By on July 16, 2013



Normally I would have skipped right over a Lexus ES300 with two-tone paint. This time, I clicked on it, largely because the prospect of one with enough armor to stop a 7.62 round isn’t something you regularly encounter.

It turns out that the Lexus is, in fact located in Bogota, Colombia, which adds an element of shadiness to the whole encounter. In the context of Latin America though, the armored Lexus isn’t such an anomaly. On our shores, someone might opt for an armored S-Class or Escalade if they are a high profile individual in need of a secure vehicle.

In Latin America, such a vehicle would obviously stand out to the point where the owner would be even more of a target, so fitting armor to more discreet vehicles is the norm. Bulletproof VW Jettas are said to be popular with upper-class customers in Mexico. I’ve personally seen vehicles like the Skoda Octavia, Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with doors as heavy as bank vaults and remote start systems (just in case anyone tries to assassinate you via car bomb).

In this part of the world, those who are really rich and concerned with their safety tend to take helicopters. Maybe that’s what the owner is moving on to after he sells the Lexus. Any deal I made would have to include the original Colombian plates. And a thorough cleaning to make sure nothing comes across the border when I’m trying to import it.

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26 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: Level 3 Lexus...”

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Although the ES enjoys the distinction of being at the height of my capacity to not give a crap, I have to say that once you mentioned it was fully armoured, it instantly became cooler than a Lambo in my mind.

    Also, I’ve always been a fan of the 2 tone paint jobs on older Lexi. It was the only thing that actually gave them character.

    • 0 avatar

      Could not have put it better myself. There’s something cool about opening the door and seeing the extra thick glass jutting out and feeling the extra weight when you slam the door. No more drive through, since the windows tend to not roll down at that level of armoring.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the two-tone on these as well, there were some nice combos out there. Grey/grey is one of them.

      Other things which look good two-toned:
      Montero Limited (final gen)
      91-96 Park Avenue
      Cherokee Country
      Land Cruiser (90’s-04)
      94-97 Town Car (certain trims/combos)
      Outback Sedan/Wagon
      GMC Jimmy (95-02)
      Buick Enclave

      Edit: The 190E also was brilliant in two-tone.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        I know this was discussed many times on many different forums before, but I also enjoy the wood paneling on boxy wagons and SUVs of yore. Yes it’s insanely tacky. But who’s going to get noticed more in a grocery store parking lot? Ah the height of my aspirations are envied by all.

        And I think that’s the point. Not the aspiration (or lack thereof) but the fact that I’ve definitely noticed almost all of those examples of 2 tone cars you mentioned, but almost every other car blends into the background.

  • avatar

    From the Dept. of Redundancy Department: a two-tone Lexus ES300 with two-tone paint.

  • avatar

    few things

    i assume it has the 3.0 dohc 24v v6?

    how does that take to the added weight?

    • 0 avatar

      Probably not very well. I know that sometimes the brakes and other vital components are ignored during the armoring process and this can be a bad thing indeed. My cousin once rear ended another car in his bulletproof XJ Cherokee; it turned out that the brakes had worn prematurely, because they weren’t upgraded to cope with the extra weight of the armoring.

  • avatar

    That is interesting. As an owner of this gen ES myself, I can see an extra frame around the window that isn’t there on the normal car. I guess that is how you make a frameless window car into a bullet proof version.

    I expect more Internet “I’ve never actually driven one of these but I must enforce my street cred by hating on Toyota” based comments to come. This gen ES actually has a lot of redeeming qualities it was made before the IS existed so there is a very slight air of sportiness you don’t get in the later cars. I’m guessing the bulletproof version is too heavy to drive nice.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      A relative has one of these, non-armored of course. Nice car. Extremely refined (even at 15 years old), silky engine, surprising punch from the 3.0 liter. Lexus done a good job with this one.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I know it’s an automatic penalty on your car-guy card, but I really like this generation of the ES. Look at those lines; everything is nicely proportioned, low beltline, appropriate wheel size, sleek instead of bulbous and stubby. In two-tone black/grey or white/grey it is a good looking car.

    • 0 avatar

      the ES300 is pretty bulletproof (LOL PUN!) because its a tarted up Camry and I think that generation is sharply styled for what it is

      low running costs, lexus quality, whats not to like?

      questionable buy brand new, fine as a 10yr old bunky

      • 0 avatar

        It is a heckuva buy. I think you are right it is hard to justify back in the late 90s to pay 5-10k more for a frosted Camry, but used it is a great deal.

        Used though you pay very little more for the Lexus, the interior quality is better (my light grey leather still looks new even the driver’s seat) the extra equipment load is almost free HIDs, real wood, auto windows, Nakamichi stereo, later 99-01 models also have the VVTi engine and full electronic trans while the Camry went on with the older drivetrain. Still an old 4 speed auto but it works.

  • avatar

    The ES was a very elegant Lexus starter kit and doesn’t look dated at all. I remember the ad that ran for years in the Atlanta paper for “29,990” which I guess is a lot for a Camry

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Is it really a lot though? All the Camry virtues, plus all the toys you wanted, and the dealer treated you properly. It’s not hard to see the reason for Lexus’ initial success.

  • avatar

    Armoring of what we in the US consider to be middle-class cars is indeed common. In Caracas, my hometown, vehicles like Grand Cherokees, Prados and Explorers are commonly armored, and even these are relatively high-profile. It is not only the very rich who do this, but also the reasonably-well-off who can afford it. We have a family friend (he drives cars like older Accords and Chevy Centuries) who has been attacked on the road in Venezuela twice. Bogota is a much safer city than Caracas, though. Not unreasonable to advertise the car in Miami, which is sort of the de facto capital of Latin America.

  • avatar

    Russians got the windows to open & close-

    Youtube address may not load. It’s one of Uncle Joe’s crypto-Packards; ir looka like the glass is ~6 inches thick & it’s pretty obvious that the doors have hydraulic jacks in them.

  • avatar

    Humor about drug dealing aside, it’s not necessarily indicative of “shadiness” for a Bogota resident to have an armored car. I have family in Bogota, all of whom are solidly middle class professionals with no connection to the drug trade. However, they live in a gated community patrolled by gun toting guards and some have armored cars simply because there was a time when anyone who even APPEARED to have money was a potential target of kidnapping or other violence perpetrated by the ELN or FARC.

  • avatar

    That generation ES really is a great car, I had zero reason to sell it when I did, I just wanted something different. That’s when Lexus still built what their customers actually wanted: a smooth and comfortable Japanese Buick that ran forever.

    BTW, interesting that most armored cars are in South America where private gun ownership in most countries is almost always illegal. Isn’t it funny that in a country like the US where we have such high gun ownership, armored passenger cars are more of a novelty than anything.

  • avatar

    I used to have an ES that was identical to this, except for…you know…the armoring. I feel like it would be more trouble that its worth to get that thick glass to seat correctly with those frameless doors.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    I have a ’97 ES300. 160k miles. Bought used at 144k miles about 4 years ago. I’ve had to put about 3K into it during that time, but runs like the day it was born.

    Very nice freeway cruiser, and the styling still looks pretty good 16 years later. I still see quite a lot of them on the road in my neck of the woods too.

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