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Up Close & In Depth: Toyota FT-1

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In the digital age we are immersed in, it’s inevitable that leaks will occur thanks to the power of the internet. I give Toyota a lot of credit for not allowing any leaks to happen especially with the convenience of smart phones and social media. Toyota UK had posted a teaser photo last month on their blog about a Toyota sports car concept appearing in Gran Turismo 6 but no indication of anything else for the future. My colleague Joaquín had wrote about the upcoming Toyota concept appearance in GT6 and discovered that a Toyota press conference was listed  for January 13, 2014 on the official NAIAS webpage. He felt that it had some correlation to the Toyota appearance in GT6 and to my surprise he was right!

So it’s Monday morning in Detroit,  Joaquín and I make our way to Day 1 of the 2014 NAIAS Press Days. We decided to skip breakfast at Tim Horton’s across from our hotel at the GM RenCen and made our way directly to the Detroit People Mover station. For those that have never been to Detroit, the People Mover is a fully automated train system that circles Downtown Detroit and conveniently stops at Cobo Center. Being an inexpensive and convenient way to get to the show, it also shields us from the below freezing temperatures outside. As we walk towards the station I notice a few Japanese men wearing Sony Gran Turismo jackets. I didn’t think much of it at first but it later dawned on me why they were there.

We make our way to the show floor and find our way early to the Toyota display towards the back of Cobo. Thinking we would be amongst the first to get into the press conference area, there was already a large crowd of journalists waiting upon our arrival. Once the gates opened, we quickly make our way to the last set of front row seats on the left side of the stage. As we awaited for the press conference to begin, I look around to see the seats filling up quickly. I also spot Calty President, Kevin Hunter with his entourage of people sitting up front and center. It was unknown to anyone if Akio Toyoda would be here as he’s known to come unannounced during a press conference. This holds true during his first visit to the 2011 NAIAS at the Prius family launch and later that year at the 2013 Lexus GS reveal in Pebble Beach

Although there was no sign of Toyoda-san in the building, I turned around to discover the “Father of Prius” and the Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, Takeshi Uchiyamada sitting directly behind us. There was no fanfare of his presence as he arrived quietly in the background. I looked over to Joaquín and said, “do you realize who’s sitting behind us?”, he answered yes with a huge smile. So it made me wonder, was his presence there to support a future breakthrough hybrid vehicle? Or does his presence some how connect with a desire for Toyota to have a sports car like the Supra?

As the countdown ends, the show begins with a video game animation of a curvy red sports car flashing on the screen while a red box suspended in the air slowly hovers down on stage. The red box lands on the floor, and pit crew of six wearing matching white Alpinestars race suits jump on stage and choreographically unbolts the box. The box is opened up and out rolls a sexy red two door coupé reminiscent of Toyota heritage sports cars of past. The cars that instantly came to mind were 2000GT, Celica, Supra, and of course the Lexus LFA and I realized by that time the video game animation was courtesy of the GT6 driving game. The team at Calty was in charge of creating the ultimate vision for the ultimate Toyota sports car and they did it by taking the best elements of Toyota’s and Calty’s past. Say hello to the Toyota FT-1.

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Exterior:

The overall look and feel of the FT-1 has the look of a modern military jet fighter. Thanks to the turbine inlets in the lower front fascia, the extensive use of carbon fiber aero pieces and aggressive stance, the FT-1 is ready for take off.  The wheel design also gives the look of large jet turbines on each side of the car. Although 2015 is just around the corner, FT-1 unfortunately cannot fly with its Dreamliner-like features.
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FT-1 features custom center locking 21″ graphite wheels all around wrapped in sticky Pirelli P-Zero Nero tires. with 305/30R21 tires out back and 245/35R21 up front. Big brakes with cross drilled rotors allow for quick fade-free stops.
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Speed sensitive retractable wing assists with downforce and features a hidden center high-mounted stop lamp on the bottom edge.
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Extensive use of carbon fiber aero helps with weight savings, aerodynamic downforce and stability.
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FT-1’s body lines are reminiscent of iconic Toyota heritage cars. Large fenders and a raked belt line gives the car an aggressive look at all angles.
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A sky view of the hood  gives a peek at the torsional chassis braces and a fairly large engine cover. The dual intake pipes nestled in the lower part of the window indicate that the FT-1 powerplant could be a longitudinal V type motor. Perhaps a small displacement V8 or a forced induction V6?
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Exposed jewel-like LED headlamps give the FT-1 a distinct modern look while an LED DRL accents the lower edge of the lamp assembly.
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Formula 1 inspired LED safety lamp with a large carbon fiber rear diffuser helps round off the FT-1’s aggressive yet sculpted rear end.
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Interior:

The interior of the FT-1 compliments the emotional exterior lines with plenty of detail. 
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The driver-focused interior is built like a jet fighter’s cockpit, cradling the driver with all the controls within a finger’s reach. Carbon fiber steering wheel wrapped with red leather is a throwback to the LFA including a wheel mounted push button start.
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Crucial drivetrain instrumentation with shift indicator is placed at the top of the carbon fiber steering wheel. It is placed within eye level and is reminiscent of the steering wheel tech found on the TS030 and former Toyota F1 race cars.
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Carbon fiber, black leather with contrast red stitching on the door panels is reminder of Toyota’s proud manufacturing and sports heritage.
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Aluminum FT-1 door sill plates is a reminder that you’re about to enter the “Ultimate Toyota” sports car.
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Carved aluminum pedals carry the jet fighter theme throughout the cabin. A leather wrapped center console knee-pad allows for extra comfort during hard cornering.
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Jet fighter-like head up display quickly gives the driver crucial information at all times.
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Simple but effective toggle switch gear is placed neatly in the center console within reach of the driver.
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Comparisons:

Toyota 2000GT (MF10) – It’s only natural for the FT-1 concept to carry on the heritage of this world-class sports car. The roofline, hood line, greenhouse, drivetrain and seating configuration are key elements that help distinguish FT-1’s deep heritage.

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4th Generation Toyota Supra (JZA80) – It’s been over a decade since the departure of this legendary sports car. Many enthusiasts feel that the FT-1 is the spiritual successor of the beloved Supra, some say otherwise. Toyota has yet to deny or confirm the resurrection of the Supra but trademark filings of the “Supra” name may hint at a return . Similarities to the MKIV Supra  include the long hood, rear spoiler height and side air ducts. Like the FT-1, many of the MKIV Supra’s inspiration came from the 2000GT.

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7th Generation Celica (ZZT230) – Rod Millen Ultimate Celica Concept – The seventh and final generation of the Celica. Calty was responsible for the design of this Celica and originated as the XYR Concept targeted at younger buyers. The Ultimate Celica Concept was project collaboration with TRD and Rod Millen Motorsports creating a near 500 HP all-wheel drive sports car utilizing a 3S-GTE and ST185 (6th Generation Celica) drivetrain.  The Ultimate Celica shares more similarities with the FT-1 mainly with the Formula 1 race car-style nose and center hood bulge.
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Calty Design Toyota FT-HS Concept (2007) – Starting as a Hybrid Sports concept, it’s evident the FT-1 is an evolution of the seven year old concept. You can see where the FT-86 Concept and Production 86/FR-S borrowed a lot of its lines from. FT-1 appears to be a refined and updated version of the FT-HS from the overall profile, greenhouse, roofline, hood line, engine opening and overall headlamp design.
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Calty Design Lexus LF-LC Concept (2012) – One of Calty’s more recent projects, the LF-LC’s curvy and swoopy lines has made its way to the FT-1. The most notable feature is the design of the afterburner-style  taillamps and the rear vents which funnel air from the side body vents.
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Lexus LFA (LFA10) – The pinnacle of the Lexus “F” marque, it’s evident that the LFA has inherited many of its styling cues and Yamaha heritage from its distant relative the 2000GT.  Sharing Toyota’s deep sports car heritage was important in the development of the Lexus Fuji Apex as it is the pinnacle of Toyota manufacturing and development. As LFA was a developmental tool in Toyota’s manufacturing process, it’s natural that the FT-1 will incorporate all the best elements of LFA.  The most notable features borrowed from LFA are the side vents, retracting rear spoiler, the carbon fiber front, side skirts and rear diffuser.
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I feel the team Calty was given one of the most difficult tasks to do, and that was to build the ultimate Toyota sports car. It is without a doubt that the FT-1 has some pretty big shoes to fill, but it’s assuring to know Toyota and Calty nailed it with the design. Being able to encompass all the great elements of Toyota sports history, Toyota FT-1 is the car we’ve been dreaming about.  It’s comforting to know Toyota has not abandoned their sports car heritage.With all the buzz surrounding FT-1 now, I’m confident that President Toyoda and Chairman Uchiyamada will champion this project to the finish.

Ryan B.
Ryan B.
Toyota, Lexus, Scion Connoiseur Also known as Flipside909, a lifelong Toyota & Lexus owner/enthusiast, community supporter, traveler and foodie.
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