As car legends go, few have had their flames as passionately fanned as the Nissan Skyline. Despite extensive research proving only seven Americans have seen one on the street, and four have actually driven the mythical machine, it's astounding how often its tale is told. We're reminded of a particular Jonathan Gold restaurant review, in which he tells of intercepting scratchy CB conversations between truckers about a taqueria hidden somewhere in East Los Angeles. It's allegedly home to the world's most perfect torta. Gold never reveals if he found the mythic Mexican sandwich, or if the restaurant is anything more than a Hoffa-like figment of Teamster lore. And I'm glad. The reality could never hold up. That, in a nutshell, sums up my feelings vis-a-vis Nissan's decision to bring its Skyline replacement to America. The
get here already upcoming GT-R may whip a Porsche Turbo's ass around the 'Ring, but in time, we'll learn its flaws. Luckily, previous-generation Skylines remain automotive apocrypha to us Yanks, forever shrouded in imagination and painful thumb blisters. And now dear Jalops, you get to vote one into the Fantasy Garage.
Like many hot Japanese domestic market rides (Evo, WRX),
Electronic Arts' Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo is usually credited with alerting the American pistonhead's inner hoon to Nissan's world beater. We remember the Skyline from back when Mario was riding karts. In fact, the Skyline has been the stuff of dreams for several decades. In 1957, the Prince motor company released their first luxury car, the four-door Skyline. Powered, or rather underpowered, by a 1.5-liter straight four, the first Skyline was capable of reaching a grand total of 87 mph. Saving its bacon (in our mind at least) is the fact that the Skyline was available as both a wagon and a 'camino. And later as a coupe and a convertible. But pay no mind to its humble beginnings.
In 1966 Prince merged with Nissan-Datsun. In 1968 the company released the C10 Skyline, a rather handsome looking sedan still powered by a 1.5-liter engine (G-15), though power was up to 94 hp. In 1969, the Skyline GT-R came to market complete with a 2.0-liter DOHC straight-six good for 160 hp. The US spec Porsche 911 S was making 170 hp in 1969 (thought the Euro-spec model was good for 190 hp). Meaning the GT-R was seriously fast, especially for a JDM vehicle.
Later Nissan came out with a coupe version and, combined, the two body styles racked up 1,000 racing victories by the time they went out of production in 1972. Nissan blamed the car's fate on the oil crisis. The final iteration of the original Skyline (known as the KPGC110 2000GT-R) sold only 197 copies and was never raced. We know the C10 Skyline GT-R is a long shot for the Fantasy Garage and has as much chance of making it as Clay Aiken does finding a nice girl, but we're giving you the chance to vote on it for one simple reason: To battle the C10's notorious understeer, racers took to grabbing the handbrake while in motion. And just like that, drifting was born.
After mucking about for most of the 70s and 80s (though the C211 GT-ES was the first turbocharged Japanese car), Nissan big time bellied up to the bar in 1989 with the eighth-generation Skyline, the R32 GT-R. If being the first truly mega-performance Skyline counts for anything, than this is the car to go in the Fantasy Garage. Let's start with the engine.
The 2.6-liter RB26DETT (the RB prefix may or may not have stood for "Race Bred") was designed to produce 500 hp in racing tune. As sold, the RB26DETT with its twin-ceramic intercooled turbos, noisy recirculating blow off valve and DOHC four-valve heads put out 276 hp. Like most of our Fantasy Garagers, the R32 GT-R actually stonked closer to 320 horses, but because of Japan's lingering "gentleman's agreement," all cars sold on the island nation could be sold producing no more than 276 hp. However, Nissan colored the governor in the control lines yellow so owners could easily yank it out once they left the dealership. Long story short, the R32 was bloody fast. And with a little bit of tweaking, 600 hp is easily achieved. With some severe wrenching, 1,340+ hp was attainable (that's one megawatt for you metric types)!
Unlike last week's Buick GNX, which was also underrated in the power department, the Skyline was designed to do much more than go straight fast. Its all-wheel-drive system known as ATTESA E-TS was ridiculously advanced for the time. Lead engineer Naganori Itoh followed the mighty footsteps of Porsche's 959. Therefore the ATTESA E-TS was essentially a rear-drive system (constant power to the rear diff) with a transfer case mounted at the back of the gearbox to supply torque to the front wheels if slippage is detected at the rear. Just like in the 959, a chain-driven, multi-plate wet clutch pack routes power through a central differential when called for. The GT-R also featured Super HICAS electronic four-wheel steering. The cars were light, too.
The result of all this technology is the stuff of legend. At the time of its release the 'Ring record was 8:45 set by a Porsche 944. The R32 GT-R did the deed in 8:20, totally shattering Porsche's record and humiliating the Germans at the same time. From 1989 to 1993 the R32 GT-R entered 29 JTCC (Japanese Touring Car Championship) races and won 29 times. The R32 GT-R also dominated Australia's Great Race (the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000) winning in 1991 & 1992. The controversial 1992 race, which was stopped due to rain, was particularly memorable. Leading at the time of cancellation, Skyline driver Jim Richards was declared winner and subsequently booed on the podium, prompting the Kiwi to call the Aussie fans, "a pack of arseholes." Known simply as "Godzilla," no vehicle before or since has been so dominant. What a car.
R33 GT-R NISMO 400R
1995 saw the introduction of the R33 GT-R. Bigger, heavier and more refined. Enthusiasts were not pleased. In truth, the dumpy-looking R33 GT-R was nominally better than its predecessor in every meaningful way, most complained that it was not as driver focused. So, Nissan fixed the problem, and fixed it good.
Meet the 1996 NISMO 400R. Only 99 were made and they cost an arm and two legs. However, they left the factory producing more than 400 hp (some sources claim as much as 450 hp) thanks to the venerable RB26DETT. Only now, it was bored out to 2771 cc and fitted with upgraded pistons, connecting rods, crankshaft and intercooler. The 400R's zero-to-60 time was in the 4.5 second range and top speed was rumored to be north of 200 mph. The suspension, AWD and AWS (all-wheel steering) systems were also improved and downforce-generating body work was added. Possibly as important, the 400R looked the part.
But forget all that. Here is why you want to vote the NISMO 400R Skyline in: The specialist-tuned 400R was the first production car to lap the Nurburging Nordschleife in less than 8 minutes. If we're being honest, there is some controversy surrounding this record as Jaguar's XJ220 had unofficially lapped the 'Ring in 7:46. Still, the fact that a hopped up Nissan can be mentioned in the same sentence as a half-million dollar hyper car is reason enough for us.
Happily, Nissan came roaring back to form in 1999 with the tenth-generation R34 Skyline. The new car had an improved and shortened chassis, a Getrag six-speed (up from five gears on all previous cars), improved suspension, a splitter and diffuser and red valve covers. The last of the great Skylines also came equipped with an LCD screen that displayed such need-to-knows as turbo boost pressure, lap times and lateral g-forces. The final Skyline also looked much more sporting, finally shedding the wolf in sheep's clothing disguise favored by its predecessors. Oh, and the shocks, steering and brakes were improved.
The R34 was also available in a seemingly endless variety of specifications. The GT-R V-Spec II had NACA ducting, brake ventilation, a carbon-fiber hood and more body kit. The M-Spec (the M literally stood for "Man") featured heated leather seats and softer suspension. The GT-R V-Spec II, with radio, AC, rear wiper and sound insulation deleted, had a blueprinted N1 motor plus a 300 kph speedo. The ultimate R34 was of course the NISMO Z-tune. Nissan only produced 20, and each car was good for 500 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Nuff said. Happy voting.
[The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage appears every Tuesday. Readers vote the cars in or out. The idea is that we'll have 50 cars in our Fantasy Garage, the world's greatest mechanic and endless wads of cash. Would you like to nominate a car for the Fantasy Garage? Write firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Fantasy."]
The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So Far:
RUF RT12 | Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT | 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage | Honda 1300 Coupe 9 | 1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe | Ferrari 288 GTO | Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | 1970 Buick GSX 455 | First Generation BMW M Coupe | Bugatti Veyron 16.4 | Ford GT | Citroen SM | Porsche 928 | Jensen FF | DeTomaso Vallelunga | Audi Quattro S1 | Buick GNX