MARK VAUGHN

Toyota redresses FT-1 concept

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Mark Vaughn is a senior editor at Autoweek, a sister publication of Automotive News.
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It’s the second coming of the Toyota FT-1.

Toyota pulled the cover off of a second concept version of the FT-1 super sports car in Monterey, Calif., on Wednesday.

Both versions of the FT-1 were shown, squeezed between classic supercars and big business jets. Showing off both the first and second FT-1s in California is a good way to gauge popular reaction to the car among people who might buy it -- and to use that popular reaction to present a case to Tokyo to build the car.

Will it be built? No one is saying yet, but consider this: in the 41 years that Toyota's Calty design center has operated in southern California, Toyota’s top management has only ever asked for a second stamping of a concept car twice.

The first request was the Lexus LF LC. The new FT-1 concept marks the second time it has happened.

The only thing different with this concept is the color. Yes. That's it. Inside and out, the colors are new.

“It can really change your perception of it, the value of it, with just a simple thing like painting it a different color,” said Kevin Hunter, president of Calty, where both FT-1s were made. “I’m still fascinated by that. [Changing a car’s color to get a new response] is nothing new but it’s pretty interesting in the design world how you can change the perception of something just by giving it a different color.”

The exterior grayish-looking blend is called “graphite,” and the interior colors are redone in what Toyota designers are calling “saddle.”

“We had a limited time to figure out what’s the easiest way to accomplish that change without doing too much and ruining the original concept,” said Sellene Lee, creative designer at Calty. “So we had to go through quickly what we could do. Luckily we found this saddle and we thought, that’s the best way, to simply change the color.”

To create a more refined, GT-like experience, Toyota trimmed the second FT-1 concept in saddle leather.

While the original Detroit show car was overtly sporty, appealing to the supercar lust of those who saw it, by simply changing the interior from black with red accents to the second car’s goldish-yellow “saddle” shades, the car suddenly goes from pure sports car to more sporting GT. It goes from the original FT-1’s $60,000 ballpark price tag to, perhaps, something higher.

“Maybe there’s a customer who wants more premiumness out of a supercar, not the rawness of the first car,” said Lee.

If Toyota can charge more than $60,000 for the car, profits, and therefore production, possibilities might increase. Who knows?

Calty's studio team poses with the first FT-1.

The leather samples we saw really did bring the FT-1 up a class or two. The inside looked downright Bently-esque, maybe.

In the original concept, the interior was supposed to represent a “superhero’s suit,” said Lee.

“We don’t create show cars just to create needless studies. There’s usually a reason,” said Hunter.

If it does go to production, expect some of the proportions to change: the width, the wider haunches in particular, and maybe the bulbousness of that probiscous snout. But if a production car were to be made, it would still be recognizable as an FT-1.

“We create these as theater,” said Hunter. “We want it to be believable within a certain understanding so that when somebody looks at this car they can imagine it on the road. We don’t want to create space ships that look like science fiction. We try to create a balance with just the right amount of stuff to get everybody excited but it pushes the envelope that on a show car stage it looks dramatic. The width of this car and some of the proportions are certainly extreme. In an auto show environment, things tend to shrink down so we try to go a little bigger than reality. As far as production capability, we don’t worry about it [on a show car] because we’re making a concept car. There are new exciting proportions coming that the public hasn’t seen and this is part of it.”

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