Sometimes, just being there is half the battle.
Listen, most Americans who want a hakosuka Skyline in their garage are either going to have to find someone Stateside willing to part with one, or are going to have to figure out how to get one over from Japan. And then what? You're taking a broker's word for it; you're dealing with pictures; you're never really sure what you're ending up with until it arrives on the dock, all covered in ship dust and who knows what else. You could end up with a pile of garbage and living in a country where no one knows enough about it to make things right. And finding parts? Forget about it.
And so Roy De Guzman of Las Vegas did things the easy way: He ended up living in Japan. Yes, he had to become a career military man to get there, and earlier this year, he served his 20 years and retired as a Technical Sergeant, a weapons instructor with the U.S. Air Force. "Or, putting it another way, I'm unemployed," he jokes. It seems like going the long way 'round...but no one ever said that getting to own a Skyline would be easy.
The idea of owning a real GT-R was out of the question—it's more expensive than a converted 2000GT by a factor of 10, and time immersing himself in Japanese car culture gave Roy a taste of what he wanted: a GT-R-look 2000GT (fender flares, mirrors, trunk wing, five-speed conversion, the whole megillah) that had already been converted to a 2.8 liter. The swap is a simple and popular one: "It's the same basic L-series engine, except with higher displacement." About 40 percent more displacement at that. "And you can use larger carburetors as well," Roy adds.
And shock of shocks, Roy found what he was looking for: a 2000GT coupe done to look like a GT-R with flares, gold Watanabes, and a fresh coat of white paint to boot. "The interior was in massive need of help, and a lot of those pieces were hard to find. There was lots of bad wiring; air conditioning that didn't work; a gaping, jagged hole where there should be a factory radio; an '80s Kenwood tape deck; and the center console was ruined. The console alone was worth about $800 in 2006! On the plus side, none of the seats were separating or torn, the dashpad was a brand-new factory replacement, the headliner was still taut, the door panels were all in good nick (aside from some missing chrome), and all the lights, gauges, and switches worked."
Again, proximity had its advantages. "I had to go to the annual New Year Meeting in Odaiba to find some interior pieces and the taillight bezel end caps, at the NISMO Festival I found some GT-R-only switches, the badges are still available from the Nissan Parts Warehouse that was located 10 minutes from my home, and my luckiest find was a complete center console from another Skyline at the Tachikawa swap meet. The seller didn't want any cash, he just wanted to trade me straight across for my bad one. Then there are the GT-R interior upgrades: stereo delete plate and a rear window defogger and foglight switch. They're these tiny plastic parts; some guy makes a mold and hand-casts them. They're $40!" Slowly, things came together.
All this running around getting parts, and then Roy's next assignment came through: Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. We keep saying it's where you are that matters, but there's not a whole lot of JDM action happening in North Dakota, population three quarters of a million souls and rather a lot of beans and wheat packed into nearly 71,000-square miles. It's a little like prison—you've got nothing but time. What else was there to do besides build? And so Roy did exactly that. "While I was stuck there, I was stockpiling parts...engine dress-up pieces, seats, the hood, flares, all of the suspension pieces..." Such are the joys of mail-order and knowing what you need. Doubtless the build would have dragged if Roy had other distractions to keep him occupied.
Even now, Roy's C10 continues to evolve: In just the last two years, the rolling stock has completely changed, the hood's been blacked out, and the correct GT-R flares have been replaced with a set of body-color Semi-Works flares by Rubber Soul in Japan. "I also swapped out the air ducts on the C-pillar—it was a badge that doubled as a vent, but that piece is solid metal, and on a race car, it was just dead weight. I got these from Circus Magic out of Okinawa; they have a carbon-fiber base with a fiberglass top."
Another recent edition: the cold-air duct in the headlight. "I chose that light because it offers a straight shot of cold air to the carburetors," Roy tells us. "I also had to rewire the entire front end of the car to get the lights to work right as a result." Between the attempts at lightening and the admittedly incremental power gains, "Kawasaki-san from Rubber Soul tells me that his 'butt-dyno' says we're making around 200hp at the rear wheels."
Now, for Roy, retired from his career of military service, the only place that matters is behind the wheel of his hakosuka, drinking in the miles as the open desert opens up before him.
1972 Nissan Skyline 2000GT
Owner Roy De Guzman
Hometown Las Vegas, Nevada
Engine 2.8-liter L28 swap; Solex 40mm triple side-draft carburetors with polished 40mm velocity stacks; SK Racing intake manifold; 5" cold-air velocity intake; GT-R-spec fuel pump; MSD 6AL ignition box and Blaster 2 coil; NGK 8.5mm Super Conductor wires; Earl's hoses and fittings; GReddy catch can; Rubber Soul Carb heat shield; painted valve cover; side-exit exhaust by Best Muffler Shop
Drivetrain five-speed manual transmission; full synchromesh
Footwork & Chassis GAB Sports eight-way adjustable shocks; HELP 60mm lowering springs (rears 600lb adjustable); full urethane bushings; Rubber Soul front strut bar
Wheels & Tires 15x8" -6 front, 15x12" -51 rear Watanabe R-Type wheels; 195/50 R15 front, 235/50 R15 rear Toyo R888 tires; RS Watanabe Electron wheel locks and stainless lug nuts; K-Spec 25mm rear spacers
Exterior GT-R-spec fender mirrors, grille headlight bezels, taillight bezel caps, rear wing, badges, rear steel fenders (cut and filled); Rubber Soul Semi-Works flares; Circus Magic FRP/CFRP pillar vents; restored FRB hood; clear headlamps; tow hooks; vinyl by BCE Designs and J Print Graphics
Interior Bride Stradia carbon-Kevlar seats with custom upholstery and Rubber Soul rails; Takata 341MPH harnesses; MOMO steering wheel; FET Sports quick-release hub; modified Sapporo sword beer tap shift knob; GT-R-spec radio delete plate, rear defroster delete plate, accessory delete cover, rear seat delete); Omori volt meter; Auto Meter tachometer; Razo pedals; Rubber Soul dead pedal; Japanese road flare
Thanks You My wife Linley and son Enzo, for all of their undying love and support; Stan Chen from Toyo Tires; Jon Jon Carino for his paintwork; Yossi from JP Prints and Graphics; Freddie and the crew from Auto Fashion; Chris Conley; Garage Kutsuma for handling the purchase; Paul Castillo from the HyRev crew; Kawasaki-san from Rubber Soul/HELP for parts, tuning and advice; Brian from BCE Designs; Koji and Terry from JCCS; Mastermind NA
The Genesis of the Skyline coupe
The Nissan Skyline C10 Coupe was not the first Skyline coupe. Designated BLRA-3, Prince's second-generation Skyline was available in a coupe model in 1962, styled by the Italian designer Michelotti. The Prince coupe featured canted headlights, a trapezoidal grille, long rear quarters and a 1.9-liter OHC inline-four that put out 92.5hp. At a starting price of 1.85 million yen (in 1962, no less), it sold just 60 copies, but it proved influential: European hands were brought in to style a number of Japanese cars not long after, including the Daihatsu Compagno, Nissan 410 Bluebird, the original Silvia, Mazda Luce and the Isuzu 117. Yet it would be nearly a decade, two generations of Skyline, and a corporate takeover for the next Skyline coupe, the C10, to debut.
As head of Prince Motors' R&D, Shinichiro Sakurai (b. 1929) was responsible for both the (again Michelotti-penned) S50 Skyline and the 2-liter Gloria flagship sedan; when called upon to build a car that wouldn't get stomped at the Japanese Grand Prix, he simply stretched the nose and dropped the Gloria's engine in. The 105hp GTA kept the Gloria mill unchanged, but the S54 GT-B gave the Skyline its performance reputation: five-speed, power brakes, and a high-compression version of the Gloria engine with triple side-draft Weber carbs to boot. It caused a sensation on its debut at the Japanese Grand Prix of 1964, giving Porsche a run for its money. He also was working on a new Brabham-chassised, mid-engined machine to take on the Porsches at future Japanese Grands Prix—the car that would become the Prince (and later Nissan) R380. Two versions were developed: naturally aspirated for home-market racing and turbocharged to go Can-Am racing on the international stage. Imagine running an R&D department and a factory racing skunkworks simultaneously!
Sakurai was also in charge of the next-generation Skyline, designated C10. It was developed entirely by Prince, but Prince had only recently been absorbed by Nissan; both companies were healthy, but the Japanese Diet (legislative body) suggested smaller companies merge with larger ones so they would not be the target of Western takeover. So Sakurai was now deputy chief of Nissan's Third Vehicle Design Department; his department was initially in charge of the Skyline, Laurel, Cherry, and the Royal limousine. Even so, as part of the team that was being absorbed, it would have been easy for Sakurai to take a defeatist attitude.
He didn't; it is refreshing to note that overriding corporate pride and the not-invented-here syndrome did not apply with the Skyline. Corporate takeovers are so frequently seen in terms of winning and losing, with the bigger partner asserting dominance. Yet this was not the case with Nissan and Prince. When Sakurai presented his plans for the C10 Skyline to his boss, Nissan Deputy Chief Engineer Noboru Ohta, the boss told his underling: "Prince may show a few edges in close fighting, but when it comes to an organized campaign, we are ahead of you." Ohta wanted the Skyline to be a success, rather than try to smother its nascent reputation, and Sakurai was eager to incorporate a variety of Nissan-engineered improvements from its parts bins into the Skyline, including a move to the L20 inline-six.
This generation was also referred to as hakosuka by enthusiasts: hako meaning box, and "suka" representing the English pronunciation for the beginning of the very English name Skyline. It also introduced a series of long-standing style trademarks, including the "surf line" crease on the rear quarters. The 1500-series launched in 1968 with the 2000GT (GC10 series, the G standing for GT) coming soon after. The PGC10 GT-R sedan (P for Prince; the R for Race) with its triple-carb 160hp DOHC S-series straight-six, launched in February of 1969. A hardtop coupe Skyline arrived in 1970, with the KPGC10 coupe GT-R arriving in 1971; a coupe almost certainly would not have arrived had Prince not become part of Nissan.
But it quickly became a legend, both at home and abroad. The KPGC10 racked up more than 50 victories by the end of the 1972 season, beating rotary Mazdas and Porsches alike on circuits across Japan. More than 300,000 C10-generation Skylines of all sorts were sold—a record up to that point—and the hakosuka remains a bona fide legend at home. And in the 40-odd years since, a coupe has been available in the Skyline lineup.
Shinjiro Sakurai died of heart failure in January 2011.
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