The first time NZ Performance Car ever met Carl Thompson, he scared the shit out of us. It was 2008, and Carl was a mere teenager — a teenager behind the wheel of a monster KE70 Corolla station wagon packing more than 330kW from its turbocharged 4AGZE motor. The ed. was shown the full capabilities of the Toyota that day, and despite Carl’s tender age, two things were very clear — this guy knew how to build a fast car, and he knew how to drive one, too.
Four years on, and Carl still owns that wagon, though these days it’s taken a back seat to the 2003 Lexus GS300 sitting next to it in the workshop. “I actually picked this shell up for free about four years ago,” Carl tells us. “I was driving past a wrecking yard in Pakuranga and saw it sitting there, no motor, no wheels, no interior. I slammed on the brakes, turned around and asked the guy how much he wanted for it — he just told me if I could take it away, I could have it.” Four space savers and a trailer later, and Carl had himself a new project.
Coming from a small, nimble car like the Corolla, you’ve got to ask why Carl would go to the exact opposite, the biggest of all big-boy Toyotas. “I actually had a 2JZ-GTE Aristo as a daily driver at the time, so I already knew and liked the chassis. I’d been watching a lot of videos online of the Friends Racing Aristo drifting in Japan. It runs a 1000ps 2JZ, and I just liked how it was so big and VIP, but still did so well on the track. I decided that I wanted to do the same, plus I liked the idea that it was so different from my wagon.”
Once the shell was brought back home, the fun began: “We were stripping it with a hammer, and there’s so much wiring in these cars,” Carl says, “we didn’t need any of it, so the easiest thing to do was attach it to the tow bar of another car and drive.” Although it sounds ruthless, that might give you an idea of the scope of the build that Carl had planned right from the start. “I always wanted this car to be something special, something that would really blow people away.”
Though we’d been talking with Carl about this car for a long time now, when we actually arrived at his workshop on the day of the shoot to see it sitting there, it more than blew us away. We’d actually heard the Lexus well before we’d seen it — way back down the road as we attempted to find the right driveway. As we counted the numbers on every letterbox we passed, the faint sound of a big-power rotary could be heard. It’s not really a sound you forget in a hurry, but something we’ve only ever heard at a racetrack, not out in the idyllic countryside north of Auckland. In the end, In the end, we gave up looking for street numbers — all we needed to do was follow our ears to the telltale sound of pure, unadulterated power. We knew what to expect, but seeing and hearing the car in person in all its huge, overweight, aggressive glory, was a whole different experience.
Standing there as Carl revved the quad-rotor turbo and bright, bluish-white flames burped out the side-exit exhaust, we couldn’t help but wonder what ever happened to Carl’s 2JZ dreams, and why you’d go away from Toyota power to something as radical as a Mazda four-rotor? Carl explains: “It was going to be 2JZ, but I had a few issues with a 2J build and the more I thought about it the more I decided it wouldn’t sound good enough.” It was almost too obvious for Carl from that point on: “I wanted something really different, but it still had to make the power. In the end, I decided on a 26B because I’ve always loved the idea of Mazda’s 787B quad-rotor Le Mans car, and after sitting down with Brent at CBR, who talked me through the whole thing, I knew it was the right way to go.”
Together, Carl and Brent hatched a plan to create one hell of a monster motor, and after many months in the build, CBR has done exactly that. Currently, the set-up makes 900 horse without nitrous at the wheels, but is capable of much more, as the turbo has been found to be too small for the application. Carl admits: “We honestly thought it would be big enough, but this motor just flows so much gas and the turbo can’t keep up. You can really feel it when you drive the car, the mid range is amazing, but it dies off in the upper revs. We’ve just fitted nitrous and we’re looking to change to a Garrett GTX55, which will definitely free it up.”
While the howling, fire-breathing 26B turbo set-up is incredibly impressive, this car is not just a mean motor chucked into any old shell. From day one, the project has been about creating a work of art, and a close look at any of the fabrication by Colin at Rolling Addiction and Kerry at M3 Racing will tell you they’ve been very successful. “The car has spent a lot of time at Rolling Addiction, right from the start, and when it isn’t down there, Colin is up at our place working away in the shed — the man’s a genius when it comes to fabrication.” A genius though, who, as it turns out, is very much in demand, as during some stages of the build, Collin’s schedule didn’t afford him the time demanded by a car of this magnitude. Luckily, Carl had Kerry and the experts at M3 Racing were available to pick up the slack.
Between them, they’ve put a huge amount of custom work into the car that allows it to run super low while still retaining good handling characteristics — mostly thanks to custom suspension mounts, adjustable roll centres / sway bars and plenty of fine-tuning. The end result is a top race car–quality chassis, with infinite adjustability and surprisingly great on-track behaviour. “When you lower a car seven inches, everything goes out of whack and it will handle like shit, so it took a lot of work to get right, but now that it’s mint, the car behaves really well. It’s really predictable,” Carl tells us.
Although most people might question how well a big car like this car can behave, Carl begs to differ. “Yes it’s true that longer cars are slower on this switch, but this car is in proportion. It’s long but it’s also very wide, so it’s like a Silvia, just bigger in every direction. I’ve only driven it on the track once, but it was nimble and felt amazing to drive. Its heaviness also tends to help with stability, too. I can put my foot down in fourth and it’ll leave big black lines and still accelerate hard, but it won’t swing wildly, you’ve got to make this car go sideways.”
Sitting super-low on huge Work Meisters in a simple, bright-white hue, there’s nothing we dislike about Carl’s Lexus. It’s a huge car with rad VIP style, but at the same time it’s about as far away from comfortable as a car can get. With an engine that’s guaranteed to blow the minds of anyone with even a passing interest in cars, top-level race car engineering and a soundtrack that is pure gold to the ears, this would have to be one of the best all-round builds we’ve ever featured. If you can only check out one car this summer season, make sure it’s this one.
2003 Lexus GS300 (JZS161)
- Engine: Mazda 26B 2600cc quad rotary built by CBR
- Block: Full bridge-port, custom crank, Series 6 13B housings, lightened Series 4 rotors, clearanced and dowelled block, Peterson dry sump system
- Intake: Custom intake plenum, 90mm throttle body, custom intercooler piping, 600x300x75mm intercoolers
- Turbo: Custom BorgWarner
- BOV: TiAL 50mm
- Wastegate: TiAL 50mm
- Exhaust: CBR steampipe manifold, five-inch front pipe to twin 3.5-inch side exits
- Fuel: Enderle mechanical fuel pump, eight 1600cc injectors, Aeromotive regulator
- Ignition: Two MoTeC CDI, MSD coils, MSD leads
- ECU: Microtech LT16, Turbosmart E-Boost
- Cooling: Griffin alloy radiator, Griffin oil cooler
- Other: NOS nitrous system, Elite wiring loom, Rolling Addiction custom oil and water catch cans
- Gearbox: Four-speed Roltek Nascar H-pattern dog box
- Clutch: Direct Clutch Services twin-plate and flywheel
- Diff: Rolling Addiction four-link, Competition Engineering housing, Strange alloy head
- Other: Endevour Engineering floating hubs and axles, Driveshaft Specialists two-piece driveshaft
- Struts: Custom Koni adjustable coilovers
- Springs: King
- Other: M3 blade sway bars, Rolling Addiction roll-centre adjuster, custom suspension mounts
- Brakes: (F) Wilwood six-pot calipers, Wilwood 365mm rotors (R) two Wilwood four-pot calipers, Wilwood 330mm rotors, hydraulic handbrake
- Wheels: (F) 18x10.5-inch Work Meister (-16), (R) 18x12.5-inch Work Meister (-16)
- Tyres: (F) 245/40R18 Nitto NT05, (R) 285/35R18 Nitto NT05
- Paint: Straight tinter white by 668 Automotive
- Enhancements: Custom factory-look fibreglass stretched bumpers, custom stretched guards
- Seats: Sparco Evo 2, Sparco harnesses
- Steering wheel: Sparco
- Gear knob: Sparco
- Instrumentation: Liquid-filled Auto Meter gauges, Turbosmart e-Boost controller
- Roll cage: Full homologated cage
- Other: D2 air jacks, Sparco fire extinguisher system, custom alloy dash
- Power: 671kw (900hp) without nitrous at the wheels on 17psi
- Weight: 1700kg