Archive for August 2, 2011


One of the most explosive and scandalous scenes in Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir classic, Chinatown, is near the end, when Jack Nicholson (Private Investigator J.J. Gittes) asks Faye Dunaway (Evelyn Mulray) the identity of the young girl being protected by her.  The violent exchange between the two characters is known as the “Sister, Daughter” scene where Jack slaps the “truth” out of Faye.  Here’s the video to remind you if you haven’t seen Chinatown recently:

Yes, the girl is both her sister and her daughter as Evelyn Mulray was raped by her father, Noah Cross. Once you understand the relationship, the story makes sense.

I was driving west on Fountain Avenue the other day and spotted this older model (1996 or 1997?) Lexus GS300. The center trunk lid Lexus logo badge had been replaced by a Toyota badge and between the taillights, a plastic taillight surround panel with the word “Aristo” in the middle replaced the stock Lexus panel.  The Aristo panel looked like a factory fit, and even the font was similar to that used by Lexus – so I did a bit of digging.

This older Lexus GS300 has had some of its badges rearranged and the Aristo nameplate substituted for the GS300 badge. (Click for larger picture and then again for full size.)

Most Lexus models are actually just big, expensive Toyotas in Japan and, with the exception of the RX350 SUV (a tarted-up Toyota Highlander), they are all made in Japan.   The Lexus brand was created specifically for the US market to get US customers to buy expensive, luxury Toyotas.  I mean if  you’re going to pay $50,000 for a car, do you want to go to a Toyota store where you have to share the air with people buying a budget Corolla, or do you want to go to an upscale Lexus luxury auto dealership where you are treated to espresso, leather sofas and a loaner car whenever you get your car serviced? If you’d pick the latter, then you’d be in the majority.

When a Japanese-market Toyota is “Lexized,” it’s given the Lexus badge, some US-market specific items and federalized.  So is it a Lexus or a Toyota? Is it a GS or an Aristo?  I guess it depends on your willingness to buy into the Lexus marketing pitch.

In Japan, the Lexus GS is a Toyota Aristo (see the Lexus GS Wikipedia entry). The plastic Aristo nameplate fascia panel seen here should fit and the fonts should look “familiar” because it was made by Toyota, in Japan, for the Japanese market version of the GS.  The Asian owner of this low-rider GS probably got the part in or from Japan or from an aftermarket supplier here in the US.  Here’s a closer look:

The only thing this car is missing from the customized rear of this Lexus is the GS300 badge. (Click for a larger picture.)

So it is a Lexus and a Toyota and it’s a GS300 and an Aristo.  Confusing, but it makes sense when you know the story.