With the upcoming release of the highly anticipated Gran Turismo 7 edging ever closer, I was thinking about if this version of Gran Turismo will have any of the vehicular surprises that have littered the illustrious series’ history.
Now, I’m not talking about the latest offerings from the automotive supercar brands or that slight variation of a Nissan Skyline that apparently makes it a completely different model to the 16 other Skylines in the game.
No, I am talking about the cars that you don’t expect to see in the game, or any driving title at all, but add a new dimension – whether that be significant cars from history or fantastical concept vehicles that will never make to the real world, or even just something off-the-wall wacky.
I personally am hoping that developer Polyphony Digital will still manage to surprise us with a few of these types of cars in its latest endeavour, and judging by the 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Baker Tourer in a recent teaser, it’s looking promising. They add a certain frisson that many other po-faced simulators sometimes overlook.
With that in mind here are a few of the cars that have been included in previous Gran Turismo releases that have added something unique in their own way to each game. Think of it as a weird car retrospective.
The first Gran Turismo from 1997/8 didn’t really have that much in the way of surprise vehicles, as it was the opening title and Polyphony Digital was still working on the format. Still, it introduced those of us in Europe to the world to fast Mitsubishi’s and America and Japan to Blackpool’s TVR. We take it for granted now, but that was eye-opening back then.
One car that stood out from that game to me, however, was the Dodge Concept Car. Originally known as the Dodge Copperhead, it was renamed after a legal claim. It was essentially going to be a cheaper Viper under the changed bodyshell.
It was available as a standard and racing version and would also reappear in Gran Turismo 2. The curvaceous styling and bright colour looked like something from another planet.
Gran Turismo 2
Now we see a car that I still have fond memories of to this day despite it only appearing in the second GT game. The Renault Espace F1 is the combination of a minivan/MPV and the best motorsport engineering around to create what is essentially a Williams F1 car shelled as a humdrum people-mover.
It had the engine straight out of the 1993 Williams F1 car kicking out a mental 800+bhp and the bodyshell may have had the appearance of an Espace, but was made completely out of carbon fibre. It was a ridiculous idea and that is exactly why I loved it.
Gran Turismo 2 also featured the Ford GT90, which was a concept car previewing a potential replacement for the fêted GT40. Using parts from a Jaguar XJ220 underneath, the idea was ultimately not pursued by Ford, although looking back it does have certain similarities to the latest Ford GT road car.
Also in this game was the first appearance for a series favourite from Suzuki – the absolutely bonkers Escudo Pikes Peak which made its debut in this game as the 1996 version, while an updated 1998 version of it appeared in every other main series game afterwards up to and including the sixth instalment.
This was a monster of a car with close to 1000bhp and massive downforce meaning it could beat almost anything else on track. There was also a similar car from Suzuki but less powerful called the Cultus, but most people only remember the Escudo after grinding their way to the best car in the game.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was the first game to make the jump to the PlayStation 2 and as a result, like the first GT release, had fewer cars on the roster, all re-created from scratch for the new hardware.
This meant only around 180 cars versus around 650 for the previous game from 1999. As a result, there isn’t a great number of kooky cars, but it did introduce us to a franchise mainstay in the form of the Tommykaira ZZII.
This was a prototype car from a Japanese tuning company that sadly never made it into production, despite Autobacs Seven purchasing the design and re-naming it the ASL RS01. A lovely looking car with a wicked turn of speed that has appeared throughout the series up until GT Sport.
Gran Turismo Concept
The Gran Turismo Concept spin-off games were based around real-world motor shows – think of them as a DLC, but purchasing a separate, smaller, game.
The 2002 Tokyo-Geneva Gran Turismo Concept game was released shortly after GT3 and was filled with concept cars or early prototypes. Admittedly, this was quite forgettable as a game in its own right, but they did introduce the ungainly Toyota Pod and futuristic Dome Zero among others.
The latter was a concept car from 1978 that looked amazing for the time, with its angular lines and wedge-like shape. I like to think of it as a Japanese interpretation of a Lamborghini Countach, with a hint of DMC DeLorean.
The Toyota Pod was a collaboration between Sony and Toyota that produced a car with “Artificial Intelligence” that could detect the driver’s mood and offer advice to improve it. It could also display its own moods using the LEDs on the body and also had an antenna that wagged like a dog. These would both change should your driving be particularly aggressive.
It was only ever seen in this game but it certainly sticks in my memory. How many other games feature a car with a colour-changing tail?
Gran Turismo 4
Gran Turismo 4 is the game that introduced the most alternative cars into the series, with a surfeit of them appearing. There were cars that seemingly had no place in a racing game, but that was part of the charm. This included 1949 Volkswagen Beetle, 1954 Citroën 2CV, 1963 Daihatsu Midget and the 1972 Honda LIFE STEP Van to name just a few.
There was also the 1886 Mercedes-Benz Daimler Motor Carriage and Patent Motor Wagen that are recognised as the world’s first cars and offer an awesome 1bhp to play with. Simply ridiculous to drive, but I loved the fact they exist. The most poignant of all cars included in a Gran Turismo release, as without them, we wouldn’t be discussing car ownership, driving or racing video games.
Once you’ve completed the world’s slowest lap of the Nordschleife, you could step up to the heady heights of the 1915 Ford Model T Tourer with a massive (in comparison) 20bhp.
Also included were a host of classic or rare racing cars that have become icons. The two Chaparral cars, for example.
The 2D, for starters, followed by the amazing 2J twin-engined fan car, banned from racing in the real world after its debut season. One of the engines powered the wheels with over 700bhp, and the other was an air-cooled snowmobile engine that powered two fans, sucking the car into the ground to create downforce.
Alongside these were such race classics as the 800bhp Toyota 7 and the 1937 Auto Union V16 Type C Streamline that is the oldest race car in the whole series.
These sit alongside concept cars such as the Land Rover Range Stormer Concept and Mitsubishi HSR-II concept with Active Aero Control from the ’80s, to the Hydrogen-powered Toyota Motor Triathlon Race Car and the Nike ONE 2022 (yes Nike made a car for GT), considered by many to be a precursor for the future Vision Gran Turismo cars that appeared later in the series.
GT4 also included the mad Jay Leno Tank Car, featuring an engine out of an M47 Patton Tank and installed in a custom chassis. This went on to feature in the fifth and sixth games, and once I partook in an online race using just these cars around the returning Deep Forest Raceway. Probably wasn’t the best idea, but fun nonetheless.
Gran Turismo 5
The fifth instalment also brought a few more bonkers cars to the series. It was where the ‘x prototypes’ first appeared in the shape of the Red Bull x2010 Prototype, designed by Red Bull and Adrian Newey as a race car without restrictions.
It even included an up-to-date reinterpretation of the aforementioned fan technology sucking the car into the track. This led to a car with amazing cornering ability and top speed.
Next up is a couple of my favourite cars which is the Volkswagen Kübelwagen and Schwimmwagen. These were World War II Era German vehicles. The Schwimmwagen was actually an amphibious vehicle that was based on the underpinnings of the Kübelwagen although sadly we couldn’t try out the amphibious ability in-game.
Gran Turismo 6
Ramping things up a notch, the last numbered Gran Turismo game to date introduced a few cars that were unusual. One such example is the diminutive Light Car Company Rocket, designed by Gordon Murray and evocative of early F1 cars, it’s actually from 2007 and in GT6, is a joyous little car to drive.
There was also a couple of real-life racing cars that were great additions to the game for different reasons.
The DeltaWing ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and featured a very unusual layout that looked more akin to a drag racer than an actual circuit car. The rear wheels were out far away from the chassis and the front wheels were almost next to each other inside the nose cone, resulting very distinctive shape.
Also released via paid downloadable content was the Ayrton Senna West Surrey Racing (WSR) 1983 F3 car which was a brilliantly endearing car to drive.
Then there was the whole Vision Gran Turismo (VGT) idea as well that started in the sixth instalment, which was an idea from the game’s producer Kazunori Yamauchi that is simply a single question to car manufacturers: “Would you design your rendition of the ideal GT [car] for us?”
This led to many unique and interesting creations. One of the most ingenious came from Chapparal, a brand owned by General Motors, who as we saw earlier is no stranger to racing ingenuity. This time it decided that a normal engine wouldn’t cut it and it decided to use a theoretical propulsion system in development for spacecraft and aircraft.
It uses Lasers to create forward momentum by heating the air through pulses of laser energy, so I’m told, but I have no idea how that would actually work. I mean, who does? What I do know is that it’s the strangest sounding car in a video game, ever, like a football rattle clacker.
Probably the maddest and least expected vehicle in all of Gran Turismo history also appeared in GT6 – the Lunar Roving Vehicle LRV-001 better known as the Moon Buggy. It was only available in a Lunar Exploration mode which allowed you to drive it on a simulated Lunar surface in low gravity.
In truth, this addition is tricky to manoeuvre and annoying to do the challenges with, but it is definitely memorable. Only Gran Turismo would model such a car and set challenges on the moon. The literal moon.
It’s just that it would have been fun to actually drive it round a track…
Gran Turismo Sport
GT Sport continues the tradition of some crazy cars with the SRT Tomahawk X VGT that has a stupendous 2500bhp and active aero, making it the fastest thing around a track in the whole series. That is, provided you can manage to tame it.
This is so fast that you must totally retrain how you drive to get anything out of it other than hitting every wall on the track. Mind-bending.
Hopefully, Gran Turismo 7 will continue this theme of weird and wonderful vehicles and provide some more unexpected cars. Yes, new Lamborghinis and Bugattis are very much part of the modern Instagram zeitgeist, but it wouldn’t be a characterful Gran Turismo game without something historic, amphibious and completely obscure.
There are several other weird and wonderful creations that didn’t make this list and if your favourite quirky car didn’t feature let us know about it in the comments below.