I still remember the very first V12-powered car I drove – my father’s Daimler Double-Six – a Jaguar XJ12 with a fluted radiator grille surround. Once I’d become accustomed to that car’s super-light power steering, I was amazed at the exceptional smoothness of the engine. The Daimler simply swooshed down the road, and the grin on my face got broader – until I glanced at the speedometer and realised that I was actually doubling the posted speed limit! I’ve driven a number of V12-engined cars since the few hours spent at the wheel of that Daimler, including several V12 E-Types and XJ12s, not to mention a smattering of similarly powered Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and even a Lincoln-Zephyr V12. Great as they all were, the driving experience offered by these cars was quite different from that of the smooth and stately Double-Six.
More recently, I found myself at the wheel of a car that instantly brought back memories of that first drive in the V12 Daimler. Surprisingly, the car in question wasn’t an exotic European sporting saloon or GT. It was, in fact, a Toyota!
Oh, come on, Toyota never built anything as exotic as a V12 engine! Thinking about it, has any Japanese manufacturer ever designed and produced a V12? Surprisingly, Toyota’s extensive range of engines does, indeed, include a V12 – the only Japanese automaker to build such an engine – and they fitted them into a series of cars that would earn approval from Japan’s Emperor and Empress. Sounds impressive!
While many would probably regard the Lexus as representing Toyota’s top-of-the-line model range, in actual fact that honour belongs to the Toyota Century, an understated luxury car that first saw the light of day in 1967. Originally developed from the Toyota Crown, the Century was named to mark the 100th birthday of Toyota’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda. That first-generation Century would enjoy a production run that lasted for an impressive three decades, the car receiving only mild outward changes during that time. Initially, motive power for these well-equipped vehicles was derived from a 3.0-litre V8, although the capacity of the V8 was slowly increased during the car’s lifetime. In 1973, the V8’s capacity was upped to 3.4-litres, and in 1982 the entire car was substantially updated and fitted with a 4.0-litre V8. Looking decades ahead to a petroleum-free future, Toyota also showed off a gas-turbine-powered Century in 1975.
Building on the car’s success, in 1989 Toyota further enhanced the marque when they introduced the Century Limousine, an even more luxurious vehicle built atop a lengthened version of the standard Century chassis.
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