The Japanese motor industry is one of the most powerful and traditional of the international scene. It is the birthplace of renowned manufacturers such as Toyota, Mazda, Honda or Nissan; among many others. His priorities initially were to make vehicles for the national market, always with their particularities. Later they conquered other markets thanks to their technology or level of refinement. However, it is striking that in all of history there has only been one engine Japanese V12 production. Let’s talk about him and reveal his origins.
Toyota was its architect, the truth is that it is quite logical that the automotive giant would also have experimented with this type of mechanics at some point. The fact is that in the 1960s they designed a representation saloon that had the objective of fighting against examples of Rolls-Royce and other luxury brands. It was called Century, since it served as celebration of Sakichi Toyoda’s centenary, founder of the Japanese brand. In the beginning it was powered by V8 mechanics, but the time came to rethink it.
In 1997 there was the first changegenerational of the model (yes, 30 years later) and the important changes arrived. Not on an aesthetic level, since they tried to maintain the essence of the original, it was more in terms of equipment and also in its innards. That’s when the 1GZ-FE engine, that 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V12 that has made it the first and only Japanese production model to have that type of mechanics. Now they could look face to face with the Phantom and its traditional twelve-cylinder block.
Technically, the 1GZ-FE was an aluminum block with the cylinder banks facing each other at an angle of 60º, with double camshaft (DOHC) for a total of 48 valves. It had new features such as a shared forged steel crankshaft for the two banks of six cylinders, while the electronic injection was independent for each bank, having two ECUs so that it could continue working if there was a breakdown in one of the cylinders. The truth is that reliability was one of its strong points, since it was not as stretched as it really could be.
In the Toyota Century, this V12 engine delivered 280 hp (276 hp), which was the maximum figure agreed in Japan after a “gentlemen’s agreement” in the mid-70s. The truth is that the exported examples reached up to 299 HP, although their potential was greater. The engine torque of 481 Nm was reached at 4,000 rpm, but the truth is that there was already more than 400 Nm pushing from 1,200 rpm. Despite being a two-ton vehicle, the Century was a very refined and not slow-powered sedan.
The only Japanese V12 had a quite interesting life, as it was available in the second generation of the Century between 1997 and 2017. In between it had a revision and even an option to run on gas. No less than 9,573 units were sold in the two decades it was in existence. The bad news was disappearance in 2018 along with the arrival of the third generation. The one that lasts to this day changed the V12 for a hybrid V8, specifically the same system used by the Lexus LS 600h. This brought an end to a brief but truly interesting dynasty.