Detroit show: Toyota FT-1 Concept previews next-generation Supra

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Toyota virtually blew the doors off the North American International Auto Show with the reveal of the stunning FT-1 sports car concept. First devised by Calty Design Research in the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo game environment, FT-1 leapt from the screen to the stage in a race-inspired press conference at COBO Hall.

FT-1 stands for “Future Toyota,” and the number “1” represents the ultimate. According to its designers at Calty Design Research, the FT-1 Concept is the ultimate expression of a Toyota coupe design, building upon Toyota’s rich sports coupe heritage dating back to the 2000GT, Celica, Supra, MR2 and most recently Scion FR-S. In addition, the concept draws inspiration from Calty’s more recent sports car concept work such as FT-HS (2007) and the Lexus LF-LC (2012).

The project started nearly two years ago and the finished design is by far Toyota’s most aggressive concept. It also gives insight into the next-generation Toyota Supra, and even if the production version looks half like this concept, we can’t wait!

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“The FT-1 is a dream-project for a designer and car enthusiast like myself,” said Alex Shen, Calty’s Studio Chief Designer. “Our team was heavily influenced by Toyota’s sports car past, especially Celica and Supra, and we sought to capture some of that history. It is an aggressive, track-focused sports car concept with a presence that has been amplified for shock and awe.”

The FT-1’s audacious design represents the pinnacle of Calty’s 40th year of operation. Guided by the Toyota design ethos of Vibrant Clarity, a unique fusion of both emotional and rational factors that delivers a more exciting and dramatic design expression with unique Toyota identity, the concept is a spiritual pace car for Toyota Global Design. The goal of this ideological shift is to develop future generations of products that better connect emotionally with Toyota’s global consumer base.

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Traditionally, Toyota’s design decisions have been driven by consensus among a large group of stakeholders. Under CEO Akio Toyoda’s stated directive to invigorate Toyota products with energy, passion and “Waku-Doki” (translation: a palpable heart-pounding sense of excitement), the approval process has been streamlined. With the new approach, the company aims to produce cars that connect more deeply with customers.

The FT-1 concept adopts the “Function-sculpting” design language which yields curved, muscular, expressive body forms seemingly shaped by the wind. Inlets, ducting, and vents are features of the exterior design that help reinforce its track–ready nature with elements of purposeful airflow management. At higher speeds a retractable rear wing deploys and tilts forward to create additional downforce.

The front engine rear-wheel drive configuration locates the cockpit far rearward within the wheelbase to improve weight distribution. The cockpit’s wraparound windshield and side glass openings are a distinct nod to the design of the legendary Toyota 2000GT.

It’s all space age inside the FT-1. The driver-focused dashboard incorporates a color heads-up display to keep the driver’s attention on the road ahead, with vital information projected just above the steering wheel within the driver’s line of sight. The cockpit’s sense of minimalism emphasises the use of light weight components such as the composite seat covered with just the right amount of padding in only the areas that come into contact with the driver.

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No technical specifications have been released, but Toyota hinted that the FT-1 has a front-engine, rear wheel-drive layout that is powered by a “high-technology, high performance internal combustion engine”.

In preparation for pitching the concept to Toyota management, Calty worked with Polyphony Digital, creators of the popular Gran Turismo driving simulator, to bring FT-1 to life in a virtual world that captured the excitement, passion and performance conveyed by the concept model. Toyota executives were offered the opportunity to take FT-1 for a timed lap around a computer-generated Fuji Speedway. Behind the wheel of the concept, Toyota president Akio Toyoda, an accomplished race car driver, completed the virtual circuit faster than his best real-world lap time at Fuji in his LFA. From that moment, he was convinced and the concept was approved to be built in model-form for the international auto show circuit.

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“Sports cars represent the ultimate driving expression in its purest form. As car enthusiasts ourselves, this is the kind of project we dream about working on,” said Calty Design Research president Kevin Hunter. “Beyond its obvious five-alarm visual impact, FT-1 is symbolic of a new chapter for Toyota Global Design. This provocative concept truly captures the passion, excitement, and energy of the Toyota we are evolving into and embodies elements of the emotion and performance that Toyota will imprint upon future production designs.”

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