The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

All Photos Credit: Lexus
All Photos Credit: Lexus

Lexus didn’t show the world the wonderful IS-F until 2007, a classic muscle car with a large car’s V8 crammed into the smallest car in Lexus’ lineup. But before it there was another. I mean it. There was just one.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

This is the Lexus IS430, built for SEMA 2003, which explains the (surprisingly not bad) two-tone paint. It was a different time.

Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

Put together by the great Kiwi/SoCal racer/builder Rod Millen, the basics of the car were remarkably straightforward. Out went the IS300's naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter straight six, in went the naturally-aspirated 4.3-liter V8 (also known by its internal Toyota code (3UZ-FE) from the larger Lexus GS and LS.

Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

Lexus claimed 340 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, a healthy bump from the mid-200s of a standard American IS of the time, and comparable with the 333 horsepower and 269 lb-ft from the BMW M3 of the same era, even though the M3 was only available as a two-door at the time.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

Charmingly, the car didn’t go full auto as you might expect from a swap. The GS of the time was auto-only, but the IS430 got the now rather desirable Getrag 6-speed.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

“Fitting the 4.3-liter V8 and six-speed manual transmission to the IS300 was fairly straightforward,” Millen said in the car’s original press release. “The larger challenge was to develop an electronic interface that would allow the V8 engine to work with the manual transmission and IS300 body—something it was never designed to do.”

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

Weight was slightly up at a claimed 3,350 pounds, but the car seemed like it would be a real ripper, with a stronger limited-slip diff, TEIN springs and 16-way electronically adjustable shock absorbers. Also dig the 18-inch SSRs that are extremely trendy at the time.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F

The only thing that’s weird is that all of this wasn’t necessary.

The great mystery of the first-generation IS is that it came with the Supra engine stock, but only without turbos and small details like additional oil squirters and recessed piston heads. It always seemed like Toyota could have just turbocharged the 2JZ with ease and gotten more power out of the thing, but instead we got the more burgers-and-fries V8 instead, first here then with the original IS-F.

Advertisement

I bumped into an old forum thread about this car and found the following exchange, which just about sums up the feelings of the time:

Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F
Advertisement

I will also add that yes, in that same thread someone posted a link to say that Toyota was going to use this platform to make a new Supra. Of course.

Illustration for article titled The Lexus IS430 Was the Confusing Precursor to The IS-F
Advertisement

Still, the question remains. Why was there never a turbo IS300? Why Lexus? Why?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

hammerheadfistpunch
HammerheadFistpunch

V8's are luxury which is what Lexus was all about. So true.

There is a rumor that the 100 series Land Cruiser was set to look and feel a lot more like the 105 series the rest of the world got versus the 100 series we got in the US.

The 105 was the 100 series body with a lot more 80 series underneath including dual solid axles with locker options and the 1FZ motor. It would have featured a 2nd generation of the 1FZ straight 6 motor, likely called the 2FZ which would have featured variable valve timing on the exhaust, modified intake and pistons, and distributorless ignition and would have been just as powerful as the 2UZ V8 that we got in the US, maybe more so. The kicker is that the 80 series was so popular in the US and the SUV boom so strong that the market had shifted from rugged SUV to luxury SUV and they churned out the Lexus LX450 to meet the demands of the well heeled buyers. If you’ve driven an LX450, however, you know it is NOT a luxurious experience and the motor has a lot to do with that. Toyota knew that the next generation Land Cruiser would also need to be a much better LX and that meant satisfying luxury requirements. Toyota had a silky luxury V8 in the UZ and were planning a truck version for the Tundra...the trouble was that its width would work with the Solid front axle they were planning, so they dumped it for IFS (probably didn’t hurt that its a more luxurious ride with IFS either).

Long story short - Lexus LX killed the Land Cruiser straight 6.