Lone Star Hustler: A 1,100hp Lexus
Welcome To Texas

If someone was planning a trip to the United States to take in some American car culture, the first place they’d probably think to visit would be California. It’s certainly hard to argue with that, because the Golden State has great weather and a diverse, thriving automotive scene.

But there’s another destination they should consider before packing their bags, and that would be the state of Texas…


They say everything is bigger in Texas, and whether it’s famous events like the Texas Mile, Tx2k or the amazing facility that is Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, the state’s love of cars and motorsport cannot be overlooked.


For me, Texas car culture brings to mind brutally quick late model streetcars that roam the drag strip by day and the highways by night. We’re talking Toyota Supras packing well over a thousand horsepower and supercharged Corvettes that wag their tails at triple-digit speeds.


Sure, Texas isn’t the only place you’ll find these types of cars in the US, but it is the place where they congregate in large numbers and stretch their legs across the state’s wide open roads.


This all brings us to Matt Owen – the owner of the 2003 Lexus IS300. We came across this car at Fatlace’s Offset Kings show during the recent Formula Drift Texas event, and it was our clear pick for the #FeatureThis prize.


Matt’s love affair with engines began as a teenager when he rebuilt and serviced lawnmowers for extra money. Naturally, this interest expanded into cars and Matt quickly found himself building a turbocharged, engine-swapped, Honda Del Sol in his mom’s garage. Later, he worked at a local shop that specialized in MR2s and other high performance Toyotas.


It was there that he developed a taste for fast Toyotas, and in the years since he’s owned nine different Supras and no less than 30 MR2s – most of them heavily modified.


Today you’ll find Matt at a workshop called T1 Race Development where he specializes in engine building and fabrication for Nissan GT-Rs making as much as 1,800 horsepower. Just the sort of crazy machine that Texas is known for.


While he might be intimately familiar with the GT-R now, Matt still has plenty of love for Toyotas – specifically, the Lexus IS300. When Lexus started importing the IS300 to the US in 2001, the idea was to take a bite from the BMW 3 Series market – and the IS has been a solid seller ever since. More recently, the first generation IS has picked up a strong following among tuners thanks to its compact size and bulletproof 2JZ powerplant.

Enter The V8

Despite having plenty of experience with Toyota’s legendary turbo six, Matt has a particular affinity for fitting the IS300 with GM’s LS series V8s. He did it for the first time back in 2010 and has built several V8-powered examples since.


In August of last year, Matt was on Craigslist hunting for IS300 parts when he came across a rare IS chassis with a basic cloth interior and no sunroof. Immediately, visions of a racecar danced in his head.


He bought it, of course, and soon after began transforming it into one of the world’s fastest IS300s, with, yes… GM V8 power under the hood. This wouldn’t be just a simple swap, though. Matt’s goal was to make a splash at Tx2k – the crazy race gathering that happens in Houston each spring.


Given the performance figures he was aiming for it would take a lot to transform the Lexus from a mild mannered sport sedan to a quarter mile bruiser, but Matt ended up fabricating just about everything on the car himself.


The engine itself is a 5.3-liter aluminum block LC9 V8 that’s been massaged by the crew at Watt’s Shop for maximum performance and durability.


Among the V8’s many modifications is a bottom end that’s been beefed up with 11.5:1 Wiseco pistons and Scat rods, which sit below a custom-ground camshaft from EPS. The real story, though, are the power adders.


Boost comes from a custom twin turbo setup built around a pair of Precision 6266 turbochargers and a custom-fabricated Garrett A2W intercooler. There’s also a full MoTeC M150 engine management system to oversee everything.


Altogether, the package is good for an impressive 1,162 wheel horsepower and 936 pound feet of torque. Big numbers that come with the challenge of effectively getting it all to the ground.

Sleeper? You Be The Judge…

While most drag cars with this sort of power output would be running a built automatic transmission, Matt takes great pride in rowing his own gears. The transmission is a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual mated to a custom carbon fiber driveshaft.


Next, Matt knew the rear end was going to need some serious upgrading so he went with a full 9-inch conversion from The Driveshaft Shop. Broken diffs should not be an issue here. To help it dig in, the car has also been fitted with custom lower control arms, subframe bushings and a set of AFCO drag coilovers.


As for the exterior, the IS300 remains almost completely stock – save for the things like the large intercooler and cut outs in the front fenders for the wastegate dump pipes.


But the narrow ‘n wide Weld RTS wheels with 275/60R15 Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pros out back leave little doubt as to the car’s true purpose.


In the cabin there isn’t much to convince anyone that this car’s anything but a stock IS300 with a few minor upgrades.


The only major upgrade are the front seats – a pair of Japanese market Recaro buckets that Matt grabbed from one his many MR2s.


Keen eyes might notice the MoTeC C125 dash unit, which suggests that the IS might be packing some extra punch under the hood.


While I’m not sure if everyone will call Matt’s Lexus a ‘sleeper’, I think the understated exterior and interior treatments do a nice job of keeping things under the radar.


If you are wondering about the quarter mile times for this car you aren’t alone. When I asked Matt what kind of ETs it’s turned in, he said he’ll be heading to drag strip for the first time this weekend and will keep us updated on what he runs.


Brutally fast, fully street legal and bold in its execution. It’s hard for me think of a single better machine to represent the craziness that is Texas car culture.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

Photos by Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Cutting Room Floor


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All it needs now is proper safety gear.
And some new upholstery for those hideous seats. Easy enough to fix.  Great build though.




my kind of build... great work hats off sir


@Fabrik8 I respectively disagree with your opinion on the seats. I find them retro and a great contrast to the unsuspecting exterior. A nice touch.


Sheisa. I always fall head over heels for sleepers, but this thing is just... wow. Like, colossal wow.


max performance


On the last paragraph on the second chapter it says 1,1162 hp! Typo I think?!? xD


that's dope. a small part of me is sad that he didn't keep the 2j, but it's his car to build, not mine, so more power to him. i imagine he gets some weird looks in the grocery store parking lot when everyone figures out that deep rumble is coming out of a lexus!


OMFG... Those are the only words that comes out of my mouth... insane!!!


Emptypie We'll agree to disagree.  I like retro, but that particular '90s Toyota upholstery looks like bowling alley carpet. Not all retro is good retro.  ;-)


what terrible photography.


@Fabrik8 all it needs now is proper photography. what a fail.


@TheWatcher Big words when you are behind a computer! btw great work Larry I always like your stuff particularly that last shot. :D


@TheWatcher Big words when you are behind a computer! btw great work Larry I always like your stuff particularly that last shot. :D






@HcheerTwat suffering lens envy? Post one of your images then spout forth


@Fabrik8 Emptypie HONDA upholstery damn it.


@TheWatcher Did Walmart have a special on the hater-aide?


@TheWatcher Did Walmart have a special on the hater-aide?


There nothing wrong with the photography silly billy


LukeEVOVIII Looks like we got a bit overexcited there! Thanks, we'll change it.


@TheWatcher I hope your being sarcastic.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with these photos, I don't see what peoples problems are.


Sad face when I saw the Lsx swap...bad ass car otherwise.  T1 racing always has awesome cars.

Steve McClintock

I can't believe some of the haters out there. If they only knew Matt & his skills, they might think a little bit different. He built just about everything for this car himself. Those are not store bought turbo headers, air to water intercooler, all the piping that has to fir correctly, no sir, HE made em from scratch! Plus, he's a super nice guy. How many of you haters out there have your car in any magazine??? Plus, almost 1200 whp. Great job Matt, and cool photo shoot.


I wonder if he is using a twin or triple disc clutch to handle that power and torque. I expect he's using a monster clutch since they are located in Texas as well. If it wasn't for the safety cut off switch near the rear license plate, and drag wheels it would be just another stock IS300. He should get a set of stock Lexus wheels (ISF perhaps for that OE+ look), and have the rears rims widened to fit 275s for the street. This is a very nice build, and I really like the wastegate dump pipes cut outs in the front fender.


You're. Not your. Don't be scared of apostrophes, they are your friend...


I want to like it.  From a fabricators stand point it is really cool.  From a general eye point it's ok.  I can't say I was blown away by it.  I get using the LS engines.  They are a really great platform, but I took a guess and got it spot on, a blown LS without looking at any pics and words.  The thing is it isn't really what I would call a sleeper either.  It isn't really hiding.  Sleeper look stock and haul ass or at least don't look like some kid got a hold of a catalog and got a bunch of plastic stuff to put on it.  The fabrication is awesome but the package is just okay.


@Fabrik8 Those seats are OEM JDM recaros for the Supra.  I have a set in my Supra, and they look fantastic.  I first thought the same thing, they look old, like 90's airplane cabin, but they handle the track well, comfortable enough for 1k mile road trip, and bolt up to the stock seat brackets.  Plus, considering the IS300 itself is from that late 90's early 2000 era, I think they fit well with the retro-look at this day and age.


Those rear wheels through the "sleeper" look out the window!! haha


With the amount of people crying about LS swaps and the quality of photos lately I'd think Speed Hunters is sponsored by Kleenex if I didn't know any better. 

Other than the giant rear slicks on this car you wouldn't really know any better if you couldn't hear it. Fabrication looks really nice and the engine is a beast. Been in a few 1000 + hp LS twin turbo motors and have never felt bored or unamused (except for the sand rail I got a ride in...it was just too cushioned for my taste, but hey...they need massive suspension travel to work correctly). 

Bitchin car with a serious motor. Have an issue? Heres a tissue.


i23sonny In Australia there's someone building a 1GZ S15 for drifting and road cruising.  However, that's all i know of apart from Ken Nomura's 1GZ S13.


I remember seeing a video of this car when it was only making 600hp and so many people gave him so much crap for it for the power it made then only because matt was taking precautions tuning. Glad to see him come back and shut them all down. Congrats buddy!

The attention to detail is jaw dropping.

Gianluca FairladyZ

I am not very familiar with drag racing, but with such large amounts of power, insn't there needed to stiffen the chassis with some sort or roll cage or security cell like in touring cars? Anyway great car!


My dad owns a Gita. Something very menacing about the front end. I always do a double take when I see it in the rear view mirror.


XD @ "Bang bang skeetskeet" in the MoTeC dash


That giant intercooler looks badass. Brakes look to be next on the list. Nice car, nice motor platform with the 5.3 I dig it.


great build, love the custom manifolds and air to water intercooler. everything looks like it was very well thought out and very well executed. beautiful build


Rocking texas.. boo booo


I do like those wheels.


Two of these Recaro seats please, they look awesome


Merc The brakes are actually upgraded to the Supra 330mm rotors with EBC Yellow Stuff pads, this is the roll racing setup. I re-install the stock brakes with Skinnys for the 1/4 mile.


Awesome. I was kind of hoping it was a monster 2JZ, but it's not my car. Very nicely done swap, looks original.


That's no sleeper!! hahahaha


Looks like dragon with sheep body :). Gotta smoke many muscle car