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GM takes sports car from video game to real world

The 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show signalled a change in the way manufacturers develop concept cars and what they do with them once the final design is completed.

The Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo (VGT) isn't the first concept to be developed exclusively for a video game. But it's arguably the most advanced to go from the virtual to the physical world.

The starting point for the Chaparral was the Vision Gran Turismo project, an invitation from Sony PlayStation to push outside the envelope in designing cars for Gran Turismo 6, the latest version of the best-selling driving game. Since the start of the challenge last year, manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Subaru have produced concepts.

The Chaparral assignment was given to Frank Saucedo and his team at Advanced Design Center in North Hollywood, Calif.

"The easy part of the process was knowing that we were working with a limited set of rules," Saucedo said during the L.A. Auto Show. "The hard part was knowing that we were working with a limited set of rules. We just focused on making sure we were paying homage to Chaparral."

Chaparral was the brainchild of racer engineer Jim Hall, who partnered with Chevrolet 45 years ago. The partnership yielded some of the most innovative race cars in history – cars built using lightweight materials and incorporating advanced aerodynamics. The Chaparral 2X VGT was unveiled on the Chevrolet stand in L.A. by Hall and Kazunori Yamauchi, the video game designer behind the Gran Turismo franchise.

Saucedo explained that the idea of linking these two legends to one project came from Ed Welburn, General Motors' vice-president of global design. "Ed is a big fan of Chaparral and has a relationship with Jim Hall. After many proposals, we decided to use the Chaparral name because it's an important link to our motorsports legacy."

This begs the question: How does a name from the distant past help a car company connect with potential customers of a certain age?

"We're targeting the gamers in the older range, the 20- to 40-year-olds, by giving them a unique driving game experience," Saucedo said. "At the same time, we're using the Chaparral name because that driving experience is authentic to the way their cars were designed."

The Chaparral 2X VGT boasts a head-first driving position, a beamed-energy propulsion system inspired by space travel and a top speed of 385 km/h. The concept also incorporates driver-adjustable aerodynamic devices modelled after a wing suit and cameras that capture images all around the car, then project them onto the driver's helmet visor.

Saucedo's designers are working on fine-tuning the Chaparral 2X VGT to make sure the extreme handling characteristics of the concept are, theoretically, possible in the Gran Turismo setting. Gamers will be able to download and race the car starting in December.

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