Junkyard Find: 1997 Lexus LS400 Coach Edition (with Bonus Failed Anti-Tow-Away Note)

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1997 lexus ls400 coach edition with bonus failed anti tow away note

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.

Even five years after moving to Colorado from the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m still not fully on board with this snow-covered-junkyard business.

This car had all the signs of a rapid fall from luxury-car glory; there was plenty of body damage outside and trash inside, but it still had all the original dealer paperwork and factory inspection certificate.

I’m pretty sure that the TO BE TOWED note I found was written by an enraged apartment manager or neighbor, after the car became immobile due to some expensive-to-fix mechanical problem, and that the angry response was written by the car’s owner. As we all know, heartfelt notes to tow-truck drivers don’t work.

But according to the auction sticker, the car starts.

There is nothing sadder than a broken wind-up crab toy crawling through the junkyard slush.

The only part I really wanted for my LS was the factory radio, because the LCD display on mine has some bad pixels. However, I learned from parting out an SC400 on eBay that certain 1990s Lexus parts are worth good money, so I grabbed a few more bits.

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  • InterstateNomad InterstateNomad on Jul 21, 2015

    So based on one of the photos, it was possible that the last owner obtained funds through a loan shark (whether for the car or for something else). That could explain why the car ended up getting towed as opposed to repaired... (edit: they were scraping by financially).

  • Amca Amca on Jul 22, 2015

    The original LS400 is the only Lexus I've ever liked. It just radiated exquisite construction from every (exterior) angle. What I want to find is one of the vanishingly rare cloth upholstered ones - I've only ever seen one, at a dealer back in '87, or whenever they came out. The boucle cloth looked fluffy as a cloud, and a mile deep - like you could have lost yourself in the seat. Unfortunately, Americans preferred nasty, cheap leather and Lexus obliged with some fairly egregious stuff in the early Lexus cars.

  • Analoggrotto The real question, how many years or months after the end of production will this vehicle be completely eliminated from the street? Neon lights, yellow spoiler covers, idiotic stripes, brazzers license plate frames, obnoxious exhausts and all.
  • Mike1041 Why buy a German car in the first place? You will get to know the service manager real well and you will be denied claims because “we make no mistakes in the Fatherland”.
  • Art Vandelay This thing has had a longer send off than The Rolling Stones
  • Kwik_Shift I wonder how friendly it would be as a daily driver in commuter traffic. At least Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing is more docile and even comes in manual.
  • Carsofchaos I like it. But then again, I think the Aztek and Vehicross are cool, too.