WELL, THAT’S IT, t he last spot on t he drive­way has been soa ked up by the lat­est car pur­chase. We of f icia lly have grid­lock. And the cul­prit? A Toy­ota Soarer Lim­ited (UZZ31 in fac­tor y-spea k) badged as a Lexus SC400.

So how did this come about? You may reca ll a few is­sues ago we did a Ja­panese clas­sic va lue guide – our f irst in a ver y long time and a nice fat is­sue to cel­e­brate its re­turn. It went down prett y well. How­ever one of t he risks in work­ing on stuf f like t hat is you k inda get caught up in t he stor y.

Al­most inev itably, mug­gins started cr uis­ing t he clas­sif ieds (yes, t hat’s dou­ble jeop­ardy – we have clas­sic car clas­sif ieds at tradeuniquecars.com.au) spec­u­lat­ing on what it would be like to own a ll sorts of in­ter­est­ing toys. The t hing is, wit h a ver y few ex­cep­tions, older and in­ter­est­ing Ja­panese cars are cheap. Some­times ridicu­lously so given the tech­nolog y hid­den un­der the paint.

One thing led to an­other and I picked up on t he fact t hat t hird-gen­er­a­tion Toy­ota Soar­ers – t he equiva lents to Lexus SC300/400 se­ries – seemed to of­fer a lot of bang for your buck. This se­ries k icked off in 1991 and was avail­able wit h four main en­gine varia nts: a 2.5lt stra ight si x in nor­mally-as­pi­rated or turbo form, a 3.0lt stra ight si x, or t he 4.0lt V8 out of t he Lexus LS400. You could get a five-speed man­ual wit h t he 2.5lt turbo, which is ver y de­sir­able. Other wise you got a four-speed auto. Out back there was a Torsen vari­ant on a lim­ited-slip dif f.

Cruis­ing t he clas­sif ieds, it was clea r t hat a

fair num­ber of t hings had en­joyed colourf ul ca­reers. Neit her t he Soarer nor Lexus was im­ported here by Toy­ota, but there was a time in the mid to late 1990s when they were pop­u­lar as used grey im­ports. We’re ta lk ing up­mar­ket and ex­pen­sive cars, but a few peo­ple made a liv ing out of bring­ing them in.

Af­ter t he ini­tia l loca l own­ers were through with them, they fil­tered down to a less cashed-up and younger crowd, who dis­cov­ered t here was a fair bit of per­for­mance po­ten­tia l locked away in both t he turbo and t he V8s. Inev itably a num­ber of them got fat rub­ber and low­ered sus­pen­sion and went play-racing. Given the tough me­chan­i­cals, it was a cheap way to have some fun.

As for t his ex­am­ple, I went look ing for an un­mo­lested one, if such a t hing still ex isted. And it did. Hid­den up on the Gold Coast in Queens­land was Di, who was re­tir­ing and sell­ing her daily drive. It had been re­placed with a new Lexus. The Soarer had big miles – 355,000k m – but there was ev idence it had been main­tained and it came with a road­wor­thy cert. As res­i­dent work­shop bloke Mor­ley says, t hat Lexus V8 is a mil­lion kay pow­er­plant if looked af­ter, so mileage wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a big is­sue.


Priced at $ 3250, it didn’t ex­act ly rep­re­sent t he f inan­cia l risk of t he cen­tur y. Now t he eas­i­est thing would have been to pop it on a truck and send it down to Mel­bourne, but where’s the fun in that? Nope, spouse Ms M snr and I jumped a bomber to Qld and drove back, v ia t he Newell, drop­ping in on friends in Moree and Can­berra a long the way.

(This was my sec­ond trip in a week down t he Newell, as t he Fri­day be­fore I’d f low n up to col­lect a mo­tor­cy­cle I’d bought in Bris­bane and ride t hat back. It’s a ll part of a cun­ning plant to empty Queens­land of ve­hi­cles, one at a time…)

In the mad rush to meet the plane, I’d for­got­ten to bother wit h travelling tools, or even t he litt le lit hium jump sta rter bat­ter y I of­ten ta ke if we’re go­ing some­where. Not to worr y. The Lexus/Soarer/what­ever turned out to be a gem.

With around 190kW (250hp) of power claimed for the V8 and some­where in the v icinit y of 1600kg to push a long, it qualif ies as lively rat her t han se­ri­ously fast. The good news in t his case was t he en­gine feels crisp and the oil con­sump­tion across a 2000km trip was neg­li­gi­ble. Fuel burn is about 10lt/100 on the high­way, but seems to be a fair bit steeper around tow n. No com­plaints wit h t he tra ns­mis­sion, ot her t han it feels like a ser v ice is prob­a­bly due as it can ta ke a sec­ond of t wo to en­gage drive.

Sur­pris­ingly, t he sus­pen­sion is st ill work­ing okay. If you’ve been down the Newell lately, you’ll k now a lot of t he sur­face is like a moon­scape. De­spite t hat, the car tracked f ine and was re­mark­ably com­fort­able.

In­side it’s a ll leat her and wood, wit h a spare roll of leat her in t he boot – com­pli­ments of the prev ious owner. Speak­ing of the boot, we had to chuck le at t he litt le de­tail in­side t he spare wheel: match­ing f it­ted bags, one for a f irst aid k it and ot her for a ‘va let k it’. The lat­ter in­cludes clean­ers and pol­ish, as­sorted clot hs and (of course !) gloves.

It’s got more gad­gets t han any t wo ot her cars in our drive­way, wit h switch­able sus­pen­sion, power modes, over­drive and a fancy con­sole screen. That has t he usual ra­dios and cli­mate con­trols, but t here’s a lso an early sat­nav on board (handy if I ever get lost in Ja­pan…) and, be­lieve it or not, a TV. Again, only of use back in Nip­pon, t wo decades ago. Most of it seems to be work­ing, t hough t he CD stacker is hav ing a litt le rest at the mo­ment.

Re­ally, I reckon we got our money’s worth. In Vic it’s old enough to go on club plates, so we can play wit h it oc­ca­siona lly wit hout spend­ing a for­tune on reg­is­tra­tion. There are lots of litt le ar­eas t hat need a tidy-up, but the fun­da­men­tals are okay. And we should prob­a­bly re­place t he en­gine belts be­fore it’s much older. Watch this space…

Enough leather to make the cow look like an en­dan­gered species. 05Quite a trim and tidy der­riere, if we may say so. 06

The Newell’s an old­school, no bells and whis­tles Oz high­way. 03Quad-cam, four-valve, 6-bolt-mains V8. A lot to like, right there. 04

01 Not a lot wrong with the styling – a smart gen­tle­man’s coupe. Now all we need is a gen­tle­man to go with it.. 02We used to pay a premium for a tiller like that.

01 Paint­ing water tanks and si­los has be­come a big ‘thing’ across the coun­try..

04The Mog­gill ferry in Qld – al­ways worth a lit­tle de­tour.

Same trip, one week apart, but very dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles. We’re on the As­tron­omy Drive near Coon­abarabran in NSW.02 & 03

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