By on October 2, 2012

George writes:

Hello again, Steven,

You may recall our email last March regarding our 1992 Lexus SC300 5-Speed. Thanks for the reply; guess the timing was bad for you with tax time coming up. As you may recall, the car is all original, black with gray interior, looks and runs great, and has slightly less than 25K miles. Here’s the back story:

In 1994 my wife Jane went back to college and decided our Avanti II air conditioning was not cool for mid-day use in Tucson. We sold the Avanti and bought her dream, a 1992 SC300 5-speed, VIN JT8JZ31C1N0004164, Black with Gray interior, only 10,700 miles. We purchased the car in May 1994 from a detailer who had bought it at auction after the original owner drove it partway into a Phoenix, Arizona, flash flood. (The water reached the floor under the rear seat and partway up the engine, but never into it.) The detailer dried everything out and we have never had a bit of trouble with electrics or mechanical. The car was given a ‘restored/salvage’ title in Arizona which carried to a California ‘salvage’ title when we moved here in 1997.

Jane commuted to Jr. College for a year, and we used the car for pleasure through 1995. But from 1997 on it has been garaged with a cover and seldom driven, so it now has only 24,850 actual miles. This car is all original (including CD changer and phone), smells and looks new (even the light covers sparkle!). It has a few dings and scratches (see photos) but runs great (just passed CA Smog Test with flying colors in January).

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to riding in a taller (read SUV) vehicle and think its time to give the baby a good home. From your columns I see you are an auction buyer and dealer, so I hope you can give me good advice on how best to market this rarity. I’m also looking for advice from Lexus Club forums, but much of their emphasis is on highly modified SCs in the “drifting” game.

Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Steve answers:

That’s one helluva story. So tell it.

Put the vehicle on Ebay. Take 24 good pictures of the vehicle and make sure to include plenty of good pictures of the interior. I usually perform a ‘walk around’ which consists of starting at the front of the vehicle, taking another of the entire car while you face the driver’s bumper, a close up of the front driver quarter panel, exterior driver door, driver side door panel, drivers seat, dashboard, and so forth. The goal is to give people the experience of actually being there.

One other important Ebay tip. If the car has a blemish, show it and mention that in the ad as well. You will actually get more money for telling the truth and providing disclosure,than taking pictures through rose colored lenses.

I would also put the vehicle on Craigslist, Autotrader Ebay, and perhaps even consider visiting a local ‘classic’ car show and displaying the car with a sign that says, 24,850 actual miles. I have seen everything from a GMC Typhoons to a Merkur XR4TI sell at local car shows. Plus your car should be appealing to an older clientele that values it as more than just as a drifter car.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

What a machine! You are making this Lincoln Mark VIII owner a little jealous!

Steve’s advice is good, but there are better places to advertise a Lexus so wonderful. Hemmings is a good place to start, just ask this SC owner! Also consider Bring a Trailer,  then do that eBay auction and email the people behind the Lexus Enthusiast with a hyperlink and a letter with genuine concern for finding a buyer who will love it. Hell, even Autoblog will print it, they’ll post any POS just to get more clicks! (I kid! I kid because I love!)

Virally speaking, both the Lexus Enthusiast and Autoblog could easily blog about it with some good, “web traffic juicy” photos of the SC via eBay. And the SC will sell to the right person for a reasonable price.  It just takes a lot of word-of-mouth to make it happen. So make it happen!



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30 Comments on “New or Used: Shifting the 5-speed Lexus to a New Owner?...”

  • avatar

    God, I miss the ’90s when car interiors were car interiors, not wannabe techno lounges.

    I’ve always dreamed of finding a low-mile, pampered, all original car. There are several on my wish list, this being one. Of course, I can’t afford to actually buy it right now…

    Good luck with your sale! I truly hope you find the right buyer (and he/she finds you), one that will really appreciate your car and not rat it out as quickly as possible.

  • avatar

    How much and where are you located?

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking something similar. As it happens, I do want a car at the moment.

      I’m sure this will get bid beyond what I should spend for a commuter, though, and I can’t afford to keep it garaged all winter.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    You sold an Avanti?

    And not to me?


  • avatar
    Watch Carefully

    Should we be nervous that the Check Engine light is illuminated in that guage-cluster photo?

    Seriously, though…Good luck! I hope a worthy buyer appears.

  • avatar

    This is obviously a unique case that I would probably take a chance on, but in general, I would avoid flooded cars like the plague. Modern wiring, motors, and sensors on a car that has a lot of “dealer only” parts on a relatively unique car means you could have a real money pit.

    I would gear marketing the car to SC enthusiasts on various forums, the cars have a following and someone who knows there way around them will be willing to give you the appropriate premium for a time capsule like this. Selling on places like CraigsList means you’ll probably get a lot of tire kickers that think they can talk you down to a salvage value for the car.

    As a side note, I really miss the era of luxury coupes. Some of my favorites were the Thunderbird SC, Lincoln Mark VIII, Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Riviera, and Lexus SC.

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out… “salvage title” seems to be a kiss of death to drift car oblivion…

  • avatar

    KBB suggests a value of about $7700, NOT factoring in the salvage title. However, ultra low mileage older cars are hard to accurately value. So, it’s a classic case of “it’s worth what someone will pay”.

    • 0 avatar

      I see it doing at least $10K simply because its a five speed.

      If I had a place to put it, $$$ to blow, and felt like going out to get it, I would tender a serious offer.

      • 0 avatar

        My personal experience has been that manual trans cars, unless they are sports cars (which the SC is decidedly not), are VERY tough sells these days. I’d be interested to hear why you feel the opposite is true.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with 28-Cars. The 5spd SC’s do have a cult following and not really just with the boy racer demographic. I have seen a couple on local Cragslist all with higer mileage go through for about 12k.

        I would also suggest posting the for sale add on some of the bigger lexus boards like : and it should drum up some free word of mouth.

      • 0 avatar

        Kmoney is right, SCs in general have a cult following and 5-speeds are rare. I would say about 80% of used car buyers aren’t going to be interested in a 20 year old car with a price north of $5K, and 98% of the used car buying public may not even read an ad for a manual… but… there is that 1%-2% who would break several commandments to get their hands on a extra clean SC, and that percentage may be willing to dig deep in order to have the unicorn of used cars.

        I don’t think salvage title hurts it much at this point, ten years ago if you were trying to get $15-$20K out of it you were in trouble with a marked title, now not as much IMO.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This is an interesting test case on the effects of the passage of time on a 20-year old car that was built to a very high standard. The other question marks are parts availability for a car not sold in great volumes and finding someone to work on it. One thing I noticed right away was an old-style distributor with high voltage wires leading to the spark plugs.

    I had a law partner who owned this exact car and was very fond of it. By modern standards it’s a little slow and a little thirsty, but would probably be unequalled in comfort for a cross-country road trip.

  • avatar

    Beautiful. Like others have said, the salvage title will likely hurt some. But that car should move due to a combination of the rarity of condition and the existence of people (like me) who would find that irresistible. If only that was maroon or deep red and not located on the other coast…

  • avatar

    That car is seriously gorgeous.

    Oh Lexus, success went to your head… how you have lost your way.

  • avatar

    I think potential buyers will definitely be able to look past the title issue considering the condition. 5-speeds are quite rare, and somebody looking to bolt on a turbo and make a Soarer 3.0T is going to want the 5-speed.

    It’s unbelievable how good it looks. Mine had every SC problem you can name, constant O2 sensor failures, starter problems, leaky headlight seals, cracks in the air vent mounts and the top of the door panels, etc. By 120,000 miles it was just about dead.

  • avatar

    I owned one of these years ago. It wasn’t a particularly fun or very engaging drive. Some H&R springs helped get rid of the float. The engine is almost too quiet in stock form. Given a second chance, I would take a V8 auto over the 6 cyl 5-speed.

    This is ripe for someone looking a turbo swap or adding a turbo to the stock engine.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I don’t understand why a car purchased as someone’s “dream” was only driven 15000 miles in 18 years. You hardly got any use out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Seriously. I put 10k miles a year on my S2000 just taking in-state weekend drives with my wife. And obviously that car is hardly as comfy or road trip friendly as an SC.

  • avatar

    I just read “Lexus: The Pursuit of Perfection.” All I can say is WOW! These were built like brick houses. Really incredible attention to detail that would cost an arm and a leg (I am talking bionic) now. Somebody is going to get a great car. If I had the cheddar right now, WE would be closing the deal. Good luck with your sale.

  • avatar

    this is one awesome SC. I kinda want it.

  • avatar

    Please send me the contact info for George.



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