The first two generations of Soarer defined the Techno Decade, uniquely tailored to Japanese tastes. With the Z30 Soarer, sales in North America began under the newly established Lexus banner. We Yanks became the focus, and as a result it was designed not in Japan, but at Toyota’s CALTY studio in Newport Beach, California.
The task was given to Erwin Lui, a former cab driver, blues musician, and a then-recent graduate of the prestigious Art Center College of Design. Work began in 1987 on what was internally known as Project F3. The second-gen Soarer was barely a year old, but Lui immediately took the styling playbook of straight lines and 90-degree corners and shredded it.
Much has been said about how Lui employed a novel technique of plaster-filled balloons to shape the SC, kneading and stretching them to form its sweeping curves. What is less often mentioned is that he used only balloons. “The total design was developed in 3D,” recalled senior chief designer Dennis Campbell in a Lexus dealer video, “As opposed to the two-dimensional techniques we normally use in car design and development.” It went from contour to clay, skipping the drafting tables and CAD renderings altogether.
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