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When cars and games collide: The strangest crossovers

When the world of games meets the world of cars, anything can happen. Ben Griffin looks at the maddest tie-ups in history.

Video games and cars have enjoyed a healthy relationship since the very beginning. From Micro Machines and Burnout to Gran Turismo and Forza, petrolheads have been spoiled for choice when it comes to revelling in automotive finery from the comfort of their couch.

On rare occasions the relationship between real life cars and the world of games transcends the ordinary in ways we might not expect. In honour of these odd tie-ups, we decided to round-up the best strangest examples of interesting relationships between virtual and real machines.

Toyota FT-1

The impressive Toyota FT-1 would still be on the drawing board – possibly dead in the water – without the video game Gran Turismo. Design Studio Calty said a 3D visualisation of the car helped Toyota fall in love with the FT-1 to the point where it decided to build a concept version. All it took was a virtual drive of the FT-1 and Toyota head-honcho Akio Toyoda was sold by what could be the Supra’s revival.

Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo

When Mercedes-Benz wanted to mark the 15th birthday of Gran Turismo, it blessed us with a virtual masterpiece known as the AMG Vision Gran Turismo. The silver beauty was ours to drive around at our leisure in a world of pixels. 

J&S Worldwide Holdings decided to take things a step further. The Florida-based company announced it would be building five unofficial cars, each one made from a base SLS AMG GT with a carbon fibre body stuck on top. Yours for US$1.5 million.

Mario Kart 8

Love it or hate it, product placement is effective. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, at least it was somewhat tasteful. Nintendo and Mercedes-Benz announced a collaboration that resulted in three of the latter’s cars being added as part of a free slice of downloadable content. The stunt was done to promote the GLA crossover.

Nissan GT Academy

Hoping to prove those of us who can drive fast in a game can drive fast in real life, Nissan setup the GT Academy. The competition sees various racing game pros compete in Gran Turismo before the cream of the crop duke it out in the real world, with one lucky winner going on to take part in an intensive driver development course. 

So far the GT Academy, which is in its sixth year, has yieleded positive results including Jann Mardenborough’s strong finish in Le Mans and a pole-position at Hockenheim in the GP3 single-seater series.

Grid 2 Special Edition

Whether you want to buy a special edition version of a game depends on a) your devotion to said game and b) how desperate you are for a commemorative metal box. Or in the case of the Grid 2 Special Edition, whether you had a spare £125,000. 

If you did, buying Grid 2 got you a free PlayStation 3, branded boots, gloves and race suit. Oh, and an heavily branded real-life BAC Mono single-seater pocket rocket worth £101,940. Suddenly a free poster seems a bit lame.

Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo

Why release static images of a pre-production car when you can build it for Gran Turismo and let the world drive it? That’s the logic Nissan applied for its 2020 Vision Gran Turismo concept, a futuristic interpretation of what the next-generation GT-R could look like. 

Nissan later unveiled a real-life version of the 2+2 supercar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, complete with four-wheel drive system, illuminated exhaust exits, active suspension and bonkers styling.

Aston Martin DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo

Another fruit from the Gran Turismo concept tree was the mid-engined Aston Martin DP-100 Vision Gran Turismo. The DP-100 (short for Design Prototype) was built alongside 27 other cars to celebrate Gran Turismo reaching the ripe-old age of 15. It later became a real car that was shown off at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

This particular Aston Martin is crazier than usual. Besides the 800bhp 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12, it had wheels that could change shape at speed to either cool the brakes or improve aerodynamics. Meanwhile 60mm of ground clearance makes it wonderfully impractical over a speed bump. 

Project Cars head-to-head

With the Xbox One, PS4 and increasingly sophisticated computers on the market, video games are looking more realistic than ever. Milking this fact was a promotional trailer from the makers of Project Cars, a forthcoming racing game. 

A real BMW is seen blasting around Laguna Seca on one half of the screen. The other shows in-game footage from Project Cars. It doesn’t take Poirot to know the difference between the two, but the closeness is startling – particularly in the way the cars react to each corner.

Grand Theft Auto Bravado Banshee Dodge Viper

Game retailer GameStop decided to give away a real-life version of the Bravado Banshee found in game to celebrate the release of Grand Theft Auto V. It was based on a V10-packing 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 and built by West Coast Customs. 

The lady who won the car decided to sell it on eBay with a ‘Buy it Now’ price of US$170,000, having decided that sending her two boys to college was more important than pretending to do drive-by shootings. Wise move.

Real-life Halo Warthog

Master Chief (not to be confused with Master Chef) may not be real, but there’s a fully working Warthog vehicle from the Xbox Halo games. Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop in New Zealand built the machine, which is powered by a Nissan Patrol engine, for the Halo: Landfall short films and a movie that never happened.

It features a custom-built chassis with four-wheel drive. Sadly it lacks rear-wheel steer like in the game and, owing to a six-week build constraint, independent suspension. Fun until someone lobs a plasma grade in your general direction.

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