Cars Of A Lifetime: 1991 Lexus ES250 – Luxury For The Proletariat

I guess I just like to be propositioned. During my brief fling with the Jeep Cherokee, I was told that a friend of a friend really wanted a Cherokee and had a Lexus to trade. I was in no hurry to get rid of the Jeep, having already purchased some new ball joints for it which I was meaning to install. But the friend of a friend came over and we test drove the cars. The Lexus felt like it was missing on one cylinder but I really didn’t care. So I swapped him for it. Something about the car made me think that it could probably be remedied fairly easily. Or even more easily yet, just lived with; at least until the next proposition.

For those unfamiliar with the ES250, it was essentially a tarted up Camry SE V6. Power windows and locks, moon-roof, automatic transmission, up-rated sound system, different grill, head and tail lamps, alloy wheels, and some nicer interior appointments as well as a hardtop-look green house. That was it; oh, and a significantly increased price tag.  But the price tag for me was essentially seven hundred and twenty five dollars, going back to the last time I paid any money for a car (Jeep Comanche). I needed better fuel economy since my car generally was used only for my short commute to work and back; the Lexus looked like just the ticket.

I don’t know why I got the feeling that it would be easy to fix. Over the years of trading and buying, I think I may have developed a sixth car sense. The young man who owned the car said he had replaced the spark plugs last month and that it had always run that way. The plugs I could see did look new, but on a Toyota V6 of the era one cannot access or see the spark plugs or wires on the back cylinder bank.  Everything else checked out OK except a ball joint was getting pretty loose. Honestly though, I really did not look the car over carefully; I just didn’t care that much. It seemed I was just swapping one tired mule for another: the kid wanted a Jeep, I needed a commuter. On the plus side, it was nearly perfect on the inside, it had eighty eight thousand miles on it, was always dealer serviced until the kid got it, had always been in his family, had records from new, and the tires were OK.

So I swapped him and we both went home happy. Well, mostly; The Kid had never driven a four wheel drive before. I got a report from our mutual friend that the very next day after he had bought it that he had taken it up in the woods, gotten it stuck, and had to pay over a thousand dollars in towing fees. The Jeep ended up in the tow lot waiting for him to come up with the money to pay for the fees. Why anyone would call a tow truck off-road is beyond me, but rack it up to inexperience I guess. He did finally get the Jeep out of hock though.

The car proved to be very dependable even with the cylinder missing. I really did not care about it much, but I was eager to see the fuel mileage to improve. So I looked up the procedure and found that to even touch the spark plugs one had to remove the upper manifold and a plethora of hoses. I let it be for awhile longer.

Then my friend Steve from Eugene came up to see me. He was still driving a pickup I had sold him some time ago. Actually he had bought the Land Rover Discovery from me on payments several years ago. When he lost his job he could no longer afford the payments, so I gave him a pickup that was worth about what he had paid to date and took back the Land Rover. He was still driving the pickup, and since he was moving out of the farm he was on, he did not need it any longer. I offered to trade him the Lexus for the truck. I really missed that old truck, and the Lexus was not really my kind of car. He was delighted and traded me back the truck.

One other problem the car had was that the trunk hinge had a broken bolt. This caused the trunk not to close right and water to make it’s way in. I had removed the carpeting and drained the lake in the trunk. Upon examination it was found that the bolt was broken off inside the trunk lid and that someone had tried to weld and then to glue it. I told Steve that it would have to be extracted and tapped. He did part of the job but used a self tapping screw instead of tapping it out to the next larger size. This did not last and so it must now be done right. But he did get the engine fixed.

He was driving back to Eugene when the car died on him. He looked around under the hood and found that the ignition coil high tension lead was burned in half. After repairing this, he took it to a hippie mechanic friend who noticed that the plug wires were the original ones. So Steve traded the mechanic several bottles of his homemade beer (which really is quite good) to have him replace the plugs and wires. It was found that one plug was not firing at all. So now it runs great; of course, it’s a Toyota after all.

Lets just say I don’t regret trading it away, but I sure do miss its comfort and efficiency. But the vehicle I just bought does one of those very well; although it does just get about half the fuel mileage of the Lexus. Just in time for higher gas prices.

Author’s note: we are near the end of Cars of a Lifetime. The last three will be vehicles I currently own. I’ll also put together a list of the cars, according to their respective attributes in my final COAL post. Cars I obtain in the future may be posted as “My Curbside Classic” if they are deserving. And I’m working on a new series now, but it’s still in process.

[ED: looking forward to it! And is there someone out there who’s had an interesting assortment of cars they’ve owned, and would like to start a new edition of COAL?]