To most people, the word “skyline” simply denotes an outline or a connecting point. For a lot of those in the automobile scene, however, “skyline” feels very much a gem on the road. Among all Japanese sports cars, Nissan’s Skyline GT-R is the most treasured model, thanks to its unique design and deceptively powerful engine. How did this sporty sedan earn its legendary status?
The success of Skyline GT-R has been widespread since its first generation KPGC10 (its nickname ‘Hakosuka’ meaning a box, like its shape). Launched in 1969, the car boasted a smart coupé-style design equipped with 160 horsepower, 2.0-liter, S20 inline-6 engine and 5-speed transmission. Compared to a lot of Japanese cars at the time, these specs were hard to beat. What followed the Skyline C10’s four-door sedan was a 2-door coupé model which came out in 1971 under the code KPGC10. Then, in 1973, the world saw the KPGC10’s successor, the KPGC110. Even though packed with better design and performance, the second generation GT-R proved unsuccessful due to a gasoline crisis hit in the 1970s, which weakened the demand for high-performance sports cars. In fact, only 197 of them were built during its short-lived production run.
The name Skyline GT-R returned with a vengeance in 1989 under the code BN-R32 and the nickname “Godzilla.” It was considered a golden age for the brand. Some of its notable features included a 2,568 cc RB26DETT block, plus 280 horsepower (the maximum permitted by the Japanese law at the time) and the ATTESA E-TS Pro system, which won several awards both in Japan and overseas. A total of 43,937 Skyline GT-R R32 were built before the fourth generation was released in 1995. Despite its improved performance and design, the BCN-R33 was unpopular because its bulky and heavy body was considered a disadvantage for sports cars.
The millennium would later bring us Skyline GT-R R34 (BN-R34) with its savage design and the improved performance of RB26DETT. Even though the horsepower was limited at 280, the 6-speed transmission upgrade and suspension technology made for a completely smooth ride. It’s also interesting to note that although GT-R was a left-hand-drive model (Japan-exclusive spec), it didn’t stop many Americans from actively seeking it out. If you’re a fan of The Fast & The Furious series, you should be well familiar with this bad boy.
The sixth generation of GT-R arrived with a monumental change when Nissan decided to drop the “Skyline” name (today, the name “Skyline” only refers to sports sedan). Despite this, GT-R continued to soar even further with Nissan GT-R (R35), a flagship sports car from the land of the rising sun packed with 570 horsepower (latest standard model) and powered by VR38DETT, 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. These specs have made it a truly suitable contender for a supercar, earning it the nickname “supercar killer.” Apart from its standard edition, GT-R has also spawned several special editions including fans’ favorite GT-R50 by Italdesign. Only 50 of these bespoke, limited run GT-R will be produced and priced at €990,000 or around 36 millions baht (tax excluded).
The legend of Nissan Skyline GT-R has taught and reminded us that, ultimately, the only certainty is uncertainty and nothing is permanent. Although the success of GT-R is not without a few bumps in the road, the quality consistency and cutting-edge innovation have never subsided. This is why GT-R remains one of the most iconic and beloved historic cars throughout its five decades in existence.