Compatible Body Parts 1997 LS400 ? Please help!

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 OK guys here's my problem! ( and I am sure I am not the first guy to join this forum because I need help but I will apologize anyway and thank you in advance for your anticipated advice! )

Since I'm new to the forum I think the least I should do is share the "backstory" before launching into a request for help.

 My wife and I enjoyed our 1997 LS400 for many years. Yet in spite of years of ownership the car still had only racked up 55,000 miles and other than the usual maintenance items like brakes and oil changes and a new battery and tires last year we've had no issues ever. It's just a superb vehicle in Jade Mist with with standard chrome or polished exterior trim in place of the gold trim often seen, and factory chrome rims that really set it off nicely. Still ran like new and even looked almost new in and out. I'm a fanatic about detailing and keeping my cars looking perfect as can be and doing regular oil changes, etc.

Then my youngest son got his drivers license and started his freshman year at college. He needed a car.

My son is 6 foot eight and weighs 275 pounds !  (Yes, he's a BIG guy, and a really good kid and were very proud of him) We tried getting him into all kinds of vehicles but incredibly the '97 Lexus LS400 was a perfect fit for him as long as he put the seat all the way back and down.

So we gave up the Lexus to our son who loved it, absolutely LOVED it, as any kid should getting a car like that as his very first car. (I got a '64 Chevy way before owning a '64 Chevy was "cool" that burned a quart of oil every couple of miles, and no I am NOT exaggerating, and was broken down more than it was running most of the time, but we do better for our kids, right?)

A couple weeks ago, just after the odometer had turned 60,000 miles, he ran into the rear of a truck that had slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting a dear. Yes, he should have been farther back on the wet, rain-slicked roads, but thankfully no one was hurt. In fact, incredibly, the truck wasn't even damaged.

But the Lexus? The insurance company came up with an estimate of $7700 to repair the car, and that, as they say, was "all she wrote", and they totaled the car, in spite of my repeated argument for repairing it.

After fighting and losing, I took the check they offered to settle the case, which was lower than I would have ever sold that car for, and then bought the car back from them for a rather small amount of money.

Why did I buy it back? (No one seems to understand this....I'm hoping you guys do.)

I couldn't bear to see that beautiful low mileage perfect running Lexus (I drove it to the body shop from the scene of the accident) sent to the salvage yard. 

So I own it, in this smashed up state. Don't have any pics to post at the moment but it's the drivers side front, including but not limited to the hood, fender, headlight, grill, and all the stuff those things are attached to. No frame damage and the passenger side of the front is still perfect, except for whatever parts are shared, like the grill and hood, etc.

Anyway, finally, here are my questions:

What year LS400's have compatible body parts? Mine is a 1997 and the 1996 and 1998 "look the same" but are they REALLY the same? In other words, if I were to go to the junkyard, what years will work for my car other than 1997?

My other idea is to buy a high mileage example of a compatible year and strip off the parts I need and then part out what's left or just junk what's left. Good idea or dumb idea?

Please understand I will NOT be doing ANY of the work myself. I'd be bringing the parts or the parts car to the body shop and paying them to do the work. I have a long relationship with the owner and I know he would be fair in what he would charge, but he can't work for free and I wouldn't expect him to, of course. So if I buy a parts car, I'd be paying him to disassemble one car to reassemble the good one, i.e., double the labor. But I think it might be possible to buy a whole parts car for $1000 or less. Not much less, and maybe even a little more, but not much more.

Of course, I could just part out the car I have. But that's not what I want to do. I want to see my car back on the road, although it will have a salvage title if and when that happens, so the value will be even further diminished than it already was when I settled with the insurance company. I don't really care about that because my intention is to keep the car and drive it, not sell it.

Am I making a mistake doing this? Should I just give up on the car?

I'm really  looking forward to your much appreciated advice regarding my situation and regarding which your cars are compatible with mine. 

 Thanks so much,  in advance, for your anticipated help!  


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Only 95-97 parts will bolt on to your car. The 98-00 are redesigned and body parts will not fit without major modifications.

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Craig, thanks so much for the helpful response!

In the research I've done since my original post I had come to the same conclusion based on comparing part numbers on hoods, fenders, etc, but you have now validated what I thought to be the case, so thank you for that! 

What do you, or any of the other LS owners here, think about my reluctance about losing this fantastic machine? I just can't bring myself to junk it. I couldn't let the insurance company keep it, that's for sure, not when I was able to buy it back for next to nothing. If I decided to part it out I'm sure I could make an easy profit, but that's not what I want, at all. This incredible car, with only 60,000 original miles, drives better and is more comfortable than the late model S Class Benz I recently sold! 

It's got such incredible road handling manners, and such amazing power for a 20 year old car that was never designed to be a "fast car", so much as I'm sure the original design intent was more to deliver a luxurious ride rather than be thought of as a "performance car". Am I right or wrong? Again, to MY mind anyway, a supererior car to my late Benz and also a better handling and faster car than sons 2009 Caddilac CTS 3.6DI.

I truly hope I can find a donor car at a good price and put the old girl back together! I feel like if I do she's got a solid couple hundred thousand miles left to enjoy!

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Other than for cheap parts I would not buy back if totaled as you loose more $. And rather than take a small check and getting a salvage title, I'd forget the insurance money if the car was just a simple fix. Salvage titles don't sell cars.  And on an other note, some of these cars are getting to the same status as a high dollar collector car so then what will insurance co's do?

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Bob, I'm not 100% sure exactly what you're saying, but I didn't buy the car back to sell the car, I bought it back with the hope of fixing it and driving it. I'm sorry if my original post didn't make that clear. So "salvage titles don't sell cars" won't apply to me. And as I described in my post, it isn't a simple fix. The insurance company estimated it will cost $7700 to fix the car. Even at insurance company inflated estimates that says something about the depth of repairs needed. I need a full drivers side front quarter tear off, (that's a lot of stuff) plus the hood and grill and headlamp support bracket. So what I need is a car that was hit on the passenger side or the rear that I can pull all my needed parts off of to get my car back on the road.

This wasn't a question of not making a claim to avoid a salvage title. We're not talking about a late model collector car that would be hurt by a salvage title. And a vintage collector car, like, let's say,  a '63 spilt-window couple Corvette, would still sell for huge dollars no matter what kind of title it has. This is neither. It's just a very low mileage, almost pristine, before the accident, 20 year old Lexus. I can't see junking it. An I couldn't see not buying it back. 

Here's why:

When the insurance company totaled it, after much debate, I got a check for $6,000.

They let me buy my car back for $200.

Yes, you read that right. $200. Not two THOUSAND, two HUNDRED.

i wasn't letting them keep my 60,000 mile, fully optioned, pristine condition, (other than the accident damage) LS400 for an additional $200 in my check. I've had bar tabs higher than that!

So guys, what do YOU think? What would YOU have done?

Would you have bought back the car for two hundred bucks or let them keep it?

Heres how I look at it.......

If it costs me a thousand bucks for a junk donor, (There was one on eBay the week before the accident that sold for $920 that would have been PERFECT), and if it costs me another 2 or even 3 thousand dollars to have it repaired back to perfect condition, I will own the car for, at the most, $3200.

I don't know about you guys, but if I had the chance to buy a pristine 1997 Lexus LS400 with 60,000 miles (I had just spent almost a thousand dollars on new tires a couple months ago, by the way), for $3200, I'd buy it in a HEARTBEAT. No matter WHAT the title says on it!

If you guys disagree, by all means, tell me! But please explain why! I'd sincerely like to know, because if you're right and I am wrong, maybe I'll just part it out. I think if I part it out I could make a tidy profit by doing so! What are the perfect factory chrome rims with brand new tires worth alone? And a perfect interior? And all the rest of the body parts that are perfect? And a 60,000 perfect running engine? And transmission? And all the other "stuff" that could be pulled from it?

But that is NOT what I want to do, unless I am really looking at this the wrong way, and if I am, please tell me!

And if I am wrong, does anybody want to get their dibs in on any of the parts I'll be selling?? :)

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I was and am talking about value, the crashed and branded titled car has no value and every single penny spent on it except for parts values is a total waste of your money. Its that simple. No matter if you sell it or not. If you want to toss out the $ like that I will send an address and you could just mail the $ to me. Because unless you plan to get another LS and use all those parts that you do to fix the junker you are just flushing $ down the toilet. And unless you can do everthing there is to do to fix it yourself, and just do it as a leisure hobby and not bust your rear on it and as a learning deal, then its not worth the effort or money. I have seen it said that a factory Lexus LS400 paint job is equivalent to a $20,000 paint job. And again unless its all DIY, that would be like a gold nose ring on a pig, a good paint job costs unless you settle for a $299 macco job.

Anyone that buys a salvage title car knows nothing about cars and car values period.  Oh and they total and salvage title a car over a dent in a fender if its an old car. Here in my state it then goes to inspection and gets a sticker put on it that says you can go to jail if you remove it, so how can you ever even paint the door jam if you ever want to?  Avoid a salvage title at all costs.

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at $200 I might have bought it back too. I'm sure you can find a donor car but then you have to pay to have the work done and the paint match. You can spend the whole insurance check plus maybe put a couple of dollars of your own into it and still have a reliable car. All this depends on the severity of the damage.

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