The Toyota Century is a large four-door limousine produced mainly for the Japanese market, serving as Toyota's flagship car. Production of the Century began in 1967 and the model received only minor changes until a redesign in 1997. The Century derived its name from the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sakichi Toyota, the founder of Toyota Industries. The Century was available with only a V8 engine, the third Japanese built sedan post-war, at its introduction in 1967 until a major redesign in 1997, and is now only available with a Japanese built V12, an engine unique to the Century. Although the Century is a premium, full size luxury sedan, it is not available at Japanese Lexus dealerships; it can only be purchased at"Toyota Shop" stores.
The exterior styling of the Century has, with some modifications, remained unchanged since its introduction, primarily due to its perceived social status as the "preferred vehicle denoting conservative success". Its appearance is iconic in Asian countries, usually painted black. The closest Japanese competitor is the Nissan President, with a similar reputation, although during the 1960s and '70s, the high market positioning was also shared with the Mitsubishi Debonair.
First generation (1967-1997)
The original Century was based on the 1964 Crown Eight, which featured the 2.6 L V8 Toyota 3V engine, and appeared almost two years after the October 1965 introduction of theNissan President with a 4.0 L V8. The 1967 Century was equipped with an upgraded version of the Crown Eight engine, the 3.0 L 3V. 1973 saw the introduction of the 3.4 L 4V-U, and the engine was once again changed to the 4.0 L 5V-EU in 1982, with the installation of fuel injection. Note that the 3V, 4V-U, and 5V-EU do not refer to the number of valves in the engine but simply denote model names in the Toyota V engine range. There is also an L-Type stretched version of the Century — length is 5,270 mm (207.5 in) with a wheelbase of 3,010 mm (118.5 in).
The first generation Century remained largely untouched during its impressively long 30-year production run, apart from minor cosmetic changes and engine upgrades. The Century is produced in limited numbers and is built in a "nearly hand-made" fashion. It is often used by royalty, the Prime Minister of Japan, senior government leaders, and high level executive businessmen. The Century is comparable in purpose to the Austin Princess/Daimler DS420, ZIS/ZIL, Chinese Red Flag, Rolls-Royce and Maybach limousines. The Toyota Century is equipped with the wing-mirrors actually mounted on the wings (fenders), characteristic of grand, older cars. The Century shares the role of flagship with the Toyota Crown Majesta with almost identical dimensions to the Century but with a more modern approach and appearance that appeals to younger buyers.
A Toyota Century with a GT45 gas turbine and electric motor was shown as the Century gas turbine hybrid concept vehicle at the 1975 Tokyo Motor Show.
First generation changes
- 1973: Electromagnetic locks were changed, the tail lights were changed as well as the inclusion of front disc brakes.
- 1975: Standard manual transmission no longer offered.
- 1987: On D type. Transmission shifter moved from the column to the floor. Front bucket seats instead of bench seats.
- VG20: 3.0 L 3V V8, 1967–1973
- VG21: 3.4 L 4V-U V8, 1973
- VG30: 3.4 L 4V-U V8, 1973–1977
- C-VG30: 1977
- E-VG35: 1978–1982
- VG40: 4.0 L 5V-EU V8, 1982–1997
- VG45: 4.0 L 5V-EU V8 (L-Type) 1990-1997