On the fifth floor of Toyota’s Toranomon dealership in Tokyo, Kouji Matsuda scurries around like an overexcited hamster. With seemingly double-jointed knees, he works unfashionably fast for a septuagenarian. He has to – he’s in demand.
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.
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
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.
Having skilfully manoeuvred around the tight workshop, he slots the car on a special, heavy-duty Century-proof ramp. 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.
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. 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.