Security was very tight. Anticipation and excitement were high as Lexus dealers gathered at Toyota’s Calty Design Studios in Southern California. It was early December 1988 and the dealers would be given the opportunity to see the F1 and F2 prototypes for the first time.
Yuki Togo and Bob McCurry talked to the dealers about the overall philosophy of Lexus. Jim Perkins introduced the LS400 and I introduced the ES250. Chief Engineer Suzuki was there to answer any and all questions.
The details of the car were revealed first:
• Six years in development with 450 prototypes and over one million miles of testing.
• Superlative aerodynamics and elegant styling.
• Flush-mounted windows and door handles, with a rear window slope that integrated perfectly with the ducktail trunk spoiler, creating a drag co-efficient of 0.30 equal to that of an exotic sports car.
• The most advanced 4.0-liter V-8 engine, designed to avoid the gas-guzzler tax.
• The most sophisticated electronic transmission and balanced drivetrain ever produced by Toyota.
• New and advanced anti-lock braking and traction control systems.
• A new anti-aging concept focusing on 96 areas of the car that were critical to ensuring the car would look, feel, and perform the same as new after 50,000 miles.
• A new, state-of-the-art Nakamichi sound system.
• New technology used to illuminate the instrument panel with first of its kind super-thin, self–illuminating fluorescent tubes.
• High-strength, extra-thick steel with extra-strong laser welding for improved safety performance with extra corrosion protection.
• First of its kind “sandwich steel” with nylon damping resin and metallic powder filler between the two sheets of steel to reduce sound and vibration.
• The world’s first tilting and telescoping steering wheel with an airbag.
• The world’s first inner-grooved key to discourage theft.
• Special silencers used in the door latches and trunk to achieve a solid, quiet “thunk” when closed.
• The attention to detail was so intense that even the gaps between the hood, fenders, and trunk lid were intentionally uneven because the slightly tapered gaps gave the appearance of a more precise look.
How did the car drive and handle? Bob McCurry and Jim Perkins had invited Roger Penske to test drive the F1 in the fall of 1988 at the Shibetsu test track in Japan. Roger would affirm to all in attendance the outstanding power, handling, and quietness of the F1.
The ES250 was met with mild enthusiasm while the dealer reaction to the LS 400 was very positive and more than we could have hoped for. The exterior styling, interior appointments, and drivetrain all exceeded expectations. The dealers spent several hours climbing over, around, and through the cars. As expected, there were some concerns expressed over the traditional front grille, but overall everyone was very pleased. You could feel the energy build in the room as the evening went on. A warm glow of relief seemed to settle over the room and all was right with the world– except…
“They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.” 1 Samuel 18:6
All was right with the world except for one thing: the name. Time was running out. We were promised a court ruling before the end of the year on the Lexus name. Judge Edelstein would keep his promise, but he would inflict maximum pain by waiting until the very last minute.
(to be continued… New Years Eve Ruined!)