Home » This Early Driving Game Used 16mm Film Of Bonkers Driving: Cold Start

This Early Driving Game Used 16mm Film Of Bonkers Driving: Cold Start

Cs Thedriver 1
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Long, long ago, when cruel, hairy beasts roamed the Earth, often named something like “Karl,” in an era known as “the 1970s” driving video games sometimes used anything they could to avoid using expensive, complex, and new computers. Actually, I’ve been having fun with quotes this morning, so let’s say “computers.” In this case, a 1979 arcade game from Kasco called The Driver, what was used was a 16mm film of cars driving around.

Cs Thedriver 2

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Before we get into the fascinating film-driving-simulation used, it’s worth noting the car chosen for the flyer appears to be a JDM car – a Toyota TE62 Sprinter, giving some international flavor there. And its driving though… a stream?

Here’s a video of someone playing one of these and showing a bit how it works. These early electromechanical games were fascinating contraptions:

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Light sensors read these black lines on the film to determine if your steering is following the path of the road, and if you diverge, it makes klaxon sounds and flashes lights. It’s a simple but very clever way to roughly simulate a driving-adjacent experience.

People have isolated the driving films from the game as well, so you can see exactly what the driving experience is like in the game. Here’s a reel that shows trailing a Corvette on some very windy roads:

In this other reel, you’re chasing a driver in what I think is a Renault, a driver who is tearing ass like a maniac. It’s bonkers. You can also see the black and white areas at the bottom that the light sensors read to determine if you’ve got the steering wheel pointed the right way:

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Fascinating stuff, right? I wish I could make out what that car is in this old grainy footage a bit better; maybe one of you Autopians can help here. What is that? That driver is no joke!

 

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Muop
Muop
1 month ago

The red car is effectively a Renault 18 TL 1397cc 64 hp

There is also Renault 16, Renault 12, Renault 20, Renault 14, Renault Galion

I think it’s filmed on the end of Alps, in north of the city of Nice ( I live near)

Banpei
Banpei
1 month ago

The car is indeed a Renault. A pre-facelifted Renault 18 to be more exact. The white car that keeps nearly crashing into you all the time is a Renault 14. Judging from the footage, I’d suspect this was shot in the south of France in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I really had this Gendarmes of Saint Tropez vibe.
Another thing that I noticed: In the Corvette reel, the cars drive on the right side of the road. All other cars car are Japanese cars. The whole scenery looks like late 1970s Japan with typical Japanese brick housing of that era. At 3:05 you can see a Nissan skyline c110, a Nissan Laurel c130, a Nissan cherry F10 and many other Japanese cars. Yet still they drive on the right side of the road. I have two explanations for this. Either they made a very specific export reel for the US export market and had everyone drive on the wrong side of the road, or the reel was placed in the machine the wrong way around.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone
1 month ago

Aah the 70’s. When computers were ‘those new things that’ ll never catch on’.

Starhawk
Starhawk
1 month ago

The sad thing is, there are still people, old people, who continue to grumble out that kind of talk. I actually live next to someone like that.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
1 month ago

I suspect it was much more of a cost thing. Trying to do something like this with Pong technology would be… Disappointing.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 month ago

OMG! I enjoyed each and every word of this article! What an awesome subject! This is the type of content that makes the Autopian a truly unique website!!!

It’s content like this that confirms that the cost of my membership was money well spent. 🙂

Thank you Jason !!!

(P.S. And, oh man the last vid was just crazy good!!!!)

Live2ski
Live2ski
1 month ago

Following the Red Renault felt like a cut scene from a 60’s James Bond movie

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

That is wicked cool. I am wondering how the street scenes were filmed. There are some close calls in there so I hope they were staged but I get the feeling they just called up local Roman hot shoe Giuseppe, gave him $200, and told him to haul ass.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago

Yeah, that red car, in the third video, does seem to be a Renault of some kind, especially since it exhibits such archetypically French automotive traits of that era: über-skinny tires, massive body roll, and surprisingly tenacious road-handling.

Last edited 1 month ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Ian McClure
Ian McClure
1 month ago

The funny thing is this basically came back around again for a short while with video-based racing games on CDs like Mega Race.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian McClure
Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago

There was an old arcade driving game that let you choose automatic or manual, but it had an actual clutch and a shift lever. You could actually stall the car. It was awesome.

EDIT: Called Hard Drivin’.

Last edited 1 month ago by Hangover Grenade
Parsko
Parsko
1 month ago

I’ve been waiting to share this story, and you opened the door.

Hard Drivin’ was built around actual formulas developed by Robert Milliken. That name will strike up a HUGE conversation with anyone who knows who that is. He is the forefather of vehicle dynamics. He literally wrote the book: Race Car Vehicle Dynamics (otherwise known as “RVD” to those of us who studied it”).

https://www.amazon.com/Vehicle-Dynamics-Douglas-Milliken-William/dp/1560915269

At the time, I was at SUNY Buffalo. Well, the Milliken’s live about 10 miles east of Buffalo, and Doug was our technical advisor to our SAE team (yeah, we were pretty lucky). I had the opportunity to go to the Milliken’s house and see the prototype of Hard Drivin. I also met Bob and was able to see the go-kart track that he subjected his kids to while he was doing suspension research.

Good times.

CrystalEyes
CrystalEyes
1 month ago

The follow up game Race Drivin’ was even better. Loved that game.

Church
Church
1 month ago

Keep finding this odd-ball stuff, Torch. We love it.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

While rather hokey and quite clunky compared to modern video games, I’m rather impressed these electromechanical games exist and work as well as they do: there’s a lot of mechanical feedback/control going on behind the facade. Tim Hunkin of The Secret Life of Machines recently released some videos about how he built & maintains his animatronic arcade games. I found them a fun nerdy way to kill a rainy afternoon here & there.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 month ago

Holy Crap the engineering and mechanical execution of this thing is amazing

getstoneyII (probably)
getstoneyII (probably)
1 month ago

“He drives around, all over the town.
Toonces, the Driving Cat.”

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

Toonces! Look out!

Strangek
Strangek
1 month ago

He can drive, just not very well!

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

I remember playing this at least once! The one I dropped a quarter into was ran the same open-wheel racetrack scene in the first video. It definitely wasn’t a particularly good simulation — the steering was pretty laggy if I recall. It might just have come down to how well-maintained the electromechanical system was. All I can say is that Atari’s all-electronic Night Driver game ran a bit better.

Leandro Pertusati
Leandro Pertusati
1 month ago

The red one in the chase is a very early Renault 18

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Never mind the driver in the onscreen car, what about the driver of the camera chase car? If that’s a Renault, perhaps this is a Remy Julienne stunt reel? Could be a Fiat 124, too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Canopysaurus
Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 month ago

At the time, it was also common for Driver’s Education classes to use grainy film of gruesome car wrecks in their attempt to scare teen drivers into compliance with whatever safety malarky they were trying to foist off as ‘science’.

I always thought these would have been more compelling if the machines used some of those nasty Driver’s Ed film clips when you crashed.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

When I took drivers ed in 1987, my instructor threatened to NOT let us watch Blood On The Asphalt if we didn’t behave.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

I recall being more interested in what passed for ambulances in those films than ‘scared straight’ or the equivalent for driving. But they say the male teen brain tends to believe it is immortal

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

“I always thought these would have been more compelling if the machines used some of those nasty Driver’s Ed film clips when you crashed.”

That could set off a Space Quest response from me, where I would deliberately send Roger Wilco to his doom just to see the often hilarious death animation.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Bonus point for “malarky”

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
1 month ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Interesting you mentioned Driver’s Ed, because I could have sworn that things like this game were used as simulators in some capacity – albeit without the cabinet and the gory aftermath “highways of death” film spliced in. I never used one, but I honestly think that they were available in certain state police locations in PA.

Brings up another point – our fair commonwealth has driver’s license centers that handle all of this now, but there was once a time where you had to go to your local state police barracks for all licensing/driver’s tests. Nothing quite like being 16 years old and having a state trooper (who probably doesn’t want to be there) riding shotgun.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 month ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

I was in high school in the Lehigh Valley during the late 2000s/early 2010s and my school offered both driver’s ed and driver’s training courses. There was a room full of very old looking simulator machines but I never got to use one because I didn’t take driver’s ed there.

Funnily enough, driver’s training was a required class to graduate. That was the class where they taught you basic road rules and you got to watch all of the corny videos. I transferred into that school the summer before junior year and due to scheduling related things, I wasn’t able to actually get a spot in a driver’s training class until I was in my senior year. By that point I already had my driver’s license but I still had to take the class anyway because “that’s the rules, we can’t make an exception just for you”

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
1 month ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I’m from the valley as well (Bethlehem). The state police barracks I referenced is out by the airport. Don’t know if you had to do the test there or not, but the old test course behind the place is still there, albeit converted to a parking lot. There’s a part of it (looks like a short road that doesn’t belong there) that has a slight incline – it had a stop sign in the middle of it. The purpose of that stop sign was to see if you drifted backwards in a manual car. Many a teenager’s license dream died there.

JDS
JDS
1 month ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

Back in the mid-1980s I took driver’s Ed in a small-town high school in southwest CO. We used one of those film-based “simulators” for a few days. Picture a school bus with screens at the front and back and possibly a dozen driver “cockpits” on either side of the center aisle. You got a steering wheel, 1970’s-style linear-ish speedo, column-shift auto trans and gas/brake pedals.

The idea was to load up a film of everyday driving situations, throw in the occasional “gotcha” in the form of an oblivious driver or pedestrian, and allow students to pantomime their driving motions as they followed along. “Mistakes” were tallied by a rack of electronics in the back. Students didn’t pass the simulator test until they scored below a target number of mistakes.

It was actually pretty janky, and didn’t work well. It was more fun after the class passed all the simulator tests and we got another crack at it for fun. Aiming for the high score was MUCH better than using the simulator as intended. I can report that while the speedo would indicate up to about 120 mph, the film always ran at the same speed. “Points for Pedestrians” was a much better game.

All in all, that driving simulator was about as useful for driver training as a slot car set.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 month ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

Which reminds me of the story about my dad’s first driving test in the early 1950s. As you noted way back when, and even when I got my driver’s license in ’81 or ’82 Pennsylvania driving tests were administered by state troopers at the local barracks.

My father learned to drive on an old International pickup and the brakes on that poor, beaten pickup were uh, sketchy to say the least. They required stomping the pedal virtually to the floor with maybe even an extra pump or two of the pedal to make the truck stop. Well, the day comes for the driving test and my grandfather insisted that my father take the test in his brand new Oldsmobile rather than the old truck he is very familiar with. I should also note my grandfather drove the car to the test, not my dad so when my dad climbs behind the wheel for his test it is the first time he is driving that particular car.

The trooper got in the car and told my dad to exit the parking lot. My father got to the exit and doing what came very naturally gave the brakes a good stab – except, this is a brand new car with very effective power brakes. Of course, the trooper was not wearing a seatbelt and quite predictably got catapulted headfirst into the windshield. Fortunately the trooper was wearing his “Smokey the Bear” hat, but the poor hat got smashed in taking up at least a little bit of the impact. The car screeched to a halt and the trooper landed heavily back in his seat. Before my dad could even react to the shock of what had happened the trooper stuck his index finger in my dad’s face and bellowed “YOU FAIL!”. And that’s the story of how my dad failed his first driving test before even getting out of the lot.

The moral of the story is to take the test in the car you are most familiar with.

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