Owner: Glen Cortez
TP: So Glen, how did you come to own your GS400? What were you driving before?
GC: Before the GS I had an Acura Integra that was mildly modded: dropped, suspension, tires/rims, exhaust, audio and a body kit. This was back when I was dating my, later to be wife. When we got married and had our first child, it soon became apparent that we needed a family van and the car modding bug was set aside for several years. In 1998, I attended an Indy car race in Fontana and spotted a hot blue 4 door car in the infield. I couldn't tell what kind of car it was as I never paid attention to 4 door cars until then. I asked my friend what it was and he thought it looked like it was the new Lexus. At the time I didn't really follow the brand, but that soon changed. I then realized that this Lexus was the Official Pace car for the Indy Car series. I couldn't wait to see it come around the track to get a closer look. I loved the Spectra Blue color and it was cool to see it cruise by with a full roll cage and strobe lights flashing. I went online and discovered ClubLexus and the more I researched the more I knew I wanted GS400.
TP: What's the story behind your purchase of this car? Were there other cars that you were considering when you bought this one?
GC: There were no other cars I was considering; ever since I first laid my eyes on that GS400 Pace Car, this was the only car I wanted from then on. Over a year went by and I just kept browsing ClubLexus looking at the mods people were doing and trying to see how much this was going to cost me. Buying a new car for $50k, plus more money needed for mods, looked like a challenging proposition. Back then, there were very few used Lexus on the market since the car was less than 2 years old. Again, ClubLexus to the rescue, as I found an ad for a fully modded GS for sale. Not only was it fully modded, the car belonged to Rod Millen and it had every item offered in their catalog already installed. This was the same car I saw in all their magazine ads and now I couldn't believe I had an opportunity to buy it. Since I live in NorCal I made 2 trips to SoCal to visit Rod Millen's shop and check out the car. The price was still a bit stiff and the wife acceptance factor "WAF" was going to be difficult to get approval. My wife was also concerned about warranty and service on the supercharger. A month went by and we were able to cut a deal, where they removed the supercharger and knocked $$ off their asking price. I flew back down to LA a month later in the summer of 2000 and I picked up the car, ready to drive the 400+ miles back to NorCal. Immediately after picking up the car I drove 40 minutes to Carson Toyota and attended my first ClubLexus Meet. This is where I first met Ethan, the then owner of CL and also Steve Ganz, the parts manager of Carson. Flash forward to today, 10 years later I have a long standing relationship with Steve and with Ethan until he sold the site a few years ago.
TP: How long have you been working on this particular project, what would you say your build philosophy has been?
GC: It's been a 10 year project so far and there are still a ton of ideas to keep me busy for years to come. I still enjoy modding this car and have a passion to design, develop and do all the custom fabrication work myself. For me it's not about throwing on a bunch of "bolt on parts"; that would get boring pretty fast. There is a need to express my creativity, focusing more on what I like, rather than follow the latest trends. I have a lot of personal blood and sweat into this car, so I'm keeping it indefinitely. As an Engineer for a large Network Equipment company, my job is to focus on Quality and drive Continuous Improvement for both our products and our personal growth. That pretty much sums up how I work, live and play. Form follows function, so I avoid modifications that would severely impact the cars functionality and reliability, plus cosmetic integration is a must. That's my philosophy of how I mod my car.
TP: Is this your daily driver? What else do you have in your garage?
GC: I used to drive it to work daily, but nowadays it's a garage queen; when there's an event or show to go to it's all prepped and ready to go, but when it's at home, it's often apart to work on whatever new project I've got . I own several cars, but the two worth mentioning are my wife's Supercharged IS300 that I built up for her and my old friend Acura Integra that has now returned to being my DD. It's over 20 years old now, with less than 90k miles. Since I live 5 minutes from work, it's not getting replaced any time soon.
TP: What was the first modification that you made? Tell us about your build process and some of the major milestones.
GC: When I bought it the car already came with a body kit, rims, suspension and some engine mods, but lacked an audio system. Back in the days of the Integra, I had my own business doing custom audio installations and also won my share of Car Audio competitions. I couldn't handle listening to the stock audio, so it was a no brainer to focus on this area next. The first milestone was the electrical system where I installed a hi output alternator and Optima Yellow Top battery. Almost no mod I do is a "Plug and Play" affair. I'm always looking into ways to improve on an existing concept. The first step was to raise the battery high enough to gain the clearance to install a Tsunami battery distribution block, which also allowed me to replace ALL of the factory ground and power cables. This required modding the underneath of the hood to clear the block as well. Since the Tsunami covered the entire top of the battery, it prevented access to the terminals, so I fabricated a set of remote mounted battery terminals to allow connecting jumper cables. I added a circuit breaker switch to allow connection without shorting and also to prevent shorting of the terminals in the event of an accident. The second milestone was the dash monitor and remote control set up. Back in early 2000, there were no double DIN head units or factory look dash adapters. Everything back then had to be custom made. I installed an in dash monitor which was connected to a trunk mounted A/V controller. A DVD player and navigation head unit was mounted in the glove where the factory changer used to be. I fabricated a trim bezel for the dash monitor that was made to look as OEM as possible. I also relocated the climate controls from above, to below the monitor to give a better angle of view. The third milestone was the install of the trunk equipment. Usable trunk space as well as no loss of my spare tire was the criteria for my design. Lastly the visual theme of the engine bay had to carry over to the trunk design. The amplifiers were imbedded into the trunk floor on each side of the spare tire and the A/V controller and XM radio brains were imbedded into the side panels. The factory floor mat and custom side panel covers protect the equipment, allowing use of the trunk while in "stealth mode"; the panels are removed to switch it over to the show look. I intentionally used stock textured trunk material to give it that factory look, even though every panel is not stock. In order to follow the polished aluminum theme of my engine compartment, the amps were polished and aluminum was overlaid on to the controller boxes, then polished and Pioneer logos engraved. The subwoofer box contains a polished aluminum subwoofer basket and the subwoofer cabinet was covered in carbon fiber, to match the engine cover. The finishing touch was to take the RMM polished aluminum front strut tower brace and adapt it to fit over the rear shock towers.
TP: Have you ever dyno'd your car? What kind of power to the wheels are you putting down with your current setup? Do you plan on improving the performance and adding more power down the road?
GC: When I installed the supercharger into the car a couple of years back it dyno'd at 398 RWHP. I have since added a larger intercooler and re-laid out the piping for better flow. I also added a freer flowing exhaust as well as CO2 spray and fuel chill bar. My plans are to get the car tuned by this summer and get some better numbers.
TP: Do you do any sort of racing with this car? Drag, road course, or street?
GC: I've done a bit of drag racing with this car over the years. Since the supercharger was installed I haven't taken it out to the 1/4 mile. My plans are to run it this summer and I would like to auto cross the car just to see what a big heavy 4 door car can do. If I can go head to head with an M5 or equivalent car in lap times, I'd be pretty happy.
TP: Who would you say does most of the work on your car? Is there a specific person or performance shop(s) that you take it to?
GC: As I said all the custom fabrication work is done by me, but I do take some of the wrenching to a local shop. The supercharger install was done by Exact Motorsports, however I did all the fabrication for the intercooler pipe, blow off valve remote mount, cold air intake and made a custom ECU box for the piggy back. John at Exact is great to work with since he knows I am particular and meticulous about looks, fit and finish. He takes great care and patience to share his wrenching with my integration of custom pieces.
TP: What modification(s) would you say is(are) the most rare or unique to your car? What do you think makes your GS stand out compared to all the others out there?
GC: 1. My EDFC install location was designed to be highly functional and well integrated. I chose the area that once housed the coin tray and side mirror controls. A custom bezel was made and textured to match the original plastic. The side view mirror controller was strategically located in an open area of the dash and a similarly textured trim was added. Both EDFC and mirror controls are easily viewable and accessible from the drivers position. 2. The Valentine One Radar detector output display was embedded behind the factory clock location. With it off, there is no visible appearance change in the clock area, however when the radar display is on, it is located precisely where the LEDs used to be for the clock. Even the reset button of the original clock is now functioning as the mute for the Valentine One. Since the video monitor has a built in clock I no longer needed the OEM clock and the high mounting position of the V1 display is ideal, while not being visible from the outside. 3. I fabricated a front skid plate for the front of the car. Metal supports were welded to the tow hooks and a support plate is located directly behind the front lip of the spoiler, then Delrin plastic was attached to the bottom of this plate and it runs across the full width of the front of the car. Not only do I not scrape chunks of my air dam off when I go up driveways, I can also jack up my car directly under the spoiler. 4. My AP Racing 4 corner brake kit was originally sold for the Supra TT. The front calipers bolt right up, however the rear required custom brackets to be fabricated. Without access to the CAD files of the factory suspension, I was left with taking hand measurements and estimating the bolt spacing. I made two prototypes to get it "close", then cut the final version on a CNC mill. No one to my knowledge has adapted the AP Racing Supra TT 4 corner set up to their GS. 5. With this BBK set up front and rear, plus my staggered 20 x 9 on 255/30 Front and 20 x 11 on 295/25 Rear, the clearance for the BBK is very tight while at the same time the offsets for the front and rear wheel combos are quite different. I make several 1000+ mile round trips to events each year. Finding a replacement tire of the these sizes at a local tire shop is not likely and the possibility to be stranded without a spare would be a true nightmare. My requirements for the spare were very specific, and driving 500+ miles on a donut would not be acceptable. What I came up with was a 19 x 8 rim with a 225/45 series tire mounted to it. If you do the math this 19" rim with a 45 series tire is almost exactly the same overall diameter as my front and rear 255/30 & 295/25 tires. The last challenge was to determine a wheel offset where I could split the difference between front and rear rims, while still clearing the BBKs. This could only be accomplished by ordering a custom "one-off" wheel offset. A wheel to my specs was ordered from HRE with matching brushed spoke centers and a Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tire. Form, Fit and function accomplished.
I think my GS stands out in the sense that every part that was touched was done with attention to detail and to the trained eye it stands out. The comments I've heard from many are that they like that understated look and the fact that it pops out at you without having to go over the top to get your attention.
TP: Tell us about the Cry02 system and how it works. What made you decide to install and use it?
GC: Since a supercharged motor's performance is affected by high temperature, I wanted the car to perform its best at the track, street and dyno under worst case conditions. The car runs so much better when I drive it at night, but in hot weather the performance drop is significant. The Cryo2 system by DEI uses CO2 to chill the intercooler. This is accomplished in two ways, one is through the spray bar that mists over the front of the intercooler, the second is the use of an intercooler by S-MAX which runs the cold CO2 through tubes mounted internally, similar to how an air conditioner works. The last component is the fuel bar, where the fuel line passes through to chill the incoming fuel, right before entering the fuel rails.
TP: So what do you have planned next? Is this car going to see any more major cosmetic or performance changes?
GC: A complete exterior & interior cosmetic makeover is the long range plan. Whatever I do, it will be different.
TP: How long do you plan on keeping it? What car would you most like to get next if you were to sell this one? Why?
GC: I will keep this car indefinitely, but if I sold it I would probably go for something that I could build up to a SuperCar performance level, both in handling and speed.
TP: Well Glen, we'd like to thank you for sitting down with us. Are there any shout-outs you'd like to make?
GC: I want to give two special shout outs. One is to my wife who shares the love and passion for cars as much as I do and she gives me all the support any guy could ever ask for. The second is to my daughter, who is also growing up to be an avid car lover, has attended almost all my shows and by being an ONLY child has allowed me to have the budget I need to support my passion. =)
Car Year: 1998
Car Make: Lexus
Car Model: GS400
Car Color: Alpine Silver
Engine & Drivetrain:
398.6 RWHP / 356.9 Torque @ 6PSI Boost - w/no CryO2
Rod Millen Motorsport Supercharger System: Vortec V2-SQ / Custom intercooler
Greddy E-Manage Engine Management
Rod Millen Motorsport Carbon Fiber Engine Cover
Rod Millen Motorsport High Stall Torque Converter
Rod Millen Motorsport Transmission Valve Body
Rod Millen Motorsport Limited Slip Differential 3.76 Gear Ratio
Rod Millen Motorsport Exhaust
Hayden Transmission Oil Cooler
Koyo - Aluminum Supra Radiator
Synapse - Blow Off Valve
DEI - N20 Intercooler Spray Bar
DEI- Cryogenic Fuel Bar
Walbro Fuel Pump
Russell Braided Steel Lines
Optima Yellow Top Battery
Tsunami Power Distribution Block
Custom Fabrication - Engine Compartment:
Billet Aluminum Filler caps & Dipsticks with Engraving
Polished Supercharger, Piping, Intake Manifold and other Aluminum Components
Fabricated Jumper cable battery posts with Circuit Breaker
Fabricated ECU box to flush mount the Greddy Engine Management Module
Re-wired with 4 Gauge Battery Cables and Grounding Kit
Stainless Steel Button Head Hex Screws used throughout
V-LED - 32 SMT LED Light Segments
Pioneer Dash Monitor
Monitors Pioneer Navigation (Glove Box)
Pioneer DVD Player (Glove Box)
Nakamichi Music Vault CD Changer
Valentine One Radar
Suspension & Brakes:
AP Racing 6 Piston - 355mm Front Brakes, 4 Piston - 325mm Rear Brakes
Tein CS V2 Coilovers
Intrax Adjustable Swaybars
Daizen Control Arm Bushings
Daizen Steering Rack Bushings
Rod Millen Motorsport Front Strut Tower Brace (STB)
Cusco Rear Strut Tower Brace (STB)
Tom's Rear Lower Control Brace (LCB)
Tom's Front Lower Control Brace (LCB) Tom's Rear Lower control Brace (LCB)
Tom's 6-link Braces
Megan Adjustable Rear Toe Arms
SPC Camber Adjustable Front A-Arms
Exact Motorsports Front Roll Center Adapters (RCA)
Exact Motorsports Rear Roll Center Adapters w/ Adjustable Camber
Magnaflow 2-1/2" X-pipe dual in/out muffler
S & S Headers with X-pipe
Wheels & Tires:
HRE 841R 3 Piece Wheels: Polished Lips Inside & Out, Brushed Centers
Front: 20" x 9"
Rear: 20" x 11"
Michelin Pilot Sport 2 Tires
Exterior & Interior:
Rod Millen Motorsport Bodykit: Front & Rear Bumper, Side Skirts, Rear Spoiler, Front Grill
Sonar LED Rear Tail Lights
SIK Industries Black Chrome Headlight, Bezels, Trunk Bar and Emblems
Dashboard Autographed by Rod Millen
Momo Shifter Knob and Boot
Sparco Foot Pedals
Zapco Competition Power Amplifiers
Pioneer XM Radio Module
Pioneer Audio / Video Control Module
DEI CryO2 Cryogenic Air & Fuel System Bottles
Earthquake 10" Dual Voice Coil Subwoofer
Rod Millen Motorsport Rear Strut Tower Brace
HRE 841R 3 Piece Wheel: Custom made as a Front or Rear Spare 19" x 8"
Michelin Pilot Sport 2, Spare Tire: 225/45/R19
Custom Fabrication - Trunk:
Trunk Compartment Theme was designed to visually compliment the LOOK of the engine compartment
Subfloor Components were "Flush Mounted" to allow use of the OEM Floor Mat Covering
Pioneer Control Modules were "Flush Mounted" into Fiberglass Molded Side Panels
Carbon Fiber Speaker Box visually compliments the Carbon Fiber Engine Cover
Rod Millen Motorsport Front strut tower brace adapted to rear mounting location to match the front STB
Pioneer XM Radio Module Overlayed with Polished Aluminum and Custom Logo Engraved
Pioneer A/V Control Module Overlayed with Polished Aluminum and Custom Logo Engraved
DEI CryO2 Bottles Polished and Custom Logo Engraved
DEI CryO2 Custom Billet Aluminum Valve knobs
Zapco Amplifer Heatsinks overlayed with Polished Aluminum
HRE Spare Wheel was custom ordered with offsets to clear Front & Rear Big Brakes
Michelin Tire size is 225mm with a 45-Series profile chosen to match the same rolling diameter as the Front & Rear Tires
Custom Fabrication - Interior:
Fabricated Factory Look Bezel for Pioneer Dash Monitor
Re-located Climate Controls below Dash Monitor
Fabricated Factory Look Bezel for EDFC module in Coin Tray
Re-located Side view mirror control on left dash console
DVD & Navigation Head Units mounted in the "Factory Look" Glove Box
Photogenesis Blackwood Door and Console Trim
Navigation and XM Radio antennas mounted on rear interior dash
Sony PS2 FLUSH mounted in rear floor hump
Headrest Monitors mounted using a FRAMELESS design and wires run through support tubes
Photo credits belong to Official TunerPlayground Featured Car Photographers: Jeff Cabacungan and Chad Freeman from Photoshootmycar.com