The Curbside Classics Of Grand Theft Auto V, Part 1

Five years ago, the worst contributor at Curbside Classic wrote a mediocre post about the cars of Grand Theft Auto V. In an effort to undo the irreparable damage of that piece, I took it upon myself to pick up the game for the low cost of about three dollars, thanks to a promotion on Amazon. Fortunately, the game remains as fun as ever, and the Xbox One’s easy-to-use screenshot capture system makes it simple to transfer all the photos I’ve taken to my PC. Those of you who haven’t played the game are in for a treat, because Rockstar has done an excellent job developing vehicles that look like they came from a parallel Earth. So strap yourselves in for the true start to a multi-part series about the cars featured in the most successful entertainment product of all time.

Panther fans rejoice: your favorite vehicles are well represented in Los Santos. No doubt due to their use as police cruisers. This particular one is a civilian model, I think. I forgot to ask the guy before I stole it. In any event, they’re called the Albany Washington. A very regal sounding name that is rather fitting for the sedan.

Here is the in-universe description (via dealership ad) for the Washington:

Is there a more iconic town car than the Washington? Own a piece of livery history! (Just don’t loiter for too long at traffic lights or someone will get in the back and ask you to take them to the airport)

While there are many different vehicles in Grand Theft Auto V, car interiors are not unique and are recycled frequently. Obviously the developers had other priorities and I cannot fault them for that.

The Wrangler also gets its own tribute by way of the Canis Mesa.

It’s often seen around Los Santos wearing some vivid colors.

Surprisingly, the horizontal slats look good on it, which I wasn’t expecting. The Mesa also has some white stuff on it. Could that be…snow? Yup! Grand Theft Auto Online does a seasonal winter event where a freak snow storm engulfs the city. While the addition of snow into Los Santos isn’t perfect – there’s no snow on the trees – Rockstar did an admirable job with everything else. Vehicle handling is compromised on the road, and as you can see on this burgundy Mesa, the designers added the salty residue look to some of the cars.

Out back there’s some rounded tail lights along with a cargo area that most certainly would be covered up in freezing weather.

And I think this interior is very fitting for a Jeep-like vehicle.

Here is the in-universe description for the Mesa:

Is there a more iconic and uncomfortable 4WD on the market? Every 17-year-old girl wants to lease a Canis on spring break, which is why the Mesa comes with roll cage as standard.

Of course there are plenty of GM vehicles to emulate as well. The Cadillac Seville appears a little more squared off as the Albany Primo, but its design is totally believable.

I recently, uh, “acquired” a Primo to help me catch a thief who had stolen a van full of illegal goods I had purchased. The sedan had a throaty growl not unlike the 3.8 liter V6 and handled slightly better than my rock bottom expectations had set for it. Acceleration was painfully slow but the overall top speed was very high.

And here’s the in-universe description of the Primo:

Nothing said ‘buy American’ when imports were sweeping the States in the 70s and 80s like the Albany Primo. A midsize luxury car that was built to last.

And the Primo isn’t the only GM product that Rockstar used as inspiration for their vehicles.

The Cheval Surge gets a very appropriate name while looking every bit as good as the first generation Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera.

I definitely like the rear tail light setup as well, which coincidentally ends up looking more like the design on the second generation model than the first.

The Surge also gets a glass roof.

Here’s how it looks from the inside.

And here is the interior. Looks more like a cabin from a ten year old Mazda than anything that was put in a Volt. Oh well.

And now, the in-universe description of the Surge:

Take shit from your gas guzzling buddies, and spend hours at charging stations just to get mistaken for a rideshare driver. The Cheval Surge turns the zero emissions dream into a dull reality.

The Surge is actually pretty fun to drive. Its got the instant torque of an electric motor and the handling is good. Kinda falls apart at full speed though. Must be those low rolling resistance tires!

Vintage vehicles ply the streets of Los Santos as well. The Albany Manana is among the best looking of the bunch.

The Manana nameplate existed in the GTA universe before the fifth installment but it didn’t look like this. It sort of resembled a two door K-car in the older games.

The modern version seems like an amalgamation of a mid 70’s Buick LeSabre and a Dodge Monaco from the same era. It also seems to borrow some visual elements from a late 60’s Cadillac Eldorado.

It’s a great design, even if it looks like it doesn’t have any tail lights from this angle.

Here is a shot of the rear end as it appears on the Wiki for GTA. I tried to find another example to photograph but these things are pretty rare.

This light blue model was sitting near the maroon model with the open top.

That blue and black two tone setup is fantastic. Unfortunately, the Albany Manana does not have an in-universe description for it. I don’t think there’s a way to poke fun at such a beautiful design, and the designers probably knew that.

The Imponte Phoenix is based on another well known coupe from General Motors.

Pontiac’s Firebird is the obvious inspiration for the Phoenix, and Rockstar also chose a bird themed name for the coupe, which makes it even better. This design stays pretty close to the real thing right until the rear, which receives some major changes, all of them good.

The Imponte also gets a nice gated shifter and a sporty steering wheel. Sadly, the Phoenix also lacks an in-game description.

German and Japanese automakers are also well represented in the game. This Vulcar Ingot appears to be based off the B3 Passat wagon and the Volvo 850 Estate.

And the tail lights are a dead ringer for a setup featured on the Nissan Stagea, which was a wagon for the Japanese domestic market.

The interior is definitely reminiscent of the B3 Passat. It also has a bunch of button blanks near the shifter if you zoom in.

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

Reputed to be the safest car ever made, this classic Vulcar station wagon has been the vehicle of choice for really terrible drivers for 20 years. The closest thing you’ll ever get to a tank for under $10k.

Is the Karin Asterope a mid 2000’s Nissan Altima that got busy with a mid 2000’s Toyota Camry and Lexus IS of similar vintage? I think so.

It’s even got the telltale sign of a car from that era: Altezza tail lights! The Altezza was an actual Toyota model after all, so it makes sense that the designers would emulate that car for one of their own creations.

This particular Asterope is a front wheel drive model that has a 3.5 liter V6.

The GTA Wiki page for the Asterope also contained some interesting information about the significance of the name.

It also boasts the same interior as the Cheval Surge.

Here is the description of the Asterope:

Promoted by Karin as an “attainable luxury vehicle,” the Asterope is the perfect car for the middle manager who knows deep down he’ll never be a senior executive but can’t quite bring himself to admit it yet.

This Declasse Asea is one of the few economy cars to ply the roads of Los Santos.

Declasse tends to mirror products from Chevrolet, so its no surprise that the Asea bears more than a passing resemblance to the Aveo and all its overseas variants.

Yup, there is no mistaking the Asea for anything else.

Here’s the in-universe description of the Asea:

An affordable, no frills, fuel-efficient compact sedan. When ‘ample headroom’ is central to the marketing campaign, what you see is what you get.

Declasse also makes vans as well. The Burrito is the rare GTA vehicle that has two generations in the game. This is the older model.

The newer model features the tail light setup of the Chevrolet Express. I’ll include it in a future post.

The citizens of Los Santos love their cars but also need public transportation. Enter the Brute Bus. Not the most exciting name for a vehicle but whatever. According to the GTA Wiki, the Bus is based off the 40-LFW and CompoBus from manufacturer from NABI (North American Bus Industries). This particular model has a livery that is similar to what LA uses for their Metro Rapid line.

Grand Theft Auto Online allows you to purchase a large number of vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The Bus is one of them. I can’t imagine why anyone would want it, but it is possible to acquire and use, although you cannot store it at any of your properties. It costs $500,000 to buy, which is probably pretty close to the real life price of a bus.

And of course there is a description for the Bus since you can buy it:

Stand out from the pack with your very own Los Santos Transit bus! Great for playing tricks on lines of people at bus stops.

Are you a frustrated Mustang owner who wants nothing more than to crash into pedestrians after going to a Cars & Coffee event? Good news! The Vapid Dominator is for you. Vapid is clearly based on Ford, right down to the oval logo, so its no surprise that there is a Mustang inspired vehicle in its lineup.

It seems the Dominator takes a cue from the fifth generation Mustang before it got its powertrain upgrades for the 2011 model year:

Baby boomer teen dream repackaged for the mass market generation. A muscle car without the muscle that’s the rental vehicle of choice for tourists looking for a slice of ‘real’ Americana.

Like Ford, Vapid also produces utility vehicles. This one is called the Radius. Both the name and the design borrow elements from the first and second generation Edge.

For some reason the GTA Wiki entry for the Radius claims its design was based on the Dodge Caliber along with the Edge. I’m not seeing it.  Anyway, here’s the in-game description:

One of the best-selling mid-size crossovers on the market today. Enjoy the feel and functionality of an SUV without everybody berating you about your carbon footprint.

Luxury vehicles are an important component of the Los Santos vehicular ecosystem. The Albany Cavalcade fills an important niche for people looking for an unabashedly American SUV. And obviously its no coincidence that the Cavalcade looks like a Cadillac Escalade either. This is the second generation model.

Rockstar is pretty on point about the cars it decides to emulate. Unfortunately it misses the mark with its description of the Cavalcade:

 “The old man luxury automobile, but once you sit inside this comfy car that steers like a boat, you’ll know why your old man often fell asleep at the wheel.

Sounds more like a description of a DTS or XTS than anything else.

There are plenty of German and Japanese luxury vehicles in the game too. The Fathom FQ 2 is a riff off the Infiniti FX.

The FQ 2 was initially based off the FX series but now it looks like a combination of that model and the QX70.

Yeah, Rockstar did a good job here. They also nailed the essence of the crossover in its description, even if I think the Infiniti isn’t bad looking:

You might think that calling something “utterly nondescript” and “profoundly unattractive” would be a contradiction in terms, but look closely: the FQ 2 is a masterclass in having things both ways.

Fifteen vehicles and just over two thousand words…I think that is enough for part one. Stay tuned for future installments!

All screenshots taken in-game by the author

Related Reading:

The Curbside Classics of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Seasons 1 & 2

The Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable in American Popular Culture