The cars we loved.
Concept cars are often loosely designed with real world applications in mind. While the chances for production are often remote, better odds say that styling cues will show up on future production models. For Citroen, its GT concept of 2008 turns the ideal of an off limits concept car on its head. It seems only fitting that a company like Citroen, long known for its innovation would make a real car designed for the virtual world.
The low slung 2 seat coupe is one of the most striking concepts of the decade. Its Ford V8 musters up 646 hp sent to the rear wheels (or to all in the game). The gull-wing doors and impossible outward viewing angles indicate that this car was designed with no regard to practicality. Other than the driver being able to actually see out of the car (when not looking at displays), design conventions for egress and comfort were tossed out in favor of extreme performance and aesthetics. The trade-off works just fine considering that most people will see this car in a game environment, usually from behind.
The project started with Citroen designer Takumi Yamamoto taking his ideal to longtime friend Kazunori Tamauchi (of Polyphony Digital). The two convinced Jean-Pierre Ploue, Citroen’s Design Director to submit the ideal to corporate brass in Paris for production. Polyphony Digital’s flagship game Gran Tourismo was well known as being a virtual test bed for performance products from companies like Nismo. While is normal for Polyphony to work with manufacturers to simulate cars in Gran Tourismo, the GT project dictated a much closer relationship that saw Polyphony Digital as much a developer as Citroen. There are actually three versions of the car in the game: the 510 hp Road, 615 hp Race and 793 hp Concept versions. While the virtual GT’s used four electric motors at each wheel, the real one used a gasoline powered V8 from the Ford GT.
The GT toured the European auto show circuit in 2008 after debuting in Paris. The display featured a simulator that allowed show attendants to drive the GT, similar to how they would in GT5 (without the elaborate cabin apparatus). No expense was spared in the construction of the concept and its elaborate display. Carbon fiber rear view mirrors, blue LED headlamps and on-board LED and heads-up displays were sculpted to look like futuristic art. Needless to say the GT was one of the stars of the Paris show that year. Stories leaked in the media about production plans with numbers ranging from 6 to 20, selling for $1.8 to 2.1 million a pop.
It was all just euphoric talk. Citroen has since backed off from production claims and has decided focus on its existing car lines. At just over 3,000 lb the GT reportedly would have accelerated to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 205 mph. Now that production plans have been shelved, the car exists where it was intended to in the first place: in the virtual space of the game world.
The GT was included in versions of Sony’s popular Gran Turismo 5 and 5 Prologue (as a download) for the PlayStation 4. As a real car designed for the virtual environment, the GT represents an interesting future dynamic where cars could be built and sold virtually for use in virtual environments.
The GT’s influence on real world Citroen design has been subtle if noticeable at all. A string of concepts like the Numero 9 and others have reminded the automotive world of Citroen’s design skills, nothing nearly as racy as the GT has appeared in showrooms. Currently the most sporting car the company has might be the DS3 and that’s only because it has two doors. Clearly, more of the GT’s influence is needed to help Citroen reverse its declining market share in Europe.