In a time long ago, in a place called high school I met my best friend who owned an IS300. It was very nice considering the budget that he had to work with and it garnered fame within the Southern California region. Sadly, this is not his. However, I can thank him for introducing me to cars which set off this passionate flame about automotive modification that burns inside me. Truthfully, without him, I would have never been acquainted to the people who make up my inner circle of the car game. Regardless, when StanceNation’s head honcho asked me if I wanted to write this feature, I sprang right for it. I am absolutely nostalgic and blown away by Chris Santagata’s dapper IS300.
Photos By: Eric Dowd exclusively for StanceNation.com
When Chris started playing with cars, the IS300 wasn’t the platform he wanted to start with. Rather, he wanted a Toyota Supra. His love for cars stemmed from his father, who coincidentally enough was a Toyota technician for more than twenty years. When Chris was in the fifth grade, his dad decided to bring home a black on black 15th anniversary Supra and Chris was immediately infatuated, thus this automotive romance had begun.
The IS300 is such an appealing platform to begin with, as at the time, Chris could not get his hands on a Supra due to budget and availability. He settled upon the Lexus because he figured its just a 4-door Supra with a need for the proper 2JZ-GTE motor. He says even from the very beginning, he had his heart set upon swapping the NA version the Lexus came in for the more powerful, more popular, and in my opinion, more fun motor. I mean heck, it was a 2JZ-GTE powered SC400 that took my boosted car cherry.
Even at first glance, one can see just how immaculate this car is. The front Greddy lip helps set the front end of the car nice and low to the ground while giving the car an appropriately aggressive look. The way the parts all flow together, and the selection make this car sit real pretty. From the paint to the flat black head and tail light housings, they all work together in bringing each other out in this car.
Chris chose these pristine CCW Classics to compliment his build. They seem appropriate as his favorite aspect of this car is its “go fast” functionality. Coming in at 18×9.5 and 18×11.5, they land this car serious points in aesthetics but also shave down the overall weight of his build. All the fenders and quarters are widened to fit the wheels but all stock body lines were maintained to give it that nice clean factory look.
To achieve this kind of stance, Chris decided to overhaul the suspension. Nearly every aspect was covered. He started with an Accuair e-level management pack from Bag Riders mated with Air Force complete air struts, full TRD front and rear sway bars and a front strut brace to aid in the handling of the car. In addition, he went with FIGS control arms, traction links, and toe ends to further enhance the way this car sits. I feel you can’t cheap out when it comes to a build this clean.
The most interesting part of this build is the heart within this red beast. The engine was transplanted from a ’98 Supra and the R154 transmission was borrowed from an ’88 MKIII. Full Precision 65/67 turbo, front mounted intercooler, and 880cc injectors all provide more power to this beauty. A South Bend stage 5 clutch and a custom aluminum drive shaft help handle and transfer the power that is generated. You can almost say this stanced Altezza is having an identity crisis.
The wood grain on the Grip Royal aftermarket steering wheel and the custom extended brass shifter give this interior a classy look from the days of old. However, the interior of the IS300 with its race inspired cluster and Chris’ own introduction of DEFI boost, oil pressure, and fuel pressure gauges situated in the TRD gauge pod bring about a modern feel to the car.
Chris’ IS didn’t always look this way and he says the hardest part of this build was the basics. When he first obtained the car, he used the word “haggard” to explain it. The car needed tons of body work and suspension components to get it to even drive straight. A lot of TLC was required look like what it does today. I say the car just needed a little bit of Chris in its life.
As of right now, the car is putting down a whopping 689whp at 26 PSI but Chris says that’s not enough! His plans for the future are to switch out the IS’ wheels to compensate for his ideal power range that lies somewhere in the sarcastically modest ballpark of 900whp. Either way, StanceNation and I myself, will be patiently waiting to see this IS blossom into its complete flower. Even if it is a 900whp flower.