There’s a lot of interesting things bundled into Gran Turismo 6, the latest chapter of the Gran Turismo video game series, which goes on sale today. Highlights include a number of new tracks, including replicas of Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Goodwood, and Australia’s Mount Panorama; a GPS-based course mapper that lets you recreate your favorite roads in real life; and extensive vehicle customization options.
But Gran Turismo has always been about the cars, and Gran Turismo 6 is no exception. At launch, the video game boasts a catalog of 1200 vehicles. That’s dizzying, and it might just be impossible to sample each and every car in the game – but you need to sample these ten, as there’s a good chance you never will outside of the realm rendered by your Playstation 3.
1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Racer
Dr. Jerry Thompson drove it in competition. Design maven Bill Mitchell drove it as a commuter car. Now you can drive around the (digital) world in Gran Turismo 6. The Stingray began life as a design by Pete Brock for the second-generation Corvette. In order to help “test” the radical new design – to say nothing of scratching his itch to go racing despite a GM corporate ban on such activity -- Mitchell ordered a leftover chassis for the ill-fated Corvette SS racer be rebodied with a modified form of the design, refined by Tony Lapine and Larry Shinoda. The car raced in 1959 and 1960 without any Chevrolet or Corvette identifying marks, but wore them in 1961 after the C2 Corvette design was locked. Erratic braking and extreme aerodynamic lift at high speeds rendered the car somewhat unsuitable for use on the track, though Thompson somehow managed to coax the car to a SCCA C-Modified national title in 1960. Mitchell continued tweaking the Stingray after it was retired from race use, using it as personal transportation when not assigned to an auto show circuit.
1970 Mazda RX500
Japanese concept cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s are rather esoteric, but also incredibly cool. Case in point: the Mazda RX500, which debuted at the 1970 Tokyo motor show. Construction on the car began in the summer of 1968, and was Mazda’s first stab at a Wankel-powered mid-engine sports car since it gave up on the R16A project in 1965. The RX500 used a steel tube frame chassis, which was clad with body panels made from both fiberglass and ABS plastic. The tapered snout, wrap-around windscreen, and butterfly doors lent it the air of a contemporary prototype race car, but everything aft of the cabin was Mazda fantasy. Engineers chose the stubby “breadvan” tail to keep the engine – a modified 12A two-rotor Wankel – cool, but designers adorned the section with space-age touches, including the sixteen rectangular side air intakes and the boomerang-shaped arrays of rear lamps. The finished car was rather heavy, but according to period reviews, it was still capable of a top speed of 155 mph, and fairly stable at its upper limits – which should make it at least somewhat enjoyable to mess around with in Gran Turismo 6.
1960 Plymouth XNR Concept
The beauty of the annual Gran Turismo Trophy given at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is that the winning car, chosen by GT creator Kaz Yamauchi himself, will be modeled and included in a future installment of Gran Turismo. As the one-off, Ghia-built 1960 Plymouth XNR concept took home the GT honors at the 2011 Pebble Beach soiree, it’s available for use in GT6. Though its Valiant chassis and 225 cubic-inch “Slant-Six” engine might seem rather pedestrian – especially since they were a key element in Chrysler’s entry-level bread-and-butter offerings for nearly two decades – what rides atop those parts is anything but. A bit of self-indulgence by Chrysler’s design chief Virgil Exner led to, amongst many things, the semi-monoposto roadster configuration, the giant fin and open fenders, the asymmetrical styling, and of course, the car’s initialized name.
Unlike most concept cars, which are either stored or destroyed after making the rounds on the auto show circuit, the Plymouth XNR was sold to a private owner: none other than the Shah of Iran. After that, the car languished in a Beirut garage for years until it was discovered and returned to its original glory. The freshly restored XNR wowed crowds at Pebble in 2011, sold for $935,000 in 2012, and remains unattainable for most car enthusiasts.
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
Oldsmobile’s X-platform Toronado is perhaps best known for its front-wheel drive powertrain – but despite the stock appearance of the Toronado included in Gran Turismo 6, that hallmark feature is nowhere to be found. See, this digital Olds is modeled after the custom 1966 Toronado sleeper owned by Jay Leno. The talk show personality’s Toronado rides upon a modified C5 Chevrolet Corvette frame – and as such, is rear-wheel drive. But that’s hardly the biggest change: the stock 455 cubic-inch V-8 was ditched in favor of a twin-turbocharged, 7.0-liter GM LS-series small-block V-8. With a little help of methanol-water injection, the beast cranks out 1070 hp while still drinking pump gas. It might not be a front-drive wonder any longer, but Leno’s Olds is a true Oldsmobile rocket – and a heck of a sleeper, at that.
1971 Boeing Lunar Roving Vehicle LRV-001
We’re used to Polyphony Digital lumping in some odd vehicles into various Gran Turismo titles – Benz Patentwagen, anyone? – but this might just take the cake. According to the official car list, Gran Turismo 6 includes the 1971 Boeing LRV-001 – better known as the car that shuttled Apollo astronauts across the surface of the moon.
The LRV-001 was primarily built and designed by Boeing, though Goodyear supplied the unique tires and General Motors’ Defense Research Laboratories provided the drivetrain and suspension. The LRV-001 measured only 10 feet long, and largely resembled a stripped down dune buggy. Given the moon’s terrain, all-wheel drive was deemed necessary, so each wheel was powered by an electric motor rated at a quarter of a horsepower, giving it a net output of 1 hp. Wheels were fabricated from aluminum, but the tires were almost works of art in and of themselves, consisting of zinc-coated piano wire mesh placed over a rigid inner frame.
The LRV-001 was designed to operate for 78 hours during the lunar day and travel as far as 40 miles at a time, but it never strayed further than six miles from the Lunar Module itself – a restriction incurred by the longevity of the astronauts’ life support systems. The LRV-001 has the distinction of being one of the most expensive cars in GT6, as the original program cost over $38 million ($219 million today) and yielded only four vehicles. It’s also one of the rarest vehicles in the game. The three examples used on the moon were left on the moon (or, if you believe the conspiracy theory, a top-secret soundstage), while a handful of non-functional mockups and prototypes and a handful of other mockups and prototypes are locked away in museums. We can’t wait to see what sort of ‘Ring time this baby will post – or, for that matter, if the LRV-001 will even make it up Flugplatz in the first place.
1986-1987 Audi Sport Quattro S1 Rally Car
Good news, Audi fans – not only is the legendary Sport Quattro S1 rally car modeled in full detail in Gran Turismo 6, but the game actually contains two different variants of Audi’s Group B Wunderkind. The first, the 1986 Sport Quattro, is likely representative of the second evolution of the short-wheelbase Sport Quattro S1. A derivation of the updated car introduced for the 1985 season, the 1986 iteration packed a 2.1-liter turbocharged five-cylinder with somewhere close to 600 hp on tap. With a lithe curb weight (2400 lbs) thanks to composite bodywork, the car was a monster, and could rip from 0-60 mph in roughly three seconds. That certainly sounded promising, but as Group B came to a sudden end halfway through the 1986 season, the Sport Quattro faced a premature demise. Despite that, an updated car, wearing insanely large spoilers and fairings designed to increase downforce, was sent to the 1987 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. This wasn’t Audi’s first “race to the clouds,” but it was Rohrl’s. Despite being a “newbie” to the event, the German stormed up the hill in 10 minutes, 47 seconds, and walked away with both a win and a record that would stand for years to come.
1992 Light Car Company Rocket
After his stint designing F1 cars but before his time designing the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray was employed by former racer Chris Craft to help design an extremely small, ultra-lightweight road car. As it turned out, the finished product, known as the Light Car Company Rocket, looked more like a vintage formula racer than anything else registered for street use.
Murray’s design was comprised of a nickel-bronze spaceframe, which also used a 20-valve, 1.0-liter four-cylinder engine cribbed from a Yamaha FZR1000 as a stressed member. The rounded body suggested the car seated only one, but a second seat, placed directly behind the driver, was hidden beneath a removable panel.
The Yamaha engine was rated at 143 horsepower, but because the Rocket tipped the scales at just less than 880 pounds, it lived up to its name. The Rocket could blast from 0-60 mph in just over four seconds, and hit a top speed of 129 mph. An updated Series 2 model, introduced years later in 2007, offered another 28 horsepower for true speed freaks.
Critical response to the LCC Rocket was essentially unadulterated praise, but that didn’t guarantee commercial success. Sales were slow, thanks in part to a price tag that was over $60,000 – which was largely due to the fact that few components were borrowed from any other vehicle’s parts bins. Roughly 50 cars were built before the Rocket faded into obscurity.
2007 Ferrari FXX
Yes, the Enzo Ferrari is an incredible supercar, and one playable in Gran Turismo 5. But is it the ultimate Ferrari? No – and it isn’t even the ultimate Enzo. Much like how a 250 GT SWB pales in comparison to the 250 GTO, the Enzo pales when stacked against its racing derivation: the FXX. Not only did the car receive wild bodywork with an elongated nose and amplified spoilers, but it also was given an extra helping of power. The Enzo’s 6.0-liter V-12 was bored out to 6.3 liters, and power rose from 660 horsepower to a wild 809. While the Enzo packed plenty of technologies derived from Ferrari’s Formula 1 program, the FXX took things to the next level, including telemetry and data monitoring systems. Ferrari built 30 examples, but sold 29 to highly esteemed customers who could, in turn, function as “customer test drivers:” Ferrari would keep and maintain the vehicles, but allow the owners to exercise their cars in a special one-make race series. No word on if the car included in Gran Turismo 6 is a “base” FXX, or the FXX Evoluzione, which boasted 850 hp and an improved transmission.
2012 Tajima Monster Sport E-Runner
Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima is no stranger to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, having raced his way to the clouds since 1992. Likewise, the Gran Turismo faithful are no stranger to the wild machines Monster used to shatter course records, as his wild twin-engine Suzuki Sidekick/ Escudo has been featured in a few GT titles along the way. Those fans might be happy to see a Monster-mobile return to Gran Turismo 6, even if that car – the 2012 Monster Sport E-Runner – is a far cry from previous models featured. Built expressly for Pikes Peak’s Electric class, the E-Runner is a custom single-seater that boasts aluminum spaceframe and carbon fiber bodywork. The car is all-wheel drive and is propelled by a pair of electric motors, but further specifications have remained shrouded in mystery. All we know is it’s just about as fast as a speeding bullet: The E-Runner failed to advance past practice rounds in 2012, but an amended version returned in 2013, and rocketed up the mountain in 9:46.530, shattering Monster’s previous record and sweeping the electric class.
2013 Mercedes-Benz Vision Gran Turismo
Polyphony Digital invited 22 automakers and tuners to design futuristic sports cars for Gran Turismo 6, but Mercedes-Benz’s Vision Gran Turismo was the first to break cover. For that matter, it may be the only one actually modeled outside of the digital realm, as a full-scale concept car was built and unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show. In the digital realm, the shapely Vision Gran Turismo is powered by AMG’s familiar 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, which yields 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says the car’s aluminum space frame would result in a curb weight just over the 3000-pound mark, which results in each horsepower being saddled with only 5.2 pounds. There’s some whispers that the swoopy car could give a good preview of the new sub-SLS sports car AMG is presently developing, but why wait for that to become reality years from now? Fire up your PS3, download the Vision Gran Turismo, and take it for a spin today