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1980 Nissan Skyline (HGC211) - Sleepless in Kyoto

Creating something unforgettable from the Skyline nobody remembers

Yuta Akaishi
Sep 28, 2017
Photographer: Yasutaka Shimomukai

The C210 Nissan Skyline is arguably the least known of all the generations. Commonly referred to as the Skyline "Japan," this platform was introduced right between the C110 "Kenmeri" and the R30. This generation also marked the demise of the legendary GT-R trim level, which was replaced by the GT-EX model—the GT-R moniker would not be seen again for three generations until the introduction of the R32. Despite being a sort of "black sheep" in the Skyline lineage, for Tsuyoshi Okada, this car has long held sentimental meaning, being neither the original owner nor the builder of the car.

1980 nissan skyline custom rear wing Photo 2/12   |   1980 Nissan Skyline Custom Rear Wing

Tsuyoshi's interest in cars began to manifest itself at a very young age. He'd often purchase plastic models and assemble them, while adding his own personal touch to each one. He had his first taste of full-scale automotive culture when his older sister purchased a Toyota Crown. And being 10 years older than Tsuyoshi, his sister had the resources at her disposal to modify the Crown. She attended as many VIP car gatherings and shows as possible, and each time Tsuyoshi would accompany her.

1980 nissan skyline l28 Photo 3/12   |   1980 Nissan Skyline L28

Two decades later, Tsuyoshi owns his own shop, Shine Motor, located in Kyoto. Most of his business consists of buying used cars and then restoring and selling them, but he also houses his personal collection there, which consists largely of older Civics and customized '80s sportbikes. When we visited Shine Motor at the end of last January, Japan was in the midst of one of the country's coldest winters, complete with record-breaking snowfall. Freeways had been shut down and we ended up driving through remote mountain roads to arrive at the rural, and surprisingly large, warehouse where this Skyline called home.

Tsuyoshi's first encounter with this Skyline was when his close friend purchased it in near-stock form. Already uncommon to find in Japan, the C210 immediately had Tsuyoshi's attention and he made it a habit to visit his friend often when there was work to do on the car. Naturally, the car was quickly lowered and wheels were installed, and it was simply driven for enjoyment despite the mild modifications. When the original engine took its last breath, it triggered a full build. An L28 block was sourced, then bored and stroked to 3.1 liters, incorporating high-compression pistons plus custom rods and crank. The head was completely redone and ported, and every component was replaced to take advantage of the increased displacement and compression. A high-lift camshaft, oversize valves, higher rate springs, and lightweight retainers were installed to increase breathing capability through the 44mm Solex side draft carbs. Though the car has never been on a dyno, output is estimated to be in the range of 320 hp.

1980 nissan skyline custom rear wing Photo 7/12   |   1980 Nissan Skyline Custom Rear Wing

The exterior received plenty of attention as well. Utilizing a combination of modified production parts such as the front lip spoiler and rear diffuser alongside fabricated components such as the enormous flares and trunk spoiler, the Skyline was transformed into a completely different machine—wider, lower, and just plain ridiculous. The fender flares are a somewhat common style often seen on heavily modified '70s and '80s Japanese cars. Known as "works fenders," they are essentially massive bubble flares that add inches of outward wheel clearance necessary to fit the enormous wheels utilized by these machines—often the width is equal to the diameter. Between the additions to the body and the bold, geometric "Chibaraki" paint scheme derived from graphics seen on race cars from the era when they were being actively campaigned, only the most fundamental lines remain visible. To say that the car garners attention wherever it goes is a gross understatement. Looks of bewilderment, curiosity, and the occasional knowing smile follow in the wake of this car, as if the fumes of raw, unburned fuel emitted from the custom exhaust intoxicates all who are close enough to breathe it in.

1980 nissan skyline kameari steering wheel Photo 8/12   |   1980 Nissan Skyline Kameari Steering Wheel

When the last owner of this "Japan" felt it was time to move on, the first person he contacted was Tsuyoshi. The reason was obvious—Tsuyoshi had been there for every step of the build process, even experiencing the original engine failure, to mocking up the new body panels. Though the car could have likely fetched a substantial sum of money had it gone to auction, the previous owner and Tsuyoshi understood it wasn't just some showpiece destined to sit dormant in a collector's warehouse. Tsuyoshi is quick to point out that while the car may appear like a chore to drive, it actually functions as transportation—the car was designed to drive. The built engine provides more than enough propulsion to get the driver where he needs to go, out of trouble just as quickly as he can get in it. The bodywork is aggressive, but not to the point where it's constantly in a state of being repaired. Even the suspension setup and wheel sizing were chosen to be reasonable, though there's is no denying the SSR MKIIs have some of the deepest outer rims we've ever seen. Even despite the negative offset, the suspension has been perfectly tuned to match. So well, in fact, that Tsuyoshi's girlfriend is perfectly content with the ride quality.

The previous owner was ready to let it go, but why did Tsuyoshi choose to hold on to it? He explained that now, in his late 20s, everybody around him seemed to be getting out of cars—and although he accepts that there is no way to stop time, he wants to preserve what he can. He loves the fact that your own personality, your own style comes out in the way you build your car. This Skyline was instrumental in molding his personality, developing his own style, and he couldn't bear to watch it go...yet. There may come a time when Tsuyoshi is ready to part ways, and on that day there will be no telling where the car will end up. But until then, there will be no peace on the roads of Kyoto.

1980 nissan skyline custom rollbar Photo 12/12   |   1980 Nissan Skyline Custom Rollbar
By Yuta Akaishi
42 Articles
1980 Nissan Skyline (HGC211) - Sleepless in Kyoto
Tuning Menu
Owner: Shine Motor
Hometown: Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan
Occupation: custom shop
Power: 320 hp (estimated)
Engine: L28 bored and stroked to 3.1 liters; Solex 44mm side-draft carburetors; custom fuel lines, radiator, camshaft, pistons, rods, valvesprings, retainers, stainless steel exhaust; porting and polish; Kameari radiator cap; Ultra 8 spark plug wires; Wakos Super Z Coil ignitor coil
Drivetrain: reinforced clutch; upgraded differential
Footwork & Chassis: custom coilovers; Cusco tower bar
Wheels & Tires: 14x12" front, 14x13" rear SSR MK-II wheels; 195/55R14 front Toyo T1R tires; 245/525/14 rear Liberty Walk LB88 tires
Exterior: Works fender flares; custom rear wing, front lip, rear diffuser; Kameari California Style side mirrors; Chibaraki color scheme
Interior: custom rollbar; Kameari steering wheel; Alpine head unit; Pioneer TS-X11 rear speakers
Thanks you: Shine Motor, No Good Racing, Exceed Japan, Mecha-Dock, BattleCraft, The Chronicles

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