The Emperor's Palace | Tomica Toyota Century | Inspection Room
Stuck between pricing rock and a high place, the mainline Century can only promise so much
Inspection Room has been reviewing Tomica’s best of the Red Box line for the past few months now, but it’s been a while since the last single-car write-up, largely because it’s more fun to measure the Basic cars against an equivalent from another brand.
But without the budget necessary for comparative evaluations, I’ll be stuck with individual reviews for now. Though if I’m honest, there’s more than enough quality words to throw around — especially for a model like the Toyota Century.
For this Inspection Room feature, I’ll be reviewing Tomica's 2019 Toyota Century casting.
A Rolls-Royce Ghost will look at a Toyota Century as it arrives at the stock exchange meeting and adjust its designer-tailored tie. After all, that Century contains the Emperor of Japan, or TV Tokyo's CEO, or maybe even the boss of the Yakuza. That is how significant the Toyota Century is: in a sense, it chooses its clientele, as if the car personally vets who gets to own the ¥19,600,000 ultra-executive saloon.
And why wouldn’t it? This generation of Century that Tomica is replicating is the grandson of the one that was first built in 1967, which means it has a reputation to uphold: one of total comfort,absolute isolation, bulletproof reliability and unassailable prestige. Even with a new hybrid powertrain, it’s a car whose command lies not in athleticism but in authority, befitting that of the Imperial Family it primarily serves.
So what’s this prestigious machine doing in the Red Box line? Surely this sort of car deserves nothing less than an equally high-quality true 1:64 replica from the super-premium Tomica Limited Vintage series, not a 1:70 toy that a child won’t full appreciate until they’re older, right? It’s not like the wheels inspire confidence. The fitment may be accurate to the real car, but are thin, flimsy-feeling, barely able to carry the weight of the car above it, and rattle like covers for steel wheels.
The details are equally inconsistent — why have lensed headlamps but stop at tampo-printed (and easy-to-scratch) taillamps? Even the paint looks too thick that it hides what little defining lines the body has, but is too reflective that it’s hard to shoot the thing with minimal glare (though in this case I may just need an ND filer). Given its price, I understand the limitations, but in this case it may have been a better call to push this car to the mid-range Premium line.
Which isn’t to say that this car has no merit. If anything, this may be one of the best castings in Tomica’s Basic lineup last year from a chassis/body criteria. It’s heavy yet balanced, and tough enough to survive some crash-‘n’-bash action. The front end has great texture work, and every emblem is so clearly-rendered that frankly, the pictures disappoint in showing the crest at the front.
Couple that with the evenly-set glass, fully-featured interior and solid base and you get a car that does a splendid job at hiding its bargain-bin price, for the most part. Honestly, this just needs slightly wider wheels, at least enough that it can support the body while still rolling camber-free. Because for what is ostensibly a toy, the casting has high display potential. Then again, though, it’s a Toyota Century. The toy is always bound to the standards the real car is measured against.
Judging this Century on its own is difficult, more so than other single-car reviews I’ve done. Without much of a reference — or reverence — to the real thing, evaluating the toy starts to become an exercise in nitpicking. It’s not like I have a 1:64 or 1:72 Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Maybach lying around to compare it against.
On one hand, the casting is legitimately good — it did quite well in last year’s poll. On the other hand, I can’t help but see untapped potential, that the casting is still leaving some more on the table because a kid isn’t one to be super-careful with their toys, so why bother splurging on more details that will either go unnoticed or just be chipped away over time?
I suppose I should see it from the toy’s perspective. Sure, it’s a Century, but it’s still a toy, and all it can do is serve its purpose to its owner. Maybe it can be a plaything, maybe it can be a diorama filler. Maybe it can even show how far Tomica Basic has come — and how much farther it can go.
So ends my whirlwind one-day shoot and review for this particular model. This piece came out of nowhere to me, initially as stocking-filler until I came up with the headline image. I was so proud of how it came out that I didn’t want to settle for a one-shot. Thus, I fired off enough of these to make a review out of. Here’s hoping you enjoyed my return to verticals.
Tomica 2019 Toyota Century