Lexus GS with JDM 2JZ Swap and Crazy Aero Wins SEMA’s Best Performance Car

Photography: Brandon Cody

  • Pit+Paddock and Meguiar’s join forces to award two builders at the 2021 SEMA Show for Best Performance Car and Best Show Car.
  • The award recipients were given custom coffee table trophies made from BBS Motorsport wheels and co-branded jackets from Porsche Design.
  • The award for Best Performance Car went to Mauricio Reece and his 1998 Lexus GS 300.
  • Mauricio’s GS 300 has taken over six years to complete and features a built JDM 2JZ-GTE engine, BMW DCT transmission, centerlock wheels, and carbon fiber aero.

Last November, the SEMA Show Ultimate Build was born – a new award created by Pit+Paddock and Meguiar’s. With the goal of recognizing the two best vehicle debuts and their builders, we’re excited to congratulate Mauricio Reece for taking home Best Performance Car with his time attack-themed Lexus GS 300.

We’ll be the first to admit that narrowing down the Best Performance Car at a mega show like SEMA is nearly an impossible task. There’s certainly no shortage of race-ready builds on display. When finding “the one”, you must consider more than just horsepower, but look for an overall package that’s engineered for speed while still being pleasing to the eyes. This is why when we encountered Mauricio’s GS, it wasn’t just a breath of fresh air, but the well-thought-out build blew our judges away.

The first thing that really gets us is, “Wow, someone really went all-out on a 20-year-old Lexus!”. The second-generation GS platform isn’t as popular to modify these days, with most examples still going for that slammed ‘n bagged VIP style. Mauricio’s has been ripped apart and repurposed strictly for road racing. Well done.

Second, every inch of Mauricio’s Lexus has been touched or upgraded with the intention of “does this make the car go faster, turn quicker, and brake harder?” And the answer is an astounding, “yes!”. The aero isn’t just for show but modeled off a proven hill climb car. There’s also a JDM-spec 2JZ under the hood that’s ready to catapult this big sedan around the nation’s top road courses. A surprise to all of us is the BMW DCT transmission which we’ll have Mauricio explain more on later.

Third, it’s one thing to piece together a fast car, but it takes a special eye and talent to make it pleasing to the eyes. This GS had a presence at SEMA, which is a show that’s littered with hundreds of trendsetting vehicles, show stoppers, restomods, hot rods, you name it. For an old Lexus sedan to exude performance and turn heads like Mauricio’s, we all knew he was doin’ it right.

Last but not least, while the blueprint for a circuit hero sedan was executed to a tee, tying in a meaningful charitable cause puts this build on a level that makes us feel proud and grateful that there are enthusiasts out there that aren’t a part of this community just for fame and followers, but to make a difference and inspire others.

Stay tuned as Meguiar’s and Pit+Paddock will be giving away special edition posters of Mauricio’s Lexus in the coming months.


Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do for a living and how you got into cars.
I’m originally from Panama, and I moved to the U.S. at the age of 15. I live in Minnesota with my family. I work in the IT world, so as you can imagine, I love technology; however, my first love has always been cars. From my time back home, I was into Mitsubishis as Panama has cars that they don’t sell here, like the Galant VR-4 and FTO. But ever since my first car (a 1989 Nissan Maxima) until now, my project cars have never remained stock for long.

What made you want to tackle the Lexus GS platform, and why a time attack theme?
When I looked at what cars people keep modifying to race, I kept seeing the same cars. I have always loved big body sedans and felt I could do something different with one. Originally, I wanted a BMW E39 M5, but it looked too expensive to mod. So, I looked for another big body sedan, and that’s how I found the Lexus GS 300. The GS is known mostly in the VIP scene, and at the time I was building mine, the cars were starting to gain popularity in the drift scene. I felt it was a good time to make mine into a race car. And, I’ve always been a fan of Ronny Melkus, who raced a V8 GS in 2003 in the V8Star Touring Series.

How long did the build take?
It took over six years to complete, and I worked with mostly two different shops. The first milestone was when I worked with Patience Metal Fabrication in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. They built the rollcage, the fuel cell, and some additional pieces. Then I started getting sponsors and installing parts that I collected myself, like the full catalog from Figs Engineering. The final step was getting the car to Attacking The Clock Racing (ATCR) in Orlando, Florida where they helped develop the aero side of things based on their carbon fiber 240Z Pikes Peak race car.

How did the BMW DCT transmission swap happen?
I went from an R154 to a V160 because I wanted a more capable transmission. Then, when Toyota stopped producing them, it became too expensive to buy one. I looked at a true sequential transmission, but that was also expensive, so I settled on an H-pattern BMW six-speed transmission. It wasn’t until after talking to Shawn from ATCR that I bought the DCT transmission. Why? I wanted a sequential-like feeling. The BMW DCT lets me have paddles on the steering wheel. By being able to make shifts using paddles attached to the steering wheel, I can focus on driving and avoid missing a shift or to not shift up or down quick enough during cornering. I can’t wait to use it!

Have a favorite part about your car?
It would have to be the carbon fiber roof. It’s the first Lexus GS with one that I know of.

There’s a bigger story to this build aimed at bringing more awareness to a very important cause…
My mom passed away back on June 3, 2016, to cancer. It happened just a year after getting the GS, so I wanted to do something that I could bring awareness and not forget her. This is why the car has pink touches here and there. Donating to help cancer research is really important to me. The custom seats that I had made have her name on the back, “Sara Shorey”. That way, she rides with me as I “Race for a Cure”.

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