Why some computer game heroes were not the fastest or most sought-after models
If you've watched the LATEST EPISODE (CLICK HERE) you'll see MOOG has picked up a crazy new (tiny) JDM project. While everyone froths GT-Rs, Supras, RX-7s and the well-known hero cars get the glory online, we've been blown away by the love for some lesser-known models, including the Daihatsu Midget.
These tiny one- and two-seater Kei trucks are the opposite of a performance car, but they became a quirky anti-hero of Gran Turismo thanks to their tiny size and complete absense of horsepower. In short, they're loved because they're the single silliest car to take on a race track this side of a convertible Cadillac.
Memories of playing games like Gran Turismo and Need For Speed, where you can drive real cars flat-out many years before you carry a real life licence (or have to find the money to buy and mod said real cars) form a crucial hook of nostalgia. And it drives many of us to seek out ways to remember those good times.
While there were JDM monsters like R33 GT-Rs and RZ Supras, plus exotica like 427 Corvettes and Aston Martin DB7s, many of us have more favoured memories of tuning up basic cars like Mitsubishi Lancers (or, Mirages in Japan and the game).
Mazda's Demio is definitely not a desirable collector car, despite it putting in a monster show at budget racing series like the Nugget Nationals. However, Mazda's blocky hatch is where most of us started our Gran Turismo journey - bombing the Sunday Cup and licence tests.
These little five-doors score massively on the cheap fun scale, and the good memories of discovering a killer driving simulator mean a little tuned-up Mazda 121 (nee: Demio) is an easily accessible way to transplant you straight back to those days.
Another car that is often overlooked in the JDM hero pantheon is Mitsubishi GTO (otherwise known as the 3000GT Down Under). This machine had all the makings of a hero-killer, with a twin-turbo 206kW V6, all-wheel-drive grip and more tech than any of its competition, but it never found a massive fanbase like the Nissan GT-R. This limited the aftermarket support and never let the big Mitsu shine like it could.
However, in Gran Turismo it could be tuned to its full potential and became one of the fastest machines you could buy. While the real life car isn't as rapid as the digital machine, there is something cool about owning one of the top dogs of one of the 1990s best driving sims.
Finally, another Mitsubishi was a hero of Gran Turismo and was a popular import of the early 2000s: the FTO. This little front-drive 2L V6 coupe was never an amazing sports car like the Mazda MX-5, but it had its charms.
It really found a family among Gran Turismo fans, where it could be tuned up into a race-winner. These cars weren't ever really challenging NSXs and supercars on the track, but in the GT world anything was possible and today many people who spent way too long playing this game remember the FTO favourably.