By on February 16, 2009

“There is nothing quite like it!” Every enthusiast I know has that attitude towards their car. But rarely is it actually true. Platforms are shared. Engines and transmissions are modified and tossed into whatever else can accommodate them from a cost perspective.  Compromises are made. Only sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes you can buy something so unique, so timeless, that you can appreciate the qualities even twenty or thirty years later. The Lexus SC400 is one of those rare, outstanding machines. Let’s start with the door hinge.

That’s right. That usual flimsy piece of metal that’s supposed to keep the door open and closed through the ages. On most cars, as the car ages, the bolts holding the hinge to the frame will eventually get a little loose, and the welds can actually wear out over time. At some point, you will eventually hear a popping sound when you open the door. Some owners fix it. Most ignore it. But first generation Lexus SC owners will never face that choice.

The SC400’s door hinges were an absolute engineering monstrosity, as over-engineered and built as those of any similar era—or earlier—Mercedes-Benz. Lexus built in quality trying to make this car eternally seamless and genre-compatible silent. The bushes and flanges that make up the SC400’s über-hinges are as thick as a brick. They’re triple-welded into a geometric design that can hold the SC’s door at any angle. No other car from that time period can do it. None.

Of course, many folks will think I’m nuts to mention the quality built into a simple component. One that most manufacturers simply glaze over. But this website has long argued that quality will out; time makes you appreciate the care and attention lavished on a methodically engineered and assembled vehicle. For reliability freaks, the SC400 has “it.”

The 4.0-liter V8 engine in the 1992 SC400 has specs suitable for today’s car market. 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. 32-valve engine. 250 horsepower. It’s pretty fast for today and amazingly quick for then.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Combined with the four-speed electronic automatic transmission, the engine is just plain unkillable. It can literally out-diesel a diesel when it comes to longevity, and it’s infinitely more quiet. When you can find one at the auctions, they will almost always have odometers far north of 200k. I’ve seen many with over 300k that still sell wholesale in the $1500 to $2000 range.

In nearly all cases, the SC’s dashboard and real walnut trim will be devoid of any cracks or wear. Even in the south. It’s incredible. Getting into one of these cars is like entering a time warp.

Speaking of which, when most people enter the SC400, the first things they will notice is the amazing material quality. The soft leather on well bolstered bucket seats and generous use of wood contrasts well with soft surfaces on the door panels and armrests that were rock hard and plastic in other competing models. Lexus today has a long history of coddling their occupants; this model certainly helped give rise to that rep.

Unlike today’s luxury cars, Lexus kept everything simple and straightforward inside the SC400. There’s no need or desire for multiple displays of the same information. No need for buttons ad nauseam (knobs work very well, thank you). The SC simply gives you all the information you need when you need it.  Today’s designers could learn an awful lot by reconsidering the SC400’s more driver-focused, less gadget-laden cabin.

The Lexus SC400 is a strikingly comfortable and simple vehicle to drive. A short dash overhang and plain Jane interior ergonomics makes this large coupe surprisingly agile and dare I say it, safe. Nothing exciting stock. But aside from the IS-F, anesthetized is how Lexus rolls.

The Lexus coupe does have a few expensive wear “issues,” but they’re not what I’d call cataclysmic. The red needles on the dash wear out and turn black; the entire display may follow. A couple hundred bucks will fix it, without visiting the clock-is-ticking dealer. The SC400’s electronic luminescent displays for the radio and temp will also wear out, although the simple knobs will control both.

And like any other power antenna of 1990s vintage, the one on the Lexus will be sheared off given enough encounters with a garage door. Otherwise the fluids to maintain the car are dirt cheap. Maintenance under the hood is surprisingly owner-friendly, and the opportunity to customize and modify the car make it one of the few that can keep an enthusiast’s interest for a long time.

If you find a well preserved one with less than 150k. Buy it. If you can find an SC300 with an all too rare manual tranny in it. Call me first. I’ll buy it and be your new best friend.

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91 Comments on “Review: 1992 Lexus SC400...”

  • avatar

    I like this car a lot. Too bad the second generation hasn’t been updated in forever (perhaps won’t be). Wasn’t it the first production hardtop convertible?

    • 0 avatar

      Soo.. I found a ’96 SC 400, freshly painted… with 155k miles on it… radio doing something weird and a light rubbing noise coming from front, right wheel area… Runs like a top, quiet, and loaded with everything I want and more (heated seats, power everything, etc.) Seats are worn a bit more than I like, but at $3500 cash… and my mechanic gives the thumbs up… do you all think it’s a good enough deal?

    • 0 avatar


      You made a good decision. You’ll be happy with this car. $3500 was a good deal. I got my ’93 back on 2004 with only 88k miles on it. I overpaid by a grand or so (paid $9,995), but I really wanted the car, and 88k on an 11 year-old car was too good to pass up. I just passed 190k and will never sell this car.

      I can just see myself 20 years from now out taking my SC400 for weekend cruises just like the old-timers do now who have ’50s era classic cars. THIS will be my ‘classic’ car.

    • 0 avatar

      I just came across a 1992 SC400 with 67,000 miles, original owner.
      What would a good purchase price be?

    • 0 avatar


      A ’92 with only 67k is an extremely rare find.  I got my ’93 6 years ago with 88k on it for just under $10,000 – which was about $1,000 over the average. Make sure it doesn’t have accident damage that the seller has tried to conceal. 

      Regarding price, however, I’d say probably in the $6,000 to $7,000 range.  But to be more sure, go to and compare other SCs of the same year and similar mileage to see what they’re going for.  Don’t look at the “BID” prices.  Look at the “BUY IT NOW” prices.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey I found a ’93 SC400 with 185K miles in great looking condition for $3800. My friend who does a lot of mechanic work says its a great deal and that he may be able to talk the dealer down to $3500 or $3000. Is $3800 a good price though?

      • 0 avatar


        I’d have to refer you to the EbayMotors & AutoTrader websites to do comparissons. I haven’t searched in a number of years, but that may be about right. Certainly don’t pay more than that. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them being sold by individual sellers for as low as $2800.

      • 0 avatar
        joey d

        Purchased my first Diamond black 1991 SC400 with 80,000 miles on her, pristine condition and the absolute envy of my car enthusiasts circle of family and friends. She was my babe and with only 197,000 miles on her she drowned in an unfortunate torrential down pour that netted 3500 cars along with numerous homes, in my area alone. On my way to work in the dark I drove my babe into her water coffin engulfing the car on all sides in a flash flood situation I needed to be helped out of. Dang, loved that car. However, after my loss, within the next three months of intense research and leg work, I was blessed to find a Pearl White SC400 1992 with 49,500 original miles on her, owned by a physician who also owned 5 other luxury vehicles and drove them sporadically at whim. When others comment: if something sounds too good to be true it usually is. DON’T believe that dribble for a minute. Take the time, make the effort and do the research and you will find what you desire. I brought the newly acquired find to my specialty tech of 25 years to look over what I thought was too good to be true. He said: ” Not only can you literally eat off this engine but it is the greatest #%@&ing used car I’ve ever seen, If you don’t buy it I will….” So, many thanks go out to Joey my godson, nephew and gear-head who not only set me up with my first Lexus acquisition but also methodically researched, found, and came along for the test drives of my second babe. To Scotty my car tech for his insightful and expert once over; and to Doc for keeping this beauty around and cradled for all these years so I could add a second babe to my dream car portfolio. Lexus definitely opened my eyes to understanding what the pursuit of perfection actually means. She will be with me a long time…..

    • 0 avatar

      I’m glad I stumbled on this thread. It validates my choice to put my 92 sc400 in semi-storage, to save it for a time when it will surely be considered a collectible classic. I got it in late 94, with 8k miles and about a year on the original warranty. Needless to say it was as new. It now has about 68k, and looks and drives the same as when I first got it. No major repairs, hardly any minor ones. I have owned, and sold, too many vehicles in my life that I wish I still had today. I’m not making that mistake with the Lexus.

  • avatar

    The trick with these is finding one that hasn’t been sullied. Like the Supra, too many people FNF these cars, and it’s sad. You stand a better chance of finding a mechanically similar, if less sporty, GS of the same era.

    But yes, the durability is amazing, especially for a luxury car in this class (I recall the GS of the same era was pretty tough, too, and the LS was unbreakable). The W124 and Vovlo 240 seem almost this good, but the parts and upkeep aren’t cheap at all. The Legend is similar, but much more pedestrian. I think the closest you could get, outside the GS, was the oddball Infiniti J, and people didn’t seem to part with them, either.

  • avatar

    How’d you know I was mulling this over…..creepy-weird. Is the engine flat-plane or cross-plane, full counterweights ?

  • avatar

    Better yet…an SC300 that has had the 2JZ-GTE Supra turbo swapped in. Makes the car with the mondo door hinges capable of blowing the doors off anything else it encounters!

  • avatar

    I like those cars… specially since you can build a true MONSTER with the SC300.

    Enjoy =)

    Sick engine sound:

    Have seen the SC400 in the highway… and the thing is FAST :thumb:

    Toyotas can be cool… sometimes… and I can dig them. Go figure.

    Another Toyota I like is the ST82 Celica (I love the style of this car), AE86 Corolla (fastback please), 1992-95 Camry (I think it’s the best one).

  • avatar

    Yes, this is the car that introduced me to Lexus in the Caribbean (I believe down there, it was called the Toyota Soarer). It beautiful then and it’s still a thing of beauty now. Lexus should take a step back and look at what made this car such a hit back then.

    I really wanted to have this car then…but then again I also wanted to have a Mitsu 3000GT VR4. Oh well…

    Great review!

  • avatar

    That exterior is a cure for insomnia if I’ve ever seen one.

  • avatar
    Unlimited Headroom

    Great minds think alike…and you know the rest. My first thought upon viewing a similar car (SC450) was the design of the door hinges. A sculpture of art to a head full of nuts and bolts. Casting creativity. A truely marvelous marketing tool: semi-hidden but open to those who know. What a wonderful way to say that this vehicle is built like a tank. Time has proven it, too.

  • avatar

    You missed the whole point of the door hinge. It is not a hinge, but rather a 4 bar linkage. The door does not pivot, it moves in a curve that pulls the front edge of the door inboard several inches as the door opens. Thus the long door doesn’t take up as much space when open as a simply hinged door does.

    When I worked in vehicle development at GM, I used one of these hinges on an Eldorado as part of a proposed product upgrade program. It worked out pretty slick, but as usual, at GM, nothing came of it.

    I was tempted to buy one of these cars, but I bought a used Mark VIII instead. Perhaps a mistake.


  • avatar

    The late 1980s engineering teams that were drawn together for 1UZ-FE, 2JZ & 3S-GTE (square 86mmx86mm Yamaha aided engines), A340E and the cars of the day; Cressida, LS400, SC300/400, Supra, Celica GT4 had the words “Leap Ahead” in the areas they worked. In Japanese obviously.

    I think they succeeded.

  • avatar

    This car was a sleeper – it could embarrass many a overconfident Mustang GT owners, while dressed in a tuxedo. Cool, confident, and relaxed was the M.O.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    How come the rear wheels are different from the front wheels in that first picture?

  • avatar

    Very cool review, Steven. Every time I bitch about my Mark VIII I cite this car as reference. Course some parts of the Lincoln are hot roddy enough to make me not care about white bread Lexus’ superior engineering.

    like.a.kite: Mercedes was Lexus’ benchmark for the hardtop convertible when the R129 body came out in 1989. But MB took the idea from the 1957 Ford Skyliner.

    relton: You nailed the hinge design, that dual-axis motion is only surpassed by today’s Aston Martin hinge. And why am I not surprised GM did nothing to the 3rd tier Eldorado? You gotta start writing for TTAC editorials again.

  • avatar

    like.a.kite :

    “Wasn’t it the first production hardtop convertible?”

    Pretty sure you can go back to 1957 for that title.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz


    Mercedes was Lexus’ benchmark for the hardtop convertible when the R129 body came out in 1989. .

    I think your history is a tad off. As far as I know, the first modern folding HT convertible was actually not until the Mercedes SLK came out in 1997, much later than the R129 of 1989 (which had a lift off roof). If I recall correctly, the first model year for the Lexus SC430 with folding hardtop was 2001.

    Very soon after the SLK was the Peugeot 206 CC in Europe, and of course since then the segment has been on fire with models from Lexus, Pontiac, Chrysler, BMW, Ford, Cadillac, Renault, VW, Nissan, Mazda, Opel, Mitsubishi, and whoever else I’ve forgotten.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    poltergeist :

    quoting like.a.kite :

    “Wasn’t it the first production hardtop convertible?”

    Pretty sure you can go back to 1957 for that title.

    Actually even further if we want to get technical (and I never really like to get technical, because I’m usually setting myself up to be shown wrong), Peugeot had a folding hardtop convertible back in 1931.

  • avatar

    Yup, I screwed that one up.

  • avatar

    Did they all come with matching wheels like the one in the pic?

  • avatar
    Joe O

    I never forget my first two rides in one of these.

    One was in 2004 in a ~1993 SC300 automatic….it started at the slightest twist of the key in the ignition. It purred to life. The leather looked and felt brand new. The electroluminescent gauges were magnificient still. The guy had just traded in a ~1995 volvo 850 5-speed (non turbo) and it was a great move :)

    The next was in 2007. It was a silver ~1992-1994 SC300 5-speed with about 220,000 miles of hard-driven new york city living and terrible maintenance.

    The exhaust was rattling, the clutch was on it’s last legs, the brakes felt about as mushy as brakes get before they fail….and the engine purred it’s siren song.
    The interior was beaten to crap.

    It still felt special.

    I’ve never felt that way about any other lexus product, but this one had “it”.


  • avatar

    I always loved this car. Almost bought used ones twice. One of my favorite car designs from the 90s.

  • avatar

    I owned a 1992 SC400 for sixteen years. Put 240,000 miles on it. Loved the car. Everything still worked when I sold it. This article is bang on.

    One thing you might add – the Nakamichi sound system was fantastic. Add a cassette adapter for your iPod and you have a system that far exceeds most factory sound today.

  • avatar

    Best thing about this review – it’s a used car. Do more of these! As we all conserve cash, it will be important to know about used cars.

    Consider reviewing these, I am curious if they are a good used buy for the car nut:
    C4 Corvette
    Focus & Contour SVT
    Olds Intrigue and Aurora 3.5
    Previous-gen BMW M3s

    And any other sleepers like the SC400. Nice job!

    • 0 avatar

      If you want a great sleeper, get an 89-93 Taurus SHO. Any with a 5 speed manual. The most fun car I’ve ever owned, good on fuel, durable, and fast. Sounds like a Ferrari or something. DOHC 3.0L V6 built by Yamaha(the heads, at least) putting out 220 very strong horsepower. The Ultimate Sleeper, especially since its not the prettiest. But I would take it against an SC400 any day. Smaller engine, less power, bigger car(fullsize family sedan), and still faster. S4s are fun too. :)

  • avatar

    Ford Skyliner was the first folding hardtop, although really it just retracted.

    Mitsubishi beat Mercedes to market with their folding hardtop 3000GT SL & VR4 spyders of the ’90’s. They were absurdly expensive, heavy, and poorly built, but they were the 2nd FHT’s.

    i love the bling-tastic front wheels on the lead image. The problem is that that’s what awaits all those well cared-for SC300/400’s – stupid owners who throw giant chrome wheels on it. Urgh.

  • avatar

    rice them out?

    At 1500$ that’s a hella car for a kid. I’d pick one over a Civic any day of the week.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub



  • avatar

    I always wanted one of these or an SC300 with a 5 speed manual transmission but could never afford one. Even as they got old and piled on the miles, the famed resale value kept them out of my grasp.

    I saw a SC430 convertible at a car show this past weekend, what a snore. A way over the top gimmicked up car; I’d hate to have to fix all of the electronic stuff on that car in about five years. (It didn’t help that it was finished in turd brown!)

    I am awaiting a SC 300/400 return but I think I’ll have a long if not infinite wait.

  • avatar

    A Japanese fellow I worked with in Japan had the Soarer, the Nihon market version. Great stereo, quiet, fast, comfortable, an amazing ride. Too bad most are mileaged up to the hilt today.

    Find one in some old farts garage with 50K on it and your in.

  • avatar

    I have long thought the SC3oo with the MT would be sweet. A (not particularly) poor man’s Aston.


  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The SC 300/400 was an homage to the Porsche 928, which was the only good looking street car Porsche ever made. (The RS 550 was a racer).

    Every Lexus sports tourer since the SC has been a step backwards.

    The Ford Skyliner was quite impressive for the 1950s. A neighbor had one. The whole trunk lid came up front to back and the whole roof slid in to the trunk. Part of the roof folded when the roof retracted, check the picture at the link. There was a small compartment for luggage in the trunk about large enough for a big gym bag. The neighbor also had a daughter, but that is a different and sadder story.

  • avatar

    Um, why does that speedo show 14mph? Don’t tell me you’re taking pix WHILE YOU DRIVE! Either this thing has a problem, or we’re gonna see “The Truth About Car Accidents”.

  • avatar

    I owned a 93 SC300/5 speed for about a year and a half. I agree with the comments about the interior. It was a sublime cruising car.

    The front brakes were extremely expensive to fix. You had the buy the entire assembly from Lexus.

    The gas mileage was rotten for a car of this size. The worst part of car and what ultimately made me get rid of it, it just wasn’t that engaging to drive.

    Even with the 5 speed, it had no personality. It was just too quiet. I probably would have kept it longer if I had cut off the rear mufflers!

    They are very cool cars and look bad ass with certain body kits/larger size 17″ wheels.

  • avatar

    I was at UCLA in ’94 with a guy who’s SC300/400 had come out with him from New York. 4 of us were heading out one evening and passing through an underpass near a parking structure. The right lane of this road has 2 or 3ft curbing pieces, around 3 or 4 inches tall, in several helpful “right turn only” patterns for each of the structure’s entrances.

    Four people talking, we’ve all at least walked this way many times before… The driver took the car right over two of the curbing collections and I could hardly feel a thing from the back seat. Certainly no crashing or squeaking. My first encounter with real (abused) luxury car suspension.

  • avatar

    The red needles on the dash wear out and turn black; the entire display may follow.

    That’s the thing about these Lexus electronic displays. It happened to my b-i-l’s ES300. (he hasn’t spent the $$) to fix it. It probably will happen to my parents’ ES330. When it first came out the ‘wow’ factor was nice, but that’s all.

    This is my capsule review (ha!) of the ES330. I’ve studied the Lexus dashboard design for some time now (having spent a lot of time riding shotgun) and I strongly dislike their use of ‘reverse’ LCD displays (black digits on a greenish background). I really hate the reddish, plasticky wood used on the dash.

    Why does the Toyota-ish ‘automatic’ climate control automatically revert to external ventilation mode when you’ve previously selected the recirculation mode every time you’ve restarted the engine? I don’t know about the current models but my folks’ 330 came with both a 6-CD changer AND a cassette player. How 20th century.

    Next time I take a ride in the 330 I will have a look at the door hinges, but given that this is a restyled Camry I have no great expectations. (I suspect, however, that a very favorable yen/dollar ratio of the era allowed the engineers to indulge themselves.) I will say, however, that the ES330 is a very poorly packaged car for its size. It is cramped inside, imo. Toyota/Lexus should figure out a way to squeeze the thickness of front seatbacks a couple of inches–would do wonders for the sense of airiness in back.

    The styling of the previous ES300 was/is superior to this car. It is bloated and there is a fish face-quality in the nose–not attractive at all. I don’t get Toyota designers’ fascination with a low roof coupled to a high beltline. It doesn’t look good on a Tacoma and it doesn’t look good here.

    Whatever. My parents don’t give a sh*t about cars, so this thing is perfect for them. (Though I keep urging them to go for the Jaguar XF when the stock market rebounds. )

  • avatar

    Here’s one on Craigslist – nice wheels too ; )

  • avatar

    I’m a big fan of these cars, even down to the door hinges. Thanks for the review!

  • avatar

    50 years from now, I think these will still be looked upon as among the all time greats. It was truly awesome when new. And makes me feel old realizing how long ago that was.

  • avatar

    Yup, a great car. Friend of mine had one and about 2 years ago bequeathed it to his bro for 10K and 110,000 klicks, not miles. What a deal. It’s all black and extremely gracefully styled.

    In fact, why aren’t newer cars styled as well as this? Modern cars strike me as generally, plain ugly. They look like startled bullfrogs these days. I give all the current stylists except the Jag and Aston boys a big F-.

  • avatar

    My supervisor bought an SC300 with the manual transmission when they came out. It was black with a tan interior – absolutely gorgeous inside and out. I still remember Prince on that great Nakamichi the first time I heard it. Very smooth ride – maybe the first true luxury car I’d experienced – same for the excellent stereo. It really gave me my first taste of what Lexus embodied.

    He got the SC300 instead of the SC400, simply because it had a manual transmission offering. The sound of that V6 was like ripping silk. Brings back memories. Thanks for that Steve. To hear that they were engineered that well and hold up like they do only reinforces my first impression of it.

  • avatar

    I bought a ’96 SC300 in 2000 with 69,500 miles on the clock, sold it a few years ago.

    The good: It had by far the best steering of any Lexus until the IS300 came along. Very nicely weighted with nice feel. The driving position was great, thanks to plenty of seat travel and the electric tilt and telescope steering wheel. The thin pillars and low dash allowed for great visibility. The center stack ergonomics were brilliant, with the large temperature and volume knobs within very easy reach.

    The bad: The transmission was awful. Even if you booted the throttle to the floor, sometimes it would kick down and sometimes it wouldn’t, so you never really knew how much power you were going to get. The four ratios also simply weren’t enough. It couldn’t make it up a hill in 4th, so it would kick down to 3rd and you’d get to listen to the sound of drone at 4200rpm until you reached the crest.

    My car developed large cracks in the vinyl trim under the windows, and a large crack in between the center air vents, common SC problems. Another common problem – the rubber gaskets around the headlights failed, and they filled with water when it rained, eventually ruining both headlamps. They were replaced at a cost of $450 each. Less than two weeks after I bought the car, the check engine light came on – bad O2 sensor. This was foreshadowing of things to come. It burned through O2 sensors at a rate of 1 to 2 a year. Those things ain’t cheap.

  • avatar

    I love these cars. I don’t like the tacky chrome strips they added to the taillights of the later years, or the faux grille (!), but it’s got such purity of line.

    A lot of the odd, bespoke engineering was not done out of a Mercedes-like obsession with perfection, so much as the fact that the shape was nightmarishly hard to produce. For example, engineering the headlights and other under-hood ancillaries to fit under the low, curvaceous fenders and hood line was a real challenge. But management loved the look (one of the first products of Toyota’s CALTY design center), and they didn’t want to compromise it for production.

    This car is Exhibit A when I hear people saying the Japanese companies don’t create designs as radical and attractive as the Europeans or Americans. (They often don’t, but, as GM constantly reminds us, there’s a big difference between can’t and won’t.) I think it’s a future classic.

  • avatar

    @James2, It’s really not fair for you to compare the entry level ES330 (super nice Camry) with Lexus’ flagship vehicles. For its time, the SC300 and 400 were the most thoroughly engineered and developed vehicles you could buy at any price.

    Today, that honor probably falls on the LS600h. Everything on that vehicle has the attention to detail that you’d expect after seeing an SC400.

  • avatar

    James2: Why does the Toyota-ish ‘automatic’ climate control automatically revert to external ventilation mode when you’ve previously selected the recirculation mode every time you’ve restarted the engine?

    Just about every modern electronic climate control system does this now. Plus, they switch to “fresh” when you change to defog. It’s asinine, but some engineer thinks it’s the right design. I’d rather run the A/C on recirc with the temperature set to whatever’s comfortable. That’s always defogged the windows pretty well for me.

  • avatar

    I can vouch for the longevity…a coworker who commuted ridiculous distances bought one of these to ease the pain. He got rid of it with over 400,000km. He anticipated that at some point something big would go and he’d just dump it for whatever he could get. Instead it just kept going and going and eventually he sold it because he wanted a change (a sharp contrast to me…I’d have driven it ad infinitum).

  • avatar

    There are several of these in what appear to be very good condition on eBay. If I only had a little extra scratch and the garage space for another car…

  • avatar

    One thing you might add – the Nakamichi sound system was fantastic.…
    Ah, the Nakamichi. I still own a Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck. With a Nakamichi ZX tape, I can make copies of CD’s that are virtually indistinguishable from the original. It was pretty cool owning such a killer deck in college.

    Plus, they switch to “fresh” when you change to defog. It’s asinine, but some engineer thinks it’s the right design. I’d rather run the A/C on recirc with the temperature set to whatever’s comfortable.

    The windows defog much better without recirc and the A/C compressor running. That is why virtually all manufacturers disable recirc in the defog mode. You would think that high humidity outside air would be worse than inside humidity, but often it is not. Picture four people wet from rain, plus moisture expelled with breathing…much worse than your typical rainy day. I had a coworker who groused that her new Accord (this is 10 yrs ago) didn’t clear the windows like her prior GM car did. Her old car automatically engaged the A/C and used outside air. Her new Accord had a very flexible HVAC system, but you had to push the A/C button in those days or the compressor didn’t run no matter what. She no reason to use the A/C in cool weather so she suffered until I showed her how to properly use the controls. I think most cars today automatically engage the compressor with the defrost/defogger on.

  • avatar

    Everything from Lexus during that 1st generation era just screams that they had to lose money on each and every one they sold.
    Case in point, besides the SC in this article – I have some family members that purchased one of the first Lexus LS400 models dropped off in Ohio. I remember being a 15 year old car nut riding in that Lexus for the first time and thinking to myself that this Lexus was quite possibly the best car ever screwed together and that they would have this car for ages. I’m 2 for 2. They still have the car and drive it on a part-time basis in Florida…and it has well over 200,000 miles on it. The ONLY glitch it had over 200,000 miles was a faulty coolant level light, but that was traced to old glue that kept the sensor in place. That’s it. Gas/tires/oil.
    When I drove it last, I noted that the leather still felt soft and looked great (especially for SW Florida), there were NO squeaks and rattles, the stereo was still powerful, and the engine and transmission was as smooth as anything built today.
    Of course it’s still wierd to see an analog odometer buried under the steering wheel and having only four gears to shift through with a luxury car, but it was par for 1990.
    I still think that 1989-1993 was probably the high water mark for Japanese makers with amazing cars like this SC/LS, Maxima, 300ZX TT, RX-7, Lexus-like Camry, Integra, Legend, and Supra. They were loaded with soft touch plastic, great engines, and lasted forever.
    It’s a crime to see what Lexus has done with the SC now.

  • avatar


    RF’s interest in an IS-F made me wonder what my own current wish list looked like, and like you, I found an inordinate amount of excellence in the early 90’s stuff from Japan. Here’s my llist of worthwhile whips:

    ls400 90
    prelude 2000
    nsx early model
    mr2 gen 1
    crx gen 2
    tsx gen 1
    93 camry wgn
    93 es 300
    09 accord coupe
    93 altima
    08 pontiac g8
    miata hardtop
    first gen fit
    suzuki cappuccino

  • avatar

    If you can find an SC300 with an all too rare manual tranny in it. Call me first. I’ll buy it and be your new best friend.

    Less than 100k miles as well. Stock.

  • avatar

    I believe Car & Driver called it “possibly the most perfect sports car on the planet” or something similar (sorry–can’t find a reference on the web easily). Lusted after one for quite a while.

  • avatar

    Funny..I saw a particularly nice one of these on craigslist and was trying to convince my mom to trade in her snoozy 1.8T Passat for it..she’s definitely got quite a bit of “automotive intertia”, and the crummy MPGs of this car doesn’t help, but maybe this will help ;)

  • avatar

    I wish you’d told me a couple of years earlier when I had a nice bright red one from ’95 but was the inline-six sc300… and a 5-speed manual.

    eh, needed a 4-door so i’m pretty happy with my tsx now. But still, I do think about her…

  • avatar

    I’m a convert.
    Let me tell you my story.
    Back in 1996 in Virginia most people I would see drive the SC300/400 were gangbangers who would bling these cars out with chrome and stupid colors. Actually most Lexuses, but especially the SC. I took a real dislike to them. Also I thought the car looked like a boat and with a V8 figured it naively to be a Japanese wanabee American Cruiser. I think every time I saw one I negatively associated it with something bad from the era.
    Fast forward 10 yrs, moved to Tokyo. Looking for a second car. At this point was walking and biking but really needed the second car. I heard someone at work was junking a car. talked to him @ it. He said he had transfered the car over in his name from someone who had been fired (i heard it was drugs) to sell it for him, well he wanted too much and never sold it, the JCI was due and he would not pay it. (at that time Japanese metal was high so you would get Y60000 to Y100000 for recycling) To this day don’t really now why, but he just let me have the car. Never asked for anything in return. But when he told me it was a Toyota Soarer, I looked online and saw it was the SC; I did not want it. Had I not already agreed to take it from him I would never have accepted that car; even for free. I’m serious, I remember feeling mad and so stupid at that time because I would now be stuck with an SC. The car had sat under a tree for 5 months in Tokyo smog and filth. So it was actually worse than I imagined. And the guy that had the car was this caucasian wanna be gangster, rapper, so the car was even more blinged out than any I had seen. that car change me. I’m getting there…First day ,spent @ 9 hrs ripping the stupid accessories from this bling king. Spent 3 months washing & waxing it back to life. Slowly I bean seeing the car differently. Then it happened; this car nut friend of mine talked me into going driving with him in the mountains surrounding Tokyo: Skyline GT-R R34 and 3 others. another Skyline GT-R R32 a Silvia and a WRX. I didn’t even want to go because I thought my car would leave shamed and ridiculed. I was totally wrong not only could I keep up. I was kicking their asses except for the R34 or in sharp turns where the road was slick. It was a surreal awakening. Not knowing what I had the whole time. It was love at 3 months sight, never looked at my car the same. Toyota Soarer 2.5 TT. I loved this car, for 2 years, then fate would pay me back for my previous lack of respect for it. I had to leave on unforseen business with my JCI coming due. Everyday I worried I would not make it …Got back 2 months later with 3 days left on my JCI but my passenger side window motor had gone out. The only component that went bad since I had it and there none anywhere…I lost. My car would be…destroyed! By this time the Japanese economy took a shit and you don’t get Y1 for junking a car. Nevertheless, I was able to get Y30000 solely for the engine.
    So I got what I deserved in the end.
    For all of you that never have known the Soarer; it is truly one of the best cars ever made

  • avatar

    I had a 1992 SC 300 with the 5-speed leased new for for 4 years. It was the only leased car I’ve ever had that was worth more than the residual at the end of the lease! It was a great car and I should have kept it. By the way, it has an inline 6 not a V6!

  • avatar

    SC400 was so cool in the 90’s that it earned 1992 Playboy’s Car of the Year title :)

    Those electro-luminescent gauges were thing of the future back then, Germans started using similar technology on their displays 10 years later.

  • avatar

    I bought my 93 SC300 new in July 1993. Black, with tan interior, and a 5 speed manual. I still have it and it is almost perfect – just a couple of small stone chips and only 41,000 miles. The only repair it needs is to replace the struts that hold the trunk lid open. Other than routine dealer service it has never needed a single repair! One of these days I may find someone willing to pay me what it is really worth and I might actually sell it. Until then I just drive it and smile!

  • avatar

    Jim D, I am almost envious of you. I’ve got a ’93 SC400, but would love having the manual tranny to throw a turbo onto. I love the sound those blow-off valves make. And you just can’t get that same sound with a turbo on an automatic.

    You lucky dog.

  • avatar

    in the original article it was mentioned that if a sc300 with manual tranny can be found, let you know. well it is here:

    beige/tan 187K clean $6000 asking price. good deal?

  • avatar

    If you’re an SC lover like me, check out this video:

  • avatar

    After many years of driving Porsches and Mercedes, I was fed up and bought a new 1994 SC400. It is the only car I have owned that did not leave me lusting after another vehicle. Now, 105,000 miles later, I drive the SC every day and still love it. It has depreciated down to nothing, but it still drives like that day I bought it. The remote door locks and the CD changer stopped working years ago, and I have not bothered to spend the bucks to fix them. I could not imagine that I would ever be happy with a sixteen year old car, but here I am. I actually get over 23 MPG in town! Not too shabby for a four liter V8. Now if I could just figure how to put my bicycle in it. (I use a bike rack.)

  • avatar

    Have a 1994 SC400 with just under 200K miles…runs like it has 50K miles. Everything mechanical is extremely tight and performs like butter. Car was purchased with 24K miles 1n 1996 — two weeks later found out it had a salvage title due to accident while at dealership…another story for a cold, wintry night with some Yukon Jack. Had the car checked from top to bottom/front to rear…everything came great. Only real complaint is with the paint the body shop did in early 1995 (after the accident) as the car now needs to be repainted. Also needs some minor attention to the driver seat leather — upper left panel, near the door.

    Other than that, I have a no complaints whatsoever. Take it to a great mechanic/Lexus specialist in Monrovia, CA — Luxury Motors. These guys really know the Lexus lines — my wife’s LS/mother’s Ls and daughter’s Es all go there for repairs and service. Cannot recommend them strongly enough — fair, honest and reliable place to take you Lexus (or other car — Infiniti, MB, BMW, Jag, etc.)

    Back to the SC400 — this car is so rock solid on the highway…never seems to be working hard and could cruise all day at 75-90 miles per hour (if 90 were legal!). My wife drove this for 10 hours last February to southern Arizona — with a small dog as only companion and never had a worry or concern — the car just runs and runs.

    Will never own the SC430 — all I hear is negative re this car. Wish Lexus would have produced the Infiniti G35/37 Coupe — that is a beautiful car and the one Lexus should have made in the early 2000’s.

    Anyone know about swapping out the factory — Nakimichi — radio for a more up to date system. I am giving this some thought after the paint job and interior fix.

    • 0 avatar

      id pull the radio and look at all the various plugins on the back, and take pictures. then google the model radio you have “nakamichi xx000 upgrade” and see what shows up… with another toyota compatible upgrade

      you might need some adapters, but theyre out there. no cutting wires, just simple plug n play.

      or at least thats how i like 04-13 scions.

  • avatar

    I agree.  Super reliable car with a great ride, sure handling, smooth power, and high comfort level.  My SC400 had 260K miles when I sold it and it still ran like a Rolex.  I only sold it because I had purchased a new IS300 w/manual trans and I found the IS soooo much more fun to drive than the SC that I never drove the SC anymore.  Fine car, but no regrets about selling it at all.  Still having a blast in the IS after 8 years of ownership.

  • avatar
    J Holladay

    Im about to buy a 93 sc400 with 270,000 miles
    I cant wait !
    Buying it for $1200. Going to be happy to sink money into this car upgrading it

  • avatar

    I found a 1992 lexus sc400 with about 150000 miles on it. The inside is a little rough. How much would you pay for this?

  • avatar

     I just bought 1992 Lexus SC400 for 1700$ , i was a little scetchy about the odometer being at 338000 km. though, its actually really nice. theres a little rust around the wheel wells, cracked side view mirror, parking brake is siezed, needs a new thermostat and a liquid crystal display for the temperature. though the options on this old car is overwhelming: traction control, overdrive, power ECT, 12 disc changer, sunroof, wood side panels and a telliscoping antenna (which got sheared off in a car wash; 70$ to replace). overall its a great buy; i couldnt believe a car that was made in 90s would have such a sleek design.

  • avatar

    i wanna buy your car lol.

  • avatar

    Hi , my grandma has given me her old sc400 and I took it to the mechanics. They are working on it and they said it was worth fixing. My brother who works on cars as well recently told me that there was water sitting on the inside of the car for over 4 months and its not worth being fixed. Does anyone know should I just get rid of it or not ?

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Susie, I don’t know whether I should first congratulate you, or go drink some Geritol. Just the fact that “your grandmother” gave you this car makes me feel like Methuselah (lived longer than any other human being – over 900years – Bible, Old Testament).

      Anyway, you haven’t given any specific information with regard to this “water sitting on the inside”. Was it just puddled up on the floor board? If so, front cabin? Rear cabin? Trunk? Where exactly? Also, what year is the SC?

      If rust has started to form (and it very well may not have – I’d check into it or have a body shop guy do it) I don’t know what it would cost to have that area of floor board cut out and replaced. Maybe $600 to $1,000??? Even so, these are VERY solid and reliable automobiles. Years ahead of their time technologically (first generation ’92-’94). There are a lot of folk who would love to have one.

      Now, if you really could care less about the desireability of this car, and it’s not really lighting your fire per say, then I would probably not bother with it. Drive what you love, what you’re passionate about – if you can afford it. If you’re not a passionate person when it comes to what you drive, then what’s $1,000 to fix a car that will likely last you another 5 to 10 years virtually trouble-free?

      Mine is a ’93 with over 215,000 miles on it. I intend on getting no less than 350,000 before doign a complete restoration on it. I will soon be getting an LS430 for my daily driver. But I LOVE this car and will keep it forever.

  • avatar

    I have a chance to buy a 1992 SC400; every option, showroom condition, all maintenance done, 77,000 miles. Price: $9000. Should I grab it? I want a car that will last a long time but be nice. 77,000 miles seems really low.
    I am interested in any thoughts and opinions.


    • 0 avatar

      Bill… You’re kidding, right?

      An absolute unbeleivable find like that and you’re asking if it’s a good deal? If you don’t take it, I certainly will.

      Considering that the SC garnered upwards of $50k brand new and the mileage on this one is that low, i’d say it’s a good deal. Not “great”, but good. Definately have the timing belt changed though. Usually it’s a mileage concern (I beleive at around 90k), but given that this car is 20yrs old, there could be some concern for dry-rot (with all the belts and hoses actually). I wouldn’t mess around. If it hasn’t been done already, have it done very very soon. Though, I beleive the 1JUZFE motor is a non-interference, so there should be no worry of bent piston rods and whatnot if your timing belt does happen to snap while at freeway speeds.

      My ’93 had 88k when I bought it. An that was 7 years ago.

      TAKE IT – QUICKLY! You will not regret it. I’ve got 255k on mine now and still no rattles. Been saying I’ll get at least 400k out of it, but I think it’s time to upgrade to that LS460. Though I will always keep the SC400 as a collectible.

      • 0 avatar

        No, I’m not kidding. Right now, I only have the owners word for it. He is about 250 miles away from me. He is the original owner and has had the timing belt changed once (can’t remember when exactly). It will be sold at the end of May when he will buy a new Lexus (rich older man). He is the original owner and puts about 4K miles per year on it. I am going to get him to send photos of it to me. He claims it is in brand new condition. We’ll see. It could be fun.

  • avatar

    Well, Bill. It may be worth your expense then to either take a certified mechanic with you to verify the car’s condition pre-purchase. Or get the seller to agree to you taking it in to his local Lexus dealership to have a full inspection done on it. This will cost about $125 or so.

    If he says that all service was performed at that dealership, then call them with the VIN and get verification of the vehicles condition upon the last service call.

    If everything checks out (nothing standing out that requires more than $350 or so to fix), I’d take it.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 92 with 68K miles. Bought it in 94 with 8.5K miles. Always garaged SoCal car. I would not sell mine for less than $30K (not that I plan to sell it). They are way undervalued now, but I expect to keep mine until it becomes a true classic.

  • avatar
    coolkid 123

    Hey don’t know mUch about the sc 400 but this really helped, I found a 92 with 100 k miles for 8000 in amazing condition/ anyways I jus wanted to get a secon opinion before I buy so let me know please

    • 0 avatar

      Just for comparison, the local Lexus dealer recently had a clean two owner 1997 SC400 with 76K miles on it priced under $10K. It sat on their lot for several months before they wholesaled it out.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Those aren’t bad prices. If you check eBay and AutoTrader the coupes and 1st and 2nd generations sedans are selling right around there. Always tempted to pick up an LS400 or 430.

  • avatar

    I bought a 95 400 for $6700. Awesome car. I expected to spend a bit getting it back up to fighting strength, and it now needs an A/C condenser. They could not find the “right one” in Canada, so they ordered one from the US. Total job is going to cost $1700 CDN. I feel like maybe this is way over the top, when you can find a condenser from an internet parts store for under $200, but the question is, can these parts outlets be trusted? My mechanic says no, of course. I need A/C and the car is worth it. A few minor glitches. I need an inexpensive source for the speedo and tach needles as well. Any suggestions? Seems like a big job to re-and re the instrument panel

    • 0 avatar

      vanscman, I can’t really speak to the cost of the compressor repair, as I have not had to get that done (yet) on my ’93 400.

      But, with regard to the dash needles (and climate control LCD display ‘bleed’ which you will likely also experience soon if you haven’t already) go to these guys.

      I have not yet taken the plunge with them myself, but they are the only source I know of for these repairs. From what I have gathered (which may or may not be accurate), this is where your unit will end up anyway if you take it to the dealer for repair (for a hefty stealership markup, of course).

      They even offer you the option of changing the color of your light display (needles and backlighting).

      Check them out. You will need to remove the dash display unit(s) from your car and send in to them, then wait as they perform the repairs. So prepair to go about a week without your clusters.

      • 0 avatar

        Excellent link, thanks very much. The amps on the Nakamichi also tend to suffer water/moisture damage b/c of their location in the trunk. I had my amp repaired, but it still cuts out after an hour or so, probably when it heats up. No big deal, it still sounds great!

  • avatar
    Heather Lee

    I’m replying to your comment regarding the 1995 SC300 Lexus. “If you can find an SC300 with an all too rare manual tranny in it. Call me first. I’ll buy it and be your new best friend.” I have one that is in excellent shape with very low millage. Mine is loaded with the “winter package” i.e. heated seats, memory seats etc. CD changer in the trunk. Everything a car could want in 1995! Email me for details if you are still interested and make me an offer. I’m a retired textbook designer and need a car that drives in the snow! This rear wheel drive is NOT for me. Other than snow issues, I love love love this car. I only use this car to go to Dr’s appt’s, grocery store and dance classes. I never take it on long trips, since we use our family car for that. It has been well cared for.

  • avatar

    hi all. i am needing some help here please. i have a toyota lexus 400 gt. v8 quod cam 32 velve. ok car slowed to a stop after a bell was ringing in the car for a few days every time i drove it. so it stops like no petrol . so we by pass the ECU to test and yep- she runs. so my qestion is. can we just keep it by past with no problems. and if not where do i get a new ECU and how much are they im in perth western australia. i love this car and need it up and running . ive had a stroke and need it to get to hospital each week. and moneys tite. so please let me know what to do in this case . thank you all. ralphy.

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