Formula D superstar Vaughn Gittin Jr. rose to fame by employing the same principles he deployed when designing his Ford F-150 ‘Ultimate Fun-Haver’—getting out there and having a good time. Vaughn has now brought his Fun-Haver out from the wild and into Project CARS, and he’s been overseeing its in-game development for months. The result? Some serious off-road mischief in all its big-air, sideways drifting, grin-inducing glory
Formula Drift World Champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. is one of the world’s most iconic drifters, and his Monster Energy Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5-D (which he designed) the most recognizable machine in the high-energy world of Formula D. The only American to have ever won the D1 Grand Prix twice, Vaughn’s success, in a sport where personality matters, is built on the ability to convey his sense of fun to the fans. So when he decided to create the ‘Ultimate Fun-Haver’, Slightly Mad Studios were keen on getting the vehicle into Project CARS 2. Vaughn Gittin Jr. is now a physics consultant on Project CARS, and he has been instrumental in ensuring his Ford F-150 Fun-Haver comes to you with absolute accuracy and fidelity.
The ‘Ultimate Fun-Haver’ in the ‘ultimate driver journey’ boils down to just one thing—fun for everyone!
From Maryland to the Promised Land via Joppa
Vaughn’s career— Ace Driver of the Decade title, three-time World Drift Series champion, more tandem battle victories than any other driver in 10 years of Formula Drift history, even a NASCAR outing—is the result of innate talent fused with a larger-than-life persona. It’s been quite a ride for a kid from small-town Maryland who ended up a motorsport icon with no motorsports experience and no ambition to even become a professional driver.
How did he become a legendary figure in the world of drifting?
“It was a natural progression of my life,” Vaughn explains. “When I was four years-old, I got a kart, and first thing I did was pull a little power-brake to make it slide around. Then in my teenage years I got into BMX and skateboarding and motorcross, anything that I could slide and have fun on. That all changed when I turned 18. That’s when I got my first car, a real-wheel drive Nissan 240SX. I used to take that thing to a local industrial park and just play around with it, you know, pulling the handbrake and doing donuts and stuff. I was just having fun until I saw some videos of drifting, and I thought, ‘Man, this looks cool, it’s like skateboarding with cars!’ So I tagged along to a local drifting event, and realized that all these things that I had done in my life up ’til then had led me to this place; I had taught myself good car control, and that was what drifting was all about. I tried my hand at it, and realized pretty early that I was good at it. At the same time, I fell in love with the whole drifting scene—the culture of the sport, you know, and I just found myself chasing it, improving myself, figuring it all out. I had no training in motorsports at all—I came into this from nowhere.”
Vaughn immediately felt at home in the drifting scene. “It wasn’t a traditional motorsport,” Vaughn explains on what attracted him to the sport. “Drifting felt somehow edgier, if you will, it was like being a skater and hanging out with your friends, you know? I liked that the aim was to show your style, show your personality behind the wheel. And of course, you could customize your car as you wanted, and there wasn’t any giant rulebook hanging over your head—drifting felt a lot like the outlaw of motorsport, and we were doing things that were different, edgier. The challenge and the fun of the sport was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was just happy to be a part of it.”
His path up the drifting ladder was quick. In a sport where factory-backing, managers, and money doesn’t matter as much as the ability to fire-up the fans, Vaughn was a natural. Did he realize early-on that there was a future in the sport for him?
“I didn’t have a plan,” he confesses. “I was just being me doing a sport I loved, but as I got better, so the business started moving with me. But really, I never thought the whole thing through—I guess, just like in all sports, though, there are certain athletes who just stand out from the crowd for whatever reason, and I was lucky to be one of them.”
So what is it about Vaughn that stands out?
“That’s a tough question,” he replies, “but I guess it’s my driving style that kinda made me stand out before anyone knew who I really was—my aggressive foot-to-the-floor, big-angle-big-smoke driving style which, even early on, got me some attention. That, and I suppose the fact that I’ve always been outspoken and accessible to the fans. I’m a people person, and that, along with me being a half-way decent driver and a relatively cool dude to hang out with—I think that’s what grew my profile. You know,” he adds, “I got into the sport early, and established myself as one of the guys on a global scale, but I work hard to cement that fact year-after-year.”
The opportunity to work on Project CARS 2, much like his career, came about primarily as a labor of love. “I’m an avid sim racer,” he explains, “and I’ve been using sims for years. I truly believe in using simulators for training—it’s indispensable for drivers now, and it’s about more than just hand-to-eye coordination and training for focus. It’s also about racing and fun. Once I learnt about Project CARS, and saw the actual project, I was just really impressed with it, you know? The physics, everything about it impressed me, and I thought, here’s a great opportunity for me to help something realize its full potential. Through my experience and my personal dreams of what I always wanted from a simulation, I felt Project CARS was the right scene for me to get involved with, the people working on it are like-minded individuals with a passion for motorsport, for cars.”
In his capacity as consultant on the Project CARS franchise, Vaughn has been hard at work, “confirming physics, and working on some special things and vehicles that will come with the game.”
One—and by no means the only—special vehicle Vaughn has been working on is his personal ‘Fun-Haver’ that will come with Project CARS 2. Vaughn has overseen the vehicle’s recreation in-game to ensure absolute realism is achieved between the digital and real versions.
“The vehicle was scanned and imported into Project CARS 2, all the details, aesthetic, technical, and geometry, and once they had the vehicle built, I began driving it in-game to make sure it is as accurate in-game as it is in real life.”
So exactly what is the ‘Ultimate Fun-Haver’?
“It’s a Fun-Haver!” explains Vaughn, smiling. “I’m known for drifting, but I enjoy driving anything so long as I can get it over the limit. The Fun-Haver project was based around that. The goal was to take a new Ford F-150 truck, which is rear-wheel drive and relatively light-weight with a twin-turbo EcoBoost which we juiced up to over 500hp, and make it into a vehicle capable of off-roading, street racing, and drifting. In other words, make it as fun as it could be. Of course,” he adds, “it’s only fun if you get to share it, so we shoved in five Recaro seats with five harnesses and harness bars so I can share the fun with up to five friends. The truck sits on airbag suspension which means we can adjust the ride-height, 12 inches of suspension travel front and rear, and a full-floating nine-inch diff’ to handle the abuse we throw at it. The engine and transmission is from the factory, but we upgraded the turbos with a Full Race turbo kit and intercooler, RTR high-pressure direct injection fuel pump, and we put a handbrake in there from ASD Motorsports so I can flick the thing sideways. I tell you, out of all the vehicles I own, this is the one that just brings me the most joy, it’s just so damn good!”
In many ways, the Fun-Haver will be a unique vehicle amongst the fleet of race and super/hypercars that come with Project CARS 2. So what do Project CARS 2 drivers do with the Fun-Haver?
“Project CARS drivers should do what they want to do with it because it’s the ultimate Fun-Haver!” Vaughn replies, grinning. “I’m just excited for people all over the world to experience this vehicle. So go cut some turns, get some air, hit some jumps, just go have some fun with it—it’s built for fun, get on the test track in the game, man, I tell ya, there’s plenty of good times to be had with this thing!”
Vaughn adds, “You know, I think it’s really cool for Project CARS to be associated with this vehicle. It’s a hardcore game, and it can help somebody start a career, it’s an awesome training tool for professional drivers, but Project CARS is also meant to be fun and accessible. The Ultimate Fun-Haver fits in perfectly with that—it’ll bring a smile to your face, let you get loose for a bit. That’s also important, you know—it’s important for the sim racer and it’s important for real racers as well. There’s plenty of vehicles in Project CARS 2—dream cars you’ll never get to race anywhere else, even for professional drivers like me, you know, driving them in Project CARS, it’s a great thing—and the Fun-Haver is just one more awesome vehicle you get to experience in all its realism.”
And how close to reality is it?
“It’s getting very close, we’ll be exactly where we need to be when the game gets released, for sure. The only thing missing is the jumping and the landing bit, I mean, how that feels in real life—but how it drives and how it feels, it’s spot on, the development team at SMS are just phenomenal. You’re gonna have a good time with the Fun-Haver, guaranteed.”
Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s Ford F-150 Ultimate Fun-Haver will come exclusively with Project CARS 2, released in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC