Frank Stephenson, the designer responsible for the Maserati MC12, McLaren P1, R50 Mini Cooper and many other recognisable vehicles, has turned his insightful, critical eye to the world of video game cars. In his latest YouTube video, he scrutinizes 11 models from Grand Theft Auto V.
I’m someone who finds fictional cars sometimes more fascinating than real ones, I clicked on this faster than the Los Santos Police Department comes down on you for sneaking into a military base.
GTA vehicles are interesting, both because there’s a hell of a lot of them — 651, according to the scrupulous folks over at GTABase — and because they’re rather inconsistent in quality. We could argue all day why that may be, but that’s immaterial to what Stephenson is doing here: judging these cars on their own merits while drawing attention to the cues they lift from real ones. He gives a remarkably candid analysis as someone with deep experience in the industry.
A highlight is the Principe Deveste Eight — a car that, in Stephenson’s words, looks like it was made “to inflict pain.” The designer notes that the Deveste Eight isn’t particularly refined, but also concedes that isn’t really the point of a hypercar so outlandish and unconstrained by real-world considerations like homologation or safety.
Stephenson has less flattering things to say about some of the more derivative cars, like the McLaren F1 GTR Longtail-aping Progen Tyrus. “It looks like a race car, but it’s one of those things that was built in a shed somewhere,” Stephenson remarks, before picking apart the Tyrus’ mispositioned side intakes, bulky rear-end design and dearth of eye-catching surfaces.
Perhaps the most interesting moment in the video (which is 17 minutes long, by the way; Frank doesn’t phone it in for these fake cars) comes when the McLaren P1 designer notices some familiarities in the Grotti Turismo R, which he describes as looking “a bit like an Italian P1, or an English LaFerrari.” Fortunately, he doesn’t seem offended nor flattered about the cribbing — good news for Rockstar Games’ legal team, I suppose.
Grand Theft Auto fans who are also interested in car design should waste no time checking out Stephenson’s full thoughts, or at least the video’s delightfully over-the-top intro. I’m really hoping he tackles Ridge Racer next.