How I Bought a Gran Turismo Racing Pod

Ever wonder about those sweet custom-built Gran Turismo racing pods at events? GTPlanet member Julian Hunt did too, and now he can count one as part of his extensive GT collection. This guest article details Julian’s hunt for the crown jewel.

My Gran Turismo collection has been growing steadily for a long time now — I would definitely describe myself as a serious collector. The collection is big, so big that I’m not even sure what I have, and haven’t got. The one item that I had wanted for a long time, and which must be high on any serious GT collector’s want list, was a genuine Sony Gran Turismo Racing Pod. But getting hold of one, it seemed, wasn’t going to be so easy.

I tried for ages to find one for sale. There was a guy round the corner from where I used to work who had a business making things for exhibitions who said he knew someone who may be able to help — it came to nothing. I called Mercedes Benz World at the famous Brooklands race track here in the UK because I knew they had at least three pods there — no luck, not for sale. I wrote to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe to see if I could buy one directly from them, they wrote back — and said no.

I even asked a good friend who was going to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I knew there would be pods, to see if she could get the name of someone who might be able to help me get one — no luck. A phone call to a guy who had a business hiring out racing simulators sounded positive to start with, but came to nothing. And while all this searching was going on GT6 was released, and with it a competition offering five pods as prizes so I entered that, too — again, with no luck!

eBay to the Rescue!

It was beginning to look like it might never happen. Then, whilst looking on eBay one evening, I saw one for sale. It was the only one I’d ever seen for sale, I couldn’t believe it! As it turned out, it was one of the five GT6 competition prizes given away by Sony which had been won by a 2011 GT Academy finalist from the Netherlands. There was the first problem, it was in another country approximately 420 miles away with a large area of water separating me from it…

So, what to do? The first person I mentioned it to was my girlfriend who, knowing how long I had been trying to get one, said “you have to buy it” with no hesitation.

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as simple as just buying it. I needed to be sure I could get it from The Netherlands to my home in the UK (Kent), and then, if I could work out a way to do that I would have to negotiate a reasonable price. I figured the first thing to do was make sure I could get it home, as there was no point buying it and then having problems transporting it. Being heavy (750 lb) in its rather large wooden shipping crate (7.5 ft x 4 ft), it wasn’t the easiest thing to move around… but I already had an idea!

Fortunately, thanks to my other hobby, which is old air-cooled VWs, I have friends all over the world. One of those friends sprang to mind immediately, an all round good guy named Marco who just so happened to live in the Netherlands. I knew that from time to time he transported old VWs that he was restoring to the UK to have them painted.

So, I figured that if Marco was coming to collect one of those cars with an empty trailer, perhaps he could bring the pod over and deliver it to my house, which is reasonably close to the paint shop he used.

Pod Negotiations Begin

A quick message to Marco explaining my plan was met with a very positive response. No real surprise there, as Marco is a positive kind of guy who just gets things done, no messing around! Not only did he agree to collect the pod from the North of the Netherlands, store it at his workshop and then deliver to the UK when a trailer space was available, but also handle the negotiations on the phone on my behalf in his native language which made everything a whole lot easier.

The eBay auction was listed with a “Buy It Now” price which was a little more than the value that Sony quoted for the pod and everything that comes with it which is everything you need to get it set up and working:

  • Gran Turismo® racing pod;
  • 42″ Sony Bravia television;
  • PlayStation®3 500 GB super slim games console;
  • Gran Turismo®6 anniversary edition game signed by GT creator Kazunori Yamauchi;
  • Thrustmaster® T500 RS racing wheel; and
  • Thrustmaster® racing seat.

The negotiations started with Marco making an initial offer on my behalf which was rejected by the seller, preferring to let the auction run. Which it did, without selling. Marco contacted the seller again with the same offer but he decided to re-list it and see if there was any other interest, which there wasn’t. We then did some more negotiating and got close to a deal: we were €500 apart and we finally agreed to meet in the middle. I upped my bid by €250.00, the seller lowered his asking price by €250.00 and we were both happy. The deal was done.

The Logistics of Shipping

The money was sent over by bank transfer and within a week or two Marco had arranged the trip north to collect it, transport it back to his workshop and store it until his next trip to the UK with an empty trailer. As it turned out it was quite some time before the opportunity arose for the UK trip, but it didn’t matter: there was no rush.

It was suggested at one point that if it could be taken out of the wooden shipping crate Marco could bring it over in the back of his van without the need for the trailer. But I had to have the crate too: it’s custom made for the pod so it was important to keep it all together.

Then the message I had been waiting for came. Another friend named Michael would be coming over to the UK with a car on a trailer — a very big trailer — and there would be room for the pod on it, too. The delivery to my house would be early one morning over the Easter weekend and unfortunately, due to a prior drag racing commitment, I wasn’t able to be there. Luckily my girlfriend and another friend had it covered for me and by 8AM they had it unloaded and safely in my garage.

It was then another three months before I was able to check it out and get it set up. Now, at this point I really should have left it in its crate in the garage because my lounge, where it was going to live, needed to be decorated. The wooden floor, which is beneath the carpet, needed to be restored. Setting the race pod up was only going to make the decorating and floor restoration even harder… but realistically what were the chances of me waiting?

It had taken 663 days from buying it to actually getting it home, and with GT Sport on its way, there was only one thing to do and that was get it set up as quickly as possible.

Getting It In the House

After a quick chat with my lovely neighbors I was all set. They would be happy to give me a hand to get it from the garage into the house. I had already measured the width and knew that it wouldn’t quite fit through the front door, so it had to be taken off. Once that was done it was all reasonably easy.

Although it came un-assembled most of the 550 lb weight was in the main lower section and I was a little bit concerned about how easy it would be to move it around. Luckily I wanted it in my lounge on the ground floor, and it was no problem for two of us to maneuver it into position. There are small wheels under the front, so with one person each side at the back it’s easy enough to lift and wheel around. Had there been any stairs to contend with it would have been a different story.

Once the base was in position it was easy to attach the two upper halves that complete the sides, and then the three clear flexi panels completing the assembly of the pod itself. These parts all bolt together with allen bolts for which even the correct allen keys were supplied.

Next the Bravia screen can be fitted. It’s mounted in exactly the same way as you would hang it on a wall and all the wiring is already there for it. Finally the PS3 fits perfectly into a lockable compartment between the TV and the Thrustmaster steering wheel. The wheel was already wired and fitted, as were the pedals and the Cobra race seat. The PS3’s compartment has two small electric fans that run all the time drawing warm air out and keeping the PS3 cool.

Bringing the Pod to Life

So, now it’s all up and running was it worth all the effort — and that’s not only my effort but Marco’s and Michael’s, too — and was it worth the money? The answer to both those questions is 100% yes! It’s right up there in my top five favorite GT things. I love the way it’s made: the quality of the whole thing is superb and it’s really easy to put together. It’s well designed too, as the PS3 fits into its compartment perfectly with just the top being exposed.

Something that I really like is that everything requiring power — the steering wheel, the PS3 and its additional cooling fans, the Bravia TV screen and the four speakers that have two LEDs mounted in each of them — are powered by a small amplifier are all connected internally to a central power hub. Thanks to this, there is just one power lead coming out of a PC-style power socket on the lower side of the pod. Just push one plug into the wall socket and everything powers up at once. It’s very neat!

The whole Gran Turismo playing experience, including my lap times, has now changed. Until getting the pod I had always played using a regular controller and that’s for almost 20 years. Now, sitting in the comfort of the Cobra Imola Pro Fit FIA Racing Seat and using the T500 RS wheel and pedals the whole experience is totally changed, and much improved. I went back to a few of the license tests, all of which had been completed with gold, and it was remarkably easy to improve on my best times with just a couple of attempts.

The whole experience of hunting the pod down, and then the challenge of getting it from the Netherlands to the UK and set up in my house has been great fun. It wouldn’t have been possible without all the help from Marco, Michael and of course my neighbors. If it had been easy I very much doubt I would appreciate it as much as I do!

I would love to hear from any other pod owners or winners and can be contacted through GTPlanet, as Jules_r. I would also be happy to hear from anyone wishing to sell any interesting Gran Turismo memorabilia that might enhance my already extensive collection!

Thanks again to Julian for sharing his story!

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