Five Axis CT 200h

02/16/2011—California-based builder Five Axis has already created two memorable Lexus project cars with their Project IS F in 2007 and the Project GS in 2008, and have now followed it up with their new Project CT show car, which debuted at last week’s Chicago Auto Show. This week, Kevin Watts from The Lexus Enthusiast weblog talks with Troy Sumitomo, president of Five Axis, about his company’s latest creation:

Kevin Watts: I know that with the Project IS F, you were inspired by fighter jets—what did you use for inspiration for the Project CT?

Troy Sumitomo: Because aerodynamics is key to hybrid efficiency, we placed styling emphasis on the front and rear spoiler designs by taking inspiration from lightweight solar aircraft. The long wingspans and vertical stabilizers are emulated in the front design with its dominant vertical openings, and in the rear valance with its wing shape and winglets on the ends. In addition, we wanted to also recapture some of the strong styling elements that were originally seen in the LF-Ch concept show car shown at Frankfurt last year.

I definitely noticed that. Also in the back bumper, it looks similar to the LF-Ch.

For the record, we didn’t actually design the LF-Ch. That was designed by Calty Design Research, one of the company’s internal design studios. Five Axis was primarily responsible for manufacturing it. We understood what the design intent was with the original concept, so we tried bringing some of those original elements back with the Project CT.

In the end, we had to be sensitive to the fact that the CT is a hybrid. You can see with Lexus’ “Darker Side of Green” campaign that hybrids are very responsible vehicles, but you can still have fun with them.

So the fact that the CT was a hybrid really affected your plans.

Definitely. We were fortunate that Five Axis was also involved in a SEMA Prius program a few years ago, so we understand what hybrid buyers care about. We only spiced the CT up a little bit but didn’t go over the top. That’s why the wide-body modifications are so subtle, only about 25 mm per side. We wanted to emphasize the aerodynamic efficiency of the design because that’s what hybrids are primarily concerned with.

Did you create those FIVE:AD wheels especially for the Project CT?

Yes we did. The one-off custom design is actually manufactured from a forged billet. Our goal was to give the impression that it’s lightweight with the thin split 7-spoke design—granted, they are 19 inches and are a bit heavier than the stock.

It looks good, though.

It’s about trying to find that balance—you want the aesthetic, but you also want to back that with the proper performance. It’s not a production wheel, but it is a concept for a forged line that we’re thinking about doing with our FIVE:AD wheel line in the future.

Awesome. So about the JDSU “Dark Passage” paint—how does the color shifting work?

It’s in the pigment. It’s a light changing pigment called ChromaFlair® that allows colors to shift from one to another, so there’s actually red, gold, green, and magenta shifts in the paint. The primary color pretty much stays on the dark side of the spectrum, and the actual colors are more of a secondary read.

It looks black for the most part.

The color shifts look like a pearlescent kind of effect in the paint. Initially, you would swear it was black. The biggest problem is that film or photos don’t do the paint justice—you have to see it in person to really appreciate it.

What was the most challenging part about customizing the CT?

One thing we tried to keep in mind was what the feedback from the hybrid community would be. We always try to make modifications that look legitimate. But just having that extra challenge of the CT being a hybrid and the idea that hybrids shouldn’t be messed with was one of the most challenging aspects of this build.

Is there any one part of Project CT that you’re especially proud of?

That’s a tough one. Of course, I’m very proud of the whole vehicle. My team really focused, came up with a strong design and build plan that we executed with little drama, and I’m extremely proud of that.

There is one element on the interior that has drawn some attention. In the center console we mocked up a simulated touch screen panel where drivers could wirelessly link their smartphone apps to so that they can socially network, download music, check email or surf the Web directly in the car. Not while driving, of course!

I think the overall impression is very good. I was really pleased with the results of the initial reveal. Modifying automotive surfaces is very challenging with all the details, and sometimes you just don’t know how it’s all going to come together in the end. But once Project CT was actually painted and assembled, the car was really pretty amazing.

It must be a real surprise when people notice it for the first time. I can see how it could be shocking if you weren’t expecting it.

We always try to make it feel as if our modifications come directly from the factory so sometimes it requires a few takes to get noticed. Our emphasis is always on subtle sophistication while creating that subliminal layer of uniqueness.

Thanks for your time, Troy.

Thank you Kevin! Just want to also thank Lexus for this amazing opportunity and to my Five Axis team for another awesome execution.


Legal Disclaimers

Vehicle shown is a special project car, modified with non-Genuine Lexus parts and accessories. Modification with these non-Genuine Lexus parts or accessories will void the Lexus warranty, may negatively impact vehicle performance and safety, and may not be street legal.