Lexus SC 400 Suspension - Our Shed

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen

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Guido's cheap & chearful Soarer/Lexus loses its air suspenders

We’ve had a few kays roll by since we last did an update on Captain Cheap & Cheerful, aka my $3250 Soarer. It’s a 1991 UZZ31 variant, which means it has all the whistles and bells, including touch screen, satnav (for Tokyo…), adjustable airbag suspension and a TV. It’s the only car of four I have on club plates that I’ve actually used for a surprising number of cruises, which says something about how easy it is to live with.

lexus-sc400-2.jpgCheap and cheerful luxo motoring, 90s style. These were all grey imports

These things were a popular grey import back in the late nineties and this example, like a lot of them, was rebadged as a Lexus SC400 because the dealer involved reckoned they could get a bit more for it with the prestige brand on board. I’m a little tempted to return the Soarer badging, as I much prefer the distinctive Griffin logo.

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Despite having 350,000km on the odo, the 4.0lt 32 valve V8 is pretty well perfect, running sweetly and using only a miniscule amount of oil. It did however have the starter motor give up the ghost, and that was a pig of a job to replace as it’s hidden at the back of the vee in the powerplant, under all the induction plumbing.

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The transmission has been getting a bit gradual to pick up drive at the start of the day, but a recent service seems to have cheered it up. It’s still slow, but it works fine. The big relief was that Mick at Glenlyon gave it a clean bill of health. You can get used replacements pretty cheap (around $600), but I could do without the grief at the moment.

lexus-sc400-suspension.jpgThe old airbag suspension gets swapped out for coil-overs

Next job under the bonnet will be the cam timing belt. I’m unsure when it was last done, however I’m told the top end on the pre-VVT-I  engines is designed as a non-interference set-up, which hopefully means there shouldn’t be valves trying to hammer through pistons if the belt does suddenly let go. Looking through the online resources at Soarer Central (which are very good), it’s a fiddly but not-too-difficult job. One to be tackled when we have a bit more time to play with. In the meantime I reckon I’ll throw a spare kit in the boot.

lexus-sc400-engine-bay.jpgThe V8 could do with a tidy-up but is lasting well

The latest big job was ditching the air suspension for a conventional set of hydraulic coilovers out of another Soarer. There was a slow intermittent leak in the front end, which meant if the car had been left sitting for a few days the nose would be resting on the tyres. Not good as you couldn’t move the thing until it pumped up again. It always did, but I knew one day it might not and then a fleet of cars and motorcycles would be trapped behind the damn thing.

lexus-sc400-interior.jpgThe interior has every imaginable gadget, most of which are still working!

So for the princely sum of $200 I got a conventional set out of a car that was being wrecked up near the Murray River. Cheap? Yes and no. They were absolutely fine, but getting them in required a hoist and at least a couple of people. Another job for Mick (it involved three blokes and the spilling of a small amount of blood...) and of course the cost of the installation was more than the parts – such is life.

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The end result was worth the trouble, as the car rides and handles pretty much the way it did before (which is okay) and I’m no longer waking up wondering if this is the day the suspension pump decides to go to lunch.

lexus-sc400-screen.jpgTouchscreen satnav in 1991! Only problem is that it’s all in Japanese

Next mission, aside from the timing belt, is to have a look at the paint. It’s pretty ropey at the moment and I wouldn’t mind spending a week or so on cheering it up. One day…

 

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