There was a time in the history of the American automobile industry when custom-built cars bearing exclusive coachwork from custom body makers were the premier status symbols of the luxury car market.
Today, that custom market has largely disappeared, the exceptions being stretched limousines and one-of-a-kind show cars.
The Lexus Division of Toyota Motor Co. is putting a little spin of its own on the custom luxury business. Toyota is introducing a 1997 Lexus LS 400 Coach Edition that, from an interior styling standpoint, has all the earmarks of classics from the past.
Federal regulations requiring crash tests and a strict adherence to safety requirements have virtually negated the building of a custom body. So, for its LS 400 Coach Edition, Lexus is working with the body it already makes, customizing the interior.
Working in partnership with a company called Coach, a renowned manufacturer of distinguished leather goods, this special LS 400 Coach Edition is designed to establish a benchmark for customized luxury sedans.
As with the custom-built classics of yesteryear, the ’97 Coach Edition is not a mass-produced vehicle. Production will be limited, and it is expected that the model will become a collector’s item.
Body builders such as Murphy, Brunn, Waterhouse and others in the 1930s built products that graced chassis such as the Duesenberg, Stutz, Packard and Lincoln – luxury cars of the era. Not only did the builders make the bodies, but they styled exquisite interiors made up of the finest leathers, silks and woods.
With its Coach Edition, Lexus is following in some illustrious footsteps when it accentuates with a custom-leather interior.
Coach supplies the leather for the interior of the Coach Edition. That includes not only the upholstery but a leather center console with an embossed Coach logo.
Based on a production LS 400, the Coach Edition is a five-passenger sedan that has the shift lever for the car’s four-speed automatic transmission coming through the top of the center console. The mounting base of the quadrant itself is of a composite material, but is surrounded by Coach leather that goes across the rearward segment of the console and along its sides.
A Coach leather-covered center armrest folds down over the section that goes across the console. Then, there is a styled wood-and-leather accented shift lever knob to complete the custom theme.
A further customizing touch lies in the back seats, where there is a hint of tufting in the right and left side seat backs. The center seat has a Coach leather fold down armrest. To complete the leather theme, the Coach Edition comes with a Coach leather cabin bag finished in British tan.
This special brand of Coach styling also extends to the floor mats in the interior of the sedan and to the wheels on the exterior.
The carpeted floor mats bear an embroidered Coach insignia that says LS 400 Coach Edition.
On the outside, unique five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels have di stinctive symbol markings on their hub centers. Another Coach styling feature is subtle exterior champagne-pearl badging.
The standard LS 400 is the premier luxury sedan in the Lexus model line, so Toyota had a benchmark automobile on which to found its Coach Edition car.
Under the hood lies a high-tech 4.0-liter (242-cubic-inch) 32-valve V-8 that sports four overhead cams and produces 260-horsepower. With 260 horses and 270 foot-pounds of torque, the 400 falls into the category of luxury performance.
Zero to 60 mph is rated at 7.1 seconds and, if you’re running this thing flat to the floor, you are looking at 149 mph on the top end. Mileage is 19 miles per gallon city, 25 highway.
At 3,726 pounds curb weight, the four-door can’t be considered light, but can’t be considered really heavy, either. It stands on 112.2 inches of wheelbase and has an overall length of 196.7 inches,size specifications that denote good interior room.
As expected with a $50,000-plus automobile, featur es like walnut trim, climate control, power accessories and all the trappings that make life worth living are standard in the LS 400.
The Tom Wood Lexus dealership expects its first Coach Edition at any time. Speculation on price is that it will be around $57,000.