Following the introduction of Lexus in 1989, Toyota’s luxury brand introduced the Lexus SC300 and SC400 sports coupes for the 1992 model year. The two doors were sleek and sophisticated, and they made an impression. Lexus SC was on the 10 Best lists from 1992 to 1995. For decades, first-generation SCs, which were produced until the year 2000, has remained largely unnoticed.
However, given the growing interest in 1990s cars, particularly Japanese cars. These Lexus coupes should see a significant increase in value. Lexus released the SC300 in 1992, during the rise of premium coupes. The Lexus SC 300 was developed with its twin, the Toyota Soarer, for the local Japanese market, with exterior design by Calty Design Research.
The 3.0-liter inline-six engine in the Lexus SC 300 delivers 225 horsepower to the rear wheels. The Lexus SC300 is also the first Lexus model to be available with a manual transmission. The SC300 and the Supra similarities were quickly noticed, and people began customizing them for high-performance driving. The Lexus SC 300’s performance was a closely guarded secret. As it was utilized as an experimental setup for the then-upcoming Mk4 Supra.
Let’s take a closer look at the Lexus SC 300.
The History Of Lexus (Leading Up To The SC300)
Toyota launched the Lexus brand as a luxury car manufacturer with the Lexus SC 400 series. Which was followed a year later by the Lexus SC 300 series. This began in 1987 when Toyota’s research team embarked on a project based on the assumption that the North American market would be more willing to invest in a large and powerful V-8 coupe than in Asian and European markets. As a result, Toyota launched its Lexus brand, debuting its first luxury series of sedans at the 1989 Detroit auto show.
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When Toyota and Lexus decided to create a two-door, short-body LS, they understood they needed to start from scratch. They achieved this by using scanned and digitally stretched-out plastic molds in organic shapes using imaging software. Coupe-like shapes were created using this strategy. As a result, the SC models’ two-door coupes were designed to meet what the North American consumer market wanted at the time.
The curve of every exterior component styled the coupe designs to match the early 1990s trends. Still, they also planned to add a luxury factor that would make the introduction of their SC 400 and Lexus SC300 drool-worthy in the eyes of the North American market.
The Lexus SC 300’s Conceptualization
Toyota launched serial manufacturing of the Lexus SC grand tourer in 1991. From 1991 to 2010, this line had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD) layout and could seat up to four passengers. When the first version of the Lexus SC series was released in 1991, it had a V-8 engine known as the SC 400.
The Lexus SC 300 series, which featured a straight-six engine, was first presented by Lexus in 1992. The first generation of the SC 300 and SC 400 series was produced till 2000. The Lexus SC 300 was first unveiled in July 1992 as a smaller version of the SC 400 series. The earliest Lexus SC 300s came with a Lexus traction control system. A 3.0-liter straight-six cylinder internal combustion engine, and Toyota’s 2JZ-GE engine.
Among the Lexus SC 300 versions, the TRAC was available as an option. The Lexus SC 300 and SC 400 series were the first Lexus-branded automobiles to appeal to the luxury vehicle market. And they lasted in production for more than nine years.
A nine-year run of a single generation of automobiles was uncommon among the many cars and the manufacturers that made them at the time. The manufacture of the SC 300 and SC 400 models ceased on July 7, 2000, indicating the end of an era.
The front grilles, as well as a variety of visual alterations such as the front bumper, side skirts, rocker panels, spoilers, and tail lamps, were added to Toyota’s Lexus SC 300 and SC 400 series in 1996, midway through the nine-year production run. The Lexus SC 300 series produced 225 horsepower (168 kW) and 210 lb-ft of torque (285 Nm).
It was significantly less powerful than its twin, the SC 400, which had a 260-horsepower output (194 kW). The Lexus SC 300 and SC400 versions had a 4-speed automatic transmission that was linked to the engine.
From 1992 to 1997, 5-speed transmissions were also offered, although exclusively for the Lexus SC 300 versions. With a manual transmission, the SC 300 reached 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, while with an automatic transmission, it took 7.2 seconds.
Both the Lexus SC 300 and SC 400 versions received a variety of modifications in 1997 that increased fuel economy and top speed performance. Sales of the Lexus SC300 and Lexus SC400 two-door coupes began to drop as the year 2000 neared.
The problem stems from the company’s failure to keep up with all of the necessary large design upgrades that would keep consumers’ wants stimulated. Motorists were more interested in sedans and sport utility vehicles, so two-door coupes were no longer popular (SUV). The Lexus SC 430 was introduced in 2001, and it superseded the Lexus SC 300 and SC 400.
Specifications For The Lexus SC 300
This automobile can achieve sixty-two miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) in 7.7 seconds, according to the Lexus SC 300 5-speed engine technical data sheet on Ultimate Specs. It could reach a top speed of 146 mph (235 kilometers per hour). The automobile weighs 3,558 pounds and has a naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine based on Toyota’s 2JZ-GE (1,613 kilograms).
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The SC 300 produces 225 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 210 pounds per foot of torque at 4,800 rpm per minute. The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) system is responsible for transmitting power to the five-speed manual transmission.
Lexus SC 300 Series’ Structure
In addition, the SC 300 series’ structure includes an independent double-wishbone. The front and rear tires are 215/60 on 15-inch rims. A vented disc braking system was used at both the front and back to provide stopping force.
Fuel Economy Rating
These cars could hold little more than twenty-six gallons (78 liters) of normal gasoline at the time. It could drive 411 miles (661 kilometers) on the road from full to empty and had a fuel economy rating of 23 mpg on the highway, 18 mpg in the city, and 20 mpg overall.
The Lexus SC 300 series’ general specs mainly stayed constant from 1992 to 2000. According to the Lexus SC 300 four-speed automatic engine technical data sheet, this variant can reach 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.2 seconds. It had a top speed of 146 mph (235 km/h) and a curb weight of 3,747 lbs (1,695 kilograms).
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Automatic Transmission Models
From 1992 to 2000, the SC 300 automatic transmission models had a naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine that ran on regular gas. The engine originated from the same Toyota 2JZ-GE production line as the manual transmission vehicles.
Revs Per Minute
At 6,000 revs per minute, the engine produced 225 horsepower and 210 pounds per foot of torque at 4,800 revs per minute. The four-speed automatic transmission is powered by a rear-wheel-drive system. The four-speed automatic range had equal fuel economy and tank capacity as its manual-transmission counterparts.
2. Lexus SC 300 Vs. SC 400
The SC400 is powered by the 1UZ-FE 4.0-liter V-8 from the Lexus LS400. Which produces 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The SC400 achieved a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.7 seconds, 1.2 seconds faster than the LS, thanks to shorter gearing and 246 pounds less bulk. The 1997 SC400 gained 10 horsepower, and the 1998 SC400 acquired even more power (290 horses) as well as extra gear (now a five-speed automatic).
The Lexus SC 300’s 2JZ-GE 225-hp inline-six, shared with the Supra, will be familiar to Toyota aficionados. The engine isn’t the only significant difference between the Lexus SC 300 and SC400: Only the Lexus SC 300 had a manual transmission, and it was only available until 1997.
The SC and the fourth-generation Supra share a platform. Supras have risen in value, particularly the 320-hp twin-turbo model. For years, the more refined and luxury SC, particularly the SC300 with the five-speed manual transmission, was the less expensive option to a customarily aspirated Supra. However, because only about 4000 manual-equipped SC300s were ever produced, they are now easily the most costly SC.
3. Driving And Adjusting The Lexus SC300
The Lexus SC300’s 2JZ-GE six-cylinder engine isn’t identical to the 2JZ in the Toyota Supra Mk4. According to DriftWorks forum users, it is missing the dual turbochargers and piston-cooling oil squirters, as well as having a modified intake manifold. However, Autotrader claims it is just as sturdy because it uses the same core block and internals.
However, many people forget that the Mk4 Supra was as much a GT car as it was a sports car, according to Road & Track. It is built on the same basis as the Lexus SC300 and shares some of its suspension components. The Lexus was the only vehicle to come out on top.
And according to Automobile, the Lexus SC300 is a lot of fun to drive. It may not be up to modern sports car standards. But it’s still fun to drive on a back road, according to CarThrottle. The steering is great, and the car has good traction. According to The Smoking Tire, the basic suspension is a little “floaty,” but it is really comfortable.
However, the ‘Poor Man’s Supra’ can be transformed into a racer or drifter with a few tires, suspension, and brake changes. If you really want to go all out, you can always add a turbo to the Lexus SC300 or swap in the Supra’s engine.
4. Modifications And Tuning For The Lexus SC300
Let’s face it, the days of finding a suitable 2JZ-GTE to install in your SC300 are long gone.
Even the 1JZ-GTE found in the SC300’s JDM-equivalent sister, the Toyota Soarer, is now subjected to outrageous amounts of drift/scene tax.
If an engine change isn’t an option, you’re probably wondering what the naturally aspirated SC300 2JZ-GTE engine can do. We’re happy to let you know that you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Thankfully, it’s not just the 2JZ-GTE that’s a fantastic engine for uncovering the latent potential power that lurks within, and the 2JZ-GE is significantly more capable than many people believe.
The rods and crankshaft of the naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE are identical to those in the 2JZ-GTE. Although the pistons differ between the two, they can handle acceptable power figures.
Don’t forget that forged pistons are an option if you’re looking to achieve massive power gains. The GE has a 10.0:1 compression ratio, whereas the GTE has an 8.5:1 compression ratio due to a thicker head gasket (.2mm for the GE and 1.6mm for the GTE.) While you won’t be able to boost as much as the GTE, you’ll still be able to run approximately 7-8 PSI before considering engine and ECU improvements.
5. Upgrades For The Lexus SC300
You can reliably achieve 400 WHP from your 2JZ-GE with a few easy mods like head studs, fuelling upgrades, and an NA-T turbo kit. Isn’t that pretty? If you want to increase over 400-450 WHP while still keeping reliability, you’ll need to invest in additional improvements like a more robust head gasket.
We’ve seen some 2JZ-GE owners hit 800 WHP with the factory rods and pistons for several years, but we’d personally upgrade them as a precaution.
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Nonetheless, it demonstrates what an outstanding naturally aspirated engine can achieve in the right hands. The SC300 is an ideal prospective drifting platform because of its ease of upgrading and the fantastic handling platform it shares with the Supra. However, there is one major thing to consider.
Because the SC300 was initially developed for the luxury automobile market, most owners didn’t have drifting on their minds when they drove them out of the showroom in the 1990s.
The disadvantage is that most people wanted the most comfort in their everyday driver, and the logical choice was a 4-speed automatic transmission. While you might get lucky, if you’re looking for serious power (and possibly drifting), you’ll have to do some digging before finding one of the more uncommon manual transmission variants.
Although this may not be a problem for people searching for a reasonable level of power in their daily driving, auto boxes provide a greater barrier for those who want to drift. This isn’t a deal-breaker for us because transmission changes are possible, and you might even get lucky and find a manual-spec variant right away.
As you may expect, most parts on the SC300 are shared with the MKIV Supra; therefore, there’s a huge selection of aftermarket parts. You won’t have any trouble obtaining parts for everything from bolt-on breathing upgrades like headers and exhaust systems to intercoolers and coil-overs.
If you want to drift your SC300, the SC400 and Soarer share body components, which helps with body kit and styling options. Whether you want minor stylistic modifications or a widebody, there’s something for everyone.
6. Lexus SC300 Worth
The demand for SC coupes is increasing. A decade ago, decent SCs cost only a few thousand dollars; today, good SCs cost between $7000 and $15,000, with occasional outliers at both ends of the spectrum. Any SC300 with a five-speed manual transmission will cost a premium price because it is the rarest-spec vehicle.
Consider maintenance costs and try to acquire the best example available when purchasing a secondhand car. The Lexus SC 300 series has received mixed reviews in recent years. Consumers and critics who are more familiar with the first generation of the brand’s luxury car lineup, on the other hand. Believe that it was among the most highly prized luxury automobiles at the time.
7. Issues To Consider With The Lexus SC300
Cracked dash vents, broken window regulators, dead LCD displays, and gauge-cluster lights. Worn lower control-arm bushings and lower ball joints are some of the most common problems. Power-steering pump leaks, which can harm the alternator, and cracks in the coolant overflow reservoir are more serious issues. The age of the timing belt, water pump, and power-steering pump should all be revealed by service records.
Reliability And Common Problems With The Lexus SC300
Given their age and the fact that Toyota/Lexus was pushing the technological envelope at the time. It should come as no surprise that there are some small concerns to anticipate when purchasing an SC300.
When properly maintained, the 2JZ-GTE is an exceptionally reliable engine, and many have surpassed the 200,000-mile mark, even when pushed to its limits. We’ve seen them go over 500,000 miles with careful care and maintenance. But at this point, you’d certainly benefit from a rebuild.
Apart from the engine, there are a few things to look out for if you’re considering an SC300:
The power steering pump. While the OEM product isn’t inexpensive, some reasonably priced third-party alternatives are available. Leaking fluid can potentially destroy the alternator if left unattended for too long. If you detect a problem, replace it as soon as possible.
1. Hinge On The Door
These are notorious for sagging or drooping over time, despite appearing to be the most over-engineered double-jointed door hinges in automotive history. They’re not inexpensive if purchased from a Lexus dealership.
2. CD Player
If these breaks, we advocate getting an aftermarket replacement because we don’t believe they’re worth the time, effort, or cost when compared to modern-day alternatives.
3. Moisture In The Headlights And Taillights
It’s inconvenient, but there are lots of readily available, moderately priced replacements. If your lights are foggy or faded, there are a variety of DIY options for making them appear new again.
4. Blackout Of Clusters Or Needles
It’s fairly uncommon to see needles or full displays blacked out in the instrument cluster. Unfortunately, resolving this can be inconvenient and expensive, so it’s worth checking things out when you’re looking at the automobile. Because the problem is primarily caused by antiquated wiring, you’ll have to hire a professional to fix it, which will cost you money.
5. Leather Seats That Have Become Worn
It’s hardly surprising that these have degraded with time since earlier models are renowned for cracking in hotter areas.
6. A Cracked Window Sill
The leather can be stretched or cracked due to a weak area in the plastic in the window frame. Examine the area around the screw hole to check if it has corroded.
7. Dash Vents With Cracks
Check for fractures in the plastic trim surrounding the air vents, as sudden, frequent temperature swings are known to make this brittle to the point of cracking. If the integrated passenger airbag troubles you on a 1993-96 model. This could end up costing several hundred dollars to fix.
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8. Bushings For The Front Suspension
Although we expect to replace bushings at some point over the life of a car. If comfort isn’t a significant consideration, it may be worth upgrading to polyurethane bushes. Poly bushes will outlive OEM bushes while also improving handling and chassis stiffness.
Facts about the Lexus SC300 and SC400 ’90s Coupes:
- The Lexus SC300 and SC400 were introduced for the 1992 model year.
- The first-gen SCs have been under the radar for decades but are now rising in value.
- The SC400 uses the Lexus LS400’s 1UZ-FE 4.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
- The SC300’s 2JZ-GE 225-hp inline-six engine is shared with the Supra.
- The SC300 was the only model that offered a manual transmission and was only available through 1997.
- The market for SC coupes is growing, and the price range for cars in good condition is $7000 to $15,000.
- Any SC300 with a five-speed manual transmission will command a higher price as it is the rarest-spec model.
- Common issues with the SCs include cracked dash vents, broken window regulators, dead LCD displays, worn lower control arm bushings, and lower ball joints.
- More serious problems include power-steering pump leaks that can damage the alternator and cracks in the coolant overflow reservoir.
- Recent sales on Bring a Trailer include a 1992 Lexus SC300 5-speed, 1998 Lexus SC300, and 1992 Lexus SC400.
While the Toyota Supra grew in fame as a result of films like The Fast and the Furious, it has since become a true JDM icon. With costs skyrocketing, you can go further afield in your search for the perfect rear-wheel-drive drift, stance, or daily driver.
The Lexus SC300 is a significantly more affordable alternative that checks all the necessary boxes, including a sleek design and exquisite luxury touches. If you don’t want the extras, you may easily swap them out for some lighter alternatives.
The SC’s base, which shares many components with the Supra, delivers excellent handling as well as tremendous power potential from the 2JZ-GE engine under the hood. While the SC400’s V8 engine may entice some. We prefer the 2JZ because of its ease of increasing to 400+ WHP with a few easy changes. The Lexus SC300 is a nearly excellent alternative for almost any requirement. The lack of manual transmission available is the biggest drawback.