1993 Lexus SC400 Mini Restoration
When I had first talked to the owners and we were in the scheduling stages, we had talked about a few options for “Ol’ Betsy.” This was the first car he bought himself brand new back in 1993 so there was quite a bit of sentimental value in it. To him it was more than just a car. He wanted to bring this car back to life and we wanted to give him a reason to contemplate what he drives every morning. In order to do this there was quite a bit of work that needed to be done but we were ready for the challenge and excited for what was going to be coming out of the garage in the coming days.
First things first, the radio was definitely old and outdated. (It had a large phone in the center console!) The owner wanted it updated with the latest radio with Navigation and Bluetooth. We started with the radio installation because we would need to be in and out of the car when installing it so cleaning the car first and then installing wouldn’t be the most efficient way to work. We decided to go with the Pioneer AVIC-Z150BH. This is Pioneer’s flagship navigation unit and turned out to be perfect in the Lexus. The large 7” touchscreen and 3D navigation make a great match for any enthusiast. This particular car had a factory subwoofer in the rear deck so this required us to remove the back seats in order to integrate the subwoofer to work with the new stereo. This ended up being a good thing for a few reasons. The first reason was that since we had to take out the back seats we could go ahead and give them a deep cleaning while not being cramped in the back of the coupe (save that for later). Another good reason was that because we had to take apart some panels in the trunk, we were able to discover a colony of large, flying fire ants. This car isn’t driven much so chances are that during the recent rain, the ants were able to find shelter in the trunk of the car. This was a problem. We immediately sprayed down the bare trunk with Raid ant killer and then left ant bait in the trunk for the next day and a half. Once the factory sub was wired up the difference in sound was huge. Everything was much clearer and the audio quality was quite good for 20+-year-old speakers. With the pioneer in the dash kit, it looked factory when we were done and brought this car in to the 21st century in style. It looked like it could be found at the local Lexus dealership showroom.
Next on the list of to do things was to remove the old tint. The tint was bubbling and very purple. If we were about to perform a paint correction with a glass coating this tint would hold us back. We would be taking “2 steps forward and three steps back” because the purple took so much away from the color of the paint. After removing the tint we decided to go with SunTek CarbonXP35 on the front two windows, the small two windows in the back, and the rear glass. This is the legal limit in Texas and was not too dark but dark enough to give the glass a nice hue to it. Now because new laws have changed in Texas, you are now allowed to have clear tint installed on the whole windshield as long as there is no color in the film. We took advantage of this for a few reasons. One reason we decided to go with SunTek CarbonXP80 tint on the windshield was to protect the delicate interior. When cars get up in age their dashes begin to crack because the suns UV rays cause them to dehydrate. This tint would help prevent that tremendously. The second reason is because it will keep the car tremendously cooler (lower temperature) because it is allowing almost no UV rays (99% rejection rate to be exact) and rejects a lot of solar energy also. Not only did the tint make the car aesthetically look a lot better, it also was going to provide a tremendous amount of protection for the interior, which are both pluses. Also both SunTek CarbonXP window films come with lifetime warranties from the manufacturer. Now that the tint was complete, the car already looked completely different. The two small changes we've already done (radio and tint) make a huge change in the car's appearance and we aren’t even close to being done.
Before with old, purple, bubling tint:
With no tint pictured below:
In these next pictures the tint seems very dark, but in actuality it isn't that dark. The combination of no sun in the garage and it being dark outside lead to the tint looking "limo-like." See the after photos for what it looked like in the sun.
With Tint pictured below:
Next up was the engine steam clean and 303 protectant application. Keep in mind this car is over 20 years old but we weren't going to let that stop it from shining and looking great!
Some spots in the after picture you can tell were't touched up yet and thats becuase we coated these areas with the 22ple trim and plastic restorer which we apply at the same time as the 22ple signature series to the paint becuase you can only use the foam applicator pad once and after that we would have to throw it away becuase the pad would harden from the coating left in it and scratch the paint.
Next was time for the interior detail and Leatherique Pristine Clean. Luckily the rear seats were already out so we started with those. We applied the first step of the 2 step process and from there it was a waiting game. For this system to work properly it requires heat and time so that’s exactly what we gave it. We let the rear seats we took out sit in the sun for a day. As for the front seats we used a blow dryer to help speed up the process since leaving the car in the sun with no wax or sealant on and during the paint correction wasn’t a risk we were willing to take. The next day we did phase two to the seats and the difference was ridiculous. The seats went from a dark tan back to their natural light tan color. You could tell how much dirt and grime was on the seats by the change in the color of the water. The whole interior looked so clean with just the seats done. We still weren’t even being close to done yet though.
We were also facing the task of reconditioning the steering wheel. Over its 150,000+mile life it took a beating. A piece of the leather was missing and other parts were chipped off. We had two options: dye the leather and add filling to the imperfections but that would only last a few months and after it would make it even worse later on or just dye it to its original color. We went with just dying the steering wheel back to its natural color. By doing this we were able to give it the new look that will last a lot longer and be less of a pain in the future.
Once that was done we went ahead and started working on the carpet. The carpet wasn’t in bad shape but in the back seat it looked like nail polish had taken to the floor mats and refused to separate. Luckily it was just the floor mat and those can be replaced easily. The carpet had some signs of color transfer from the floor mats to the carpet but we were able to minimize that. Next we applied 303 Protectant to the dash and other plastic/vinyl pieces to give them 40-SPF to prevent them from further fading and cracking. With the interior complete we were now able to focus soley on the paint.
The owner recently had the vehicle repainted at the local Lexus dealership and that being said the paint was in rough condition. The roof of the Lexus had it the worst. It looked as if someone possibly used a scotch-brite to try and clean off some bird poop or something and unfortunately severely scratched the car. The rest of the car wasn’t good, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the roof so we went with a stage 2 paint corrections on the entire car except the roof, which was given a stage 3-paint correction. Now it was time to get down and dirty with the prep work. We began as we normally do before a paint correction, which is by spraying Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner to the rims, Bug and Tar remover to the troubled areas and Iron-X paint decontamination. Once this was complete, we sprayed/foamed the car down with Clean and Clear Wax removal soap and then washed it utilizing the three bucket method wash system. After we dried the car with a waffle weave towel we began to clay (Nanoskin Autoscrub the entire vehicle).
We’re almost ready to begin testing combinations and doing some actual paint correction but first we needed to tape up all the cracks, crevices and rubber around the vehicle to prevent compound buildup in those areas and damage to the rubber.
Now that the vehicle is taped up, it’s time to test some combinations on the paint. After testing a few we decided to go with a Rupes/Sonax combo that always serves us well. It takes time but it did wonders for this car. The cars paint was dull and dark green. Once we were done with it, the paint went from dark green to a beautiful green. You just don’t see this green anywhere, let a lone in this condition. It was beautiful. On the roof we went with the stage 3 paint correction process and that was able to minimize all the scratches on the roof. Sometimes even though we know that we can get some of this scratches out, we have to be responsible and leave enough room for compound and polishing later. If we try and be heroes then we could make compounding/polishing later on very dangerous to the cars paint. We always love to be apart of the cars history but we do not want to be etched in the cars history. I never appreciated this green color on older Lexus’ but it was because I had never seen one that was properly cared for and in as wonderful condition as this one now is. Now that you’ve stuck with us and read the entire article its time to reap the benefits and enjoy the after photos!