Like a lunar eclipse or a good Woody Allen movie, Toyota's sports car passion tends to be a sometimes thing. The deeply impressive Lexus LFA came and went, with no apparent heir. The Scion FR-S ranks as a great value — and yet has seen no major updates since launch.
So when Toyota comes to the Detroit auto show with a closely guarded sports car concept, the automotive world takes notice. And the FT-1 revealed today may be one of the sexier vehicles to wear a Toyota badge in decades. If only there were plans to let it do so outside of Gran Turismo 6.
Like the Mercedes-Benz AMG Gran Turismo Vision concept, the FT-1 began as a contribution to the game by Toyota's California design studio. Imagined as a pure track toy, the FT-1 has hints of the 2000GT and Supra, with a sizable gasoline engine up front and a tiny chassis. But the designers then went one step beyond — giving Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda a chance to drive the virtual FT-1 in Gran Tursimo 6 around Fuji Speedway. When Toyoda, a race driver himself, beat his real-world LFA lap time in the FT-1, he gave the green light for designers to build the concept.
Akio Toyoda has vowed to bring more passion to Toyota's vehicles, ditching design-by-consensus for more fashionable vehicles and there's signs of that promise, from the Lexus RC-F to Toyota's collaboration with BMW on a future hybrid sports car. But as of now, the FT-1 has no route to production; there's not even a real engine under the glass hood of the concept. Automakers have been known to take buzzy auto show concepts and put them on the road by popular demand, and if Toyota wants more excitement in its lineup, an FT-1 buzzing at high speed around the real Fuji Speedway sounds like the proper prescription.