Gestation of the A90 Supra
Before the 2020 Toyota Supra arrived, the FT-1 concept excited enthusiasts everywhere. Transitioning a concept design to production isn’t always easy, but in the case of a flagship sports car—absolutely crucial. Keep reading to learn about how the FT-1 became the 2020 Supra, assuring that this new Toyota had styling that matched its performance.
In March 2012, at about the same time Toyota and BMW headed down the Silk Road together, the gesture of what would become the Supra was also hatching in Southern California. Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, took the casual initiative of proposing some rough sketches of a sports coupe to his boss in Japan, Tokuo Fukuichi (now a Toyota managing officer). Fukuichi gave the green light to propose the idea to the big boss, Akio Toyoda, who gave Calty the go-ahead to create a concept car for the 2014 Detroit auto show. Things move fast when you have the big boss’ attention.
“We’re really proud of it, from the point of view that we initiated the first concept of FT-1, it was used as inspiration for the sports car, and [it has] now translated into production,” Hunter said.
This all makes MotorTrend wonder how often (or more likely, how infrequently) a design house’s original idea makes it all the way to production—especially for a low-volume sports car. When you consider it, this is a pretty remarkable vote of confidence, a case of enthusiastic designers planting a seed and the company ensuring there’s fertile ground and plenty of sunlight for it to grow into a full-fledged company icon. Of course, pretty much everyone naming the FT-1 concept Best of Show helped push forward its production status quite smartly as well.
But before Calty even created the FT-1 for the 2014 stage, there had already been high-level meetings with BMW regarding the cars’ fundamental engineering and packaging. Concept cars are usually built larger than life for the show stage, to impress showgoers, Hunter said, but then they have to shrink down for the realities of the world.
“If you look at the FT-1 concept car, [pictured above] it’s a pretty big car, actually, and we purposely blew it up to be a true exotic,” he said. “The reality of the [Supra’s] packaging is, it’s actually a very good, nice, proper package for a sports car, for a high-performance sports car. So we had to figure out how to capture all the essence of FT-1 but get it down into the compact packaging of the actual engineering condition.”
At the center of the transition from FT-1 concept to the production car code-named A90, Calty senior lead designer Tom Matsumoto was embedded for six months with the Munich-based BMW/Toyota team under project chief designer Nobuo Nakamura.
Matsumoto explained the most difficult parts of translating the FT-1 to Supra: “Making a concept is coming from nothing to something in life, from zero to one. Then the production phase is taking that all the way to a condition that people could drive. There’s a lot of safety requirements in every country and everything that you have to go through to get that right.”
With regard to manufacturing constraints, like producing the Supra’s curvaceous body panels, Matsumoto added, “Our rear flares were really deepened, and the Magna production capability was able to make that possible. So it’s a little bit of pushing here and pushing there, and how it’s stampable, how it’s not.” (Since ending production of the Mini Paceman and Countryman at its facility in Graz, Austria, low-volume production specialist Magna Steyr will endeavor to build 60,000 combined units of Z4 and Supra annually for worldwide consumption.)
Real-world realities often mute the styling excesses of a concept by the time it reaches production. But Hunter believes the soul of the FT-1 survives in the Supra. “Everything is there if you really look at all the fundamental elements of FT-1,” he said. “Starting at the nose—the kind of F1-style nose—that goes to a cool-looking intake on the front, all the way back to the strong rocker leading into the muscular rear flares. Also, the Toyota DNA, the [1967–1970] 2000 GT cabin architecture is all there, with that reverse wedge cabin, the tight rear spoiler, the big, aggressive rear flares. Everything just had to be reconsidered and redimensioned and repackaged for detailing to capture the spirit of FT-1.” What’s Hunter’s favorite view of the car? “The rear three-quarter. It really, truly exhibits that broad, wide, muscular stance.”
|2020 Toyota Supra|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe/hatch|
|ENGINE||3.0L/335-hp/365-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,397 lb (mfr est)|
|TRACK WIDTH F/R||62.8/62.6 in|
|L x W x H||172.5 x 73.0 x 50.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA ECON||21/31/25 mpg (MT est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||160/109 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.79 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Mid-2019|
Keep reading to get the full story on the 2020 Supra:
- Supra Returns! The Inside Story on the 2020 Toyota Supra’s Comeback
- 2020 Toyota Supra Performance: Horsepower, Suspension, and TRD
- 2020 Toyota Supra Interior: Our First Look Inside
- Behind the Wheel: 2020 Toyota Supra vs. 2020 BMW Z4
- Toyota Supra History: Looking Back at Toyota’s Sports Car
- 2020 Toyota Supra Prototype Review: The Legendary Nameplate Returns