1997 Lexus SC300

Lexus is so firmly established that it’s sometimes tough to remember that in the early 1990s it was a new marque trying to make a name for itself against ingrained competitors from Europe. The original SC300, introduced in 1991, was a shot across the bow of Old Luxury. Penned in Toyota’s Calty design studio in Newport Beach, the swoopy coupe broke the mold when lead designers skipped 2D pen-and-paper design studies and started right off the bat with 3D models—which explains the finished product’s smooth, organic look. Starting a year after introduction, Lexus allowed drivers to choose the 3-liter engine out of the GS300, but it’s more dramatic to talk about another car that featured this engine: the legendary fourth-generation Toyota Supra. That’s right, the inline six is the famous 2JZ-GE, the naturally aspirated but still potent motor that is dramatically overbuilt to handle huge power. (In fact, the Supra actually uses a drivetrain derived from the Toyota Soarer, as the SC is known in Japan, not the other way around.) Out of the box, the SC300 was available with this 225 horsepower engine paired with a manual transmission, perfect for the sort of grand touring Lexus envisioned. However, it didn’t take long for Lexus buyers to look at the JDM twin-turbo Aristo/GS300 for inspiration, and the SC300 has rightly become a highly popular choice for drifters, drag racers, and import tuners of all stripes.

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