One-off Toyota Century drop-top to be Crown Prince Naruhito's coronation ride

Japan's emperor in waiting has chosen Toyota's new Century as his royal wheels. He'll even use a special open-top version built by Toyota for Wednesday's coronation.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
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Japan's emperor-to-be, Crown Prince Naruhito, has selected a new Toyota Century as his official daily royal transport. For his coronation, however, Naruhito, who ascends to his father Emperor Akihito's throne on Wednesday, will eschew riding in the Japanese automaker's flagship sedan. Instead, Naruhito will ride in a specially commissioned, one-off open-top Century that has yet to be seen in public, the Wall Street Journal reported April 27. The choice was confirmed in an official notice from the Japanese Government (PDF). According to Toyota officials reached for comment by Roadshow, the automaker has never built a Century without a roof before this car. 

At Crown Prince Naruhito's last big ceremony, in 1993, he and Crown Princess Masako appeared in a black Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible to mark their nuptials. There was evidently some talk about reconditioning that same vehicle and pressing it into service for this week's ceremonies, but according to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the car has fallen into disrepair and spare parts have proven difficult to source. Hence, the Century.

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Toyota's new Century sedan, you may recall, hit the market last year. Starting at around $180,000, this ultraexclusive home-market-only limousine is popular among CEOs, politicians and yes, royalty. (It's also coveted by Japan's legendary organized crime contingent, the Yakuza). Just 50 examples are hand-assembled each month by specially trained master craftspeople, and the model enjoys a huge waitlist. 

For the moment, apart from the lack of roof, mum's the word on specifications, let alone images for this special coronation ride. In fact, it's not even clear if the vehicle offers a folding convertible top or if it's simply a dedicated roofless parade car without weather protection. We're hoping to learn more once the car breaks cover during ceremonial duties later this week. 

2018 Toyota Century
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2018 Toyota Century

The new king of old-school cool, Toyota's Century features available woolen seats, a power ottoman and live tv.


Based on the last-generation Lexus LS hybrid sedan, this new Century looks particularly classic and upright in the model's grand tradition, but it is fully up to date when it comes to convenience and safety features. Further, the electrified 5.0-liter hybrid V8 has plenty of oomph, with Toyota quoting 425 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. (If you're interested in learning more about this unique vehicle, I was fortunate enough to become the first Western journalist to drive the new model, and you can read my impressions of the Century here). 

It's fitting that this third-generation model of Toyota's flagship sedan will have a role in the changing of the guard of Japan's imperial family. After all, Akihito just became the first emperor to abdicate his throne in more than 200 years -- that's two Centuries to you and me.