Think of some iconic Japanese car engines, and you’ll probably build up a list in your head pretty quickly. Toyota 2JZ, Honda F20C, Nissan RB26DETT; you get the idea. However, if I asked you to name a Japanese V12, you’d probably struggle. In fact, in terms of production motors, there’s been just one: the 1GZ-FE. The reason why this one might have passed a lot of us by - I myself only learned about it late last year after writing about a custom-built double 1JZ V12 project - is it’s never been used in a Toyota performance car. Instead, since its introduction in 1997, it’s only ever powered the Toyota Century - a car not available outside of Japan.
Yep, this 5.0-litre behemoth’s only job has been to power the second-generation Century, a two-tonne waft-mobile beloved by important Japanese government types. And the Yakuza. The car is still built now, having barely changed in its 18 year production run.
The GZ isn’t what you’d call a stressed engine; the 48-valve lump - which has variable valve timing - makes 305bhp and 355lb ft of torque. It also has an ECU for each cylinder bank, so it can run on just one half of the engine if any reliability issues arise.
Disappointed about the sole, low-power application of Japan’s only V12? Don’t worry; numerous tuners have gotten their hands on the 1GZ-FE and spiced it up accordingly. The most notable example is a fourth-generation Supra built by Top Secret, which has a 1GZ under the bonnet, cranked up to almost 1000bhp thanks to a twin-turbo setup.