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2001 Lexus IS 300 - Gold Rush

Straight Outta Fort Knox: Oscar Ramos' Nugget of an IS 300

Paul Smalls
Apr 1, 2002
Photographer: Wes Allison

Watching Oscar Ramos' '01 Lexus IS 300 weave through traffic is truly a sight to behold. Shining like the mysterious contents of Marsellus Wallace's briefcase, the Gold Melt paint somehow sucks in all the available light and reflects it like a pilsner nebula. Drab industrial parks, Denny's parking lots—even these pestilence-ridden locales seem somehow brighter and sunnier once Oscar's Lexus rolls through.

The Lexus IS 300 (Toyota Altezza in Japan) is certainly of better breeding than your average import, and Oscar has managed to take his car a step further into top-tier show-car territory. After seeing the Altezza in Tokyo Auto Salon coverage, Oscar knew he had to get one'the car's quasi-Civic design cues and four-door status called him long-distance collect. After getting his hands on a Lexus, Oscar completed a yearlong buildup. But the car was still its original color: black.

Oscar explains, "The car looked exactly the way it looks now for a year and a half, but it wasn't gold. As soon as I painted it, all of a sudden everything came together."; Gold has that effect on people; it grabs you with big sweaty hands and rubs your face in its ample chest. It's also just one detail that can push an already formidable show car over the cliff into the land of Super Street covers. After all, you don't see many gold cars, even in the show world (and that night you ate those mysterious mushrooms in the forest doesn't count).

Of course, it also helps when you install a Japanese wide-body Wald kit. Oscar says, "I never intended to fix the car up...[but] one of my sponsors was pushing me to get the kit. I grew to love it, due to the fender flares." The kit gives this Lexus an absolutely sinister angularity, almost reptilian in nature-like the mighty snake, rearing and ready to strike a hippie mountain hiker's leg. Also gracing the exterior are Ugo mirrors (Oscar's favorite), eyelids, and subtle top rear spoiler, lending the Lexus some very only-in-Japan Altezza touches.

Yes, with the help of Area 51 in Irvine, California, Oscar managed to put together quite a "gold" mine (heh, heh). You could call the Lexus his "golden" girl (heh, heh). Just don't touch it with your "gold" finger (heh, heh). Area 51 hammered a supercharger into the engine bay, which provides the majority of the car's 252 hp (up from a stock 215 hp). Area 51 also worked quite a bit of magic on the suspension, making the undercarriage a work of art, thanks in part to a chromed set of Area 51 control arms and some Tom's Suspension braces.

But truth be told, this car isn't meant for the track-it's meant for stopping traffic and drawing a crowd. To this end, the interior has seen special care. The door panels received plenty of suede, and Oscar added the custom-made IS 300 plaque that graces the passenger-side dash. When he's not watching TV on the Clarion monitor, Oscar's probably staring at his Japanese TRD gauge cluster-one of only 500-the hypnotic center rpm gauge invoking him to perpetrate even more vehicular madness.

In the trunk, there's more ice than you can handle; in fact, it's an ice cave, so cold you'll freeze there and gasp like a "gold"; fish (heh, heh) out of water. Two Zapco amps, one of which is actually two Reference 350s custom-built as one unit, preside over two neon-circled 12-inch Alumapro speakers. The amps are flanked by a custom-built Zeal rear strut, the Zeal bottle cap poking from the carpet like baby teeth.

For Oscar, his tuning instincts just come naturally. He has a kind of sixth sense for it. Does it speak to him in a voice that sounds like a backward-playing record, or does he see dead people? "I just see something" he says, "and I go, "That looks really nice." So there you have it, he sees dead people. And with a 2JZ-GTE (aka Supra turbo motor) and six-speed transmission on the way, you know that Oscar's word is definitely as good as...platinum.

By Paul Smalls
1 Articles



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