CALTY Design turns 50 !
Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, I am delighted to take you on a journey through the remarkable five decades of Calty Design Research, the pioneering American outpost of Toyota's global design network. Calty has been at the forefront of automotive design and innovation, crafting iconic vehicles that have left an indelible mark on the automotive landscape.
Founded in 1973 in El Segundo, California, Calty was envisioned by Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda and Eiji Toyoda. It operated discreetly, allowing it to develop a unique identity and serve as a wellspring of fresh, creative inspiration for Toyota's global design headquarters in Japan. Its beginnings were so discreet that the neighbors thought CAL T (sic) was a T-shirt factory. The vibrant culture of California, with its innovative ideas and rich automotive heritage, became the crucible for Calty's creative endeavors.
The first American project was the Celica Lift Back. A coupe with elegant lines and a bulletproof power train entered the American market in 1978. The 1980s saw Calty's shift towards groundbreaking design language and techniques, exemplified by the MX-1 sports car concept featuring a mid-engine layout and distinctive scissor-style doors.
The 1990s witnessed Calty's significant contributions to Toyota's production vehicles, including the Tacoma, Prius, and Avalon. Notably, they laid the conceptual groundwork for the fourth-generation Supra, which evolved into a sports car legend.
In 2004, Calty expanded its presence to Ann Arbor, MI, revolutionizing local production design efforts, leading to North American-specific models like the Tundra, Tacoma, Avalon, and Sienna.
The 2010s ushered in an era of fun-to-drive vehicles inspired by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda's vision of "no more boring cars." Memorable creations like the Fun-Vii concept, Lexus LF-LC (later the LC500), and FT-1 concept (transformed into the 2020 Supra) demonstrated Calty's commitment to exciting and innovative design.
I had the privilege to tour the secretive facility in Newport Beach and talk to some artists and designers who work within a unique ambiance of light and freedom of space. Several departments include interior design, exterior design, modeling labs with impressive CAD and CNC machines, a paint shop, a general build shop, and a virtual room. Cars ideas on paper are developed in computers; then scale 5:1 models are built. Finally, life-size clay models are perfected by hand in fine detail for company approvals.
The task is enormous as Toyota cars must appeal to different demographics. Toyota makes millions of cars per year. Getting so many people to pay attention to their look, feel, textures, and colors Is not easy. Additionally, designers need to instill a particular emotion from a three-dimensional object moving through the landscape.
I was surprised that about 100 people in California handle this vital part of the automaker's overall operation. These individuals are the best at what they do. Toyota's California design studio changed the way Asian companies work. Since Calty's opening, almost all other car companies have followed the trend with their studios in Southern California.
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was unique as I saw the future of mobility. In the virtual room, we were able to "see," "touch," and "drive" the latest project. The "Baby Lunar Cruiser "(BLC) is the next off-road vehicle, following the original steps of the Land Cruiser FJ40, that is ready to take you overlanding on the moon. It integrates all the latest and not even invented technologies that will allow us to cruise through the sandy and silent moon.
The achievements of the creatives within this building have transformed this company into the global leader it is today. From electrified vehicles to cutting-edge technology integration, Calty continues to push boundaries and inspire excellence in automotive design.