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'98 UCF20R LS400 - Long Term Return


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Hi All,

Not even sure if this is the right place, but I'm shortly to 'take delivery' of my '98 LS400. I thought I would say Hello, and explain why. Why this car... Why would i get myself a 22 yo car that was new almost precisely half my life ago.

It a long way from new, or the most powerful, and probably is in the high negative percentiles for any form of sex-appeal (though that's always subjective.... right?).

Previously had a '92 UCF10R about 16 years ago and it made a fairly big impression. It wasn't my preferred model though, the last LS400 - the LCI UCF20R (98-00) were always the one. Reliability has been well and truely proven for these, with proper maintenance they're good for endless km's. When I was younger though, the late LS400's were always too expensive and way too much an 'old mans car' according to my mates. 

Now I'm finding myself less and less interested in mind blowing HP, turbos, badge envy... Its all a bit meh. I don't need a car that will corner on rails, or blow the doors off Commodores or Falcons (been there done all of that). I've always been a tech-V8-enthusiast, though I grew up with a Ford Mechanic/ farmer as a dad.. This car though is quiet, smooth, and has decent efficiency so its hard to beat this exact model. It might not be an e39 M5, but the maintenance costs on those are just..... eye watering. I had an '03 39 535i for a while with the baby M62TUB35 in it.. anything for them isn't cheap...smooth, but needed more torque.. lots more for the weight. Excellently engineered car, but fail on maintenance at your peril. That went out the door when it developed an intermittent btm end knock.. So the 1UZ in this particular late model LS is the V8 for me that delivers almost unparalleled smoothness, enough torque to make it feel relaxed, and has the 5 speed in addition to VVTi as well for more go and less fuel use. Most importantly perhaps though is reliability. I'm not aware of too many other V8's with the over engineered level of reliability as this one.

My original UCF10R LS though. Cheap when I bought it, 300k kms, patchy service history, lived a large amount of its life out in the sun.... So it was definitely not immaculate by any stretch of the imagination. However, once it was given a thorough service with every single fluid changed and run through it for 500-1000kms then changed again just to just give it a clean out.... Never missed a beat. Shifted smoothly too, barely audible at any speed unless the windows were down or you really listened...

I drove it from Newcastle to Darwin when speed limits were a rude word in NT. Calm, quiet, smooth.... Sure it used a bit more fuel at 220km/h but I didn't have to turn up the sound, or the aircon and the engine temps were rock solid. ALL the way there (and back when i posted out). The odd front end bush. Regular maintenance. The LCD went black on the climate like every series 1 ever (replaced that one weekend). That was it. I had no books for it when I bought it, no history and it had already done many many kms and had clearly had a less than fully caring life. Still to this day one of the top two most trouble free cars i've owned.  

What else have I had? Daily type cars I had before the (first) LS included an EFII Fairmont Ghia 5.0, a manual VU SS ute, and a little manual Mazda SP20. Since i sold the old girl I've had an e46 325ti, an e90 335i, an Audi A3 DSG 2.0tdi (briefly), an e39 535i, a manual JCW Paceman (briefly - yeah i know i know..), and an e82 LCI 135i dct coupe. 

So.. most of those latter choices were driven by family reasons / the other half / etc etc, so contain the howls of laughter for some of them.. I tried.... and didn't like, a few of those and others were just awesome but not for the reasons you might think i guess.

I've had new cars, more than a decade of tuned turbos in 4's and 6's, and sure they produce ridiculous power, but none of them has actually lived up to the hype. They all had flaws. Whether it was runflats or way more road noise than i expected, or just plain glitchy.. In everyday driving they each required a compromise of one sort or another. The Australian cars? terrible quality.. both had major faults within 50k kms. The Holden had so many I just cut my losses and sold it with 18k on the clock.. The Mazda? Fun but too small and loud for long distance driving... and what was it with not offering cruise control.... but I digress. The first BMW was the e46. Best one of the lot. See below. The e90 335? ridiculously easy to tune. 230kw at the wheels with a flash and a free flowing exhaust, but then you need an LSD for obvious reasons, and even within warranty (before the tunes) was prone to random engine faults.. glitchy. Audi? amazing economy from those diesels, but the laaaaaaaaag.... not from the motor, but the DSG... scary. The Mini... Yeah i know.. but AWD, manual, turbo 1.6... wired and good fun once on boost but heavy.. Finally the most recent was the e82 DCT 135. Different beast to the e90. MUCH better dual clutch than the Audi. Ridiculously fast even when stock standard... BUT. Hard.... so damn hard on runflats.. plus added to that road noise too its definitely not for road trips to NT.. plus the gearing is short... even in 7th gear its only 1:1 not overdriven.. It has never Ever returned expected economy according to the factory specs. So as a toy, or weekender or track thing... yep.. but daily? I've physically avoided taking it for longer trips than maybe an hour..

The best car since that first well used Lexus was the e46. No turbo, brilliant tiny little 2.5L NA 6 and a 6-speed manual. Loud on the hwy but excellent torque, perfect ratios, lightweight, unbeatable fuel economy, flexible cabin, comfortable.

Now I'm genuinely stepping out of the norm. I'm not getting a new/newer car, I'm deliberately selling the old one, purchasing the '98 LS400 and pocketing the cash, not for need of cash but for fun, and because I'm not driving millions of kms to-from work and its mostly freeway stuff. 

I'm getting a super low KM, not immaculate (but not far off it) well looked after LS. I have a box of receipts from its original owner, had it checked over with a fine tooth comb (its in a different state) and it came up with precisely one error code that was stored not current ( a single front O2 sensor). 

Its bone stock. The only non genuine/original parts on the car that turned up are the windscreen, the wiper blades and its running pirellis (they won't last long). It needs some front bushes replaced (there originals, so zero surprise) but that's it. I'll post more when I get it parked and the little list of items sorted. There won't be any 'VIP' treatment. There won't be turbos, or huuuuuuge stereos, or straight through exhausts... This is at most subtle updating for function more than fashion... There might be some ultra-conservative 90's era WALD 18"s because they work with the shape, and have a bit less sidewall for less body roll control, perhaps some bilsteins... It's equally likely there will be exactly no changes. 

Anyway that's me. I've been a BMW convert for years, but now - oddly perhaps - i'm getting back into an olllllld LS. This turned from an intro, into a bit of an essay... If you're still reading.. 

No idea if there are even clubs or groups around anymore, but I guess I'll find out.

B

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