Handpicked by Lexus to build the LFA, 14 specialists tell us about their unique expertiseand why building 500 LFAs for two years is a big deal.
A couple of months ago, Lexus magazine enjoyed the rare privilege of not only spending time in the high-tech LFA Works, where Lexus makes its supercars, but the even rarer privilege of spending time with the hand-picked specialists chosen to make the LFAs. Their technical knowledge is staggering, and they’re also about the nicest team of supercar builders ever assembled:
TEAM LEADER, LOGISTICS
Role: Nothing can be achieved at the LFA Works without the knowledge of Nomoto, 57, who maintains the flow of parts entering and leaving.
Inside lines: “If one part is defective, the process stops. And if a part is late, we work overtime to keep to our output of one car per day. But I tell staff not to rush.”
On the LFA: “I was involved with the LS 400 project, so I think it’s my fate to work with Lexus. I wouldn’t have thought we would make a car like this. But I’m glad we have. It’s like being part of a racing team.”
Role: One of the coolest jobs in the world belongs to Amano, 45. He focuses his checks on seven points at up to 125 mph on the test track: controllability, driving feel, sound, brake performance, power, noise and vibration, and the function of parts.
Inside lines: “To test driveability, control, and performancethe most important areasI have driven the LFA repeatedly. I try to 'taste' each LFA, and get a feel for it through my senses.”
On the LFA: “You can enjoy a conversation with this car. And it tells you what’s going on at exactly the right time. That’s a promise.”
TEAM LEADER, CARBON DASH PANEL
Role: Hyodo runs the carbon lay-up team working on the LFA dashboard. Working by hand, his team crafts complex forms. Achieving perfection is a fine art.
Inside lines: “A dash comprises 335 pieces of carbon fiber, assembled like a jigsaw. Team members are trained to have a sense of touch that’s heightened to an unprecedented level. It means we can shape almost any form and create superb quality.”
On the LFA: “I feel protective about the car!”
TEAM LEADER CARBON SIDE MEMBERS
Role: Hatanaka and his team work with “pre-preg” carbon fiber sheets to create side members. Cut-sheets are heated with a handheld dryer and laid up by hand on custom molds.
Inside lines: “When you stretch carbon on a mold it could be bigger or smaller than you need. Carbon is alive. We’ve worked hard to master the craftsmanship needed, and every day we are learning. Our jobs require senses.”
On the LFA: “The engine sound always gets me; it’s machine-like but incredibly dignified.”
RTM FLOOR TUNNEL LAY-UP
Role: Murakami is on the team that creates the LFA floor tunnel. The dry carbon sheet can deform during molding; Murakami makes sure that doesn’t happen.
Inside lines: “I used to be a miya daiku (carpenter working on Japanese temples and shrines), and I apply the skills I learned there to the LFA. Handling carbon is a bit like being a sushi chef. You need to be aware of how the temperature of your fingers influences the product.”
On the LFA: “When I think of the excitement on faces at racing tracks, I think of the LFA running.”
CARBON BODY ASSEMBLY/BONDING
Role: Nakamura works on the body’s final bonding process, ensuring the dash panel, side members, and parts such as the floor are glued securely to create the body shell.
Inside lines: “Once you’ve glued, you can’t go back, so you have to be careful. Why do we make the lines of glue so clean? If someone opens up an LFA 50 years from now, I want them to see the beauty of its inner structure. We all do.”
On the LFA: “When everything’s attached beautifully, that’s the high point for me. It’s like sending my baby into the world.”
GROUP HEAD, QUALITY CHECK
Role: Fukaya leads the team that examines the core carbon body of the LFA. Structural integrityand therefore performance and safetyare very important.
Inside lines: “Carbon sheets are cut by robot, but each is fashioned by handthe Takumi skill. In lay-up, we need to stop air bubbles forming between layers. We’ve made our own rules at each testing stage, because no rules existed before.”
On the LFA: “The LFA is a pioneering piece of history.”
MAIN BODY ASSEMBLY/BONDING
Role: Kawagishi is one of the youngest members of the LFA Works team. He attaches aluminum frames to the front and rear of the carbon body.
Inside lines: “We are extremely careful because if you scratch the carbon, it can’t be used anymore. It’s not just about looks, it’s also about the car’s rigidity. I was nervous when I started here, but now it’s like being with friends.”
On the LFA: “When I tell people what I do they either say, ‘that’s got to be tough’ or just “wow!”
DRILLING SPECIALIST LFA CARBON BODY
Role: With 24 years of automotive drilling experience in steels, Yamaguchi is in charge of drilling carbonthe first for Lexus.
Inside lines: “Carbon has its own complexities and uniqueness. It’s a little like bamboo under the drill. To account for this, we apply 32 different drill bits such as bespoke tips and diamond coatings for the finest, purest cut.”
On the LFA: “I get really quite attached to each model I work on. It feels like raising a kid.”
EXPERT, BODY RIGIDITY
Role: The LFA is designed to be exceptionally rigid, and Miyata checks the numbers at each examination point to make sure of it.
Inside lines: “We load the carbon body with 200 kilograms of weight. If a gauge registers a deformation over our tolerance at any critical point, it’s a fail. There have been no fails to date. We also do a 567-point body-uniformity check with a coordinate measuring machine.”
On the LFA: “I want my four-year-old daughter to grow up and be proud that her father worked on the Lexus LFA.”
Role: Kaieda is a quality control professional. He prepares unpainted components and checks finished pieces. His expert touch is vital given the need for often complex preparatory masking. Likewise, his keen eye is needed to ensure zero defects.
Inside lines: “Working with carbon is extremely challenging. Sanding it, for instance, takes great care as I must not apply too much pressure. You need a deep understanding of the material.”
On the LFA: “When I first heard the V10, it sounded like a jet engine.”
Role: Sano is on the team that ensures a deep and lustrous finish to the LFA’s exterior paint. Larger areas are painted by robot; smaller and more intricate ones are made by hand.
Inside lines: “If we find even a tiny defect, we record where it is and study all the possibilities as to why it happened. Then we come up with countermeasures. As for colors, the most popular is white. Me? I like yellow the best.”
On the LFA: “Its engine sound is thunderous but at the same time not disturbing in any way.”
ASSEMBLY TEAM LEADER
Role: The final checks on the LFA before it’s track-tested are organized by Higashi. A core function is to check for correct and secure fitting and perfect alignment of each car’s components.
Inside lines: “If there’s 1/100th of a millimeter difference in, say, a panel gap from one side to the other, we balance it. This is just one aspect that uniquely differentiates the LFA.”
On the LFA: “When our names go on the factory worksheets, we know they’ll be there forever. It’s inspiring.”
CHIEF, BODY PROCESS & TEAM DEVELOPMENT
Role: Yamaishi manages the LFA body process team.
Inside lines: “Free-flowing communication matters hereas does a challenger mentality. We leave a legacy behind and make sure everything is traceable. To do this, we record all processes and work on evidence sheets. When they are compiled, they form a document 45 centimeters thick for each LFA we make.”
On the LFA: “People are envious when I say what I do. I’ve stopped telling them!”