A Japanese Limo Lost In Canada

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a large part of their life shaped by a love of cars. The connections, encounters and experiences that I’ve had on my journey as a car enthusiast have been incredible, and the people I’ve met equally so.

Yes, this can be said about almost any hobby, but I’m sure you’d rather me talk about cars than needlepoint.


I met Ken, the owner of the car we’re looking at here, a few years ago at a local Cars n’Coffee Toronto event. Outside of cars we share a lot of similar interests: BMX, hockey, and parenthood to name a few. We also have family a few blocks from each other.

Realistically we may have eventually crossed paths outside of cars, but it’s much easier to introduce yourself to the guy poking his camera inside your car than it is the stranger with a BMX shirt and headphones on.


At the time we first met, Ken owned a Toyota Celsior. I thought the car was absolutely stunning, which is why I’ve included photos of it in this post. Done in a very traditional, some might say ‘old school’ VIP style, it was classy, timeless and mature.


As good as I thought the car was, Ken assured me he could do better. His sights were set on a more exclusive platform, the platform he said he should have bought immediately when changing gears from tuner builds to VIP.

That car was a JDM Toyota Century – he just had to find one available for import.

Japanese Rolls-Royce

The Century remains Toyota’s flagship car, a top-of-the-line personal limousine rarely seen outside of Japan. In Japan its use is often reserved for dignitaries including high-rank government officials and CEOs.


The second generation model was produced, nearly unchanged, from 1997 through 2016. Despite being produced for so long very few exist outside of Japan, and as we cruised from spot to spot, ushered along by the eerily-quiet V12 up front, several onlookers pulled up alongside to ask what it was. ‘Is it some kind of Rolls-Royce?’ seemed to be the most common question.


As a car you’re meant to be driven in, Ken’s Century has amenities not found in many of the vehicles I’ve photographed – and especially so for one built in 1997. The Toyota features front and rear CRT GPS screens, along with front and rear audio controls, and even has a factory ottoman built into the passenger front seat. The seats themselves are extremely plush wool cloth, and front and rear both recline.

It might be more comfortable inside the Century than it is in my own living room.

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When Ken’s Century arrived via boat from Japan, he had already collected the prerequisite wheels and a drop. Aways intended to be VIP build, a proper laid out stance was fundamental.

Air Lift Performance suspension can be found at all four corners, with a neatly executed Air Lift 3P setup in the trunk. In the current VIP realm the 20-inch Enkei Classic wheels might have a conservative width and offset, but Ken wanted to avoid fussing around with the factory fenders, or worse the factory paint. Stretched tires and excessive ride height camber are also not for him.


Playing off the subtle wheel choice, Ken added an equally subdued Freedom Legion lip to the front end, and out back you’ll find SilkBlaze exhaust tips. The factory headlights and taillights have been replaced with later OEM GZG50 units, and Ken also has a set of authentic illuminating Japanese license plates, reserved only for show or photoshoot use.

Like most VIP builds, Ken has opted to leave the V12 stock. Given how rare and unusual the engine is, I can’t say I blame him.


Ken’s currently mulling over the idea of adding a body kit to the Century, though it’s not a priority by any means. While he’s considering his options, he’s focused attention on accessorizing the interior. The collection of OEM GZG50 Toyota Century factory-option parts he’s gathered is pretty phenomenal. So far it extends to a cassette player, shaver, and a car phone – items (often made by Sony) that Toyota had branded just for the Century.

One item that is not specific to the Century, but incredibly interesting none the less, is a Toyota-branded facsimile machine. Ken doesn’t know what model it was made for, but it totally suits the interior he’s put together.


I’d love to tell you whether or not it works but I’ve never really been important enough to need to send or receive a fax, let alone from the back of a moving vehicle.

The lace you see on the top of the seats is typical of taxis and limos in Japan, and their purpose is to keep the seats and headrests clean. Similar lace makes up the curtains fitted to the rear windows. Again, everything is fashioned around luxury and the travelling experience.

Outside of the Air Lift Performance controller, the sole non-Century item in the interior is the Fabulous wood-rimmed steering wheel.


To celebrate the realization of his dream to own and modify a Toyota Century, Ken is currently embarking on a journey from the Toronto area to Las Vegas, stopping in at a number of different events along the way. In Vegas he’s graciously offered to pick up yours truly before we both head to SEMA.

The car isn’t in the big show this year, but if Ken does follow through with some of the body modifications, who’s to say what the future might hold.

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom

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that century sure is such a nice looking car especially standing still.

but i want to see more of that celsior please. i'm a huge celsior/ls400 nut. does he still have it and can i see like a spotlight/possible feature on it?


He parted it out to build this. But I'll grab some photos for you later :)


This is incredible. I actually hope he doesn't go through with the body modifications – it's a work of art as it is.


You should do a small article about the trip in the Century, like Keiron did in the Mustang.


I'm travelling via plane, so it would just be a short trip from the airport. But I'll see what I can do!


I have to say both the Century and the Celsior has to be the best stance build ever
I just love that business look that old luxury cars got


I don't like the shape of this car, nor do I love the interior. I'm not a big fan of the whole VIP scene either. Of course I can also consider myself a dinosaur, 'cause I don't like air suspension.

However... This car is bagged and slammed, but it doesn't have stretched tires, or ridiculous camber.
Wheel and tire combo are ON POINT.
And it's all executed so nice and clean, I gotta admit: I LOVE IT.

I really loved it. It's not easy to see a car that's not beautiful on it's own, modified within a style that's not particularly your cup of tea, and nonetheless, is just beautiful to look at.

Congrats to the owner, for building something different, and for having great taste in the way he did it.


nice man, I love seeing things like this from the beautiful country of Canada ;w; makes me cry tears of pure Canadian Maple Syrup


oh man that V12 car is so f*cking rad, i want to be the chauffeur for this guy and just drive it all day and feel that smoothness and level of engineering nothing in that price range can touch, pure bliss.


It’s a massacre of antimacassars!
The 2-way radio aerial on the trunk suggests it may have been formerly a police chiefs official car, a la my buddy’s President.


In the 90's I did a fax into a WRX for a 40 something yo lady who apparently liked both ripping around the country and receiving contracts in hard copy to sign and return.


You mentioned the owner wanted to perform a "proper" VIP build.

Considering how much negative camber and how little ground clearance a VIP car has, I don't think the word "proper" really applies here.


It's on air, it gets a fair deal of lift too.


I’ve seen this car twice in Toronto before and was surprised to see it out in SoCal this past weekend. Car is immaculate and I never get tired of seeing it


Well done Dave, love this!