The Lexus LS has nothing on its Toyota cousin. "When they were new, it was by invite only. They only built about 200 per year." That's how owner Chris Marion, from Original Rare, tells 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, V-8 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 V-12 Century lasted through 2016, and now Toyota is on its third generation version of the car.
Chris Marion has hands on a first-generation example from 1993. That means Leno can open the hood and stare at the 5V-EU 4.0-liter V-8, 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 Cadillac of that era, and even earlier.
The Toyota Century is a rare machine in Japan, never mind here in the States. As we approach the 25-year import rule, more examples will trickle in and soon the even more fascinating V-12 version will start popping up. If you're looking for an intriguing and collectible Japanese sedan, the Toyota Century is the one to get.