I’d never heard of the Gran Turismo franchise before I picked it up in a Game shop (when was the last time you went in one of those?), but the bright white cover and car on the front of GT4 drew me in. It was a long time before I realised said car wasn’t a Koenigsegg, and was in fact the Ford GT, which was brand new at the time this came out. On the back, the promise of 700 cars, 50 tracks and being a driving simulator also drew me in and, after playing it just briefly, I was hooked.
GT4 was brilliant for many reasons, but the one that I’ll talk about today is the used car markets. Going from games like Need For Speed, the idea of a used car market was completely alien, but soon I was trawling through them every time I played it.
The main reason was the heavily discounted cars – some of the newer ones were still on sale, and had around 15,000 miles on the clock. Of course, the mileage makes zero difference when you’re only doing a few miles around a racetrack at a time, as long as you treated the car to a 20-credit oil change.
You could also often buy cars for a specific race series at a cheaper price. Because most of the cars in the used car markets were from the 1980s and 1990s, most were super affordable and were required for championships like the Japanese 80s race series.
You’d need to go into the used car markets to buy your first car in the game, and even then your 10,000 credits wouldn’t get very far. The first time I played it I bought a Mitsubishi FTO, and quickly realised that I was being left behind even in the Clubman Cup and other non-license races. Best to go through a few license trials – after all, you had to go through them anyway – and save up to get something better. Subarus were always a good shout – fairly inexpensive, rapid to start with and easily tuneable.
I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have such strong car knowledge without playing Gran Turismo. It opened my eyes to a whole world of cars I’d never seen before, like Japan-only Nissan Stageas and Kei cars with tiny power and large body kits.
Before this, I had no idea that there were so many versions of the Honda NSX, Nissan Skyline and Mazda MX-5, for example. I also learned that some car companies used to make some horrendous models – a Nissan EXA Canopy, which looks like a melted Delorean crashed into an old Bluebird, or the Toyota Sera, which doesn’t seem to have been styled at all apart from Lambo doors. It only had 100hp, too.
On a racing simulator, I’m not sure why cars like that were included. But aside from these, I found some cars on the game that I grew to worship. Namely, any fast 90s Japanese car, whether it was a Skyline, Supra, GTO, NSX, Legnum, Impreza or Integra. Over time I’ve grown to like the understated ones more – there’s something incredible about a fast estate, and I’m not sure what it is. I’d definitely put my love and admiration of JDM cars down to this one game, and I’d fill many a garage with many of the cars in the used car markets.
Part of the reason that JDM cars were so appealing was that, compared to European cars in the market, they were so much less money, and often for a better car. Case in point: at the time of writing this, there’s a cherry-red MG F with 142bhp and just less than 25,000 miles on sale for an eye-watering 26,526 credits. Above it is a 177bhp FTO with similar mileage for 9,435 credits and, while neither of these will set you hair on fire, that’s a huge difference and I’d much rather not drive around in an MG F. An NSX was usually around 50,000 credits, but that’s small beer compared to a 301bhp Mercedes SL 500 – you’ll need 85,000 credits for that.
Occasionally, a car would come up that would be absolutely perfect. Who else lost their mind when this happened? Whether it was the perfect colour and affordable – perhaps an Impreza with the correct blue-and-gold colour scheme – or you’d found the fabled Skyline V-Spec II Nur edition.
It often took quite a lot of trawling through the classifieds to find a car like that, but if you did then you’d hit gold. Back then, something like that happening meant that day was A VERY GOOD DAY indeed. Imagine if that’s all you still had to worry about…