Japanese Rolls-Royce: 1990 Toyota Century

While the Lexus is considered to be Toyota’s market leader across the globe, the Century fulfills that role back in the manufacturer’s home country. Widely regarded as the “Japanese Rolls Royce,” the owner of a Century wants for little in the way of luxury. The Century is not seen in huge numbers outside Japan, so the listing of this car offers prospective buyers an opportunity to own one of the most luxurious vehicles that could be purchased in Japan in 1990. If it is a car that appeals to your sense of luxury, you will find the Century located in Holliston, Massachusetts, and listed for sale here on eBay. The price of luxury is not as high as you might expect, because while the car has been listed with a price of $12,500, the option is available to make an offer.

It is no coincidence that the Century was originally introduced in 1967, and that bore a remarkably similar appearance to its little brother, the Crown. One interesting design feature that helps to set the Century apart from the Crown is the design of the grille. The one on the Century has a bit of a Mercedes-Benz touch about it. What makes this car pretty amazing is that while it isn’t unheard of for a car to survive for many years without major upgrades, the Century was introduced in 1967, and the first major redesign of the car didn’t occur until 1997. I don’t find the styling to be riveting, but the car does appear to be in good condition. The black paint has a nice shine to it, and there are no signs of any rust or corrosion issues. The trim and chrome are in good condition, so at least the next owner won’t have to make a bee-line to the nearest body shop.

Hiding under the hood (and all of that plumbing) is a 3,994cc fuel-injected V8 engine, which is backed by a 4-speed automatic transmission. As with most Toyota engines, this is a syrupy smooth unit, if not an overly powerful one. For all of its sophistication, it manages to produce 162hp, which is not as impressive as you would expect. However, what this car is all about is refinement, and the smoothness of the engine, combined with a computer-controlled automatic transmission, resulted in one of the smoothest cars that money could buy. The Century was imported from Japan 2-years-ago, and now has a verified 29,500 miles on the odometer. The owner says that since the car arrived from Japan, it has been driven around 500 miles, and this has included some miles clocked up during hot Florida weather. He reports that there have not been any issues with the car.

When you consider that this car was built in 1990, the interior is something of a technological triumph. As well as the digital dash, there is split system climate control air conditioning with controls for the rear passengers. The rear passengers also get full control of the car’s audio system. And of course, if the front passengers can have power seats, why can’t those in the rear? On top of all of this, you get power windows, power locks, power exterior mirrors, cruise control, a tilt wheel, side and rear curtains, and the rear passengers also get foot-rests. This car is equipped better than my living room! The condition of the interior is extremely good and certainly attests to the fact that the car was assessed in Japan as being in overall very good condition.

The Toyota Century is not a performance car, it is a car that is all about luxury. In Japan, the Century is a status symbol and a sign that the car’s owner is a person who has achieved a high level of success in their life. I guess that the “Japanese Rolls Royce” is probably an appropriate tag, but it could just as easily be the “Japanese Cadillac.” What is surprising is that there are a few of these for sale in the US right now. Prices vary wildly, from a low of $8,700, through to a high of $26,900. What makes this one stand out is that its condition and mileage aren’t dissimilar to the most expensive example, and it’s half that car’s price. That makes it an interesting proposition.

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Comments

  1. Arby

    Looks closer to the Japanese Zil to me.

    1
    • Dave

      Zil was Russian wasn’t it?

      1
  2. Gerry Member

    Considering it was a $100k car when new the price isn’t bad

    They are even few and far between here in japan.

    Jay Leno did a review of one on his you tube channel and though they got a few little things wrong it was a fairly accurate representation if you want to learn more.

    Its little brother the crown was by far ore widely sold and in top trim had many of the same features.

    1
    • Gerry Member

      Meant to say More not Ore don’t know why the edit function isn’t working

      Pic is of my DD 97 Crown

      4
      • Rube Goldberg

        Can’t edit on “early access”.

      • Gay Car Nut Tacoma

        Lovely looking Crown wagon. I’ve always been interested in JDM Toyotas. :)

    • Gay Car Nut Tacoma

      I remember Jay Leno doing videos on JDM Japanese cars. Besides the Toyota Century, he also drove an early Mazda Rotary Cosmo, a Nissan “Hakosuka” Skyline.

  3. Rube Goldberg

    Just think of the Asian bigshot that must have ridden in this. Maybe the Emperor himself. All that’s missing are the flags on the front bumper,,,

  4. Too Late

    I believe this is the car that Kim Jong Un was brought to school in. Had he been told to walk to school with his classmates like most of us did back then ,he would have turned out to be a much better leader of his country.

    2
  5. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. It’s a shame that Toyota never offered the Century here in the USA. I can see this as a car corporate CEOs either drove, or were driven. I’ve seen Toyota Centurys with the gear shift control on the steering column. This one has the gear shift control on the floor, between the driver and front seat passenger.

    1
  6. uncle al

    nice ! MOTOR TREND profiles this car and the new replacement for 2020 in the current issue…interesting read.

    2
  7. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    I haven’t read Motor Trend’s current issue about the Century. I’ve seen recent versions of the car, though, and I’ve found them less than attractive.

    1
  8. Hollywood Collier

    WOW….I like that Crown wagon Gerry. Sharp car my man. Thanks for sharing the pic.

    1
  9. JRH

    Am I the only one that thought air ride and better tires/wheels?

  10. Andrew Franks Member

    Gerry thanks for your shot of your wagon. Very nice and elegant in the tradition of Centuries. The advertised car is really interesting and may belong in the Ultimate Drivers Group. You will not see yourself in traffic in this car. Unique and restrained.
    There would be some concern about getting involved in an accident where body parts would be necessary. It’s a very nice car at a good price. I have no room. Somebody jump on this.

  11. AMCFAN

    A Japanese Cadillac? I think the Japanese are smarter then installing the laughable 4-6-8 V8 or GM diesel under the hood. Comparing this to a UAW GM is a horrible comparison. GM has NO pride in anything they make.

    4
    • Gay Car Nut Tacoma

      I agree. Just about everything GM has made in the past 30+ years have been of hideous quality.

      3
  12. Rodney - GSM

    Perfect! I can park it next to my Korean Bentley.

    1
  13. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    If I may say so, I find the Toyota Century way more attractive than any Rolls Royce.

  14. Graham Clayton

    One of the unusual interior features was that the passengers seat in the front had a panel that folded down, so that the rear passenger could fully straighten their legs while sitting in the back seat.

    I would definitely like to own a Century – the only V8 engined car built by Toyota.

    1
  15. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    At least until the Lexus LS400. I love earlier Toyota Century models. They have basically the same body, but grilles on earlier models, up to about the 1980s look more recessed. If you google the Toyota Century, you’ll see what I mean.

  16. Gerry Member

    Graham
    Toyota put V8’s in the Crown and the Landcruiser

    The equivalents to the Century domestically in Japan were the Nissan President and The Mitsubishi Debonair

    1
  17. Gerry Member

    Nissan President

    1
    • Gay Car Nut

      I’ve heard of the Nissan President. It was sold in Japan from 1965 until the 2000s.

  18. Gerry Member

    Debonair

    1
    • Gay Car Nut

      I’ve also heard of the Mitsubishi Debonair.

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