It’s ironic that the most futuristic Vision Gran Turismo virtual racer to date also has the deepest historical ties to motorsports.
Chevrolet revealed a real-life mock-up of its imaginative Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept during the Los Angeles Auto Show, simultaneously challenging the boundaries of vehicle design while paying homage to a legendary racing brand known for innovation.
The 2X will be available for download on “Gran Turismo 6” for the PlayStation 3 this holiday season, joining a slew of other concepts for the Vision Gran Turismo initiative that invites automakers to dream up designs for the game.
The 2X summons the tradition of the designs on which Chaparral Cars and Chevrolet joined forces more than 45 years ago.
The 2X, created by GM’s North Hollywood Advanced Design Center, is more of a suit than a race car.
It requires the driver to lay down belly first with arms spread outward toward the wheels in a prone position that simulates flying just inches from the ground -- at 240 mph.
The vehicle isn’t driven by an axle, but instead relies on a laser propulsion system that hyperheats air to create pulse waves for thrust. Polyphony Digital, the maker of the “Gran Turismo” series, helped develop the vehicle’s sound.
It’s the closest thing you can get to jumping from a cliff, said center director Frank Saucedo, who oversaw the team that worked on the 2X concept.
Saucedo said the 2X’s lead designer, Charles LeFranc, was inspired by cliff jumpers. LeFranc once showed Saucedo a cliff-jumping video, and Saucedo asked how that sense of flight could be incorporated into a vehicle.
“You use your hands and your feet and your body English to set the direction of the car,” Saucedo said in an interview Thursday.
Saucedo said the design center received permission to chase the project thanks to the friendship between Chaparral Cars co-founder Jim Hall and GM global design chief Ed Welburn.
Saucedo called Hall an innovator. When Hall came to the studio to see the 2X, he said people must not have liked him on the Formula One race circuit because every time he built something that couldn’t be figured out, it was outlawed.
Hall, still full of racing wisdom, consulted the studio throughout the 2X design.
“He talked about the visibility. He talked about thrust and down force. These are all the things he did when he was racing, so it was like he was back in it,” Saucedo said.
“He was very serious about the car. He truly appreciated what we did. Anything from here on in doesn’t matter. He loved it, so we’re happy.”