-up that pushed him away from Honda-land for good, though, when, according to Moncada, the shop responsible for building the car's engine went off and sold it without him knowing, leaving him short one Type R engine and extremely pissed off. "After that, I decided it was time to take a break," he says.

2003 lexus is300 vertex front bumper Photo 2/18   |   2003 Lexus Is300 Vertex Front Bumper

A growing VIP scene and a co-worker who was selling his IS meant that his break wouldn't last too long. Moncada was back in the game. "After looking into it and the aftermarket support, I knew it was the right decision," he says. "Lexus and Toyota cars had always caught my eye, and with the VIP scene growing, I knew I wanted to build a car that was influenced by that look." Which is exactly what he did, forgoing the 2JZ swap you'd think somebody who'd once owned a K20A Type R-Civic would have and, instead, allocating funds toward things like custom diamond-stitched seats, a suede-wrapped dash, and shaved body lines all around. None of that makes Moncada's IS any faster, and he doesn't care.

But that doesn't mean Moncada likes being slow. "The number one question I get is, 'Why a stock motor?'" he says. "I told myself that when I was ready, I'd do something impressive." And by impressive, Moncada means an eight-cylinder LS1 engine swap. But this build was all about priorities, and that V-8 is going to have to wait. "This build was a way for me to promote my shop," Moncada says about the custom vented hood and wide-body fenders, as well as the shaved and widened Vertex front bumper, plus the Chargespeed back end that's got an R35 GT-R diffuser built into it-it's all the sort of stuff that Moncada specializes in and wanted to show off by way of the IS' sheetmetal and interior. Most of the work he did on his own, but he's never been one too timid to ask for help. "I take pride knowing that this is 100 percent my design and vision," he says, "but I don't knock anyone looking to let the professionals handle the work if they choose that route. I've helped friends with their cars and in return they help me."

2003 lexus is300 houndstooth headliner Photo 6/18   |   2003 Lexus Is300 Houndstooth Headliner

"I'm a perfectionist," says Moncada, who's overhauled the IS' exterior no less than three times already. "The amount of nights I've spent trying to re-create what's in my head is always fun." Almost as fun as an LS-swapped Lexus.

2003 lexus is300 jdm altezza front grille Photo 10/18   |   2003 Lexus Is300 Jdm Altezza Front Grille
2003 lexus is300 interior Photo 14/18   |   2003 Lexus Is300 Interior
2003 lexus is300 oe nissan r35 gtr rear diffuser Photo 18/18   |   2003 Lexus Is300 Oe Nissan R35 Gtr Rear Diffuser
By Aaron Bonk
374 Articles
2003 Lexus IS300 - VIP Dreams
Tuning Menu
Owner: Roy Moncada
Hometown: Austin, TX
Occupation: service adviser
Engine: custom air intake, stainless steel headers; Borla exhaust; semi-shaved and tucked engine bay
Footwork & Chassis: BC coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 18x10" -25 front, 18x12" -8 rear Avant Garde wheels; 245/40R18 front, 275/35R18 rear Falken Azenis tires
Brakes: Adams slotted rotors; powdercoated calipers
Exterior: shaved and widened Vertex front bumper; custom vented hood, fender flares, side skirts, canards; Chargespeed rear bumper; integrated OE Nissan R35 GT-R rear diffuser; JDM Altezza grille and headlights; LED taillights; shaved trunk, roof, fenders, hood, side moldings; three-stage red paint
Interior: diamond-stitched seats, floor mats, door panels; houndstooth headliner, pillars; suede-wrapped dash; NRG steering hub, flip latch; Grip Royal painted steering wheel; Pioneer stereo, speakers
Thanks You: Jaime Yax, Hit Bhatpuria, Roger Martinez, Gabe Letelier and Manny Iwabuchi have helped me tremendously; Falken Tire, Air Lift Performance; Avant Garde Wheels

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