LOS ANGELES, CA – While most of the new vehicles introduced at the Los Angeles auto show today maintained a relatively close link with reality, Chevrolet's Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Tursimo (VGT) concept is a pure flight of fancy.
This is a fantasy car by design,” said Frank Saucedo, who oversaw the team that worked on the concept.
Named as an hommage to the spectacularly innovative Chaparral USRRC and Can Am cars developed, built and raced by Texan, Jim Hall in the 1960s, the Chaparral 2X VGT concept channels that spirit of innovation into a vision of what the future of racing could hold.
In the absence of any defined rules, it pushes the boundaries even further than Jim Hall did in his day, with a radical form, a skeleton-like (the Olympic sport) driving position and an advanced – and as yet uninvented – laser-based propulsion system.
Hall, with a lot of back-door help from Chevrolet R&D, during the period when GM was officially out of racing, pioneered such now ubiquitous race-car technologies as composite monocoque chassis, lightweight-alloy powertrain systems, automatic transmissions for racing and progressive, active aerodynamics.
Hall's Chaparral 2E was the first race car to employ a high-mounted aerofoil wing. Soaring above the rear of the car, its angle of attack could be adjusted by the driver using a foot pedal (with an automatic transmission no clutch pedal was needed) and it transferred downforce directly to the rear-wheel hub carriers via tall pillars.
Even more radical, the subsequent Chaparral 2J employed a snowmobile engine to turn two fans that literally sucked the car down onto the road – like a hovercraft in reverse. It was so effective that it was banned, of course.
Hall, who is now 79, was present for the unveiling of the futuristic Chaparral 2X VGT concept that his legacy inspired.
The imaginitive racer was developed specifically for the Gran Turismo 6 racing game for PlayStation 3. It is one of several 'Vision GT' cars initially developed by various automakers as digital racers for the video game, but subsequently turned into full-size, three-dimensional concept cars.
The Vision Gran Turismo project, which addresses the future of automotive design and innovation, celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Gran Turismo game franchise. The game's founder, Kazunori Yamauchi was also on hand for today's reveal.
Gamers will be able to race the Chaparral 2X VGT themselves this holiday season by downloading an online update for Gran Turismo 6.
Audacious and ambitious vision
“This concept is an audacious and ambitious vision,” said Clay Dean, executive director of advanced design at GM.
The Chaparral 2X VGT’s concept propulsion system is said to be inspired by technology derived from work targeted at space travel and future aircraft design. It features a mid-mounted laser beamed-energy propulsion system, which pulses beams of light that focus in a shroud, creating shock waves that generate tremendous thrust in the lightweight race car – at least in theory.
With a 671-kW laser, powered by a pack of lithium-ion batteries, and an air-powered generator to provide 900 horsepower worth of thrust, it will be capable of a 386 km/h top speed in the video game and 0-100 km/h acceleration in about 1.5 seconds.
The driver is in what GM calls an active prone configuration – face down with the arms and legs splayed toward the wheels and the car’s propulsion and suspension systems fitted around him, or her.
“Think of it as adapting a wing suit to a racing car, where the driver’s movements control certain aspects of the aero package,” said Saucedo. “In many ways, the Chaparral 2X VGT is like racing wing suit, with a protective fuselage for ‘flying’ very low to the ground.”
The driver-enabled aerodynamics eliminate the need for big, conventional wings and other aero devices used to generate downforce. As a result, it's overall mass can be reduced to realize a minimalist structure.
Only essential elements are included, such as instrumentation that is projected on the driver’s helmet visor.
Given the lightweight chassis, tremendous cornering grip with a relatively small tire footprint. It rolls on 17-inch front wheels wrapped with surprisingly narrow racing tires.
“Chaparral’s race cars and methods were seen as outlandish four decades ago," said Saucedo. "The Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept might just be a harbinger of motorsports in the next four decades.”