I just picked up a Lexus with 921,000 miles

Odometer (LS400):  921,619


Odometer (Legend):  538,882


Odometer (ILX):  144,325


Trip Distance:  395 Miles


What better way to explore the sights & sounds of the Grand Canyon State than behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s traveled the circumference of the globe 36 times?  Have a seat in your fine leather saddle, buckle up, and let’s take a trip back in time while discovering one of Arizona’s many natural wonders:  Chiricahua National Monument.  I’m taking you there tomorrow in a special car.


In 1986, Honda took a massive gamble on the prospect of whether people would pay a premium price for a Japanese luxury sedan.  Launched originally under the code name “Channel 2,” the Acura brand took hold in the hearts and minds of consumers with its Legend and Integra models; the formula worked.  The Legend model alone (first generation model pictured above) ended up selling over 477,000 units over its 10-year production span, before it became the RL which sadly faded into nothingness.


Toyota and Nissan saw what was happening and wanted a piece of the pie.  Enter Lexus and Infiniti with their LS400 and Q45 respectively (Q45 pictured above) for the 1990 model year.  Those models took the Legend idea and extended it even further – adding 2 additional cylinders compared to the Legend’s V6 and incorporating rear-wheel-drive to really sweeten the pot for buyers-to-be.  This was a heyday for all three automakers. 1995 brought us Forrest Gump, Braveheart and “All I Wanna Do,” by Sheryl Crow.  Life was good.  And though I was but a wee 14-year-old, I already had an appreciation for fine automobiles.  The LS400 was one of them.  I even owned this diecast 1:18 scale version of said car:


Forever emblazoned in my teenage memory was this Lexus LS400 commercial, where someone in Marketing had the bright idea of stacking 15 champagne glasses on the car’s hood, putting the car on a dyno, and driving at the equivalent of 145 miles per hour to see if the glasses would topple.  They didn’t.  And that level of refinement is exactly what sold the LS in vast numbers.

The LS got its second generation for the 1995 model year, adding 10 horsepower to the 4.0 liter V8 powerplant to make it 260 in total.  A four-speed automatic transmission pushed power to the ground, exactly half as many gears as the car’s successor the LS460 has today, some 20 years later.  Speaking of 20 years later:  Let’s cut to the chase.  Today, I’ve been tooling around in a 1996 Lexus LS400 that has nearly twice the miles as my Legend coupe.  Just when I got feeling like a hot shot, Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire had to put me in my place.


It was December 2014 when Matt bought this Florida-owned, 897,000-mile piece of automotive history from an ad on Craigslist.  He saw it as an opportunity to relive his early driving days when he owned a similar car, but he also saw it as a story in the making.  Over the past 10 months, he’s been passing the keys around to that old Lexus to journalists all over the west coast.  It’s racked up another 20,000 or so miles exploring the countryside.  So I saw fit to reach out to Matt about giving the old girl a taste of Arizona, and we made it happen.  Matt, thanks for entrusting me with your luxo-ride!


When I first saw the LS this morning at Matt’s warehouse in Los Angeles, I was overly critical.  “That marker light is a little out of place.  The center caps on the wheels are scuffed.  It’s missing the ‘L’ emblem from its trunk lid.”  Then Matt started it up.  At first crank, the 4.0 liter V8 took life.  Not a single puff of smoke.  Without a moment of hesitation, and the car just purred like a kitten.  With 921,223 miles on the odometer!  Now, I didn’t care so much what it looked like.  This car was a miracle on four tires, and I was about to spend four days behind the wheel of it.  Excited?  Nah, I was ecstatic.



I drove the car initally like it was some fragile ancient artifact that would crumble if you breathed on it too hard.  I let the transmission shift at 2,500 RPM.  I applied the brakes ever-so-gently.  I refrained from any sudden movements of the steering wheel.  Basically, I drove like a freaking Sunday driver in a 1996 Lexus LS400 would be expected to drive.  And slowly it became apparent that I could ease up a bit and drive under normal behavior.

There’s no better way to put any car through its paces than to subject it to some grueling Los Angeles traffic, and that I did.  Interstate 10 eastbound, even at midday on a Friday, was a mess of stop and go.  In fact, I didn’t even get to full freeway speed until a full SIXTY MILES from where I picked up the car.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally confirmed – thank goodness – that the cruise control works, and I was able to sit back and enjoy that plush leather seat and soft ride without the chaotic freeway circus around me.


So here’s where I really started to fall in love with that Lexus.  Sure, the check engine light was on, and sure, only the front two speakers were working.  But Matt had handed me a plastic bag just prior to departure from LA stating, “Oh yeah, and here are some cassette tapes for the drive.”  What was inside the tape player?  U2.  Perfect.


And I just couldn’t get over how nice the car smelled.  Isn’t that weird?  For a car that’s been lived in for such good chunk of its life?  It smelled good.  So, safely and soundly I completed my first 400 miles with the #MillionMileLexus.  Come back for more soon 🙂

Matt’s send-off with an Instagram post


Photo-op in Desert Center, CA.  The sign says 24-Hour Service.  This place is shut down 100%.


As is the cafe.  Nothing but dust bunnies in there!


The Lexus looking ready for its next 216 miles eastward.


Welcome to the Grand Canyon State!


Dusk and approaching Scottsdale


Much more to come!  Stay tuned!

16 Responses to “I just picked up a Lexus with 921,000 miles”

  1. Adam Stewart Says:

    Nice! That is incredibly ironic as I recently picked up a 1995 LS400 mainly because of what I was hearing about this exact car! It does, however, have about 700K less on the odometer. Still, I’ve been very impressed with it so far. A shame the sound system in that one isn’t working to its full potential…. it sounds -very- good when everything’s working correctly!

    • Dang, I’m not getting the full LS400 experience with a halfway-functioning radio here! Haha, oh well. Congrats on picking up your 1995! I just can’t get over how smooth the car is on the highway. Total vault-like decibel levels aside from a teeny bit of wind noise in this one. Send me a pic of your new ride. I want to get a 1998-2000 version.

  2. I know Christmas is right around the corner, but the cluster already has all of the lights on that are not supposed to be on. Matt needs to give it some TLC. I thought my coupe with 324,170 miles has a few stories to tell, imagine what the LS400 stories would be like. It’s hard to imagine a car with that kind of mileage out there. Have fun with it this weekend.

    • Thanks Kevin! I know. The thought crossed my mind: I wonder how many people have sat in this driver seat and touched this steering wheel? The complete ownership history is not known but Matt says the Carfax is over 7 pages in length. My coupe’s is similar. I’m sure PB has some great stories!

  3. I’d like to see the piece of history and that would be the original Craigslist posting for the car. How would you put a price on a car with 897,000 miles? That must have been some fun negotiating done by Matt. I hope Toyota has their eyes on this car and do something special for him and the car at 1,000,000 miles.

    • I can’t remember how much Matt said he’d paid for the car, but I do know that he said he’s spent more than the purchase price of the car in maintenance work already. Sound like someone else we know?

  4. The people at Honda/Acura must be “thrilled” about this. Haha. But hey, how could you pass on such a car? I wonder how many have made it to a million on the original engine and trans. Of course there’s that famous 1990 Accord, and I’ve heard that some old Volvos have done it.

  5. Cool to see an old Lexus with that many miles! There are some incredible memories yet to be made before it hits the big one million though…

  6. It’s pretty amazing. I wonder what kind of work has been done on it. I remember the 1st gen LS400 being quite the revolution, and it was even decent looking. Unfortunately Lexus lost the good looks after the first generation (and so did the Q45), but clearly not reliability! It’s interesting how different all of those flagships were back then. The LS being the big, soft cruiser, the Q45 being the luxury hot rod, and the Legend being the best compromise of sport, luxury, and practicality. Ahh, ’90s cars, we didn’t know how good we had it back then!

    • Ha, that’s for sure. We had it pretty good 20 years ago. But, as my friend James wrote in the LS400 logbook today, “I’m ready to get back into this century.” Automotive technology has come a long way! Thanks for reading…

  7. I have a super soft spot for LS, I don’t know why my friends think I’m crazy when I tell them I really want a 06 LS430. It’s just such a classy looking car; I love how simple yet elegant it looks. Maybe I will own one in the future and park it next to my TSX, haha! Have fun putting some miles on that ls400 Tyson, hope everything is well!

    • You are right! Simple elegance is a great way to describe the looks of the LS. After putting some miles on this one, I can definitely say it is one of the most refined driving experiences I have ever had. Thanks for reading!! Hope you and the TSX are doing well.

  8. I had a LS400 for 2 1/2 years . . . the last 18 months of repairs & maintenance just about put me in the poor house from 112K to 134K miles!

    • Ha! Oh well, at least the ride was supple I hope. It really does end up being a “luck of the draw” thing I guess. I wonder what the large maint items are on the 4.0 V8 aside from timing belts every 90,000 miles?

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