The Lexus IS was a compact sports sedan built by the Toyota Motor Corporation under the Lexus moniker and was originally dubbed as the Altezza in Japan and began its production in late 1998. Interestingly, the IS name stands for Intelligent Sport whereas Altezza is the Italian word for “highness” and was engineered by the same person who also worked on other legendary Toyota, the AE86 and the Supra. Designed to go up against the likes of the mighty BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-class. Depending on market,it was equipped with either the 2.0L 1G-FE in the IS200 variant or the rev-happy 2.0L 3S-GE Beams in the RS200 followed by a non-blown version of the 3.0L 2JZ in the IS300. All engines came with a standard 6-speed manual or an optional auto transmission. Offering a dynamic driving experience, it was up there with its Bavarian counterpart adding Toyota reliability as a bonus.
Which brings us to Alvin Ng and his IS200. When he first saw the car, it was love at first sight. I can totally see why, it’s a stylish car to begin with. Not to mention that it started a huge counter-culture with its iconic tail lights.
And thus for the next couple of years, Alvin scrimped and saved to afford this machine.
Prior to actually purchasing the car, Alvin studied and researched everything there was needed to know about the IS (codenamed the GXE10), and decided the best route was to specifically get the IS200 with its 1G-FE. This would prove useful when it moves to the next stage of its evolution, a 1JZ-GTE VVT-I swap as using IS200 as base for swap would require less work than starting off with the ever popular BEAMS 3S-GE equipped Altezza.
Lets step in first. The IS interior is a nice place to be. Obviously, being a car that’s suppose to be an entry-level luxury car, its not intruding and has a sporty feel to everything you touch.
The standard steering was ditched to incorporate a classic Nardi steering wheel but what really catches the eye within the interior…
…is the chronograph tachometer that dominates the instrument cluster which XE10 platform is well known for. I would like to think that this is the catalyst that inspired further generations of future Lexus most notably the Lexus LFA with its animated instruments.
I remember back when I was in high school, and the Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show was in town and someone brought in an Altezza to the show and it occurred to me how wild it looked to the sea of Camrys and Corrollas we had on our shores. It looked like no Toyota I’ve ever seen before. Even my father was keen on it but unfortunately my mother quickly shut down those hopes.
A 1JZ-GTE VVT-I was sourced from a JZX100 with its R154 running gear and transferred into the engine bay and as previously mentioned, was not a hassle as one would believe as the original fuel lines that run along the chassis(A plus for going with IS200 rather than Altezza for 1JZ swap project) could match easily with the new engine plus allow the tachometer/rev-counter to work. Before Alvin commission the swap, he did his homework thoroughly and prepare the parts accordingly. It only took the workshop two weeks to go from 1G-FE to 1JZ-GTE VVT-i powered.
A turbo from Holset dominates the engine bay and breathes thru its original airbox albeit modified so that it flows into the turbo. Intuitive to say the least.
It is then further coupled with a 50mm wastegate from HKS complemented with a Type 1 BOV also from HKS. Furthermore, an oil cooler kit also from HKS complements the engine bay.
But I think the coup’de’grace of the entire car is the amount of chassis work done to the car. Alvin specialty is in chassis work and he spared no expense in it. Reading like a parts catalogue, the IS is shod in coilover from Final Konnexion wearing Cusco springs. The obsessive compulsion in finding the perfect setup is evident when Alvin tell us this is the 8th time he’s changed the suspension. And it doesn’t just end there…
The whole underbody of the car looks like it came straight from the Cusco catalogue from its lower arm bars…
..to its struts and rear bars.
You can even notice the semi-rigid Weld mounts for the differential, an uncommon but essential item for the discerning tuner.
Being a welder himself, most of the work to the car is done by Alvin which further adds the attention to detail he can give towards his pride and joy. A front splitter was customized to let smooth air pass under the car giving it further aerodynamic advantage amongst other Altezza.
Another unique feature of the car is the incorporation of a rear radiator from Greddy underneath the trunk usually common in race cars and time attack vehicles. Alvin’s elect to purpose the back mounted radiator as supplementary radiator to aid cooling.It shares room with an exhaust from BuddyClub.
Turning our attention to the exterior, the car wears a TRD Neo front end matched with a grill from the early model Altezzas and….
…is topped off with a carbon-fibre hood from Eleven Nines Motorsport. I’d say the whole package works nicely without sacrificing the look and subtlety of the Altezza. On track days, the car sports a GT wing from Voltex with custom wing stand.
In a world of stance and flush, Alvin has gone the way of function rather than form and has the car sitting on Gram Light wheels from Rays. It also wears AD08R’s on all 4 corners.
And what is power without control. Stopping power is upgraded with a pair of AP Racing brakes mounted on Supra servos further furnished with APP brake lines.
Its hard to not admit the duality of this car. Alvin narrates, “I wanted to build an all in one daily driven race car. A lot of people asked me why waste time and just buy a track car. This is sort of the masterpiece that I’m proving them wrong with.” He further says, “It’s been a long 5 years and what you see here is the result of it”.
Patience is a virtue I’d say. And running with 420 horsepower to the wheels I’d say his patience bore fruit. That should be more than enough power to run tracks and still nip down to the grocery store. Plus with the overengineering of the 1JZ, I think kicking a piston is the least of his concerns. Just traffic summons.
Sleeper? Grocery getter? None of this matters. Bold in its execution, it’s hard for me to think of another car where you have to really appreciate the details of what it truly is. A finely built machine.
Alvin’s IS200 specification:
Car: Lexus IS200
Power: 420WHP@1.4bar on Dynojet
1JZ-GTE VVT-I engine swap from JZX100
Lighten/balanced water, steering, alternator & tension pulleys
Fluidampr crank pulley
2JZ engine brackets
TRD 3S-GE engine mount
HKS Super Hybrid filter element
Tonnka exhaust manifold
Custom turbo back exhaust
BuddyClub Spec III Style titanium muffler
Holset HX35 turbocharger
HKS 50mm wastegate
HKS BOV Type 1 blow off valve
Samco radiator hose (Black)
HKS oil cooler kit
NTCL 68° low temp thermostat
SPAL performance fan
Forged racing radiator (Front)
Greddy radiator (Rear)
Cusco Radiator cooling panel
Stock 1JZ ignition system
Engine Bay Accessories
Walbro 255LPH in tank fuel pump
Power Enterprise 550cc injectors
Adaptronic E420D standalone engine management
Engine management tuned/installed by R.N.R Autosport
ARK Design MFD meter display unit
ARK Advance boost controller
ARK Design STB turbo timer
NTK Air-fuel ratio monitor (Wideband)
Billion VFC-Pro DD fan controller
R154 5 speed manual transmission swap
Cusco 1.5 way LSD
4.1 final drive
HKS twin plate clutch
WELD semi rigid rear differential mounts
Altezza(GXE10) front crossmember/subframe
Custom power steering piping
Rear trunk floor pan modded to accommodate 2nd radiator
Cusco front adjustable member reinforcement rod bar
Cusco front 3 point strut bar
Cusco front lower arm bar V2
Cusco rear lower arm bar V2
Cusco rear lower arm bar V1 (J bar)
Cusco rear 3 point strut brace
Cusco rear trunk bar
Final Konnexion STEALTH one way coilover
Cusco 20kg/mm spring
Cusco front negative camber arm
SuperPro front lower arm bushing
SuperPro front caster arm bushing
Custom RCA(Roll center adjuster)
Custom adjustable tie rod for extra turn ratio (Modded stock item)
Cusco anti roll bar
Final Konnexion STEALTH one way coilover
Cusco 12kg/mm spring
Cusco anti roll bar
Custom adjustable rear toe link (Modded stock item)
Custom adjustable rear traction link (Modded stock item)
Supra JZA80 brake servo
AP Racing CP5555 6 pot brake caliper
APP brake lines
Custom brake caliper adapter
APP brake lines
Custom front splitter
Custom rear diffuser
Eleven Nines Motorsport CF(Carbon Fiber) hood
Carbon Fiber roof
VOLTEX GT wing with custom bracket (Only installed for track usage)
Zenki model grill
AkzoNobel Sikken flat white paint
TRD Neo front bumper
Nardi Classic ND Classico(350mm diameter) steering wheel
Recaro SP-G fixed shell bucket seat
Sabelt 3″ 4 point harness
PIAA 6400K HID
Kouki model smoked tail light
Wheel & Tyre
Gram Lights 57F 18×8.5+35 wheel
Advan Neova AD08R 245/40/18 tyre
Gram Lights 57F 18×9.5+40 wheel
Advan Neova AD08R 265/35/18 tyre
Toyota NHZA-W58G HDD double din with Bluetooth headunit
Track time/Racing achievement: