It has now been four months since I purchased my newly imported 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R. Yes, folks, that’s right: it has been 120 days since I began coming into your homes and offices and telling you what it’s like to be mad tyte JDM, yo.
I think four months is a pretty good amount of time for a progress report. My automotive journalist colleagues, they don’t need this much time. They can jump in a new model and tell you within three hours if it’s the greatest car in the segment, or if it sucks like one of those packing tape dispensers where the tape always gets stuck to itself, and you’re constantly peeling it off, and after a while you decide it’s just easier to use staples. But I’m not as much of an expert as those people. Plus, I like to take a while to see how I really feel about the font on the climate control buttons.
So I retrieved my Skyline yesterday from its display at the Simeone Museum, and I decided that the very first thing I wanted to do with it was take it out for a drive. You’d know this if you followed me on Twitter, because I posted several Skyline photos yesterday, including one of the car sitting in some grass. This is highly unusual because a Skyline does not belong in the grass. It belongs in Gran Turismo 2.
After a couple hours behind the wheel, my memory was refreshed, and I believe I now recall my overall feelings about the Skyline. Namely: I really, really like this car. To show you what I mean, I created a video that details a fun drive in the Skyline. But I’ve also decided to tell you what I mean, since the video is wordless and primarily shows me smiling as I violate the speed limit.
There are many things I really, really like about the Skyline. For instance: the handling is really tight, which makes you feel like you’re very connected to the car. I know what you’re thinking: these terms are more overused than when a server sees you’ve finished your meal and sarcastically says “I can see you HATED that!” So allow me to put it into words that aren’t such a cliché: when I drive most normal cars today, it feels as though I am turning the rudder of a ship in a giant vat of butter. The Skyline is not like this. The Skyline feels like I am turning the wheels of an automobile on the road.
For those of us who enjoy driving, this is a good thing. The Skyline actually handles how you want a car to handle. When you tell it to turn, it turnss — and quickly. When you tell it to turn more, it turns more. There’s no 2015-era overassisted lightness where you can tell the automaker engineered this car for the lowest common denominator: an elderly woman from Dubuque, Iowa, who accidentally drove her 2004 Toyota Camry on to a high school running track.
Something else I really, really like about the Skyline is how fast it is. What I mean by this is, not very. I once owned a 560-horsepower Cadillac station wagon that I drove 155 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and about halfway through my ownership duration I realized something: 350 of those horsepower was for driving fast. The remaining 210 was for bragging to your friends.
At “276” horsepower, the Skyline doesn’t really have anything to brag about. But it lets you have fun without worrying about whether you’re going to hammer down the gas pedal and end up on your roof in a ditch three ZIP codes away, where you’re discovered four days later with no eye sockets by a couple of teenagers who are skipping class to smoke meth.
And yet, it isn’t slow. Don’t get me wrong: I love cars like the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ and Mazda Miata, because they let you really wring out your vehicle on a constant basis. But occasionally, you come out of a corner in one of those cars, and you think to yourself: my air conditioner makes more power than this. That’s not so in the Skyline. The Skyline has just enough power to be quick, but not so much that it’s dangerous; it’s about as quick to 60 mph as a Subaru WRX or an old 993 model Porsche 911. I think that’s perfect. Of course, this will be lost on the next owner, who will undoubtedly add four turbochargers, dial up the engine to 1000 horsepower, and then complain about how the RB26 isn’t reliable.
I also really, really like the attention this car gets. When I used to own my Ferrari, I would cringe every time I pulled up to a gas station, because I knew some guy was about to hop out of a Chevy Express with a ladder on top and yell: “WANNA TRADE?”
But no Chevy Express ladder guys want to trade for an old Japanese car. When I’m at the gas station in the Skyline, the only people who approach me are car enthusiasts – and that means I’m in for an enjoyable 12-minute discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of the stick-shift Buick Regal GS, rather than stumbling for an answer to the question: “HOW FAST HAVE YA HAD IT?”
So I really, really like the Skyline. But I wouldn’t say I love the Skyline. To me, there are two major drawbacks about the Skyline that prevent it from unseating one of the three greatest cars I’ve ever owned – a 2001 Mercedes E55 AMG, a 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo, and my Range Rover – for a spot in the DeMuro Holy Trinity.
Number one is the fact that it’s 25 years old. Every time I step inside, every time I go over a bump, every time I go to open the door, I’m reminded of the fact that this thing just isn’t very modern. Yesterday, I was driving around and a large piece of cloth trim came unglued from the door. The dashboard is bubbling. Some of the climate control vent slats don’t turn. And then there’s the safety factor: when this car was designed, the only SUVs on the road were being driven by park rangers, and Hyundai’s largest car was a five-door hatchback the size of a pine nut.
My other problem with the Skyline is its styling. Yes, I know, it has an iconic, unique, legendary shape, and the taillights were the most intriguing thing to come out of Japan until tentacle porn. But when I walk up to this car in a parking lot, all I can think is that it just looks a bit like an old silver Nissan. Would it have killed the designers to make this thing look a little more Ferrari Porsche Lamborghini and a little less my dad’s 1987 Toyota Camry LE?
These are minor complaints, though. After four months of ownership, I can safely say that the Skyline is an excellent car, that the hype is well deserved, and that this car has exceeded my expectations in virtually every way. I also happen to like the font on the climate control buttons.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.