There's a dirty little secret behind this monster IS300. It's nothing as bad as Editor Nads' private collection of Dixie Chicks autographs, but not too long ago, owner Charles Park actually held the pink slip to a '90 Ford Mustang. Don't worry, there is a happy ending to this horror story. It was during this time with the Mustang that Charles really honed his philosophy of fixing up cars into what he now calls "The Complete Package." When I spoke with him before the photo shoot, he recited the breakdown of this goal like a tongue twister: speed, stop, suspension, and style. And it was obvious from the outset that he couldn't achieve this goal with the wobbly domestic.
"I got speed with the Mustang, but I couldn't get stop because the thing was so damn nose-heavy," Charles explains. "I was having problems with stopping, suspension, and this and that. And I got tired of just drag racing the car. The ideal car for me is a complete car that's not just fast, but something that I'd be able to take to a quarter-mile track and get respect, and then hop the same car over-without changing tires, nothing-to a road race course and just go all-out."
After Charles heard about the Altezza in Japan, he immediately plunked down the green to get on a waiting list for the IS300. "The reason I did that was because I saw the specs on the Altezza in Japan, and I saw the capability of that car in the Super Taikyu League racing series and how well they performed," he says.
When Charles got his domestic-stained hands on the Lexus, he immediately went to work maxing out his philosophy. In terms of style, he wanted to keep everything JDM. As any card-carrying Super Streeter knows, going strictly JDM is as cash-heavy as a bad week in Vegas, and Charles estimates that he's dropped more than $50,000 into the car-not including discounts and the parts he's received from sponsors. But he wasn't going let anything get between him and his goal of addressing every aspect of the car's performance and styling. Has he succeeded in building the complete package? You be the judge.
SpeedOn his laptop computer, Charles has video footage of the IS300 pegging 143 mph on the pull, and with room left to go. But then, on the brink of hyperspace, the needle just flutters. That's because the Lexus is still on a piggyback computer, and the factory speed governor prevents the needle from spinning higher. This is the sort of problem you get when you turbocharge Toyota's JZ-GE engine to the limit.
The Supremo Engine Tuners At SwiftRacing Technologies (SRT) in Maryland get the credit for the insane boost work. They dropped in a custom-spec Turbonetics T62-1 turbocharger with a T-304 stainless steel turbo manifold, and an assortment of custom mandrel-bent piping. There are two Blitz blow-off valves, severely tuned to be noticed, along with a wide Spearco intercooler core. The entire turbo setup fills the engine bay like Anna Nicole in a Wonderbra, and the full effect is even scarier. On SRT's chassis dyno, the IS300 has put out max power and torque ratings of 503.3 hp at 5,750 rpm and 472.1 lb-ft @ 5,250 rpm without nitrous. On the bottle, the car has reached 561 hp and change.
With that much raw, molten, mouthwatering force steaming underneath the carbon-fiber hood, SRT was worried that the factory automatic tranny would bend and melt inside Charles' IS300, so the tuners built a custom automatic race transmission to handle the strain. They pulled the entire transmission, blueprinted it, and then beefed up the internals. They also added a triple-plate racing torque converter with Kevlar clutch plates. "The SRT race tranny shifts harder and a lot quicker, so it's more responsive," Charles says of the results. "And most importantly, it holds all the horsepower. I don't have to worry about my tranny breaking. I mean, I can just floor that thing and not worry about it."
Stop And SuspensionFor a guy with a 500hp car, it's surprising how much Charles talks about his brakes, which is usually a clear sign to back up and slowly walk away. But then I took a good look at the StopTech setup and wept with joy, like I did at the end of Juwanna Man (Did you actually see this movie? No one else did. -PB). Charles originally wanted to stick with the JDM theme, but then he went with StopTech after discovering that the top braking cars in the Ultimate Street Car Challenge were using its products. He proceeded to fill the gaps in his tasty 18-inch Work VS wheels with 14-inch cross-drilled rotors and mighty four-piston calipers, which come within an eyelash of rubbing the delicious spokes. Sniff.
Charles, who takes the car out on the autocross and open track dates whenever he can bust out of work, has put just as much attention into the suspension. The Tein HA coilovers are a JDM version, which means they have 22 different adjustable settings (six more than what we get with the USDM versions). To stiffen the chassis, Charles reinforced the undercarriage with a jungle gym of bars and braces. Slide underneath the car and you'll find a full JDM Tanabe Sustec system, which includes front and rear sway bars, a front three-point lower chassis brace, a rear four-point lower chassis brace, and a rear upper strut tower bar. You'll also find a Tom's front lower control bar, rear control link bars (left and right traction bars), and rear lower control bar.
For grip, Charles decided to stick with what works on the racecourse, remaining loyal to Kumho's DOT-approved V700 autocross tires-and for good reason. With the way Charles rips around New York City, the tires don't keep their grip for very long, but like a reckless night in Roppongi on a car maker's expense budget, they're a lot of fun while they last.
StyleThese days, saying that your car is JDM means as much as saying you've had sex with Christina Aguilera in one of her "music" videos. But Charles' body treatment is as fresh as Daisy Dukes on Sasha Singleton. The lines are clean and simple, with all the right touches (if you know where to look), like the Toyota Neo-Custom Sports front bumper, Modellista rear bumper and side skirts (Modellista is Toyota's high-end accessory line in Japan), Griffin rear roof liner lip, black encased Altezza taillights (instead of chrome), and JDM smoked trunk lights. The stock antenna was also swapped out for a shorter JDM Altezza antenna. This is the sort of attention to detail that separates Charles' JDM ride from the rest of the wannabes. Even the VIS carbon-fiber hood was sanded, smoothed out, and covered with three layers of clear coat.
Inside, the cockpit features TRD Sports race seats with TRD brackets (Charles went with TRD Sports only after pronouncing the Bride seats too tight for his body), a full lineup of Omori gauges on the center console, Blitz SBC-ID boost controller, Power Meter, and FATT Turbo Timer, and a clean nitrous control setup in place of the stock coin holders, just left of the steering wheel. Very tasty.
Charles gets most of his JDM parts from Fizz Autosport in Queens. And 50 large ones later, Charles says he's still not done. Next up: Ugo carbon-fiber side mirrors, a six-point rollcage, a full engine buildup (including blueprinting and balancing and replacing the internals), a T-88 turbo upgrade with all the right fixings (courtesy of SRT, of course), and a custom widebody kit, which will most likely require new wheels and tires to fill out the arches.Tissues, please.
Fast FactsOwner Charles ParkHometown New York, New YorkDaily Grind Beauty ProductsRide '01 Lexus Is300
Under The Hood 3.0L DOHC VVT-i I-6 (2JZ-GE); stainless steel T-304 tig-welded, tube-style turbo manifold; Turbonetics T62-1 turbo unit (made to SRT specifications), turbo heat shield, wastegate (in closed-loop form); two Blitz blow-off valves; SRT custom double-layer fiberglass-filled exhaust manifold heat shield; custom mandrel-bent T304 3-inch stainless steel downpipe; RC engineering 440cc fuel injectors; NGK Colder Platinum spark plugs; SRT air/fuel ECU and wastegate pressure regulator; complete mandrel-bent hard pipes (turbo-to-throttle body); mandrel-bent intake hard pipe (includes cold-air intake pipe as standard equipment); stainless steel braided turbo oil supply line and turbo oil return line; silicone hose connectors and vacuum hoses; Spearco front-mount intercooler core with SRT end caps; hard pipes to and from the intercooler; in-tank 225 lb/h fuel pump; fuel return line with variable rate fuel pressure riser; MLS 1.4mm head gasket; ARP head studs; HKS adjustable exhaust cam gear; SRT triple-clutch racing torque converter; individual engine oil cooler and rear end oil cooler; Nitrous Express single fogger wet kit (remote bottle opener, bottle heater, TPS switch, custom purge and custom in-dash Auto Meter hard-line pressure gauge, and NX rpm-activated window switch with 3,000-6,000 rpm pills) and Nitrous Express N-tercooler kit (with remote bottle opener and custom install); full-length custom 3-inch mandrel-bent exhaust with Blitz Nur Spec 80mm muffler; B&M transmission cooler; stock Torsen LSD; SRT internally built and blueprinted automatic race transmission
Stiff Stuff JDM Tein HA coilovers; JDM Tanabe Sustec system (front and rear sway bars, front three-point lower chassis brace, rear four-point lower chassis brace, rear upper strut tower bar); JDM Tom's front lower control bar, rear control link bars (left and right traction bars), rear lower control bar; JIC upper front strut tower bar
Rollers 18-inch Work VS three-piece wheels (18x7.5-inch in front with 45 offset and 18x-8.5-inch in the rear with 52 offset), Kumho V700 DOT-legal "R" compound roadracing/autocross tires (235/40R18 front and 265/35R18 rear)
Stoppers StopTech 14-inch cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers front and back; Axxis racing brake pads, steel-braided brake lines, Motul 600 brake fluid
Outside JDM Toyota Neo-Custom Sports bumper and matching foglights; JDM Toyota Modellista rear bumper and side skirts; JDM Toyota taillights with black housing and smoked inner trunk light conversion; customized VIS carbon-fiber hood (hand-molded and with three layers of clear coat); TRD carbon-fiber front grille; JDM Altezza short antenna and side markers; carbon-fiber headlight eyelids; black pearl emblem; hyper white bulbs all around; Griffin rear roof liner lip
inside TRD Sports racing seats; Takata racing harness; TRD center console gauge pod with Omori 52mm gauges (boost, EGT, oil pressure); Blitz SBC-ID boost controller, Power Meter, and Turbo Timer; custom dash area for all nitrous controls
Props Fizz, Swift Racing Technologies, Advance Automotive, Nitrous Express, Blitz North America, Teck Ground Kit, RJ's Custom Piping, Omori North America