By on February 16, 2012

Back in September, I wrote about my search for a 1990s Japanese luxury car as a daily driver, with the Infiniti Q45, Lexus LS400, and Acura RL as the main contenders. Five months later, I’ve made my choice. It’s a 1997 Coach Edition Lexus LS400 in nice shape, 120,000 miles. Man, this car has class.. The reason I’m getting this LS is to allow me to immobilize my ’92 Civic long enough to swap the Integra GS-R engine into it, which means I won’t be doing any customizing that takes it out of commission for long periods. That doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving it dead stock, of course…
I’ve become fascinated by the Japanese VIP Style fashion for car customization, spending a lot of time looking at the Junction Produce site and various Japanese VIP car publications. I won’t be doing anything particularly radical to my Lexus in terms of ride height or suspension mods (I want it to ride the way Toyota intended), but I will need some better wheels, and Celsior grille and badges… and a fusa.

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71 Comments on “90s Japanese Luxury Car Purchase Dilemma Solved: Going VIP!...”


  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Please please please tell me you’re not going to buy fusa from the catalog but will find one in a junk yard. ‘Cause, you know, otherwise it would be very conformist-like and not artistic at all.

  • avatar
    Brobdingnagian

    Knock yourself out. (And enjoy your Japanese version of fuzzy dice.)

  • avatar
    mzr

    At first I thought I read ‘fupa’. Its already got one of those.

  • avatar

    18 inches? What can you tell from the length of a man’s fusa?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    There’s a green with tan interior Q45 at an Infiniti dealer in Albuquerque right now. Sigh… if I didn’t need my money to get hitched again I’d be down there test driving it.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I’ve heard this comment before. Maybe its time to look at a lot cheaper wedding? Or a woman who’s happy with a cheap wedding?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Nah we’re gonna bring it in under $10,000 which is cheap now a days. And she is contributing equally to the fund. Actually if I hadn’t been left with SO MUCH debt from the first wife (all in my name of course) I’d have a car by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Jurgen

      Q45? Here in ABQ? Jurgen doesn’t want a car payment, no Jurgen doesn’t want a car payment. Here? Right nearby?…

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        http://tinyurl.com/8x6l9rl

        Here ya go Amigo, I don’t know if it’s cheap enough to keep you car payment free but… But if you buy it I’m going to be jealous of you.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        This era of Q45 sort of reminds me of the late 90’s European Ford Scorpio that Jeremy Clarkson hates because it looks like a frog from the front view.

    • 0 avatar

      I looked and looked for a good (grille-less early) Q45, but every one I could find was completely hooptied-out.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        The filigree around the Infiniti badge on the front of the 1st-generation Q45 always fascinated me. It seems like such a baroque touch on an otherwise modern car.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        If it’s the nose in particular you’re after, you could import a Presea in a few more years. Otherwise, the proper route is to roll in a LWB G50 President.

      • 0 avatar
        PJ McCombs

        I’d have gone for a J30 or Mazda 929–I think. Contemporary reviews weren’t so hot, but they’re two of the shapeliest sedans of the ’90s.

        Will those uber-chunky 5-spokes from the 2002-2003 SC430 bolt on? VIP looks and they still Lexus-badged.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Q45? Run away. You want an LS or a GS for Japanese RWD luxury. The Q45 has reliability issues up there with the big German cars of its era.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        I disagree with Sam P. We drove our 95 Q45 250,000 miles and only bought tires, brakes, and a couple of batteries for it. Our current 03 Q has 150,000 miles with the same kind of reliability. Q’s will outrun and out handle LS’s without even really trying, and the engines have timing CHAINS, not rubber bands like all toyota products have.

  • avatar

    I like the grille-less Q as well, but the LS400 is sweet! I still remember Pat Bedard’s description of the intake howl as mimicking the sound of “ripping silk”.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    What would better wheels mean? Better than the ones that the damper setting were chosen for the weight and dictated sidewall height of? Better than the ones that fit the hubs perfectly? Cool Where do I find mine?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Better wheels than the homely ones the LS400 was stuck with. Some aftermarket upgrades actually do make some sense.

      And if you think that OEM wheels are always superior to anything else, I invite you to go learn about some of the issues BMW’s been having with the wheels on their new F10 5 series.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        The pictured aftermarket wheels are a disaster, rivalled only by the likes of the Stanceworks crowd, imo.I’d go with a set of 17×8 Enkei RPO3’s wrapped with Continental DWS tires for an LS.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve read the Car and Driver 40K mile wrap up of their F10 535i experience, so I’m aware of BMW’s current use of tissue paper wheels. There is a far simpler solution to that problem than buying aftermarket wheels though, like not buying any more cars from companies that have switched to frangible parts.

      • 0 avatar
        jeano

        Easier to change wheels than junk chinese transmissions, right?

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      When the camber is adjusted to -20 degrees the OEM wheel/tire package is no longer optimal, and stretched tires on high offset wheels become necessary.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        So the solution is “don’t set camber to -20″.

        Problem solved.

        (And, well, I suppose Sam’s “homely” is a matter of taste, but I find that almost all aftermarket wheels look like A Bad Idea on almost all vehicles.

        Especially the ones our author highlighted in his specimen pictures, compared with the (presumably) stock ones above.)

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        “When the camber is adjusted to -20 degrees” nothing is optimal…

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Just to be clear, the above was sarcasm.

        I am a big fan of aftermarket wheels. Not for my own use, but because they create a big market for OEM “take-offs” that I can then use for replacements or snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      On a Lexus I assume that “better” means “rides over bumps better”, though to some better means “cartoonishly big”, “expensive to buy tires for”, and “rides over bumps terribly”.

  • avatar
    PlentyofCars

    The LS400 engine should go 350 to 400k if it was taken care of, and you continue to take care of it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A truly lovely engine. Shame what a deadly-dull sofa on wheels they stuck it in. At least you could also get it in the SC400.

      Having driven a couple LS400s, all I can say is meh. Perfection is boring, give me character even if it means unreliability.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        That’s what the GS is for. I drove a GS300 and would honestly take it over an E39 5-series. It may not have the BMW road feel of the E39, but it’s not far off and won’t actively try to eat one’s wallet.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I drove an SC400 as a company car for a while. Of all the cars I’ve used for any meaningful period of time, it was perhaps my least favorite. Being a Lexus, nothing broke except the hyper-active power antenna that adjusted its length to optimize reception of whatever you were tuned in to, but that broke regularly. The car also consumed its OEM RE92s like they were gasoline and gasoline like every trip to the station in West Palm Beach or Miami driving a black Lexus SC400 wasn’t taking your life in your hands during the mid-’90s. I found the handling to be closer to a Lincoln Town Car’s than to that of ’90s BMWs and never could achieve a comfortable driving position. Before I got it, the boss’s college age son had it for about a year and gave it up in favor of a Mercury Villager minivan, bought from a rental company after having it as a rental. The minivan may have been right for hauling his frat brothers around, but I can’t see someone giving up a ’95 BMW 540i for one, which is what he had chosen the Lexus over. Oddly, he said that he was too tall for any BMW, which seemed difficult to believe in light of the fact that I’m two inches taller than him.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Just get something light and small, that’ll give you a ton of character.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    If you want to own something that would be considered really cool in Japan then you need to get a left hand drive German car.

    In terms of VIP, nice Q45s might be hard to find, but I do consider them much more VIP worthy. A VIP’d LS is like a donked Crown Victoria, it just doesn’t look as right as a Q45/b-body.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Very nice, I’d leave it alone. I’m a bit tempted to replace the old TL with a used LS, instead of going with a newer Tacoma.

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      You should seriously go out and test drive one then. I drove a 1993 LS400 at the end of last summer. It only had 120,000km on it, never winter driven, and owned by an old lady (husband passed away so wife decided to sell it). I was thinking about buying it to replace my old ’88 Cressida as a year round daily driver. I expected a lot from the LS, but since the Cressida was only a few years older and Toyota’s flagship sedan at the time, I thought to myself “How much better can an old LS really be?”. Boy was I in for a surprise. The LS and the Cressida are light years appart. The Cressida is a great car, but the LS is perfection. The ride is soooo smooth. The engine is pure silk and so is the transmission. The interior is beautifully made. I was blown away by the car. I decided against purchasing it because I would’ve felt to bad about driving it in the winter, you’re supposed to use premium fuel, and the price was a bit higher than I was willing to spend on a daily driver. I told myself that I would definitelly own a LS at some point in my life.

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        One detail I remember about the LS is they arranged the layout of the driveline so that there was a perfectly straight line along the axis of the crankshaft, transmission and tailshaft, to achieve maximum smoothness

  • avatar
    smackela

    I sense an opportunity for judicial corruption here: how long until we see a certain 97 LS400 Coach Edition showing up at a LeMons race as the basis for the “change a 1UZ-FE starter” penalty?

    Other than that, enjoy the quality, because the LS has it in spades. I owned a ’95 for a few years and I am quite sure it was (and will remain) the highest-quality vehicle I will ever own. Being the uber-Toyota means, of course, that it has a complete and utter lack of quirks. And that was my problem in the end–the car was competent in all things, excellent in some things, but it was also completely soulless. I sold it and bought a Range Rover Classic…

  • avatar
    ajla

    Well, that’s not a Cressida.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    Where is the diamante love?

  • avatar
    Toad

    Would it be rude to ask what kind of money a 1997 LS400 Coach Edition sells for? Might be fun to own an over-engineered car…

  • avatar
    jkross22

    No Mazda Millenia or 929? Those were kewl!~

  • avatar
    marc

    Those are ’98 wheels on a ’97. Or was that part of the Coach edition? I always liked the ’98 update better. I thought the ’97 fromt end was angular and bulky. And the smoother wheels of the ’98 weren’t as chunky.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    We love our 1990 LS400..the first year they were readily available. It was a one owner car. It now has 340,000kms on it, and it shows as new, as well as drives as new. Great for commuting to work or long slogs on the highway. These cars may be the most reliable ever built.

    Here are some pics:

    http://img197.imageshack.us/img197/93/ls400001.jpg
    http://img84.imageshack.us/img84/8009/ls400002.jpg
    http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/4808/ls400003.jpg
    http://img801.imageshack.us/img801/8057/ls400004.jpg
    http://img703.imageshack.us/img703/5854/ls400005.jpg
    http://img716.imageshack.us/img716/9586/ls400006.jpg
    http://img827.imageshack.us/img827/6926/ls400007.jpg
    http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/4197/ls400008.jpg
    http://img830.imageshack.us/img830/5360/ls400009.jpg

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Lowering an old Japanese sedan, slapping on some horrendous, massively wide alloys and cheap plastic bodykit is ‘style’? UUUUUGH. Lordy. When will people learn.
    *edit* Having looked at the Junction Produce website, I guess the ‘aerokits’ aren’t cheap at $4k-$6k a pop – they just look it.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      It is VIP style *slap*, don’t confuse the matters… and JDM is automatically cool, I don’t have to explain you that.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        Look, I agree JDM is cool (I love Kei cars), but just because these lowered Yakuza-idiot-mobiles are from Japan, doesn’t automatically make them cool. Just as I like comics and anime, some of the manga to come out of Japan (especially those ‘teen’ romances where they stare intensely at each other over the course 50 issues and NOTHING HAPPENS) are complete BOLLOCKS. And so is lowering a car and slapping alloys and a body kit on it – no matter what corner of the world it comes from.

  • avatar

    The Lexus is going to serve Murlee better than Volga.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    At least it is not silver/gray/black.

    Good choice!

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Speaking as the owner of a 1998 LS400 daily driver, two things:

    1. You have chosen wisely
    2. Don’t change a thing

    Toyota got it right with this one. It is the epitome of “they don’t make ‘em like that any more.” All the aftermarket can do is ruin it.

    I used to buy a new car every 3-4 years. Until I got my LS400. It’s bone stock and I’m in my 11th year of ownership. Invest in the Michelin MXV4 Energy tires this car was meant to glide on and enjoy…

    I do have a Miata also for when I want a different feel. The LS gets 75% of my miles though.

  • avatar

    I completely agree with Japanese Buick.
    In fact, I registered (after lurking for 4+ years) to congratulate you on the purchase. I purchased a 97k 1990 LS400 back last July and loved that thing. It was also out here in the Denver metro area.
    Too bad someone side swiped the poor thing to the point of writing it off. I’m still searching for a decent replacement…

  • avatar

    The only VIP Style mods I plan to do are wheels (probably just LS430 wheels or non-extreme aftermarket ones, and no crazy low-profile tires), Celsior grille/badging, and maybe a fusa and some quarter-glass curtains. No body kits, no spoiler, no lowering. I still want it to drive the way Toyota’s engineers intended.

  • avatar

    A Toyota was my very first car, and I went through a series of ’83-86 Tercel wagons about 10 years back. I’m glad to be back in a Toyota again, from the era before the GM Virus infected the company.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I have toyed with the idea of owning one of these myself, but I just have too many other cars in the stable. Definitely the high point of Japanese luxury cars.

    Back in the mid 1990s I used to get taken out to lunch once a month by a sales rep in his ES300 (yes, a tarted-up Camry which isn’t in the same league as the LS400). I was amazed at how solid, quiet, and rattle-free that car was. You couldn’t even hear it idling. I asked him how many times he had gotten back into the car and ground the starter: “More than once!”

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    I’m sorry, but that is WORSE than butt-ugly. Why in the world would anyone in the world do something like that to such a great automobile? And by the same token, why would anyone in the world WANT something that ugly? And with those ghastly wheels, you know the ride and handling are compromised. Geez, what an UGLY thing. And there’s crappy looking crap like that everywhere. What has happened? Gone to Hell in a handbasket. That’s UGLY. I thought this was a car ENTHUSIASTS website, not a gathering place for MS-13 cars! That looks exactly like something you would see in Tijuana. Or Cuba. Really. Really? Damn, it’s an LS400, for the love of Pete. Disgusting. It really looks like something you should take to the crusher. Looks like that’s where you found it. With all your cool junkyard finds, I never thought something like this would come from you . You’d be better off in that ’87 Excel. And I mean the one you found in the junkyard.

    • 0 avatar

      Calm down, mang, if you’d read the comments, you’d know the Miss Murilee’s plans DO NOT lean in that direction for this car. Often the pictures at the top of the post are chosen to get the most reaction, and yes, ruining a perfectly good stock car (as so many have fallen victim to such modifications) is lamentable.

      Pretty soon, NOT modifying your car tastelessly will be so rare that it will make the vehicle really stand out as special. (And I say this as the owner of a ’91 Grand marquis with PURPLE turbine rims, which the car came with, but I’m keeping them)

    • 0 avatar
      theeastbaykid

      They’re driving VIP Lexi in Tijuana and Havana?! Send pix!

      (Although it is a well-known fact that the cops use illegal Fusas as probable cause to pull over suspected MS-13 members.)

  • avatar
    jco

    bippu! needs more boso pipes.

    and the 1UZ sounds kinda good with ITBs.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    So instead of having Civics with fart pipe exhausts dart in and out of traffic, leaving a cloud of smoke because a high school dropout doesn’t know how to install a turbo, understand the first thing about camber adjustment, or installing a downforce wing on a FWD car, we will now have idiot white kids pretending to be Yakuza, “tooling” around in slammed, old luxo barges.

    At least every retired real estate agent suddenly can revel in the fact that her LX isn’t worthless anymore.

    The sad thing is a great deal of really good cars will now be destroyed, the same way the LX450 was when people thought they were luxury cars and not Land Cruiser based off-roaders… and ran them into the ground. The few I run across in auctions have 22’s… 22’s on a car with two live axles.

  • avatar

    I think what I really need is four ‘bos, wrapped in four Vogues.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    My parents bought a ’91 LS400, second hand, in the late 90s. The powertrain was incredibly smooth. It was also the one thing in the car that didn’t break, as it turned out to be the least reliable car our family had ever owned. It was no fault of the car itself, just a general lack of every type of maintenance from previous owners.


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