I’ve never driven a vehicle in my entire life that attracts as much attention as my Nissan Skyline GT-R. It’s like driving around in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, except everyone thinks you’re British.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the Skyline gets more attention than my Ferrari did. It gets more attention than a Lamborghini. More attention than a Lotus. More attention than you’d get if you donned a 1970s NASA space suit and took a trip down to your local Burger King in the Lunar Rover.
You’d know all about the attention my Skyline gets if you followed me on Twitter, because I occasionally send out Tweets describing the latest things people have said to me. For instance: about a month ago, a guy got up next to me in traffic, rolled down his window, and yelled: “Hey Doug, where’s your Hummer?!” This was the moment when I knew I could never again pick my nose at stoplights.
But the attention isn’t all from Jalopnik readers. When I’m on the road in the Skyline, I hear from everybody. Asian guys. Black women. Old men. Mothers with small children. Hipsters. One time, a guy walking through a historic Philadelphia neighborhood in a powdered wig and a Revolutionary War outfit flagged me down at a red light to tell me about his 240SX.
So today I’ve decided to create a little video that details exactly what people say to me, when I’m driving around in the Skyline. I’ve also decided to create a column that covers the issue in greater depth, just in case you don’t want to hear me yell “It’s a Nissan Skyline! From Japan!” to dozens of random strangers. So here goes.
The majority of people who talk to me have no idea what a Skyline is. They just can’t believe I’m driving around with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car. What happens is, they look at the car, then they look at me, then they look at the car, then they say: Are you the Royal Baby?
No, I’m just kidding. They don’t always think I’m British. In reality, there are usually three types of reactions from the “Whoa, it’s right hand drive” crowd. Number one: they ask me where I got it. Number two: they want to take a picture. Or number three: they inform me that my steering wheel is on the wrong side of the vehicle. This is always done in a polite, non-intrusive manner, as if it’s an issue I should look into, like when you have something stuck in your teeth.
These conversations usually go like this:
Incredulous Person: Sir, did you know your steering wheel is on the wrong side?
Me: Yes I did!
Incredulous Person: How is that possible?!?
Me: It was built this way! I imported it!
Incredulous Person: Are you the Royal Baby?
I get one of these “Whoa, it’s right-hand drive” reactions at about half of the traffic lights I pull up to. Here’s what happens: first, the person looks at my car, and they see a boring old silver Nissan with a huge wing on the back, and they probably think I’m just another union longshoreman from New Jersey.
But then they glance inside, probably to see if they can get a quick SnapChat of my mullet, and they discover the truth: I’m driving on the wrong side of the car. Then they start laughing, and they roll down their window, and the conversation begins. Over the last two months, I have used the word “Japan” more than anyone in human history, including General MacArthur when he commanded the Pacific Fleet.
But here’s the funny part: it never happens if I have a passenger in the car. When I have a passenger in the car, they never seem to notice I’m on the wrong side of the interior. They just glance over, they see two people in the car, they assume we’re headed to whatever event union longshoremen attend, such as a strip club that allows open handgun carry, and then they move on with their lives.
Of course, I’m always very nice to all these people. “It’s a Nissan Skyline!” I say. And then: “From Japan!” And then: “Yes, I imported it!” And then: “Yes, it’s weird to drive around on the wrong side of the car!” And then: “Yes, you can take a picture!”
And then I roll up my window.
I expected to get a few strange looks from people who were surprised to see someone sitting on the wrong side of the car. I never expected to get noticed by so many car enthusiasts who recognize the Skyline GT-R.
I say this because – and I’m trying to be delicate here – the Skyline looks a little dull. What I mean by this is, if I did a video where I put my Skyline next to a four-cylinder Hyundai Tiburon and asked random strangers to pick the cooler car, there would be a lot of happy people on the Hyundai forums.
But it turns out the Skyline’s bland styling is no barrier at all for enthusiasts to notice the car. On every single drive, I can count on at least a few people recognizing not only that I’m in an unusual car, but that I’m in a Skyline. I get honks from the other side of the street. Thumbs-ups from passing traffic as I sit in a turn lane. People walk up to me at stop lights and tell me they’ve always wanted a Skyline, they’ve driven it in Gran Turismo, they saw it in Fast and the Furious, and they can’t believe I have it here. Paul Walker’s name has been mentioned more than once.
And then, they all say the same thing: Isn’t that illegal?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen: everyone thinks the Skyline is illegal. I’m not sure if they’ve heard the stories about Skylines getting crushed, or if they think it’s illegal to cruise around in a right-hand drive car – but either way, I’m always getting asked if it’s legal, as if I’m some sort of high-profile scofflaw on an NHTSA watch list.
The funny thing is, my car is so legal that it’s geeky. We waited until it was exactly 25 years old to import it. I have all the detailed customs documentation in the glovebox. I had to get a VIN verification from a DMV employee in order to register it. I wrote a series of columns about everything you have to do to legally import an automobile. But these people think I’m a badass, so I roll with it. “Yeah, it’s illegal,” I tell them. “But I can do anything I want. I’m the Royal Baby.”
And then there’s the camera phone contingent. I don’t always notice these people, but they’re the most common Skyline fans of all, and they come in all shapes and sizes. A bearded guy holding up traffic in a Buick LeSabre to get a picture. Two Asian kids in an Infiniti FX. A teenage boy in his grandparents’ Chevy Suburban. A middle-aged dad in a Toyota Highlander. A few weeks ago, a guy followed me around for ten minutes on a meandering path through central Philadelphia shooting video from the driver’s seat of his Infiniti QX4.
Here’s another interesting surprise: not many people rev their engines at me.
Initially, I was thinking that every Tom, Dick, and Takumi in a Craigslist Civic, or a lowered Accord, or a modified Camaro would try to entice me into a street race, but it’s only happened once: about a month ago, a guy in a Cobalt SS revved at me before taking off in a glorious burst of Bush-era GM engineering. Stunningly, this took place in New Jersey.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Most of the time, when I’m on the street next to a guy in a modified Evo or an STI, they don’t care to see which one is faster. They just want to ask me about the Skyline.
There’s also one final contingent of people who occasionally approach me: Jalopnik readers. You guys. You. The human being who’s reading this right now. Sometimes you pull up next to me at a traffic light, and you say something like: “What ever happened to that PT Cruiser?” And I get all taken aback, and I think to myself: Edward Snowden warned me about guys like you.
No, what I actually think is, what the hell do I say in response? Last week, for instance, a guy in a Volvo XC90 V8 rolled down his window and asked if I was “that guy from Jalopnik.” The answer is, of course, yes, I am that guy from Jalopnik, unless he was referring to the guy who crashed the Camaro, which is one of the other guys from Jalopnik. Possibly Travis. So I said yes, and I laughed, and he took a photo, and we moved on with our lives.
But what I really wanted to say was that I love the Volvo XC90 V8, and I would kindly trade a drive in that for a drive in the Skyline. But you don’t say this to random people on the street, because some of them have knives.
So in general, I try to keep a low profile when I’m driving the Skyline, but it’s really hard. Everyone wants to talk to me about it. Everyone wants to ask questions. Everyone wants to get a look. Everyone wants to take a picture. But then, I should get used to it. This is life when you’re the Royal Baby.
@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.