A quarter of a century can yield an amazing level of improvements to a modern day car — but this isn’t always the case.
Take for example a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air and compare it with the 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Even back in 1983, a 1958 Bel Air could offer the keepers among us the enduring joy of a long-term relationship. That big block Chevy V8, even in the early Reagan era, could give you a fiendish ear-to-ear grin behind the wheel. The Cutlass Ciera on the other hand was a rental car from birth with the vapid empty soul of a parts bin beater. It would take a special masochist of an owner to make that a long-term keeper.
Modern day cars have similar parallels.
Three years ago, after becoming obsessed with 1990s Japanese luxury cars and, failing to find a non-thrashed Infiniti Q45 (or even a nice J30), I bought a very clean 1997 Lexus LS400 Coach Edition. It’s still my daily driver and still in great shape, but you always have a need for a few bits and pieces when you drive an older car. The early LS400s are extraordinarily common in low price, self-service wrecking yards these days, but the UCF20 1995-1997 LS is still worth enough that it’s a rare sight at U-Wrench-It.
Last winter, I finally found one in a Denver yard, and it has stories to tell. (Read More…)
The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a focal point in my relationship with the automobile.
Most legendary cars achieved their status thanks to unique ideas, original design, character (whatever may that be) or joy they bring to their owners and drivers. So, is it even possible for a pragmatic, coldly efficient and mostly derivative car to become a legend?
When the first Lexus, called LS400, was introduced in 1989, it certainly wasn’t the most original car on the market. In fact, it not only looked a lot like a W126 Mercedes S-class of the time, it was even named similarly (remove the L and the car would fit right into the naming system Mercedes started using a few years later). And it was no coincidence – the LS400 was a result of Toyota brass’ decision to move their business upmarket. The Voluntary Restraint Agreement between the United States and Japan limited the number of Japanese cars that could enter the country, making it a smart idea to charge more for each of them and clear more profit. The LS400 might have been a bit of a loss leader at $35,000 for a base model that nobody ever saw in dealerships, but it paved the way for hugely profitable successors and showroom companions like the ES300 and RX300.
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. (Read More…)