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The King and I

Published on Mon, Jun 25, 2018

By: Andrew Beckford

Black Panther Lexus LC 500

Andrew Beckford goes behind the scenes with Lexus and West Coast Customs to check out the Black Panther Lexus LC 500.

I teased it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and now I can finally reveal that I was lucky enough to spend some one-on-one time with the Black Panther Lexus LC 500 promotional vehicle.

Lexus invited LA Car to a top secret warehouse located somewhere in SoCal that is normally filled with press fleet vehicles, concept cars, and even a few pre-production vehicles that I’m not allowed to talk about much less show you.

However, nestled in all of that was the bright Onyx Lexus LC 500 that Marvel Studios tasked the famed builders at West Coast Customs to build for the blockbuster movie “Black Panther.”

Before this, I had only laid eyes on the car once in person. That was at the Long Beach Grand Prix where it was on display inside the Convention Center, though it was rightfully roped off and I couldn’t get too close. Now things were different. I had full unfettered access to the car and I had as much time to pour over it and geek out over it as my heart desired.

Clearly, one of the first things to stand out is the paint job. The team at West Coast Customs sprayed the car with onyx blue paint but used a special technique to marbleize the paint texture before clear coating it but not before also having an artist hand paint a giant Black Panther helmet on the hood. I imagine that the marble texture of the paint is meant to simulate the same texture of Vibrainum, a fictional metal that is a crucial story point to Black Panther as well as other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The LC 500 rolls on a set of forged Lexani wheels that have been custom finished to be reminiscent of Black Panther’s claws. The claw theme continues with custom strakes on the front and rear vents of the car which also set off the wheels a bit more.

The stock retractable wing has been replaced with a stationary one which has also received the same special paint treatment. Aerodynamically the car is mostly stock save for subtly widened fenders, a front splitter, and rear diffuser.

Inside is a suite of custom upholstery with panels of blue alcantara to match the exterior paint job and blue stitching everywhere. The final touch is three canisters of raw Vibrainum in a custom enclosure rigged with custom LED lighting. Since I was shooting in daylight, though, I couldn’t quite get the lighting effects to show through.

So, now we know the specs of the car. But how did this all actually happen? In addition to getting access to the car, I was afforded the opportunity to ask a few questions to Lorenzo Strong of West Coast Customs and representatives at Lexus about the build and some of the challenges therein.

Q&A with West Coast Customs’ Lorenzo Strong

Andrew Beckford: How much time did the LC 500 take to build from concept to completion?

Lorenzo Strong: Discussions began approximately 9 months prior to completion. During that time we came up with conceptual ideas, sketches, renderings, samples of paint, interior patterns, Black Panther costume elements to recreate for the vehicle and the Vibranium. Regular meetings, revisions, and approvals from Marvel and Lexus were an ongoing cadence.

AB: How closely did you (Lexus and/or West Coast Customs) work with Marvel visual development to come up with the concept of the car?

LS: We worked very closely with Marvel and Lexus in all stages to ensure the design of the vehicle represented the Black Panther character properly. Ironically, we nailed the design the 1st go around which allowed us to get right into the fabrication and build elements.

AB: Were there any ideas/concepts that didn’t make it onto the car due to time restraints?

LS: The only 2 concepts that did not make the build due to time and budget restraints were a fully air-matic adjustable air ride suspension system and a radical Black Panther Inspired interior concept.

AB: What was the most difficult aspect of the car to create? The paint? Custom wheels? Interior? “Vibrianium” accents? etc?

LS: The vehicle is an example of excellent craftsmanship from each or our departments and all elements of this vehicle were very complex including building the wide body, Vibranium, Black Panther Claws on the Mirrors and Wheels. With all of those elements to create, I will say that the most difficult element of the vehicle was definitely the paint. Countless hours of painting, marbleizing the paint, then hand airbrushing the AMAZING Black Panther on the hood.

AB: Did any of the stars of the film get to see the car after it was finished? If so, which stars and what were their reactions to the car?

LS: Yes, many of the actors did see the vehicle at the premiere when they were walking the red carpet. We weren’t able to capture their reactions but we hope they felt the vehicle embodied the essence of Black Panther.

AB: Were there ever any talks/consideration of producing a “consumer version” of the Black Panther Lexus LC 500 that could be bought at dealerships?

Lexus: Along with the Black Panther project car we also introduced a limited-edition 2018 LC Inspiration series that features an exclusive, deeply saturated, iridescent Structural Blue color. The Inspiration Series LC is available now and starts at $108,180.

AB: The Vibrainum canisters in the back of the car are a nice touch. Did you get those props directly from Marvel or was that produced by West Coast Customs?

LS: The Vibranium Canisters were designed by our team and brought to life right here at West Coast Customs. We used a combination of 3D Scanning, 3D Printing, Acrylic Modeling, and LED lighting to produce the glowing effect.

AB: It has pretty much been confirmed that there will be a sequel. Is Lexus on board to work with Marvel again on another Black Panther Lexus for the second movie?

Lexus: We were very happy with our partnership with Marvel on the Black Panther movie and see the value in continuing that relationship but we aren’t able to confirm future plans at this time.

Well, hopefully Lexus and Marvel partner up again for the inevitable Black Panther sequel because I’d really like to see what they come up with next. A big thank you to Toyota, Lexus, and West Coast Customs for giving access to the car and to the people behind the scenes for this feature.

Long Beach-based LA Car contributor Andrew Beckford is also the editor of MotorworldHype and a regular contributor to other media outlets, not to mention an all-around great (car)guy. 

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