Toyota FT-1: Interviewing The Designers

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We here at BestRide.com have been avidly following the FT-1 (Future Toyota-1) since its debut in January. The FT-1 started with a red concept, and just before unveiling a graphite-colored version at a Pebble Beach event, Toyota invited us to check out the new shade and interview the CALTY Design Resarch design heads behind it.  It confirmed that whatever the FT-1’s color, it is a concept with some welcome potential corporate influence.

The first FT-1 concept is provocative in red…

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And the second one in graphite looked promising in the advance pics.

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This meet-and-greet with the car and its designers was hosted for a enthusiastic Toyota crowd, judging from some of the rarities in the parking lot.

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On hand to remind us of Toyota’s sporty heritage were the short-lived Lexus LFA…

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…and a Scion FR-S, along the car that most closely points to the FT-1’s target audience, the last Supra, complete with its ’90s-outrageous wing.

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The FT-1 is not just a precursor of a production car: it’s a tacit admission by Toyota that it has become staid, both in product and public perception. It was time to loosen the designers’ leashes, and the toy FT-1s sprinkled around showed a willingness to create an icon with the result.

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It was time to reveal the star of the show.

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Then they found the button that lit the model’s lights and popped the doors, and that’s when the collective grin spread through the crowd. The FT-1 is a concept of few compromises, and the fun that was had building it is felt when you see it come alive.

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The designers – Studio Chief Alex Shen and Product Design Manager William Chergosky – discussed their respective roles in the exterior and interior. Chergosky talked about limiting interior padding to the touch points…

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…an effect that is even more dramatic with the new, saddle-colored upholstery.

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Those winged toggle switches are neat…

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…the flat-bottomed steering wheel is race-ready…

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…and the door contours are saucy, inside and out.

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The exterior is full of neat details, like the islands of venting and taillights.

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The wheels mean business.

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To this admittedly pro-Toyota crowd, the FT-1 was an unqualified hit, and just the thing to lurch Toyota out of its sportiness lull.

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There were the usual unanswerable questions: What kind of engine will it have? When will it be built?  At this early stage in the FT-1’s birthing, that’s like asking a child when the purple elephant in her coloring book will be coming to dinner.

But CALTY President Kevin Hunter perked my ears when he said that one influence the FT-1 may begin having is a lowered center of gravity for Toyota’s sedans – in fact, he called out the next-gen Camry and Avalon as beneficiaries of these FT-1-ish priorities.

Check out the interviews below for each designer’s take on the FT-1, now that it’s been banging around their studio for about a year now. Also check out Toyota’s own video of the hopped-up FT-1 “Vision GT” slated for September release in the Sony Playstation3’s Gran Turismo 6.

 

 

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