For those who aren’t acquainted yet, yesterday I picked up a new project/daily: a 1990 LS400, for which I paid $650 for in total. I’m on day two of ownership and I have to say, I absolutely love this car. But, it’s not perfect, not by any means...but I’m going to make it perfect by the end of it.

So, what all needs to be done? What’s the plusses and minuses I’ve found so far? What’s my plan for this barge? This is my post to lay it all out to you all.

The Good

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Considering the age of the car, I have to say, a lot of the mechanical components still run and drive just like they did when they were brand new. The 4-liter all-aluminum V8 still starts up every time, it still has absolute gobs of torque to spare, and it makes highway driving an absolute breeze. The suspension is also still full of life, soaking up bumps, holes, and railroad tracks with such suppulent ease.

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I have to say I most certainly lucked out in terms of overall condition of the car. The paint has a lot of the original luster still in it, the interior is relatively clean except for minimal wear and tear, and the lights have no cracks or fades, all of which are things that you’d usually find on a car of this age.

Finally, I really appreciate the driving style of this car. It kinda just floats down the highway, but it still feels semi-planted to the road. The steering is extremely loose but it still handles a corner decently well. Also, I’m really starting to become addicted to the 1UZ’s subtle rumble. It’s kinda just there but it makes highway pulls all that much more sweeter.

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The Bad

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While I said that the overall condition of the car is acceptable, there are a lot of problematic areas that I can see on first glance. For instance, while I love the 16 inch wheels that the previous owners had installed, they are scuffed in a couple of areas. Also, the driver’s door two-tone grey portion on the bottom is mismatched to the rest of the car, and although AutoCheck cited there were no major accidents, it’s easy to tell it’s either been re-painted or replaced in the past.

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The biggest niggles in my book are the mechanical issues that still have yet to be sorted. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

  • There’s a slight noise at startup that kind of sounds like a starter is going, but I’ve talked to other owners and they say it’s nothing major and just needs a tuneup. I know the starters on these are difficult, so I may just go ahead and get it replaced early on just for peace of mind.
  • There’s a very very light power steering fluid leak that you can only notice if you lift it and take a look at a small drip coming from the front end. It’s so light that it barely even pools up on the ground when the car is at rest. I’ll get to this eventually, but considering the light nature of the leak, I’m going to leave it alone...for now.
  • The tape deck is broken. I think the catch that accepts the cassettes is misaligned, or perhaps the spools that actually plays the tapes is broken. I have a feeling the previous owners tampered with it when they installed the aftermarket CD changer (which this car doesn’t have anymore, but the receiver module is still installed). I’m going to break apart the radio and see what I can do...worse comes to worse I’ve already sourced a factory replacement.
  • The odometer is broken, as well as other instrument cluster gauge needle burnout issues, which are both extremely common issues for these cars. I’ll probably send it off to be refurbished in the future.

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These are just the top of the list, frankly, and I’m sure more issues will show their ugly heads over time. But I think it’s safe to start with what I know first. Im also taking care of basic maintenance issues I know these cars need, such as the timing belt, and of course oil changes, etc.

So, what’s the plan for the future?

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I’m not exactly sure. Of course, I want to own this car for as long as possible, and keep it running for that long. But I’m not sure how I want to go about doing that yet. So far, I have two possibilities.

The first would be modernizing the overall vibe of the car. My idea of modernization would be installing some new wheels from a newer model Lexus, updating the lighting with more modern, safer fixtures, installing an updated radio head unit, etc. etc. I’ve had a lot of people say they’re interested in this idea, but others have objected, saying that it’ll take away a lot of the charm that this car has.

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My other idea is to restore it back to stock form as best as possible, and make a Radwood show queen. That would require a lot of cleaning and repairing of the already established parts and such, but it would definitely make for one of the cleanest all-original LS400s out there...well, mostly all-original.

So, that’s my dilemma, and my list of things to be done on my latest acquisition. Of course, I will keep Oppo updated as things go on and as I slowly make my decision. But this is where we stand for now.