Japanese Bentley: The three generations of the Toyota Century

The new Toyota Century that will be presented within a few days at the Tokyo Motor Show. Yes, this huge saloon (5.33m long with a 3.09m battle) that looks like a 1960s or 70s catalog is a brand new model for 2018 from very serious and modern Toyota.

This third generation of the Century, a model that began its journey in 1967, is also the most technological of all. Underneath that classic design hides the best of the Toyota group technology. And it is something that could only happen in Japan. Taking advantage of the launch of the new model, we review the history of the Toyota Century.

Some limousines are forever attached to their country of origin: the Cadillac and Lincoln to the United States, Rolls-Royce to the United Kingdom and even the Citroën SM and CX to France are special models for the French. Or even the Russian ZILs. Of course, then there is the case of the Mercedes 600 Pullman “Grosser”, associated with almost any regime of dubious practices in the 70s and 80s. And in Japan, as always, they do not do things like anyone else and in 1967 came the Toyota Century.

Japanese luxury and Yankee-Flavored motor

Toyota Century
Image Source: Google Image

The Toyota Century is the most luxurious car Japan currently produces. It was thought for royalty, heads of state and industry standards, and was introduced in 1967. Its name is a reference to the year of birth of Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda. At 5.08 m in length, the Toyota Century of 1967 remains today an imposing car; in the late 1960s, it was simply a giant.

The Century equipped a V8 gasoline, which was a fairly faithful copy of the V8 that equipped the Dodge Red Ram HEMI in the 50’s. The V8 Toyota even conserves hemispheric combustion chambers. This engine debuted in the Toyota Crown 8 in 1963 with a displacement of 2.6 liters, but for Century it was increased its displacement up to 3.0 liters.

The Century will almost always be seen wearing a deep black, but they are also available in subtle gray and silver. Seeing a red or green Century, even green English, would be very unlikely. But not impossible since the Century is manufactured exclusively by hand and on request. For this Toyota orders the production to Kanto Auto Works.

This bodybuilder and manufacturer founded in 1946 (like Kanto Electric Motor Works that changed to Kanto Auto Works in 1950) has become part of the Toyota group in 2012. In the background was a logical movement, since in 1948 already made bodies for Toyota and in 1970 it had already manufactured more than one million cars since its foundation. Kanto Auto Works was always the maker of everything that came out of the volume car for Toyota.

With the new generation unveiled, there are only three generations of Toyota Century. And all seem to be a very timid evolution of the above, especially at the aesthetic level. At the mechanical level, the evolution was more pronounced, but equally slow. The first generation saw its 3.0-liter V8 climb to 3.4 liters in the early 1970s and 4.0-liter displacement in 1982 at the same time it took the electronic injection.

The changes in displacement were accompanied by other changes, such as the disc brakes it fitted from 1973 , the automatic transmission as only gearbox available from 1975 or the relocation of the gear shift knob to the central tunnel in 1987. It stayed that way until the second generation of the Century arrived.

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A V12 for the Toyota Century

Toyota Century
Image Source: Google Image

Toyota, which renewed its ranges every four years or so, took 30 years to renovate the Century. The second generation came in 1997. And it did not surprise anyone with a design extremely similar to the previous generation (even retained the mirrors in the fins and not in the doors). And in spite of it, it does not share a body element with the previous one.

The dimensions of the car is still unusual, for example has a wheelbase of 3.03 m. That is, the battle is bigger than a smart and is only 40 cm shorter than a Toyota Aygo. At the mechanical level, however, the Toyota Century took a giant leap by equipping a V12 type 1GZ-FE.

According to the gentlemen’s agreement that was then between the Japanese manufacturers, officially developed 280 CV, but then in reality was more. Thus, it was the only Japanese model equipped with a V12. Initially it was associated with an automatic change of 4 relations and went to an automatic change of 6 relations.

The equipment is as luxurious as it is full of Japanese peculiarities. The reclining seats and massage function are worthy of a Mercedes S-Class, while the soft-close doors of electric opening and closing are something unusual outside a Rolls-Royce Phantom – and this one had not yet left!

The upholstery, for its part, may be leather, but in many models are cloth. And it is that the leather, when sitting makes too much noise, apparently.

In the case of the Century Royal, the long version with raised roof for the imperial family of Japan, also does not wear upholstery of leather, but of wool. It also features inserts in granite and a ceiling coated with rice paper. Initially, Kanto Auto Works had to manufacture five units, but at half a million dollars a unit, it was decided to order only four units.

The Toyota Century is a particular, handmade model of which few units are produced a year. It is a model that is reserved exclusively for the Japanese market. For example, in 2013 only 177 units were manufactured , when in 2000 they were 500 units. Embassies and some consulates also received their lot from Toyota Century. In fact, the few that exist outside Japan in the second-hand market come from the Japanese diplomatic representations. It is said that there were only 95 units with the steering wheel on the left, a rarity.

The Toyota Century becomes hybrid

Toyota Century
Image Source: Google Image

The third generation of the Toyota Century leaves the V12 in favor of a V8 5.0 liters that equipped the old Lexus LS600h associated to a hybrid system. The V8 develops 394 hp and delivers 520 Nm of torque. At the moment, there are more details about the mechanics of the car (type of battery, electric motor, etc.).

One of Toyota’s main objectives for the Century is the silent march. For this, the car incorporates an active noise canceling system (the Infiniti equip a similar system developed by Bose) that starts when the engine is turned on.

Obviously, the rear seats are electrically adjustable, with massage function and the two rear passengers have at their disposal a multimedia system of high range with 20 loudspeakers.

There is no doubt that the Toyota Century, with all its eccentricities, will have another 20 years (or more) of commercial career ahead.

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