PH Fleet: Lexus LS400/TVR Chimaera 400

Who said efficiency was the preserve of the Germans? Japan plus Great Britain equals the world's best (affordable) fleet in my opinion. The mix of Lexus and TVR is the methadone equivalent, the only things that have been able to wean me from my addiction to buying used cars from the PH classifieds.

Used often, cleaned less often
Used often, cleaned less often
The continued joy of Lex
Let me try to explain the appeal of the LS400. This is a car I bought for £1,800 and by rights it should be a pain to keep on the road, it should cost me a fortune and I should fear taking it too far from home. Cheap luxury cars always go wrong, right? Well, no actually, at least not Japanese ones.  OK, so someone will soon remind me of the suspension rebuild, but that aside my expenditure has been on petrol, tyres and routine servicing. It has become a car I jump in without a second thought and drive all over the country without a care.

So far we have travelled over 17,000 miles together and to back up my (foolish?) trust in its reliability I don’t even have any breakdown cover. It still likes a drink - you knew that already - but at a total of 122,000 miles it is yet to develop any rattles in the cabin, still sits firm at fast motorway speeds and the audio hurts my ears with high-quality noise.

The front suspension is a little creaky after a long run, so I do need to get that looked at, but in the meantime it is the best £1,800 I’ve ever spent. I’m not sure such refinement, coupled with amazing reliability, can be had for less. If you want Rolls-Royce refinement for Ford Fiesta money I can’t recommend it highly enough. Every now and then I ponder selling it, but then we travel a few hundred miles and that thought is forgotten. One day I’ll need better MPG, but I’ll hold off replacing it for as long as I can.

Post-Le Mans polish
Post-Le Mans polish
And so to the TVR...
Where the Lexus impresses as an effective tool for the job, the TVR succeeds to captivate the senses better than any car you car to name. Despite hearsay regarding TVRs, my Chimaera continues to be a reliable companion whenever I choose to use it. Many spouted comments of ‘will it make it?’ or ‘you’re brave’ when I mentioned I was taking it to Le Mans again this year, but once more we rumbled all the way there and all the way back without a hiccup. It’s more economical than the Lexus at 130kph and with the roof down all the way there and back I managed to gain a glorious tan too. Best of all is the fact that people enjoyed seeing it; we were waved at all the way there as I cruised along unable to chat to my passenger due to the racket from the exhaust.

Before you think I have my rose-tinted glasses on, however, I will confess to one issue. Before I left for LM the fan switch failed and needed replacing. One day I noticed the temp was higher than normal and sure enough, no fan noise meant the fans were taking a breather just when I needed them. Fortunately I had a clear run home which kept the temp down, and took the car to Fernhurst for a pre-Le Mans check and a new switch a few days later. With a bill of under £40 and a few cups of coffee as I waited one can’t complain, and as the fans on the car are on more often than not when in and around London I can’t blame the switch for wearing out after 13 years.

Must get around to fixing this
Must get around to fixing this
Once I returned from Le Mans I de-stickered the car, polished it and put it back in the garage to let my limited mileage policy catch up after adding 1000 miles in four days. Somewhere between London and Le Mans, I managed to collect a stone on the Autoroute that cracked the NS headlight lens, something I must get sorted but is all to easy to forget from the driver seat and as the headlight still functions I imagine I’ll need reminding a few times.

The TVR privilege
Owning a car like the Chimaera is a privilege as far as I’m concerned. When I open the garage door I get a smell of real car, you know the smell you get in a classic car showroom? I have that all the time with a mixture of engine smells, leather and slight smell of fumes from when I last reversed it into the garage. Taking the dust cover off is still an event, rolling it out of the garage to lower the roof is a pleasure, and firing it up still makes me excited.

En route to LM
En route to LM
To drive I still get wobbly legs from the adrenaline rush, I like the admiring glances it gets, the conversations it starts with strangers, the way us TVR owners still wave at each other when we pass. It’s fun at 10mph or 100mph, and that chassis still gets my respect in corners, especially when wet. What a car it is, and what else does so much for the price?

Right now I have my luxury appliance for daily use and my noisy little toy for the weekends. My garage is perfect and it even seems to have cured my addiction to car buying. Part of me feels sad about that, though and that urge to buy still nags from time to time...

Fact Sheet:
1997 Lexus LS400
Run by: Garlick
Bought: Jan 2011
Purchase price: £1,800
Last month at a glance: More miles, more reliability

Fact Sheet:
1999 TVR Chimaera 4.0
Run by: Garlick
Bought: December 2009
Purchase price: £12,995
Last month at a glance: Le Mans, the love affair continues

Previous reports:
The Lexus has sprung a creak! And the TVR has a hiccup
Garlick enjoys a history lesson
TVR lives once more, Lexus carries on regardless
MOT time for the Lexus and a reawakening for the TVR
A costly months and goodbyes
Noise upsets neighbours

Comments (43) Join the discussion on the forum

  • pepsi max 06 Jul 2012

    Looks good to me, and very good value.

  • Gorbyrev 06 Jul 2012

    What a fleet! Speed six passed me the other day and I remembered why everyone should be glad of the wonder of TVR. As for the Lexus, suspension rebuild vs tragic depreciation - bargain. Do they still have a cutaway LS400 at the Science Museum?

  • SpecB 06 Jul 2012

    ....and how cool is it to have an all V8 fleet? biggrin I ditched my SpecB shortly after getting my Chimaera for an E500 and don't regret it in the slightest.

  • Alex 06 Jul 2012

    "I have that all the time with a mixture of engine smells, leather and slight smell of fumes"

    but mostly plastic resin and glue. smile

  • JPW231 06 Jul 2012

    I have had my TVR Chimaera for a month now.

    A couple of issues I have caused - a fuse blew whilst installing the CTek charger and I buggered up the timing trying to replace the Vaccuum Advance on the distributor (the day after it was serviced!) :-(

    It is a fantastic car though and once I have the vac advance replaced I won't touch it. Working in engineering a little knowledge can be dangerous!

    Looking forward to many years of enjoyment yet.......when the weather improves!

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