by Bill Bennett
Although never actually raced in this livery, this hyper-Mazda is real enough to gamers who have spent hours piloting it around the virtual race courses of the world. Decorated in carbon fiber with white lettering, it’s certainly menacing in the flesh.
1:18 | $245
AUTOart’s new Gran Turismo 5 Mazda 787B “Stealth Model” marks the building of a bridge between the world of diecast collecting and that of video gaming — and it’s a bridge that AUTOart is hoping enthusiasts raised on video might cross. Holding out hope that on-screen car lust might become real-time, in-hand collecting constitutes a gamble; for that alone, we applaud the company. At this level of detail, and at this price, that’s a bold step to take.
In real life, the Mazda 787B was an amazing competitor. It was the first Japanese car, and the first rotary engine-powered vehicle, for that matter, to win Le Mans overall. It goes without saying that this was no mean feat. The odds seemed stacked against this relatively small manufacturer, which elected to use a controversial engine design in an endurance race where conventional motors expired by the boatload. But Mazda prevailed in 1991 — winning not only with speed, but also with rock-solid reliability.
Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5 driving simulator, for the Sony PlayStation 3, provides the gamer with a way to upgrade his or her cyber ride by trading points won playing the game for one of three “Stealth Models” in black carbon fiber, topped by white Gran Turismo graphics. The 787B is one of these cars.
In 1:18, the hard-copy replica of that hard-won virtual reward is based on all of the same tooling as AUTOart’s heavily detailed Le Mans winner, with the addition of a stealthy simulated carbon-fiber body, and crisp white graphics — done to a digital turn — being the only changes. From a distance, the car sits about as low as you can go; the body is sleek and racy, with tight shut lines, and it rolls on scuffed Dunlops. The doors swing up nicely, revealing a purposeful interior consisting of a single racing seat, fabric and photo-etch seatbelts, and the most realistic photo-etch and plastic steering wheel we’ve seen in a while.
Give the nose and tail the heave-ho, and the car’s intense detailing becomes visible. The whole tub, and most of the secondary structural components, are done in simulated carbon fiber; the little stuff, like the photo-etch pieces in the radiators and the “Gurney flaps” and riveted clips holding the windscreen and side windows in place is impressive. In contrast, the engine is rather indistinct, hidden from view by all of the carbon-fiber cooling shrouds that surround it, but the visible plumbing and wiring are amazing for their complexity and realism. So is the highly detailed — but static — suspension, with real, fixed-in-place coil springs.
It may have been born and tested on the boards and circuits of the gaming world, but in every real sense, AUTOart’s imaginative reboot of the winning Mazda is jammed with noble materials and top shelf execution. It’s expensive, too, as is befitting a model in the high end of the quality and detail continuum. Listen up, player: this is one of the finest pieces on AUTOart’s current roster.