This is a story of dreams coming true. This story is bigger than just building this Lexus. It’s a story of love, perseverance and amazing people. And it’s a story of trust, mistakes, failures and overcoming them. I could talk all day about the Lexus IS 350 and our Vossen CV3-R wheels, but since I am in a very unique position here, things will get much deeper. So get comfy in your chair and grab a drink; this is going to be a long—and hopefully entertaining—read that you will feel compelled to share…not for the likes, fanfare or traffic hits, but hopefully because you can relate.
What is the unique position I speak of? Well, as of July 13th, 2015 I have been a Lexus owner for 19 years, which in retrospect is older than most of the users on Instagram! I remember going to shows in a modified Lexus in the late 1990s. I remember being one of the first people to organize and create Lexus-centric meets back in Atlanta in the early 2000s—while modifying a Lexus was still in its infancy. I remember helping build Lexus internet forums over a decade ago and building a culture from scratch, seeing my parents always supporting meets and events.
I’m proud of the enthusiasm for modified Lexus cars that I see today—from individuals to dealerships and all the way to Lexus corporate. I’m proud to be the forum administrator for the world’s number one Lexus news source, The Lexus Enthusiast, a true home for Lexus fans and owners. I’m proud to have failed in various Lexus-centric ways, from screwing up wood on door panels to spilling oil all over my driveway, and telling the idiots of a certain forum I helped build to F off (Lexus pun?)!
People see the spotlight now but they don’t know the pain and struggle to get to this point. I don’t have a calculator big enough to add up all the volunteer work. Now I’m married and my supportive wife drives a modified GS F-Sport and our kid has a Recaro seat. My parents are now grandparents still attending Lexus meets in their 60s. Lexus is no longer the staid brand it once was, now it’s a dynamic driving and design leader. Through Vossen I have been able to travel the world, including going “home” to Japan to visit Lexus. I cherish every single time I’ve seen a re-post of this car down to a like or comment because it means a lot to me that you think it means something. Hopefully you no longer wonder why i’ve been coined “lexfather” and I am pleased to keep pushing forward! Lexus Enthusiasts have come a long way!
This unique background could have been something that Vossen didn’t endorse, encourage or develop, but instead has gone above and beyond to support my passion for a brand that is not exactly known for building the most exciting vehicles. When it was time to build this Lexus IS, we were not asked to do much to it, but maybe lower it, add wheels and present it. The team at Vossen allowed me creative freedom to present to the world the only LFA Pearl Yellow Lexus that isn’t an LFA. I cannot say enough good things about my boss, and president of the company, Jav Azadi, for making “dreams come true” and helping develop automotive passion instead of trying to stunt its growth. My passion for cars has only increased because of Vossen and the chance work with cars from manufacturers all over the world is a dream come true. There are not many places like this and everyday I cherish the fact I am empowered to showcase our products friends & fans in distinctive ways that create waves throughout all enthusiast communities.
So let us rewind to July 2013, when our good friend, Clark Ishihara (CEO of ViP Auto Salon) called and said we would be awarded a Lexus to showcase for SEMA 2013—I still smile remembering that call! We had previously worked with Clark to provide wheels for his supercharged GS and some Western Regional cars but nothing of this stature. Considering he is the “father” of modifying Lexus cars for The SEMA Show, it was a real honor to be chosen.
We immediately decided against wrapping the car, as we felt there would always be some presentation opportunities with it. So we chose to paint a brand new Lexus. As the video explains, this car was given to us in Atomic Silver, a rather brilliant finish that Lexus produces and one of the most popular hues in their history. For a good week the discussion was centered on changing the color to something offered by the German competition. They were really good colors, so my suggestion of LFA Pearl Yellow wasn’t taken too seriously. A creative argument over the car’s vision transpired, which is a common occurrence when the involved parties are so passionate about a project.
Deep down inside though, I knew this was the color for the car. I wanted to draw some past/future relationships with our build, from the first generation IS 300 (offered in “Solar Yellow”) to the Lexus LFA, which was a bold and distinct exotic car that changed the direction of the company. I wanted the car to really pop with the new “Spindle Grille” and bold, aggressive body lines. It came down to Audi’s “Nardo Grey” and Lexus’ “LFA Pearl Yellow”. At this point the team entrusted me to take creative control of this build—or maybe they just gave in to my never-ending pressure!
Time flies when you are building a car on a deadline. It was August and SEMA is traditionally the first week of November every year, so 12-14 weeks. It sounds like a lot of time, but it is not! After going over a few proposals for bodykits, I chose a one that, in retrospect, I should have not have. I loved how it looked in renderings, but unfortunately we just didn’t see eye to eye on marketing opportunities. We had the front bumper, rear bumper, rear spoiler and roof spoiler, but no side skirts. Luckily, not many people noticed, but those who did made sure to tell us! Part of the learning process, I suppose.
When it came to the stopping situation, Greg at Race Technologies helped us upgrade the OEM brakes to much larger, more capable and of course more beautiful Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes. Harry at Nitto Tire supplied Nitto Invo tires for the car’s debut and Ben, at RS-R, worked overtime to source us the new “Black-i” Coilovers. The Vossen IS was first with the Black-i Coilovers, which are tuned like the Sport-i in regards to driving dynamics, but offer a much lower height adjustment. The sole interior modification was yellow seat belts, adding some nice visual pop to the interior.
Who would be tasked with building the car for us? It became pretty clear that Rob and his team at Platinum Motorsport was the way for something of this nature. But, seeing as how Platinum is located in LA and we are based in Miami, we can;’t just drive over to discuss issues or check progress—we made it work, though! Rob was texting me nearly everyday with updates and moved swiftly and accurately. He took apart the entire car to change the color, which is a very labor intensive job. He made suggestions when asked and never argued with choices made. To this day I am absolutely blown away by his service and the execution of the project. Thank you Rob! With one week to go at SEMA, the bodykit hadn’t cleared customs and we had to have the photoshoot done by our good friend Clifford Sutrisno.
At the time, our CVT was the newest wheel and we rushed shipping to get them installed in time for SEMA. Rob made it happen, frantically, and the car made it to the photoshoot with Clif!
SEMA was already mostly sold out when we got the car, and we had no option but parking upstairs. However, after pictures started to go up online, this car became a huge hit since it was unlike anything else! Lexus also debuted a few other awesome IS builds that year and it was great to see all the different interpretations from different builders. By far the number one feature people talk about is the color of our Lexus. I felt vindicated!
We decided to give our project IS some updates for 2014, but this time, with SEMA finished, we worked with our good friends at Exclusive Motoring, who were tasked with some paintwork and changing the bodykit. We decided to get rid of the silver/yellow theme and go with a gunmetal/yellow colorway instead. We had our new VFS-1 wheel debut so we changed out the CVT’s. The roof and grille were painted graphite to match. We upgraded to the new Lexon Exclusive Carbon Fiber Kit and Exhaust, which we painted graphite as well to match our theme.
The car was given a more sinister look now with those big yellow Brembos, really showing even more since we used graphite wheels on the car. Pirelli helped out by sourcing the new P-Zero Nero tires for the new VFS-1s, and it was set. Thanks to Roly and his team at Exclusive for updating our project!
The Lexus IS was also a feature vehicle VLE-1 launch being inside “toys for boys” with our Ferrari 458 for all attendees to view.
It’s been taken to numerous shows and events in the SouthEast and even parked inside the JM Lexus dealership.
Everywhere this car goes, it gets a ton of attention and it wouldn’t be possible without all our valued partners.
Today we debut its full video on our new Vossen CV3-R wheels, which measure 20×9 front and 20×10 in the rear. The CV3-R is our new updated take on our classic 5-spoke design, which has been emulated throughout the wheel industry and looks right at home on the IS. Fitment is perfect without any need for modification.
What is next? SEMA 2015 is coming fast so we hope to be back with something bigger, faster and even more exciting. The car is back in Los Angeles now with our good friends at Stillen, who like to make things go faster. That means we are going to build a new set of Vossen Forged wheels for this project car before it sails into the sunset…
Words: Mike Forsythe (@mike_vossen) ///// Photos: Jordan Krate (@jordan_vossen) ///// Video: Anthony De La Paz (@dela_vossen)