IS300 parked in the woods

I wanted a wagon that met these criteria:

  1. Manual transmission
  2. Rear-wheel drive
  3. Reliable and cheap/easy to fix (so not rare or German)
  4. Moderate power-to-weight ratio, ideally > 4 cylinders
  5. Unique

There are some BMWs and Audis that meet most of the criteria, but fail hard at #3. Subarus tick all the boxes except #2 and #5. This left the Lexus IS300 Sportcross.

I was already partial to Toyotas, having owned an MR2 Turbo, and I had a lot of experience with the 2JZ from my work on the Wreck Racing MG. I liked the prospect of owning an IS300.

There was just one big problem – criterion #1. Unfortunately, the wagon version of the IS300 was never sold with a manual transmission. I would have to perform an aftermarket conversion. In some ways, this is a benefit though. Most 20-year-old enthusiast cars with manual transmissions are either absurdly expensive, ragged out, or both. I was able to find a car that hadn’t been trashed and abused by teenagers.

These are a few projects I’ve completed on my Lexus IS300 “Sportcross” wagon.

Read about the manual transmission conversion here.

Another modification I made was to the navigation system – an OE option that had stopped working long ago and was far from modern. I decided to install a new Garmin standalone GPS in the original housing with a hardwired USB charger/power supply. It retains the automatic raise and lower action when the ignition is turned on/off.

I also installed a dash cam with a hardwired USB power source. This can help after a wreck, or more often, when I see something out of the ordinary and want to review later and show others.