This man knows Toyota Centurys inside out

By topgear, 30 June 2019

batch row06465

Kouji Matsuda has worked on Toyota Centurys for over 50 years

batch row06515

On the fifth floor of Toyota’s Toranomon dealership in Tokyo, Kouji Matsuda scurries around like an overexcited hamster.

batch row06471

With seemingly double-jointed ­knees, he works unfashionably fast for a septuagenarian. He has to -; he’s in demand.

batch row06585

Born in 1949, Matsuda has worked as a mechanic for Toyota for the past 51 years. Having completed two years of mandatory training as a teenager, he went straight into working on -; what was at the time -; Toyota’s new luxo barge. He’s never stopped.

batch dsc06393

Having spannered his way around every generation and a healthy chunk of the 40-odd-thousand Centurys in existence, owners now send their cars from all over Japan for his blessing.

batch dsc06479

At five feet tall, he’s dwarfed by the Century that we’ve delivered to the fifth floor. With an oil-flecked green and white romper suit hanging loosely around his tiny frame, his diddy Velcro shoes squeak against the polished floor as he darts to the driver’s door and plops himself behind the wheel.

batch row06339

Having skilfully manoeuvred around the tight workshop, he slots the car on a special, heavy-duty Century-proof ramp.

batch dsc06351

batch dsc06416

batch row06377

In the time it’d take us to remove a dust cap, he’s checked all the tyre pressures, used a special torque wrench to check the beefed-up suspension, and had a proper nose underneath, before using a step ladder to valet the thing.

batch dsc06495

batch dsc06487

batch dsc06489

batch dsc06493

As most Centurys sit around waiting for VIPs, their constant idling means they chew through consumables and oil at twice the rate of your normal Toyota. And, with all that weight, brakes too.

batch dsc06485

batch row06314

But as the old V12 has been canned, Matsuda is back off to school to learn how to work on the hybrid drivetrain. No doubt he’ll pass with flying colours. But what an honour to have seen the grand master at work.

STORY Rowan Horncastle