Shed Of The Week: Toyota Soarer

Funny thing, specification. Nowadays, even the entriest of entry-level cars has air-con, digital sounds, electronic everything, 14 types of technology to stop you crashing into things, and if not actual sat-nav, some sort of cunning facility to run it.

No microwave ovens as yet, oddly, but surely it's only a matter of time until some bright spark at Maccy D's or Burger King proposes a global joint venture agreement with car manufacturers. That will change the nature of used car ads. "Never raced, rallied, smoked in or burgered."

JDM V8 wafty barge loveliness!
JDM V8 wafty barge loveliness!
Needless to say, we didn't always have 'specification'. Shed is old enough to remember a time when you had to pay extra for a heater or a radio. Folk of a similar age will fully understand why a big standard spec list and engineering quality were the main attractions of Toyota's luxury brand Lexus on its launch in 1989.

Toyota had been pushing out luxury motors long before that, though. Cars like the Soarer, otherwise known as the Lexus SC400 Coupe, aimed to show the world that Toyota could do anything the Germans could do, only better.

We didn't get Soarers here in the UK because of punitive import taxes at the time. If we had, they would have been on the wrong side of 75 grand. Which makes this week's Shed - a third-gen Soarer - a possible bargain at £1,350 or less.

Toyota threw the engineering technology book at some of its Soarers. One, the UZZ32, had four-wheel steer and a computer-controlled hydraulic TACS (Toyota Active Control Suspension) system that used a cartful of height, speed, yaw velocity and lateral-G sensors to prevent any roll in cornering. Any roll.

4.0-litres, 260(ish)hp, longevity of an African dictator
4.0-litres, 260(ish)hp, longevity of an African dictator
It was weirdly quick around a circuit, despite being heavier than the model that came below it, which was the UZZ31 with air suspension. Below that came a conventionally-suspended entry-level UZZ30 Soarer with Tokico coilovers. That still had the velvet-smooth V8 motor, but relatively little in the way of equipment. It had no big central 'Electro Multi Vision' TV screen with sat-nav, and the leather on the chairs was replaced by velour.

The vendor of this Shed reckons it's got air suspension, which suggests it's a UZZ31, but it seems to have the stripped-back 'no TV plus velour' spec of the UZZ30. That could mean it's a special order UZZ31, with the leather and telly deleted. The first owner seems to have had a thing for light blue: maybe the colour-coding options were better with cloth.

Anyway, whatever it is, air suspension apart, the lack of complication is a good thing because, 23 years down the line, much of the speccy stuff that was cor blimey back then is now little more than a liability. The UZZ31's air suspension that went on to feature on the Lexus LS400 definitely falls into that category, so you'd want to zone in on that area to make sure it's not gone baggy. Fixing it isn't cheap. Coil pack connector clips are known for their fragility, and the pumps for coolant and power steering will fail at some point.

V8 and velour? Nice!
V8 and velour? Nice!
You'd also want to check out the front top mounts for rust, and the door trims for wear near the switchgear. The groovy instrumentation tends to die, and cloudy headlights are well known. This last point was mentioned as the only advisory on the current MOT certificate, which the car achieved in July. Soarer doors are massive, but the extraordinarily over-engineered hinges are reminiscent of a Boeing's landing-gear so you shouldn't have any issues with door drop.

The heart of the matter is of course the 1UZ-FE four-cam V8 motor. A paragon of refinement, and good for many, many miles, the Lexus/Toyota V8 is the cheapest entry point into V8 motoring for UK-based petrolheads. It pokes out getting on for 260hp in stock trim, but can churn out twice that amount with standard internals. They can sound fruity too. Here's one with some Cobra-style side exhausts. Any blue smoke on startup is almost bound to be worn valve stem seals.

There are no performance specs on the PH ad, but the 1991 car in this Motor Week review (presumably with performance-sapping smog equipment attached) knocked out a six-second 0-60mph time. Twin-turbo straight six-engined 2.5 Soarers reputedly dipped into the fives, but that's another story.

Funky dash too - what more do you need?
Funky dash too - what more do you need?
So, what have we got here? A usefully leanly-specced 4.0-litre V8 coupe with a full UK service history, a very clean MoT record, very cool (and apparently still functioning) instrumentation, some major maintenance work carried out in the not too distant past, and a nice reg number - all for £1,350 or less, depending on your haggling skills.

The paintwork on this car is looking a bit tired, but you can imagine the potential transformation that could be wrought by a determined owner with a drill, some light cutting compound and a few polishing heads. The design of the alloys is less than inspiring, but if they're original then they become a nice touch. No doubt a marque expert will be along shortly to give us the SP on that.

Here's the ad.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (62) Join the discussion on the forum

  • lowflyingcat 08 Sep 2017

    Used to race one of these in Gran Turismo. Nice alternative barge.

  • Osinjak 08 Sep 2017

    lowflyingcat said:
    Used to race one of these in Gran Turismo. Nice alternative barge.

  • AmosMoses 08 Sep 2017

    I adore soarers, would love one! I don't really need one though laugh

  • Jazoli 08 Sep 2017

    Osinjak said:
    lowflyingcat said:
    Used to race one of these in Gran Turismo. Nice alternative barge.
    Me too, seems like a decent buy at that price.

  • ambuletz 08 Sep 2017

    lowflyingcat said:
    Used to race one of these in Gran Turismo. Nice alternative barge.
    same here.

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