Since the Supra’s departure from US shores in 1998, Toyotaku have been eagerly waiting for its return. Every year or so there’d be rumors about a new halo sports car for the Toyota brand, including the weeks leading up to this year’s Detroit Auto Show. The only difference was, this time the rumors were true. Behold, the Toyota FT-1 concept.
Yes, there’s that ugly word “concept” tacked on to the end. But even if it’s not ready for production prime time, it’s an crucial step for Toyota itself. In company parlance, “FT” stands for “Future Toyota” (remember the FT-86 concept augured the neo-hachiroku), and despite all the negative associations with the brand, Future Toyota Number One is not a Camry, Prius variant, or some weird alternative-fuel unicycle. It’s a proper sports car, just like the Toyotas we used to know.
“The name says it all,” according to Toyota’s official statement. “The FT-1 is the ultimate expression of a Toyota coupe design, building upon Toyota’s rich sports coupe heritage, dating back to the 2000GT…”
The FT-1 was designed at Toyota’s Calty studio in southern California (we toured the facility in 2011), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It was the first design center established by any automaker in America’s car culture mecca and has penned some of ToMoCo’s most memorable cars, including the T180 Celica, A80 Supra, and the original Lexus SC.
The first Calty design, however, was the A40. That, of course, was the car started life as a Celica but founded the Supra dynasty when Toyota stuffed a straight-six under the hood to create the Celica Supra.
To underscore how much Toyota is drawing on its heritage with the FT-1, they even re-created an archival photo of the A40 project. What a difference a few decades makes. More team members, fewer porn-staches.
On the FT-1, Calty’s studio chief designer Alex Shen said, “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.”
Other elements of Toyota history are included as well. For one, the double-bubble roof harkens back to Toyota’s first world-class sports car, the 1967 2000GT. The distinct wraparound windshield and side glass is also a tribute to the 2000GT, and we’re thrilled to see what JNC readers have dubbed the Nozaki Arc repeated on both the FT-1 and the Scion FR-S. This could, and should be a recurring theme on all Toyota coupes.
Though powertrain details were not revealed at this time, the long hood was sculpted to give the impression that a inline-six was lurking beneath its curves. Toyota has largely abandoned that configuration in favor of more compact V6s, but the lineage of the 2000GT and Supra’s straight sixes were important to the design team. Toyota would only say that any engine would be a non-hybrid petrol unit mounted aft of the front axle.
The bump on the rear deck is also reminiscent of the last-gen Supra. A spoiler activates at speed, but rather than a tiny tilting lip it’s a massive, retractable two-post wing evoking the A80 Supra as well.
The overall look of the FT-1 is incredibly aggressive, even rawer and more muscular than the Lexus LFA. Though its vents and scoops are reminiscent of the LFA, especially in the rear, they’re more cohesive and better integrated into the body. In fact, it splits the difference quite beautifully between the Scion FR-S and LFA, giving middle-brand Toyota its own halo car and unique look that’s still clearly part of the extended family.
Perhaps most importantly, the FT-1 represents a new direction for Toyota itself. When CEO Akio Toyoda took the helm in 2009, he vowed to create sports cars for enthusiasts. At the time, Toyota had spent the better part of a decade killing off the Supra, MR2, Celica and anything that wouldn’t sell by the boatload to the point-A-to-B masses.
If it looked like those cars had been designed by committee, that’s because they were. Akio Toyoda is one of us, an enthusiast and racer himself. He uprooted the company hierarchy and mandated that Toyota products be invigorated with wakudoki, a Japanese word for “a palpable, heart-pounding sense of excitement.” The result was a streamlining of the corporate approval process, directly impacting how the FT-1 was brought to fruition. Upcoming models will benefit as well, and with fewer cooks in the kitchen each car can now stay truer to its core mission.
The FT-86 took three years to go from concept to production so Toyotaku may be waiting a while yet for the FT-1, but it’s clear that a sea-change has taken place back at Toyota City. All three Toyota brands now have a clear directive in the sports car realm, and the future of Toyota is looking bright indeed.
Urgh, hate that beak! But apart from that it’s all win!
…and that clear bit of the hood
Yeah, but it’s Formula-One inspired, though.
Formula 1 cars MOSTLY look the way they do because of the rules that require them to look the way they do. This car is not benefiting from excessive ugliness the way an F1 car does (being legal for competition).
Like the side profile, but not so much the front. I would bet there would be an inline six. Believe I read somewhere Toyota is in cahoots with BMW designing and inliner?
Yes, Toyota and BMW have officially struck a deal to work on a sports car and that is likely why Toyota will not reveal any drivetrain details.
Why does it seem to have the Nissan GTR’s design cues? LIke the slits just behind the front wheels that look like the flared fender creases and the rear haunches at the rear wheels. But that’s one sexy bodied Toyota, though. Prettiest Toyota I’ve seen since the second gen. MR2. Lastly, it looks a heck-of-lot better than the boring and bland NSX concept, I tell ya that.
The backside looks like a TVR Sagaris.
I guess its just me but the best photo above is the B&W archival photo of the a40 and those sexy wheels………
I’ll never have one, but I can dream!
I actually DO like “that clear bit of the hood;” it’s a halo car! It’s probably the closest thing to a racecar they can put on the street.
Agree with salia-nwonk; would love to see a return of that old Supra for the rest of us, and those style of wheels DO look great on just about ANY vehicle.
Since you mentioned it, who’s moronic idea was it to kill off the Supra, MR-2, etc, that brought younger people into the dealerships? THEY are the people responsible for the average Toyota buyer (last I read) being something like 52 years old.
Maybe it’s the intoxicating red, but I’m seeing some Enzo Ferrari here. With so much going on in the design, I’m a little surprised how much I like it.
Well, there are only so many shapes, and certain things are necessary for aerodynamics, etc, so yeah, there’ll be some similarities.
From what I’ve read, the Italian supercars are stupid expensive just to keep running, so I’ll take the Toyota.
Dudn’t matter; I ain’t never gonna have any of ’em. 🙂
It IS a great shade of red, though!
Go Toyota, GO!!!!!!
The 86 needs a big brother, then a smaller brother too!
The FT-1 gets the thumbs up as a Supra successor. Get it on the road to whip all the Pasta Rockets & Euro-trash pretenders. GT-R is big & tough, but he needs help! 🙂
Then take aim at the “hot hatch” market. VW Polo GTi, Golf GTi, WHAT? Both are games for pansies! Remember the Starlet GT. Think back Toyota………think back.
If we ALL will it, it will come! 🙂
This hits on ALL cylinders for me. It’s bold, fresh, a bit odd but in a good way, and overall very good-looking. Certainly blows me away!!! The side profile is absolutely gorgeous. From the rear 3/4 it even has a bit of a TVR feel to it. PUT IT TO PRODUCTION!!! Well done Calty!!! I know Toyota has a sports car deal w/ BMW, but I certainly hope the engine of the production version will be Toyota-sourced and -developed. Is there anything more perfect than a Toyota high-performance engine? No. =P
i dont really like all of the holes and lines but the side profile is beautiful and i love the direction and idea of it i realllllly hope they go through with it.
These photos make me feel “a palpable, heart-pounding sense of excitement” in my pants.
Toyota clearly looking at the 100k-150k segment here, they see as competition F-type, Viper, Nissan GTR. Waste of time.
You can keep this mutilated abomination of a FR-S spliced to a Corvette wearing a 4C skin graft. But first you better double check and make sure you have met your vents and slits quota and that your wheels are big enough. Im not sure those 24″er wagon wheels will be enough.
Just throw it in the trash and rehash the A80, its much cleaner and better looking. Make it out of aluminum and make a 3jz who passes current fascist emissions and safety laws.
It’s lame. I am not 12, and don’t want a car designed for one. Doing something classy would not be hard, and would have broader appeal.
That being said, I don’t care about a future Supra, would not buy one and see little market for one. Hurry up and deliver a 4-door Toyobaru. Give it simple lines, and call it the Corona. It’s a name you already have, and it has history.
I’d like to see them do both.
3 years to save……….. Any chance this will rival the 86 in price 😉
Hi, responding to old Supra article nice car but I wish it had targa opening like previous car and it would be nice to pay tribute and have a Paul Walker Edition and pay homage to ‘Fast and Furious’.Since I deal in Hot wheels in Al., I hope they put out car soon, by the way it is official there will be a Toyota/Mazda Plant built in this state. Hey check me for Hot wheels.Thanks