Driving the internet’s most famous V12 Toyota Century
We spent a few days with Youtuber Effspot’s Toyota Century with an $18,000 exhaust. Here's our take!
As Irene Cara sang, fame is when people remember your name. In our situation, people obviously did not know our name, but they did have one deeply anchored in their minds. It had to do with the Century we were driving.
Cruising around Tokyo with the windows down to aerate the vintage interior of the Century, a motorcycle loudly drove towards us. “EFFSPOT!” shouted the biker. We caught each other at the red light. The biker, who had watched YouTuber Effspot’s videos of this overly loud car, had recognized it. Following a quick chat and an exhaust demonstration, we parted ways. We were surprised by such a coincidence until it happened again, and again. We were driving an Internet famous Century that had racked up about 2+ millions of views on YouTube and it was a funny feeling to experience how these views translated into real life.
The Century in question
is a 2004 5.0L V12 Toyota Century. Unseen in any other region of the world, the Century is the Japanese Rolls-Royce equivalent made exclusively for the Japanese elite. The Imperial family, politicians, successful Japanese business executives, or shady yakuzas (organized crime bosses) are known to drive around in Centuries. Why the Century? Because not only is this car the epitome of Japanese luxury, it is a car that has been made to be chauffeured. Though many will choose a more modern Mercedes S Class or a Lexus LS 500, old Centuries remain a common sight and are just as revered as the modern ones.
What no one dares to say is that the 2004 model does resemble those '90s Toyota Crown Japanese taxis. However, it is much more imposing, structured and has that majestic stance whenever it gracefully drives on the concrete roads of Tokyo. On top of carrying Japan’s “creme de la creme” in its back seats, the Century flaunts the best of Japanese culture and craftsmanship. The logo represents the Hō-ō, an Asian mythological phoenix symbol of virtue, justice and fidelity. Only four official paint colours have been made available until today and this navy paint holds the meaningful name of Mashū (摩周) Serene Blue. Mashū is a crater lake of an active volcano located in Hokkaido (North of Japan) and known for being the clearest lake in the world. This navy blue imitates the clear and calm blue water of the lake.
As for the rest of the interior, it has been impermeable to time and got stuck in the '90s. The comfortable seats are made of wool and though wool does possess remarkable thermal insulation properties, it does resemble those old Japanese meeting rooms where clients would go meet the shachou (CEO), and hand in stacks of hanko (Japanese seal) stamped paperwork. When it comes to leg room, the passenger of the left backseat can open up the back of the front seat to rest legs. As the leg rest was given a priority, tray tables are missing which is quite a minus point for a “CEO mobile” if you ever had some work to do. And while 2004 brought some wonderful technologies such as DVDs, Motorola flip-phones and the beginning of Facebook, you may have to watch some video cassettes to entertain yourself instead of working.
The $18,000 exhaust
The Century’s V12, just like Rolls-Royce, is elegantly silent and comes nothing close to the Lamborghini Aventador’s roaring V12. That is, unless you’ve added an $18,000 exhaust to it.
Brilliant Exhaust came to be with the idea of making car owners “shine” when driving their cars on the road; for those owners who look for the “real deal” when it comes to modifying their cars in a way that would feel most authentic to them. Built by Mr. Sasaki of Technical Garage Sasaki, Brilliant Exhaust has worked on many brands such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Mercedes to name a few. However, an exhaust for the Toyota Century was a first because let’s face it, modifying a luxury chauffeured car into sounding like a Formula 1 car does sound like an absurd idea.
Building a new exhaust for the Century was not an easy task yet it was for Mr. Sasaki the opportunity to test his abilities. It is needless to say that in this garage, it goes far beyond replacing the exhaust tip. Here, it is about the engineering of a new sound. The Century’s exhaust manifold was created from scratch and Mr. Sasaki had to give it a second try to get to the results he had in mind. Not only was it a complex build, it was also a challenge to find a place to fit the massive 6-1 exhaust manifold. The engine bay is packed and already housing a V12, making the tetris-like process of fitting in a manifold extremely time-consuming.
Driving the modified Century
The Century is far from being a complex car to drive. It is heavy which makes it feel more grounded going around corners, but the slow-to-respond brakes do encourage a slower driving behaviour. With only 4 gears available, the car does not rev so high. A manual mode is available at your own risks, if you can delicately manage the rusty mechanism. The digital screen does not give out much information but the power released seems to reach a maximum of 300 hp at 5,200 rpm and the exhaust starts chanting around 3,500 ~ 4,000 rpm. Though the car does not go fast, it hits all the top notes.
There is no other word than “crazy” to appropriately describe the sound that comes out of the Brilliant Exhaust. The sound is deafening but the interior of the Century is incredibly well insulated to the point that we often asked ourselves “is that all?” Though not as loud as the infamous Brilliant Exhaust Mercedes Benz S600, it confuses pedestrians just as much as they look around expecting to find a flashy Lamborghini driving down the road.
However more than the noise, the Century attracts by its presence. Most pedestrians are uninterested, yet with the Century being a Japanese cultural symbol, many have turned around and pointed at the car exclaiming “it’s a Century!” Their surprise often turned to confusion as they would see a young foreign couple driving the car with no chauffeur and coming out of it by themselves, with no one opening the door for... us.
Unless you need an affordable car in which you know you will earn some respect amongst your Japanese business partners, you probably will not be buying a 16 year old Century. Completely devalued, the Japanese masterpiece is a little out of breath after so many years. Having lived a long life of dedicated servitude to its previous owners, the Century was probably not expecting to fall into the hands of a YouTuber, yet it did. After profound modifications, the Century has reborn into something new, something loud. And though its frail V12 heart may not be able to handle the accelerated heart beats for too long, it’s been given an exciting and famous life that other Centuries would never encounter even in their wildest dreams.