Four decades ago, Eji Toyoda, the chairman of Toyota, led an ambitious project to create a groundbreaking flagship vehicle. The scale of this endeavor was immense, involving 1400 engineers, 2300 technicians, rigorous testing covering nearly two million miles, and a staggering investment of one billion dollars. Finally, in January 1989, after six years of hard work, the LS400 made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show, marking the birth of the Lexus brand and forever changing the luxury car landscape.
Now, a first-year LS400 is up for auction on Bring a Trailer, a platform affiliated with Hearst Autos, similar to Car and Driver. This particular LS400 is in pristine condition, with only 66,000 miles on the odometer, which is considered modest for an LS400. The car’s 4.0-liter V-8 engine, featuring an aluminum block and heads, has long been known for its durability and smooth operation. Notably, the early V-8 engines are non-interference engines, meaning that even in the event of a timing belt failure, the potential for major damage is minimized.
The two-tone silver paint of this LS400 highlights its timeless design. Unlike contemporary Lexus models with bold angles and prominent grilles, the LS400 embodies a more understated elegance. This quiet confidence is also reflected in the remarkably low cabin noise at high speeds.
Toyota once demonstrated the LS400’s refinement by stacking a tower of champagne glasses on its hood while the wheels spun at 145 mph on a rolling road. This symbolic gesture showcased the unrivaled polish of their flagship vehicle and put competitors like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series on notice.
Although the LS400 is a luxurious sedan rather than a sports car, it is not a collector’s car that experiences a surge in value. Instead, it remains a remarkably pleasant and reliable machine, offering a refined driving experience synonymous with class and comfort. Sit back in the heated seats, gaze at the horizon, and enjoy the melodious purr of the smooth V-8 engine as it propels you forward.
With its historical significance, delightful driving dynamics, and easy ownership experience, the original LS400 makes a compelling case as a collector’s car. The opportunity to acquire this automotive gem through a no-reserve auction will conclude on January 3.