We took you deep inside Nissan last month, and brought back exclusive coverage of the Zama Operations Center in Kanagawa, Japan. Once serving as the assembly plant for their vehicles, Zama is now known as Nissan's Global Production Engineering Center. What isn't as well-known is that it's also home to the Heritage Car Collection, the greatest assembly of Nissans (and early Japanese vehicles in general) in the world-slash-galaxy-slash-universe. Not accessible to the public, the entire collection of very special and uber-rare vehicles sits in pristine condition, model-by-model, generation-to-generation, and trophy-to-trophy.
Continuing where we left off (Pre-WWII Datsun, Japanese Grand Prix, Super Silhouette), our second part of Zama details Nissan's Group C/IMSA GTP efforts, other motorsport accomplishments including WRC victors, and MID 4 Prototypes.
Using experience learned from the turbocharged, Formula-level technology in Super Silhouette [last issue], Nissan segued into FIA Group C and IMSA GTP racing. A class for roofed prototypes with restrictions on dimensions and weight, Group C and GTP had minimal engine restrictions, making way for high-horsepower racing.
Powered by a 680ps, turbocharged variant of the VG30 engine from the 300ZX, Nismo entered two Group C cars into the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 880kg R85V (pictured) finished 16th overall in its debut with K. Hoshino, K. Matsumoto, and A. Suzuki at the helm.
'85 GTP ZX-Turbo Lola
Also based on the VG30ET motor of the 300ZX, this 650ps creation, aptly named ZX-Turbo, was campaigned by California-based Electromotive Engineering in the GTP series of IMSA, where it would go on to win the Driver's Championship in 1988 with G. Brabham behind the wheel-the first manufacturer to beat the GTP-dominating Porsche 962-and the Constructor's Championship in 1989, 1990, and 1991.
Nissan would dominate the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in an R90CP powered by an 800ps, DOHC, YRH35Z V-8 engine, winning both the Constructor's and Driver's Championships from 1990 to 1992. Following their first victory in 1990, M. Hasemi and A. Olofsson returned in 1991 in an improved chassis with reinforced carbon monocoque construction, improved aerodynamics, and the number-one championship spot.
After years of relying on chassis from March Engineering and Lola Cars International, the #23 R91CP (far left) would be the first entirely Nissan-built Group C car, utilizing a 680ps, DOHC, VRH35Z V-8 with twin IHI turbos. In 1992, the R91CP would enter the Daytona 24 Hour race with M. Hasemi, K. Hoshino, and T. Suzuki at the wheel, and earn the first Daytona victory by a Japanese car or team.
The #24 car in the middle is the R90CP that won the 1990 JSPC Championship with M. Hasemi and A. Olofsson. The car on the far right won five of seven races, clinching the 1992 JSPC Championship with K. Hoshino and T. Suzuki driving.
'98 R390 GT1
After its 1997 Le Mans debut with a 12th-place finish, the purpose-built R390 GT1 would return in 1998 with K. Hoshino, A. Suzuki, and M. Kageyama placing Third overall-the highest Nissan would ever ascend in Le Mans. The 1,000kg R390 accomplished the feat with a 650ps, turbocharged, DOHC, VRH35L V-8.
The second R390 from the left, #30, finished Fifth in the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans.
'98 R390 GT1
In order to qualify for the GT class of 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nissan had to build at least one road-going vehicle-and this is the one. Purportedly, there was a second road-legal R390 GT1 that was converted to compete in Le Mans, making this the most limited-edition Nissan ever. Tom Walkinshaw Racing-the team behind the Jaguar XJ220, Aston Martin DB7, and Benetton's 1994 F1 car (in which the now legendary M. Schumacher won his first championship)-was sourced to build the R390 solely for Le Mans competition. For the motor, it used the aluminum VRH35L out the R89C Group C car, and the headlights were taken from a production Z32 300ZX. It is said that the road car is capable of 0-60 mph times in 3.3 seconds, a quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds at 134 mph, and a top speed of 220 mph.
'99 R391 1999 Winner of 1999
Le Mans-Fuji 1000km
Due to changes in Le Mans regulations, Nissan developed two new open-cockpit R391s, both with 600ps, naturally aspirated, 5.0L VRH50A engines-both variants of the VRH35L. Although they did not finish Le Mans, an R391 took the win at the Le Mans-Fuji 1,000km race with M. Krumm, E. Comas, and S. Motoyama driving.
'98 1600SSS P510 Bluebird
After years of competition and a handful of class wins, this Bluebird took the overall win in the 18th African Safari Rally in 1970 with E. Herrmann and H. Schuller at the wheel, besting Porsche, Ford, and Peugot. Nissan was devout in the effort, churning out a Bluebird equipped with a tuned, 130ps L16 engine, strengthened and raised suspension, and trick mods such as the wing lamp on the passenger-side fender and step on the back bumper to assist in mud conditions. The adventures of the rally team were documented in the book 5,000 Kilometers to Glory by G. Kasahara, manager of the Test Department, which was later made into a movie.
Succeeding the "golden era" of motorsports accomplishments during the '60s, post-'70s would see Nissan expanding its tarmac racing efforts from its Japan Grand Prix experience, and continue its campaign in rally racing.
'71 Fairlady 240Z HS30
Following the Bluebird from the previous year, the more powerful 215ps, L24 inline-six-powered S30 Fairlady took the overall win at the 1971 19th Safari Rally with the same team of E. Herrmann and H. Schuller in the cockpit (a second S30 Z would also take the overall win in the 21st Safari Rally in 1973 with S. Mehta and L. Drews).
'72 Sunny 1200 Coupe GX-5 KB110
After a period of Toyota domination with the Corolla and Publica in the '60s, Nissan switched to the new B110 chassis Sunny introduced in January of 1970. This highly modified Sunny coupe (its 145ps, 1,298cc, A12 I-4 was capable of 10k rpm!) built by S. Suzuki-a Nissan works driver who was also with Tomei Autos (a nominal predecessor to Tomei Powered)-would go on to win the November 1970 All Japan Stock Car Fuji 200 Mile Race, igniting the Sunny Coupe's domination of the Fuji GC from 1971 to 1974, and in 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1982.
'73 Cherry Coupe X-1 KPE10
Nissan's first FF car, the Cherry, made its debut in October of 1970 and utilized a more powerful "X-1" variant of Sunny's A10 and A12 engines and boasted twin SU carbs, making 80 ps. This particular Cherry competed in the 1972 Fuji GC Series Minor Touring class and put down nearly double the stock power with 150 ps, thanks to its Lucas-fuel-injected A12.
'73 Fairlady 240Z
HS30 GTS (Omori factory car)
Based on the top-of-the-line 240ZG-with its 190mm long nose, headlight covers, and over-fenders-this was the official test car from Nissan's Omori factory, complete with a 300ps L28 engine with crossflow combustion chambers.
'80 Violet PA10
This second-generation Violet, driven by S. Mehta (Nissan Works driver) and M. Doughty, won the 28th Safari Rally in 1980, the second victory for the team. The Mehta/Doughty team would go on to win four consecutive Safari Rallys from 1979 to 1982-a first in WRC history-all in Violets. This particular Violet was powered by an L20B inline-four that put out over 200 ps.
'83 Fairlady Z 300ZX HZ31
This third-generation Z, the Z31, clinched the 1985 All Japan Rally Championship series with M. Kamkioka and Y. Nakahara, and a 230ps VG30ET V-6.
'92 Pulsar GTI-R N14
Launched in August of 1990 to meet WRC Group A homologation rules, the N14-designated fourth-generation Pulsar GTI-R used the SR20DET in ATTESA ET-S AWD configuration. The Pulsar GTI-R made its WRC debut during the 1991 Safari Rally and would compete, rather unsuccessfully, in the '91 and '92 seasons, due in part to rule limitations on tire width, and radiator/intercooler heat soak problems stemming from its cramped engine bay. The Pulsar's best performance was Third at the Swedish rally and Sixth overall during the '92 season. This 300ps GTI-R was entered by S. Blomqvist and B. Malander in the 1992 RAC Rally in the UK (both took Third in Sweden), but was forced to retire from competition.
'96 Primera Camino P11
This UNISIA JECS Primera Camino competed in the 1996 All Japan Touring Car Championships, with driver M. Kageyama. Based on the popular sedan-only British Touring Car Championships, JTCC had strict regulations limiting engines to 2.0 liters (with redlines up to 8,500 rpm) and minimum weight restrictions (950 kg for FF drivetrain; 1,050 kg for FR), making for tight and exciting wheel-to-wheel racing. After making its JTCC debut in Round Three, this 300ps Primera would take its first win in Round Eight at MINE, where it beat out makes from BMW, Opel, Toyota, and Honda.
GT-R. 300ZX. Household names, they are arguably two of the most iconic and influential cars of modern-day Nissan. What very few know is that both owe their existence and technological accolades to long-forgotten concept cars known as the MID 4.
'85 MID 4 (Type 1)
Unveiled at the 1985 Frankfurt Auto Show, the first MID 4 boasted a mid-engine layout by way of the now-venerable 24-valve, DOHC, 3.0L VG30DE engine, rated at 230 hp. The innovations didn't stop there. This MID 4 saw the development of a four-wheel-drive system capable of 33/76-percent front/rear torque split, a predecessor to ATESSA; a four-wheel-steering technology for improved lateral grip, now known as HICAS; and four-wheel ABS disc brakes.
'87 Mid 4 (Type 2)
Don't let the front fool you-it's not an Acura NSX. Introduced two years after Frankfurt, the second MID 4 (Type 2) made its debut at the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show, refining design and technology from the Type 1. Now equipped with a 330ps twin-turbo, intercooled VG30DETT, most of the R&D work done on the MID 4 Type 2 would go on to trickle into the Z32 300ZX and R32 GT-R.
Think we're done? Not by a longshot. We've saved the best for last, as the final chapter into Zama will uncover the history of the Skyline, including some of the most infamous GT-Rs, and Nissan's super sick JGTC/Super GT machines. Make sure to pick up the next issue of 2NR. Happy endings don't get much better than this.