Hacker Stuffs OutRun Into Retro Toy for the Perfect Classic Racing Rig

Car CultureGaming September 11, 2017 by

For some of us, Gran Turismo was our first driving simulator. For those of us who have been around a bit longer, there were other toys, like Tomy’s Turnin’ Turbo. Back in 1983, this tabletop marvel was all the rage among budding young gearheads — so we’re told — with its Porsche-inspired design, sleek instrument cluster, and Tron-like visuals.

It’s been 35 years since the Turnin’ Turbo and its adversary, the Fun-To-Drive Corvette Dashboard, inspired a new generation of enthusiasts. And what better way to celebrate that than to mash it up with another staple of virtual motoring entertainment. We’re talking, of course, about OutRun.

The project comes from UK-based hacker Matt Brailsford, aka Circuitbeard. Back in 1986, an OutRun machine would have cost an arcade operator thousands. Today, the game runs on an integrated circuit that fits in the palm of your hand. Combined with Tomy’s relic, the result is unquestionably the cutest racing rig that’s even been devised.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice the only driving inputs are the steering wheel and a gear selector with three positions — low, neutral, and high. The shifter replaces the accelerator and brake pedals, and actually self-centers when not pushed forward or backward. Additionally, the entire instrument cluster was redesigned with LEDs and reflects the on-screen action in real time.

According to Brailsford, getting that display, along with the other inputs, to play nice with the software was one of the primary challenges. For that reason, rather than pluck the original ROM, the hacker utilized a C++ port of OutRun, called Cannonball, for ultimate flexibility.

A Raspberry Pi powers the game, and Brailsford added a speaker to the build to ensure OutRun’s legendary soundtrack remained part of the journey. Throw in a 3.5-inch LCD display, custom-made graphics and stickers, and loads of hot glue and elbow grease, and you wouldn’t know the finished product wasn’t an official Sega product — it looks that pristine.

Brailsford goes into much greater detail about the development process on his blog. It’s a fascinating read, especially if you’re technologically inclined. It’s doubtful you’ll be able to turn in high scores and record times on his machine, but that’s not the point. The SNES Classic will likely be this holiday’s hot retro toy, but we know which re-imagined piece of classic gaming hardware we’d rather have.

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