Since the retirement of its Supra sports car, Toyota has lacked a performance flag-bearer around which enthusiasts could rally. The company's CALTY Design Research studio sought to address that hole in the company's product line when they conceived the FT-1, a concept sports car displayed at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The car's nomenclature indicates "Future Toyota-1," but before the idea could be approved for development into a concept car, designers had to convince senior management of the car's merit. To do this, they enlisted the game designers at Polyphony Digital, creators of the Grand Tourismo series of driving video games, who wrote the FT-1 into their game.
An opportunity to lap Fuji circuit at the wheel of a virtual FT-1 was the impetus to convince Toyota Motor Co. President and CEO Akio Toyoda of the car's potential appeal, said CALTY design manager William Chergosky. It probably didn't hurt that Toyoda achieved a faster lap time in the virtual FT-1 than he's done on the real track in his own racecar.
Toyota hasn't been a brand whose products evoked strong emotions recently, but Toyoda has called on employees to infuse new products with passion, and FT-1 is CALTY's attempt to do that, said Chergosky. "This is a look at what that means for the brand. We want to make people feel strongly about it."
The FT-1 is just a design exercise, not a prototype, so although it does move under its own power it lacks representative hardware beneath its sleek sheet metal. The goal is for that sheet metal to spark a reaction that encourages Toyota to develop the appropriate underpinnings for an actual product.
"The public's reaction can do nothing but help the impetus to create a vehicle like this," said Chergosky.
The car is imagined with a powerful front engine and rear-wheel drive, though there are no exact specifications available. While the Supra and Celica are obviously in the FT-1’s lineage, the greenhouse pays particular tribute to the 2000GT of the 1960s, with its wraparound windshield and side windows.
The cabin is designed to be similarly Spartan and purpose-oriented as in those classic sports cars, with minimal interior distractions and a head-up display showing the driver critical information. If the driver misses the race-orientation, the thinly covered composite bucket seat provides a reminder.
Regardless of whether this car is built or not, its styling points the way for Toyota’s future, said CALTY Design Research president Kevin Hunter: “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.”