Nissan skyline GT-R Part I  1957

During its golden years, the Japanese automotive industry birthed numerous sports cars, often causing headaches and declining sales for their European counterparts. More often than not, vehicles from the Land of the Rising Sun proved to be faster, cheaper and more reliable than the prestigious brands with illustrious racing pedigrees. Unfortunately, many of these sports cars, to our sincere regret, are now relegated to the pages of history or are primarily used as marketing tools, like the new Supra. However, some have endured and remain in fighting shape to this day. Today, we’ll talk about the Skyline, specifically its most famous iteration – the GT-R.

Contrary to popular belief, the history of the Skyline doesn’t begin with Nissan’s lineup but with a company called the Prince Motor Company. In 1957, the Skyline hit the market as a blatant homage to American design, not an uncommon practice for Japanese manufacturers at the time. Essentially, the Skyline was based on two platforms: the ALSI platform for sedans and wagons, and the BLRA platform for coupes and convertibles. The model enjoyed steady demand, leading to the launch of the second generation – the S50 – in 1962. While these were handsome cars devoid of any real aggression, in 1964, Prince engineers decided to change the game and create a sports car. Without much ado, they followed the path of many tuning workshops and simply dropped a larger engine from the more upscale Gloria into the small sedan’s body. This required extending the wheelbase by 20 centimeters, but such details couldn’t hinder creative thinking. The new sports car was named the Skyline GT and laid the groundwork for the emergence of the GT-R. In its very first race, the car claimed second to sixth places, much to the delight of the big bosses, leading to the release of a civilian version – the Prince 2000GT, the precursor to the GT-R lineup.

In 1966, with ambitions in the sports car division, Nissan acquired the Prince company. Two years later, the next generation of the Skyline, coded C10, was released, featuring the crucial addition of the GT-R variant. It was a base model equipped with a 2-liter, 6-cylinder engine producing 160 horsepower. Not only did the car win numerous races, but it also became a favorite among street racers, as 160 horsepower was quite significant for the time, especially considering its light weight.

In September 1972, the Skyline C110 GT-R was introduced. Powered by a 2-liter inline-six “S20” engine, it featured disc brakes on both axles. The nickname “Kenmari” stemmed from a television commercial where a young couple showcased the benefits of owning a Nissan by driving one. Today, this generation is considered one of the most stylish, although seeing one in person is nearly impossible: only 197 units were produced, and production of the GT-R was halted for a long 16 years in March 1973. The reason was simple – the world was bracing for an oil crisis and the demand for fuel-thirsty cars was plummeting. Nissan needed to stay afloat, so even the factory racing team had to step aside. The roar of powerful engines subsided, making way for the era of small-displacement engines.

However, that’s not entirely true. The main focus was indeed on economical cars – otherwise, the brand risked not surviving tough times. But that didn’t mean the end of work on promising technologies. In 1977, the Skyline C210(211) was released, offered with both traditional inline-six engines and the CA series engine – a traditional inline-four. Over 5 years of production, a whopping 537,727 cars were sold – quite impressive! However, special mention goes to the GT-EX trim, which, while not a full-fledged GT-R, contributed to the formation of the future monster. It was powered by the L20ET engine – an inline turbocharged six-cylinder producing 145 hp! It was the first car equipped with a turbocharger and serially produced in Japan.

In 1984, the automotive conglomerate once again decided to flex its muscles. Since the acquisition of Prince by Nissan, there were two divisions dealing with sports technology: Oppama Works and Omori Works. They were replaced by a new company and its name was Nismo, derived from NISsan MOtorsport. The tasks of this new division included everything related to fast cars and the parent company’s participation in motorsport. After some warm-up with a sports car named Saurus, engineers set out to revive the legend of the racetracks and Japanese countryside roads – the future Skyline R32 GT-R.
The base model R32 became the eighth generation of the Skyline, an evolution of the already classic model. Over the years, the “skyline” gained its own design and recognizable style of rear optics: the legendary “rounds” became so popular that they were even copied for tuning optics by other manufacturers. Of all the body types for the new model, only sedan and coupe remained, with the popular “frameless” doors at the time. The engine range consisted of inline-four from the CA series and inline-sixes from the RB series, destined to become the flagship of powerful Nissans for years to come, albeit with their own characteristics. For better handling, the HICAS system was introduced – a rear-wheel steering system that worked on hydraulic drive and allowed the rear wheels to slightly turn in corners following the front ones. But all of this was just a prelude to the emergence of the true monster with the GT-R badge.

This all happened back in 1989. By that time, participation in production car races required homologation – meaning the production of a small batch of cars closely resembling the racing cars. The GT-R was immediately homologated under Group A requirements, which meant one thing for competitors: the champion was back. The car featured a full-time 4WD ATTESA ETS system. Attempting to decipher this abbreviation might accidentally summon a devil, but essentially it was a redistributable full-time four-wheel drive system. Most of the time, the car operated as rear-wheel drive, but in case of slippage, it could quickly redistribute up to 50% of torque to the front axle. Powering it was the legendary RB26DETT – a twin-turbo inline-six, considered the counterpart to Toyota’s JZ turbo lineup.
Prior to the release of the GT-R, Japanese automakers entered into the Jishu-kisei – a gentleman’s agreement limiting engine power to 280 hp. Nissan slightly exceeded this, assigning a peak power of 286 hp, but this was only on paper. In reality, the new sports car could easily have around 500 hp.

Needless to say, did the new descendant become a glorious heir to its lineage? With 29 wins in 29 JTCC races, titles from 1990 to 1993 and a new record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife for a production car… the car’s dominance was practically limitless. After dominating in Japan, Nismo took their creation to Australia, showcasing how races should be won and then to Europe and the USA. The list of titles, victories and records is simply too extensive to print – the car dominated to such an extent that it was dubbed “Godzilla.” According to legend, the GT-R was named after the monster from movies and comics by Australians, for whom the new beast indeed seemed to emerge from the sea, disrupting the usual racing order and totally dominating for seasons. However, there’s another myth that Godzilla got its name because its immense power was matched with rather small brakes, barely fitting into the 16” factory wheels, leading to overheating and braking issues. GT-R transitioned to larger brakes in the V-spec version, where Brembo mechanisms were installed, fitting into 17” wheels.

While the whole world was impressed by Godzilla, behind the walls of Nissan, a new story was already unfolding. No one planned to rest on their laurels, and the fastest GT-R was yet to be created. Has it been created by now? Well, we’ll find out very soon on!

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