At this year’s New York Auto Show, Nissan decided to do something a little different. Rather than only trot out its usual crop of crossovers or another version of the R35 GT-R and the 370Z, the automaker dug into its past and brought out a few special treats from its heritage collection—cars like the blue Calsonic R32 race car that cemented the GT-R’s reputation.
The cars, with the exception of the 240Z, had been shipped directly from Japan and were spending the week in New York City, a Nissan rep told us. We had to have a look and there was no better tour guide than Hiroshi Tamura, Nissan’s chief GT-R specialist.
Fans of Gran Turismo will no doubt recognize the familiar blue and white Calsonic livery of the famed No. 12 R32 GT-R Group A race car. This is the car that earned the GT-R its “Godzilla” nickname because of its ability to utterly annihilate competitors on the race track.
The Calsonic GT-R R32 race car still uses the RB26DETT inline six that you could have gotten in any regular R32 GT-R, but underwent tweaks to produce between 550 and 600 horsepower. It also had twin-turbos, all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering.
It’s been a long, long time since the Calsonic GT-R R32 has raced, but its legacy is anything but forgotten. In 2013, Evo Magazine wrote,
By 1993 such was the GT-R’s superiority that the JTCC was all but a one-make series with no fewer than sixteen R32s slugging it out, but the spectacle still drew 94,500 fans to watch the final race at Fuji in October 1993 – the last-ever for the Group A monsters. During that all-conquering era, one GT-R above all others – the Calsonic car – became little short of a deity, becoming champion in the first and last of those four epic seasons.
This is the Nissan R33 Nismo GT-R LM road car—the only one in the world. To compete in GT1 class, Nissan needed to make a road car homologation. The result is this silver thing with the massively puffed up fenders.
Engine-wise, though, it doesn’t make gobs of race car power. The DB26DETT produces less than 300 horsepower and it apparently runs on road tires.
There’s no saying how it drives, as Nissan probably doesn’t let anyone drive this car, but it still looks amazing. Unfortunately, the R33 LM race cars didn’t enjoy the same victories that their R32 predecessors did, losing out to the Ferrari F40 and McLaren F1.
Technically, the “Kenmeri” Skyline 2000GT-R is the second GT-R Nissan made, but some still consider it part of the first generation of GT-R, along with the boxy Hakosuka. And the Kenmeri GT-R is far rarer than the Hakosuka—only about 200 were ever built.
In 1973, the oil crisis struck Japan, too, and shut down GT-R production for the next 16 years. Sixteen long years passed until the R32 was born.
People usually go nuts for the boxy looks of the Hakosuka, but the Kenmeri deserves a closer look. Its design shows more restraint than the other GT-Rs, with wonderful ‘70s-style intersecting lines and almost a baby-Mopar essence to its presence.
Also, the “Kenmeri” nickname stems from a 1970s ad campaign that featured two young people named Ken and Mary, which is sweet.
The 1970 240Z is the first Z that the company ever made—a decision pushed forward by a more or less “rogue” Nissan executive named Katayama “Mr. K” Yutaka. Katayama was an enthusiast who wanted his company to build some good and fun sports car, so he insisted on the production of an affordable, hardtop sports car that recalled the sleek looks of a Jaguar E-Type.
The first 240Zs went on to sell in 1969 and 1970 and enjoyed success in the American market for their competitive pricing and handsome looks. The current 370Z can trace its lineage back and directly to the 240Z.