Having been conceived in1955, and existing in varying forms ever since, the Skyline should really be considered something of a Japanese motoring institution. Whilst I doubt that the ownership of said Nissan can instil in one the same sense of camaraderie that to this day compels MG owners to salute one another on sight, nor join an owners’ club, the only reason for this is that the car has simply been too successful in too many guises over the years.
When first released by the Prince Motor Company in 1957, the Skyline was a high-end four-door sedan, the range also encompassing a pick-up, a van, a station wagon and an attractive Michelotti designed Sport model (produced in limited numbers). By the time they merged with Nissan in 1966 only the sedan and the station wagon remained, though the former had built such a formidable racing reputation, that the 2000GT performance model was introduced to the range, the standard four cylinder engine replaced with the 1988 cc six cylinder unit from the larger Gloria model, complete with Weber carbs, a five speed ‘box and disc brakes at the front. Key to the reputation that would make the 2000GT such a success was the performance of the Skyline in the GT-II category ( 1000 to 2000 cc) of the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix in which the works cars hounded eventual winner Sokichi Shikiba in a Porsche 904 GTS(!), occupying second to sixth places at the end. Shikiba’s car might well have been accident damaged and therefore slower than usual, but why spoil a great story with the details…. The performance of the boxy saloon in this race would be enough to inspire Prince to undertake a full-blown race-programme, largely in order to beat Porsche, which they duly did with the gorgeous R380 on home ground at Fuji two years later. The grudge continues to this day, with Nissan and Porsche regularly trading fastest laps at the Nurburgring.
"Though the family saloon and estate versions would forever be the staples of the Skyline range, the performance variants would remain the source of some pride, not to mention sporting success"
By 1969 the engine from the record-breaking R380 had been placed into a Skyline, upping the power from 125 hp to 160, comparative to that of a contemporary Porsche, and with what would become the famousGT-R designation. Though the family saloon and estate versions would forever be the staples of the Skyline range, the performance variants would remain the source of some pride, not to mention sporting success, and in 1983 perhaps Nissan’s most famous race winner and star of their domestic advertising campaigns, Paul Newman, would lend his name to an enhanced version of the R30. Complete with stickers and embroidered upholstery, the cars’ availability was sadly limited to Japan, but were ever there any question of the Skyline’s style or performance credibility, Newman’s signature on the bodywork answered it.
No longer merely an innocuous saloon, successively meaner-looking performance-tuned Skylines have long been favourites on the legendary Japanese street racing scene, and as the stars of various console driving games they have become globally renowned. PersonallyI’ma fan of the boxy yet unfeasibly potent sixties Prince models, and their more muscular early seventies successors, but then I can’t say that I’m the type to spend hours playing Need For Speed on the Playbox™, or to queue up to seeA Bit Faster and Slightly More Furious 8. Happily there’s a Skyline for everyone, and I’ll salute that.
And you can see the Wheeler Dealers pick up a Skyline on Discovery, this Tuesday at 9pm.
Exhaust Notes 19 - American All-Rounder
Exhaust Notes 18 - Mark of Excellence