Have you ever wanted to own a Lexus SC300? Better yet, have you ever wanted to own a Toyota Supra? What if I told you, you could own an MK4 Supra with a 2JZ or 1UZ V8 for a fraction of the cost? While the Lexus SC isn’t identical to the MK4 Supra, they share a lot in common, which is exactly what makes it the perfect project car.
It’s stuck in the Supra’s shadow, so no one really seems to talk about it. The biggest hurdle that makes the Lexus SC unappealing to most automotive enthusiasts is the lack of a manual transmission option. The SC300 is incredibly difficult to find with a manual transmission, and the SC400 was never offered with a manual transmission.
Both of which are solvable with a mixture of Supra parts and off-the-shelf kits. Regardless of the lack of manual transmission models, there are four good reasons to go out and buy one today.
4. Toyota Supra
We said it at the start, and it’s really one of the biggest reasons to buy a Lexus SC. If you’re new to the SC300 and SC400, then you probably don’t realize that they are closely related to the Toyota Supra.
The Supra being the big brother to the SC300 is a common misconception. In reality, the SC300 is the big brother to the MK4 Supra. They share the same engine and transmission, and they also share similar subframes, which means they share similar suspension parts. Realistically, the majority of the chassis is similar too.
They also share the same braking system and lots of the same electronics. Mechanically, the SC300 and SC400 are nearly identical to the Toyota Supra in every single way. That means that swapping parts around is very easy. All the overlapping parts between these two different platforms make it much easier to build the perfect car without breaking the bank, as there are a lot of options out there for nearly every component.
I’m sure you know of the Supra being a tuner icon (thanks to Fast & Furious), so the aftermarket parts list is almost endless. Almost any aftermarket part that will bolt onto a Toyota Supra will also bolt onto an SC300, and any non-engine related parts will bolt onto an SC400.
Plus, have you seen the prices for the MK4 Supra? It’s just like the 240SX’s “Drift Tax”, you’re paying way extra just because the car is popular in JDM culture. At this point in time, a clean TT MK4 Supra can easily sell for the price of a used Ferrari. They’re quite literally more expensive than a brand-new A90 Supra. Even if the car is beaten to hell, it’ll be priced fairly high just because it can sell for that much.
Ever since the first Fast and Furious, the MK4 Supra has skyrocketed in value. We would rather have its much cheaper older brother brothers, the SC300 and SC400. With all that money you save, you add a supercharger to your 1UZ SC400 or a single turbo kit to your 2JZ SC300, plus suspension, wheels, and anything else you want.
Whether you love or hate the styling of the SC300/SC400, there’s no denying it’s unique. It screams, “I’m a sports car!” with its long hood and low roofline, but has a classy and elegant look. The factory chrome trim probably looked awesome when it was new, but now it’s something that many owners delete.
There’s not a car on the market today that has such an elegant style, Toyota/Lexus really knew what they were doing in the ’90s. There isn’t a super strong resemblance to the Supra, but you can tell that they’re related.
If the SC300/SC400 came with a larger rear wing, we think it would look like a little Supra and probably be way more popular in the car community. Pieces of the design have become a little dated, but overall it’s one of the most elegant two doors to come out of Japan.
There are very few body lines on the SC, and they are very subtle. The biggest body line is the strong line that runs from the taillights all the way to the headlights. It’s as elegant as a car could ever be, as are many other Lexus vehicles from this era.
It’s almost weird to call this car JDM because it looks so German. With some minor tweaks and badge removal, you could probably convince someone it was a BMW 6-Series or something similar. It doesn’t look like a stereotypical “tuner” type of car, but if it used more aggressive lines and a sharper overall design, it would look more like a tuner car.
We think that’s what makes it so special. It’s a weird mix of JDM heritage and elegant styling. David Patterson (ThatDudeInBlue) recently reviewed an SC300, and he also says it’s a very elegant and beautiful car.
2. Over-Engineered Luxury
Everyone knew Toyota for the extreme over-engineering in the ’90s. That’s why the Supra was so costly and ended up going out of production.
So take that same over-engineering, and combine it with a luxury car, and you’ll end up with a Lexus SC. Not too many cars from the ’90s had memory seats, power everything, beautiful wood trim, and very subtle leather.
The SC300 and SC400 were top-of-the-line back then, combining incredible sound deadening, beautiful interiors, and great ride quality.
The same over-engineered luxury features made their way to the Lexus LS400, winning it loads of awards for being such an amazing, luxurious car.
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Even little things like the door hinges are ridiculously over-engineered. Don’t believe me? Check out the picture below. The hinges are a double-hinge design.
They over-engineered tons of other small parts, just like they over-engineered the door hinges. Lexus built the SC300 and SC400 as a next-level luxury sports couple.
The SC300 and SC400 are still just as nice, if not nicer, than most luxury cars today.
As mentioned earlier, the SC300 shares its 2JZ engine with the Toyota Supra. The 2JZ is an excellent motor. Holding up to high horsepower on stock internals is an impressive feat.
Plus, with the aftermarket the Toyota Supra has created, getting your SC300 over 400 horsepower is super. Slap on a big turbo, head studs, and a better fuel system, and you’ll be making north of 400whp like it’s nothing.
The problem is that most SC300s ended up with an automatic transmission, which is great for cruising around and daily driving, but becomes problematic when cranking the power-up.
The SC400 has the 1UZ engine. It’s not too often that Japanese cars come with a V8, and it is cool to see Japan make one.
The 1UZ is known for running forever. Matt Farah from The Smoking Tire has his “Million-Mile Lexus,” an LS400, which he is attempting to push past 1 million miles.
Unfortunately, my SC400 was unreliable regarding the engine, but the failures I experienced were from previous owners abusing the vehicle.
The 1UZ-FE was a technological feat for production cars. It was one of the first DOHC V8 engines that were reliable and in a car that wasn’t insanely expensive.
Lexus designed the 1UZ to be a very strong and reliable engine. The 1UZ’s short stroke and big bore allow it to rev to the moon. Think of it almost like a 1990s Ford Coyote engine. It also has 6-bolt main caps, which we often praise the Chevy LS for.
In its last form, the 1UZ had a 10.5 compression ratio, Toyota’s VVT-i, and made 300 horsepower. That’s an impressive amount of horsepower, considering its small displacement.
Compared to today’s standards, 300 horsepower is relatively weak, but in the ’90s it was a very respectable number. If you think about it, the 1UZ is basically a 4.0L version of Ford’s Coyote engine.
Not only is the 1UZ reliable, but it also makes decent power, especially considering it’s only a 4.0L.
The Lexus SC is basically a nicer, more luxurious Toyota Supra. But, unlike the Supra, you have multiple engine choices.
Plus, the SC is cheaper than an MK4 Supra. Even by today’s standards, the SC300 is a nice car, and with prices so low, now is the time to get one for yourself! As I mentioned above, my personal SC was unreliable and ended up failing.
Just to briefly summarize, here are some of the best features of the SC300/SC400:
- Robust Engine: The SC300 features a 3.0L 2JZ-GE inline-6 engine, known for its strength and durability, making it an excellent base for performance upgrades. The SC400 features a 4.0L 1UZ-FE V8 engine, which is also well known for its strength and reliability.
- Rear-Wheel-Drive Layout: This design offers dynamic handling and balanced chassis performance, appealing to drivers who enjoy spirited or track driving.
- Timeless Design: The sleek, classic aesthetic of the SC300 offers a unique canvas for visual modifications.
- Spacious Interior: The roomy, luxurious cabin has ample space for modifications, from aftermarket seats to custom gauges.
- Affordability: Despite its Lexus badge, the SC300 is reasonably priced in the used car market. Aftermarket parts are plentiful and reasonably priced due to shared components with other Toyota vehicles.
So, you’ve decided that you definitely want one of these cars, which is understandable. But now you’re stuck with a decision: SC300 or SC400?
Considering both platforms are identical other than the power train, the SC300 is the better option.
I know the 1UZ is an awesome engine, but the 2JZ is better, especially on a budget. Coming from someone who owned an SC400, get an SC300 if you plan on getting an SC at all.