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2000 HKS Altezza - 2000 Lexus IS 300

The $300,000 HKS Altezza. The whole story and behind-the-scenes video.

Richard S. Chang
Mar 1, 2001
Photographer: Wes Allison

A fit of false starts describes my early attempts at knocking this one out.You see, the official auto-weenie dictionary is very limiting when it comes to vehicles like the HKS Altezza race car. There aren’t enough big words (and phrases like “dope-ass rims” just don’t seem to cut the mustard here). So, take this as guidance: Everything you are about to read is a drastic understatement.

Code-named Track Attack by HKS Japan, the Altezza looks like it was crafted by Tim Burton’s bizarro factory. It is all very organic and very black, as though only comes out at night. The carbon-fiber body panels (which encompass the whole of the car) have been stripped of their gloss. Now, the grids of fiber resemble skinless muscle mass. The front fenders bend around the Advan tires like crossed arms. A coincidental gesture of fierce intimidation, which gets its meaning across: This is one bad mutha.

The shame of it all is that the Altezza has only been driven once. That it was meant only to be driven once is a bit confusing. But to fully understand the purpose of the Track Attack Altezza, it’s important to recognize that the foundation of HKS is deeply rooted in racing. Owners Hasagawa and Kitigawa—the H and the K in HKS (the S stands for Sigma, which is the bank that first funded the enterprise)—live to race, so consider their company as a rather elaborate by-product of that drive. And it’s also that drive that spawned the Track Attack Altezza.

At a cost of over $300,000 to build (with no calculable return in sight), it is more passion than good business. Believe it or not, the sole purpose of the car was to break the circuit record at Tsukuba in Japan. It garnered HKS that distinction (by two seconds) and has since been retired to stud. A shame, yes, but the car also serves as a trophy for the ultimate enthusiasm for motorsport and pride in being the best.

Overall, the HKS Track Attack Altezza shares very little with the street version (Altezza in Japan, IS 300 in the states). For starters, it is constructed on top of a full tube frame chassis. The 2.0L four-cylinder 3S-GE powerplant (which comes stock in Japan) has been shoved deeper into the engine bay (behind the firewall) to achieve 50/50 weight distribution. The engine has been bored and stroked a touch to wind up at 87mm x 80mm. It has been outfitted with HKS camshafts, cam gears, forged nickel-plated pistons, titanium-coated piston rings, and forged fully counterweighted crankshaft. But that’s enough of what you can’t see.

The 3S-GE is turbocharged with an HKS GT3037S ball-bearing turbine and everything else that the HKS engineers found fit to throw at it. This includes an HKS Racing wastegate, a stainless steel turbo exhaust manifold, and EVC Pro boost controller (boost is set at 1.67 bar or 24.22 psi). The behemoth custom intercooler steals most of the immediate spotlight under the hood, spreading out from the front fender. But nothing in here remains too subdued for long. Just take a good look at the suspension. Not your everyday coilovers here. Fitted to a beefy CNC bracket connecting both original shock towers is a highly modified custom HKS pushrod suspension arrangement. The same custom setup sits in the rear. This is a good example of what happens when engineers with balls decide to do a project car.

Getting into the Altezza is a comedy of errors. After all, it is a race car with a full (what seems to be 100-point) rollcage. Cages are called cages for a reason, and getting through this particular one is an Olympic event—well, it definitely involves a running start and a dismount. Then there is a matter of the taking off and putting back on of the steering wheel. A cinch once you get the knack for it, which I never do. So, I just stand back and watch everything from the outside.

Not really much on the inside. A simple motif of carbon-fiber occupies the cabin. It’s only broken up by the Bride race seat and the electronic dash setup. A small wall of buttons, knobs, and switches that scream, “Do not touch!” reside on the center console (interestingly enough, the wiper and turn signal levers are still intact), which runs all the way down to an XTrac six-speed sequential transmission. So far, I’ve determined that even if I were able to get into the car, I’d have absolutely no idea what to do after that, not the least of which is attacking a track. Attacking the driveway is more reasonable. Crashing into the walls would be more likely.

Now, for the numbers guys: the Track Attack Altezza is rated at 600 hp at 8,000 rpm and an even more impressive 450 lb-ft of torque at 6,000. It weighs around 2,000 pounds. Final drive is set at 4.375. Air jacks installed in three places under the car enable instant lifting of the car for repairs. They also allow for easy turning of the car during photo shoots, which is pretty much all the car has in store for its future since it’s no longer track bound. Still, the Altezza cuts a pretty mean profile.

By Richard S. Chang
84 Articles

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