OUR CARS – GUIDO
GUIDO SOARS TO QUEENSLAND FOR HIS NEWEST PRIDE
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 EXACTLY REPRESENT THE FINANCIAL RISK OF THE CENTURY”
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