“When they were new, it was by invite only. They only built about 200 per year.” That’s what owner Chris Marion, from Original Rare, told Jay Leno about the exclusivity factor attached to the Toyota Century.
This is essentially Toyota’s take on a small wheelbase limousine. The Toyota Century was built to celebrate the 100th birthday of the company’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda.
In 1967, the first Century sedans rolled off the assembly line and arrived with tremendous luxury, V8 power and sleek styling. That style continued unchanged for 30 years.
A second generation was introduced in 1997 and the engine under the hood gained four cylinders. The V12 Century lasted through 2016 and now Toyota is on its third generation version of the car.
Marion brought a first-generation example from 1993 to Jay Leno’s Garage. Leno opened the hood and stared at the 5V-EU 4.0-liter V8, which is basically Japan’s own Hemi. More fascinating than the engine, however, is the level of luxury afforded passengers in the cabin. There are window coverings, power seating options galore, and even a front-passenger seat pass-through for the rear-seat passenger to put up their legs and relax.
Even the rear quarter glass is power operated.
While it’s a wonderful riding car for passengers, it’s equally enjoyable for the driver. It’s a bit “floaty,” according to Leno, but in 1993 that was how engineers dialed in a luxury car. The goal was a soft, cloud-like dynamic often associated with Cadillacs of that era.
The Toyota Century is a rare machine in Japan, never mind here in the UNited States. As we approach the 25-year import rule, more examples will trickle in — maybe the even-more-fascinating V12 version will start popping up.