When the first concept Lexus LF-A was unveiled in Detroit in 2005, it shattered all pre-conceived notions about what a supercar should be. Half a decade and several transformations later, the first car finally rolled off the production line, and it was everything we ever dreamt it to be. Lexus fans at last had a supercar to call their own, and boy, was it worth the wait. Few people know that the story actually starts in a Hokkaido bar in 2000. Here, Toyota engineer and the father of ‘Project P280’ Haruhiko Tanahashi first raised the idea of producing a sports car with his boss, Tetsuo Hattori. Luckily, the reply was “Why not?” promptly accompanied by a round of celebratory drinks, and the momentous meeting set in motion a development program that rewrote the engineering handbook on everything the industry knew about making high-performance cars. A simple entry in Tanahashi’s diary chronicles this milestone: “February 10, 2000. – In Shibetsu, Hattori approves the study of a real sports car.” This, the first of many brief diary entries recorded in an Excel spreadsheet, would follow the incubation, birth, and first steps of transition from P280 to the Lexus LFA. The Need for Speed As early as July 2000, P280 took the first of many life-changing twists. During an evaluation of existing competition at the Shibetsu proving grounds, Tanahashi was told: “Baby sports cars are bad. This will be a grown-up sports car.” And so on October 6th the decision was made that […]
When chief engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi requested a study into the viability of a real sports car, the image he had in mind bore no resemblance to the magnificent LFA that eventually went into production. After all, Lexus was a brand leader in quality passenger cars, not a manufacturer of exotic, low-volume supercars. Four months after being given the go-ahead for the study, Tanahashi recorded in his diary that the first product meeting on June 26, 2000 proposed a V6 open-top sports car. An competitive evaluation drive at the testing facility in Shibetsu was planned for the following month. What happened at the test drive set in motion a sequence of events that would ultimately determine the design of the LFA. Following the initial evaluation, a decision was made to produce a full-size sports car, and Tanahashi setting up a meeting with potential engine supplier, Yamaha, to discuss possible options. Tanahashi discussed both V6 and V8 engines with his counterparts at Yamaha and studied the options with the intention of presenting them at the next product planning meeting. In September 2000, he met with Toyota’s Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato, who made it clear that a V8 would not be adequate to power the dream car. Only a V10 that could rival Formula One technology would be seen as appropriate for a Lexus supercar! Engine The V10 design held several advantages over other equivalent displacement layouts: V8 wouldn’t be able to rev as high whilst the reciprocating mass and increased friction […]
Peek into the future of the Lexus LFA (coming soon).