It no time in the history of automobile customization has wheel offset and stance been more important than it is right now. Whether it's the hellaflush craze or a tucked-and-bagged, super-low VIP stance, nailing the perfect combo of wheel fitment and ride height is essential if hard-parking is your scene. The thing is, we're all about performance here at Modified, so this type of fashion-over-function styling doesn't usually appeal to us. But when a stance master and all-around automotive styling genius like Jayson Pizarro builds a GM LS1 V-8-swapped JZS160 Lexus GS300 that blows the doors off Vipers and Elises at the track while snapping necks in the parking lot, we can't help but take notice.
We've known Jayson for a while now, having featured his benchmark S14 on the cover of the Dec. '07 issue. This Silver widebodied beauty raised the build-quality bar for S14s and still ranks as one of our all-time favorites because it not only looked super aggressive but was also his competition drift car. So when we heard Jayson was working on a new project, we knew it would feature his unique brand of automotive styling along with track-tested performance.
And that's exactly what you're looking at now, a project that represents Pizarro's 15 years of tuning experience in what he calls a "hot rod/import fusion." Having grown up in a rough neighborhood in San Diego where old-school muscle cars and hot rods were king, Jayson's first project was a '72 Chevelle SS with a blown motor. "I grew up around straight domestics, so this is what inspired me to do a GM V-8 swap. My inspiration on the domestic side really comes from the hot rod guys who have a super high level of attention to detail and never compromise. They always get the part they want, even if it means saving for three years to get that wild paint job."
As far as his choice of platform goes, Jay opted for the JZS160 GS300 platform because, "In Japan, these cars are considered a sports luxury sedan, but over here this platform is really only associated with luxury and VIP style. Most of the JZS160s in Japan are built with performance in mind, so I wanted to build my GS to showcase its performance side as much as its luxury and style side. I also wanted to do something innovative and different, something you rarely-if eversee, so that's why I decided on a four-door with a V-8 swap, but done on a budget."
Of course, Jayson's idea of a budget build might be a bit different than a 19-year-old putting together an S13 on a part-time pizza delivery salary. Any machine featuring a custom V-8 engine swap, custom rollcage, custom Bride gradation upholstery, a full Ikeya Formula control arm conversion, HKS coilovers, Volk TE37s and a Vertex bodykit isn't exactly operating on a shoestring budget, but Jay did get a smokin' deal on the chassis. "I bought the GS for $3,000 and sold all the parts I wouldn't be using for $2,200, so the chassis only cost me $800."
Jayson's ability to put together trendsetting project cars that generate a lot of exposure also meant he could keep his costs down via sponsorship support. DGR Fabrication was the biggest supporter of this project, fabricating the GM LSX V-8 engine-mount kit (which fits IS300 and JZS160 GS platforms) as well as the unique rollcage. According to Dan Gallmeister from DGR, "The biggest challenge was building the cage, given that Jay wanted to run a full interior and keep the rear seats functional. This meant doing something quite unique design-wise, where we used a double main hoop so that the rear bars didn't start until behind the rear seats, providing the necessary head space for rear passengers." Even more impressive is the fact that DGR completed the engine swap, paint and body work, and rollcage fabrication in just 10 weeks, investing about 340 man hours into the project along the way.
DGR poured all this sweat equity into Jay's Satin Black GS because the company saw it as an opportunity to develop an engine-mount kit for two popular Lexus platforms, plus they felt it would function as an excellent vehicle to showcase its fabrication skills on. Having unveiled the car and the engine mounts at the Sonoma Formula D event back in August '09, Jay explained his rationale for a V-8 swap like this: "The cost of a LS1 motor is about $4,000 including a T56 transmission, so when you add to that the approximately $1,500 for the mount kit, $300 for the wiring conversion, and $300-$400 for a driveshaft, you get an engine easily capable of 400 horsepower at the wheels for about $6,500. Compare that to the cost of doing a 2JZ swap, which to do right can easily run you $15,000, a GM LS V-8 swap is really very cost-effective."
With all that V-8 torque under the hood, Jayson also prefers the way his Lexus drives compared to his S14. "I've taken the GS to Buttonwillow a few times and to Thunderhill and it feels amazingly planted. I do have to use the e-brake after initiating a drift in order to control the extra mass this car has, but then it's on the power and you can nail a big smoky drift. I also love the fact that I'm able to drift it in fourth and fifth gears the whole time because of the V-8's torque. It's really hard to get into trouble with the car-it just responds and does what I want it to do. I may do some Pro-Am drift events with it in 2010, depending on my budget and level of tire support."
Although satin paint finishes and in particular Satin Black tends to elicit a love-or-hate reaction, Jay chose this paint finish because, "If you actually look at it, all the chrome is replaced with Gloss Black, the roof is Gloss Black so that it looks like glass, the wheels are Gloss Black and the decals are Gloss Black. The Satin was chosen because of its subtle contrast, which draws the eye to the details. I knew the paint scheme was working when I brought the car to the Autumn Gathering and there were guys who just studied the car for a half hour to try to figure out what was different about it."
With another perfectly executed show-and-go project car under his belt, it's only a matter of time before Jayson realizes his dream of collaborating with an OEM. "If you look at the Pontiac G8, for example, there's a car that could look so amazing with some subtle changes here and there. I hope to be able to work with an OEM to bring their vehicles that type of street-level insight so that they're able to attract younger generations of car enthusiasts into their showrooms."
DGR Fabrication LS Motor Mount Kit w/ urethane isolators, intake system, aluminum airbox, and stainless exhaust system w/ Borla mufflers; COMP Cams Tri-Power Xtreme camshaft and valvetrain upgrade kit; Hooker Headers Shorty headers, Canton Accusump system
T56 6-Speed manual transmission, B&M short shifter, Clutch Masters FX400 6-Puck clutch and aluminum flywheel, DGR Fabrication 1-piece driveshaft and machined differential adapter, KAAZ 2-way LSD
HKS Hipermax-D coilovers, Ikeya Formula front upper control arms, front lower control arms, RCAs, pillow tension rods, rear member spacers, rear upper camber arms, traction rods, and toe rods; VERTEX/SUIVAX JZS160/1 steering knuckles, TRD antisway bars (f/r)
Wheels, Tires & Brakes
Gloss Black Volk Racing TE37 19x9.5 +12mm (f) and 19x10.5 +12mm (r), Falken FK452 235/35-19 (f) and 265/30-19 (r), Toyota JZA80 Supra TT calipers (f/r), DGR Fabrication JZA80 Supra TT rear caliper brackets, Endless CCA brake pads (f/r), Brembo slotted rotors, SS braided brake lines (f/r)
VERTEX Lexus GS JZS160/1 bodykit and rear spoiler; Veilside Gandor sideview mirrors, ABFlug front grille, custom Satin Black paint w/ Gloss Black accents
DGR Fabrication custom rollcage; STACK ST8130 dash display w/ custom carbon enclosure, BRIDE GIAS seats, MO seat rails and gradation upholstery; Willans harnesses, VERTEX 10-Star 330mm steering wheel and Monochrome shift knob; Works Bell Rapfix II QR hub and short hub adapter
This build would not have been possible without the hard work and support of these great companies and people: Dan, Luke and Tucker at DGR Fabrication; Dat, Pete, Don, Ueno-San, Hiromasa-San, Kentaro and Hayashi-San at VERTEX | Carmake T&E; Nick, Robert and Felix at Falken; Jeff Wolfson and Daren Linner DGR Afterhours; Wayne, Alex and Howard at Phase2 Motortrend; Hugo at Sid's Custom Upholstery; Jei, Nat and Aki at Blacktrax Performance; Jay at GT Stickers; Ed at Mackin; Rob and Brandon at S.Car.Go Racing; Masa at KURE Motorsports; BH at Veilside; Dom and Kent at Endless USA; Brian at MA-Motorsports; Bill and Chris at Auto Glass Masters; Juan at Farmer Jones Tires; Garage Inc.; Logan at Rogansan.com | HNGLOOSE; Fatlace Crew: Mark, Ron, Kenny, Brandon and Daniel; Calvin Wan; Al; Rich and Brayden; and, most importantly, Marissa, Boo and Maya-thanks for the patience
How DGR Fabrication Developed its LSXV-8 Engine Mount Kit
»Remove and reinstall the engine six times while perfecting its location
»Fabricate some steel mock-up mounts
»Model the mock-ups in SolidWorks 3-D CAD design software
»Send the CAD drawings to a machine shop, where the Orange-anodized aluminum mounts are produced on a computer-controlled mill
»Reinstall the engine one last time, using a custom wiring harness and a custom DSS one-piece driveshaft
»Go do big smoky drifts with all that V-8 torque