Behind The Scenes>> Where Toyotas Are Born

I had the pleasure of touring Calty Design in Newport Beach California. This is where designs for new Toyota, Lexus and Scions are created. I was honored because Toyota rarely ever opens their doors in fear of other car manufactures or the press getting a hold of something top secret. They were very careful to cover and hide things they did not want us to see. A few cars that were designed here that are roaming the streets today include the FJ Cruiser, Scion xB and Sienna. Fredric Aasbo's new drift car is based off of the all new 2011 Scion TC, which was also designed at this facility.

Toyota built this facility in California to hire local talent that can design cars that appeal to the American public. I was allowed to take photos only in designated areas. My cell phone had a blindfold on it the entire time to prevent any spy shots leaking out.

This machine is for making molds out of plastic. It does it by creating a vacuum and heating up a plastic sheet that forms to whatever mold you put in it. It's mostly used to make wheels for concept cars.

I wanted this for my wall but it wouldn't fit in my camera bag!

This is a five axis mill. It can be used to carve out something as small as a door handle or something as large as a full size car.

This room had four giant projectors. The designers use a CADD program to show Toyota executives their new designs.

I thought I stepped into the bat cave when I walked into this room.

This is where the designers and sculptures work together to create full size models out of clay.

This model in particular is kept around to train up-and-coming sculptors.

I am so jealous of their large format printers. Who wouldn't want a life size cutout of Matt Powers, or even Linhbergh

Most of the designers that work at Calty began their career drawing on an out-of-date media known as 'paper'. I looked it up and apparently it was invented by the ancient Egyptians. Today they all use the computer to do everything from sketches to 3D models.

While the designers preformed a sketch demo, I decided to do some desk hunting.

There were quite a few remote control cars scattered around. I am guessing the designers use the bat cave as a miniature race track.

Calty designers are armed with foam dart machine guns. Probably to fend off any pesky Toyota engineers asking for more head room in the FT-86.

This looks like an early clay model of the Matrix.

There were more 2000GTs than any other scale model. I'd love to see a modern 2000GT.

I just love this guy's desk decorations.

Its good to know these designers are real car guys. There are all types of cars in the Calty design parking lot.

Ian Cartabiano is the designer of the 2011 Toyota Sienna. Lets see what he has on his desk.

If I took over Ian's office I would not throw away a single thing, especially that die cast Shelby Cobra signed by Carroll Shelby.

As a kid I would draw out space battles on all my text books. It looks like these guys never stopped.

Ian's daughter built that plastic brick Ferrari. I think she has the potential to be a car designer when she grows up!

A very broad spectrum of 1/24 scale die cast cars.

The tools used to sculpt concept cars are hand made by the sculptors and they are very sharp. Apaprently they cut themselves accidentally quite often. 

The designers challenged us journalists to design our own cars to demonstrate how difficult it can be. They gave us the very best pumpkin carving tools money can buy, so we wouldn't have to take any unplanned trips to the emergency room.

Bob Mochizuki is the designer of the new 2011 Scion TC. He decided to give us a helping hand on our jack-o-lanterns cars and show us some clay shaping tips. Some of the journalist designed their dream cars with 15inch exhaust tips.

Some made pigs…

…Others made Speed Racer style models. It was great! We felt like kids again.

This drift fan decided to put a shower door sized wing on his clay model. You learn a lot from drifting.

I decided to copy America's favorite cartoon car designer.

I tried to make it as realistic as possible, and the natural property of the clay gave my model a cartoonish look.

One of the hallways of Calty facility contained the 'History of automotive color'.

There were real color samples from cars of the different eras…

…As well as real carpet and fabrics.

These are some of the concepts designed at Calty.

A trip to the restroom revealed what these designers read to pass their free time.

Calty has a neat courtyard complete with three car turn tables. On display was a stock 2011 TC. There was also a 'function' only version that looks like it was built for pace car duties and a 'form' version that will make its rounds at car shows.

I always wondered what was used to control those turn tables. With this you can control the speed and direction of the thousands of hamsters running under each turn table.

I noticed the new TC had a more aggressive design that would appeal more to the male car buyer. I turned to Craig Taguchi from Scion public relations and he immediately blamed it on designer Bob Mochizuki.

Five Axis did a great job on this slightly modified 2011 TC. I can't wait to see the one Stephan Papadakis is building for Fredric Aasbo.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time on this tour of the Calty Design facility. I especially liked how personal and hands on our tour was. It gave me a chance to learn and to appreciate the design side of the automotive industry. Hopefully in the future I can get a more exclusive and top secret tour. Especially if a new Supra ever sees the light of production.

- Larry Chen



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the full scale clay model and the Five Axis tC and both sporting positive camber. wtf toyota.


Does anyone else besides me just purely dislike toyota? to me they killed their company with the death of the supra, and then further killed it when they stopped making the mr2/mrS


You have to have one of the worst senses of humor ever.


Definitely AGREE with Zach!

I even thought they did a great job with the last generation Celica...too bad it never got the respect it deserved.

It seems like they just crank out bland appliances thinly disguised as vehicles.

Oh, and don't get me started on the minivans.

It's like they just make cars for people who hate to drive. :-(


Awesome article Larry!! That was incredibly interesting. Thanks!


If I could win any price in this world, It would be a tour at this factory. It would be for me a Dream tour.

Not to mention to get a job there as a car designer for me it would be the Ultimate job in my dreams.


Excellent selection and beautiful pictures


Japanese cars are designed in USA??? WHAT HAS BECOME OF THIS WORLD???


Produce that Red Scion in RWD and you have a winner


Wooooooooooo!! Freaking cool, man :D The clay model segment seemed fun xD


Absolutely brilliant writeup, Larry. I enjoyed it so much I had to read it twice!


wow im suprised all of that and not a single supra

shake my head


CALTY Design Research put together this video showcasing the new 2011 Scion tC designed by Bob Mochizuki. Bob's design contributions also include the 2006 Scion FUSE, and 2010 Toyota RAV4 EV.


Larry, you built a Homer!!!! I'm laughing my head off, you freaking legend!!!


Nice clay model Larry! Looks like you have some potential in you, perhaps the next car to come out of Toyota will be penned by your hand? :P


Looks like it was a blast. As an upcoming Industrial Designer this makes me want to work at Toyota more so! That red TC is rad..


dang, i wish i was there man


from a cargeek point of view your experience was effin' rad. from a design students point of view it would be priceless. thanks for sharing


Not bad for Scion.

now if they just made that AWD and turbo that would be Nice,


:O OMG im sooo jealous of you!! that would be my dream job right there! did they have the RPT machines there?! o i got to see the LandRover/Jaguar design...its such a nice place to be especially when your looking at the same LRX that was shown to the world at the Geneva motor show (a few years ago)!!!! argh one day eh!


Like the inside of a dream...thank you so much for the tour!


Awesome awesome awesome, thank you for this writeup.


Now when will they actually design something good looking? Seems like that sienna designer should be designing the sportscars.


I'd have sprinkled photos of MR2s around the office. You know float the idea around that they don't only have to make refrigerators.


LARRY, you are HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOU KNOW WHY I'M DYING OF LAUGHTER RIGHT NOW!!! It was fun chillin with you and Yuichi, and the rest of the guys.


I'm salivating on a new supra! or probably a resurrected 2000GT!


Could someboby tell my what is the material to make sculpt concept cars?

Big thanx


Is it just me or does that half painted clay car perfectly fit the look for a new supra to go alongside with the ft86/fts?


Larry you forgot that Calty designed one of the greatest looking toyotas, the Soarer/SC300!


wide body TC is siccckkkkk!! love it!!


OMG! how do i get a job there!??? I'd definitely bring back the MR2


Awesome to see some coverage on this. I'm studying Transportation Design at CCS right now, and let me tell you clay is not easy. Can I have some of those vintage pictures by the paint samples? (The blue Corona is at the Henry Ford Museum)


very nice...


nice to see what happens in the "thought-process" stages, its still hard to believe that manufacturers do full scale mock-ups in clay after all these years.. i could spend a lot of time in place like this one - they don't sell those five axis milling machines at 'Home Depot' i can tell you - thanks for the heads-up!


Nice to see some scale mopar love there!


I'll take Homer's car over any toyota outhere! nice write up!


the Toyota Cave, to not say batcave, spectacular :-)


Great post, love to see the inside art of a company like this xD


If we could only pump LSD into the air of the theater room so executives would approve insanity like RWD coupes!


I am so jealous of these guys! Awesome post!


wow, 3rd photo from the bottom. Who is tha guy in the middle with the backpack???!!! The article mentions Craig Taguchi.... Is that who that is? Is that his real name>? Hes pretty famous and I hear his name all over. Anyways, he does a great job, and hope him and his team keep up the good work.


haha ikea knifes :)


Can i have that "NO PICTURES ALLOWED" Toyota sticker?

Looks like a cool place to work. It would've been nicer if THEY were the ones who designed the FT86. I hope the future products of Toyota reflect the designers' passion for cars, because most of Toyota's line up just don't look like it.


I get to drive a 2011 Seinna at work and it is the best thing I have driven in a while. Great work Ian! I know your Mom and last saw you when you were 3 years old. You have done well my lad!


awesome article!


Ah, so this is the place where the ugly Toyotas are born. Either way, Toyota hasn't had anything appealing since about 10 years.

Very interesting stuff, though.


I have no idea why people are so excited when they barely make any changes to the lumps of clay they start with.

These designers need to look at more pictures of naked, sexy, curvacious women and dangerous, lethal looking animals, all whilst drinking hard liquor. It seems like most designers now have shrunken testicles and perms. Harley Earl would scoff at you so called "designers" nowadays.

Can you people even make a car with a belt line that isn't as jacked up as your great-grandparent's belt lines?


I really enjoyed this article.


@Sam: What you wrote there is completely true. Little windows and huge doors, coupled with an overall bloated body is the way to go with automakers nowadays. I hate them.

Thanks for the laugh.


This is awesome! Well done on the Tour with awesome snaps to follow :D

Keep up the great work guys!



very nice thanks...