One of my most vivid childhood memories stems from my first trip to Disneyland. The funny thing is, I don't remember what rides I took, what shows I watched, what I ate, or who I even went with, but what I do remember is the night prior. I remember trying to go to bed, but being so overwrought with excitement, I spent half the night tossing and turning with visions of Space Mountain, Mickey, and Main Street. And having never actually been, my imagination was running wild solely based on tales heard from friends and classmates. The pre-hype combined with the unknown cranked my expectations way past overload, and unlike most things that end up becoming monumental letdowns, the Magic Kingdom did not disappoint.
And since that momentous event, very few experiences have paralleled that magnitude. Dorming my first year at U.C. Irvine, going to Pomona for my first drag race, or to Bob's Classy Lady, the Valley's finest and my first strip club encounter (any establishment that uses adjectives like "classy" earns points in my book) are just a few. But recently, the same butterflies in the stomach, palms sweaty in anticipation, imagination running at redline scenario happened again. But this had nothing to do with Goofy, campus life, 60-foot times, or girls named "Candie" with a "K", rather a secret museum filled with epic Nissans of yore and present. Having only heard about Zama Museum from other journalists and elite JDM tuners in passing, it was the Fountain of Youth of the automotive realm-people talked about it, providing sketchy information about the whereabouts and contents, but no one knew where it actually was or what was in it, or how to get in. If Dan Brown was a car guy, he'd be all over it.
Cue Nissan North America. After a few calls overseas, arrangements were made to allow our staff inside the sacred museum. Located within Nissan's Zama Operations Center in Kanagawa, Japan-the former assembly plant for their vehicles-Zama is Nissan's Global Production Engineering Center and home to the Nissan Heritage Car Collection, the official name of the museum and home to the greatest collection of Nissans in the world. For our third and final installment, we pull the wraps off the stuff you've been most waiting for: Skylines and JGTC gems.
ALSID-1 1st GEN
Introduced in April of 1957, the first Skyline appeared under the Prince brand and came equipped with the GA-30 engine, a four-cylinder OHV engine with a displacement of 1,484cc and output of 60 ps. Combined with its advanced-for-the-time suspension comprised of double wishbone and coil in the front, and "de Dion Tube" and leaf spring on the rear, the 1,310 kg Prince Skyline was capable of 125 kph blasts.
BLRA-3 1st GEN
If the Skyline Sports has a European feel, it's because the BLRA-3s were designed by famed Italian Giovanni Michelotti, a prolific designer whose works span Maserati, BMW, Lancia, and Triumph, among others. The Skyline Sports boasted a hand-built body on a Gloria chassis, and also utilized the Gloria's larger 1,862cc GB4 engine (94 ps). Sounds like a pricey deal? It was. At 1.85 million Yen (1.95 million Yen for the convertible), the Sports retailed for double the price of the standard Skyline, explaining why Nissan sold only 60 or so units.
BLSID 2nd GEN
The second generation Skyline replaced its predecessor in November of 1963. Powered by a 70ps, 1,484cc, G1 four-cylinder, the new Skyline was much lighter (960 kg versus the first gen's 1,310 kg) and had a smaller chassis. A 2000GT iteration produced for Japan Grand Prix homologation rules (June 2010, 2NR) was stuffed with the more powerful Gloria engine.
KGC10 3rd GEN
The first produced post Nissan/Prince merger, the third Skyline was introduced in 1968 and was eventually offered in three trims: 1500 (1.5L G15 engine), 1800 (1.8L G18 engine), and 2000 (2.0L L20 engine). In September 1971, a more powerful 2000 GT-X model was introduced, boasting a 130ps, SU twin-carb L20 engine. Continuing the extra power theme, the 2000 GT-X came standard with power windows. A KPGC10 GT-R (the first GT-R) was not at Zama during the time of our visit. It was out for exhibition.
KPGC110 4th GEN
Fans of the GT-R had to wait four months after the C110 Skyline's debut in January of 1973. The KPGC110 (The "P" makes it scrumptious) came stuffed with a 160ps, 2.0L DOHC S20 straight-six capable of 7K rpm, and disc brakes behind all four wheels. Thanks to inopportune timing, the oil crisis of the '70s shifted demand toward fuel-efficient cars, and Nissan pulled the plug on production a scant four months after it went on sale, thus only 197 were manufactured. The public would have to wait another 16 years for the GT-R emblem to make its way back into showrooms.
KGC111 4th GEN
The first Skyline to wear the iconic circle taillights was introduced in September of 1972. Similar to the previous generation, the C110 chassis came available in three trims: 1600, 1800, and 2000 (with GT and GTX versions). Due to stronger exhaust emission regulations in 1975, later GT-E and GTX-E versions were introduced with fuel-injected L20E engines and a revised chassis code of C111. The C110 is commonly referred to as the "Ken and Mary" (or "Kenmeri") Skyline in Japan, thanks to a series of popular ads featuring actors portraying a young couple of the same name.
HGC211 5th GEN
Like many domestic cars, the fuel crunch brought with it questionable styling during late '70s and early '80s, to which the Skyline fell victim as well. Dropped in August 1977, the fifth-generation Skyline, with its 125ps L20E motor, met the new emission regulations and was offered in GT, GT-L, GT-EL, and GT-EX trims. In 1980, a turbocharged GT-E model was added to the lineup.
KHR30 6th GEN
The sixth-gen Skyline was the first to use the "R" moniker for its chassis code and went by R30. Available in August of 1981, the 1,160 kg R30 had five engine options: Z20, Z18, L20E, LD28 (diesel), and the turbocharged L20ET, a 145ps six-cylinder. Famously, actor/racer Paul Newman was hired on as the spokesperson for the marketing campaign.
Twin-Cam 24V Turbo KRR31 7th GEN
Three more months after the GTS model, 800 units of a buffer GTS-R trim were released in August 1987 to meet Group A homologation rules. Powered by a tweaked RB20DET-R, it cranked 210 ps courtesy of a larger turbo and intercooler, and tubular exhaust manifold. Race versions of the GTS-R made a whopping 430 ps in full Group A form.
KHR31 7th GEN
While the seventh-generation R31 Skyline closely resembles the R30, the technology that went into the new Nissan differed dramatically. The R31 was the first Skyline to use the RB-series of motors, offering them in four configurations (RB20DET, RB20DE, RB20ET, RB20E) as well as the CA18S engine. Though first offered in August of 1985, May of 1986 saw Nissan release a high-performance GTS model that integrated four-wheel disc brakes, more supportive seats, and the revolutionary HICAS rear-wheel steering technology capable of up to half a degree of turn, depending on steering angle and speed.
BNR32 8th GEN
After four U.S. presidential terms, the GT-R name was resurrected with the eighth-gen Skyline. The R32 brought with it the twin-turbo, 280 ps RB26DETT engine, ATTESSA E-TS all-wheel drive, and HICAS. With Group A domination in mind and the Porsche 959 and its 8:45 Nurburgring time its target, the R32 would go on to win all 29 of the Group A All-Japan Touring Car Championship races and smash Porsche's record with an 8:20:00 lap, with H. Katoh driving. Because of the R32's success in the Australian Touring Car Championship, their press nicknamed it "Godzilla".
BCNR33 9th GEN
After the ninth-gen Skyline dropped in August of 1993, Nissan introduced the R33 GT-R later that year at the 30th Tokyo Motor Show. With improvements such as Super HICAS and standard Brembo brakes, the R33 GT-R was one of the first production cars to break into the seven-minute barrier at Nurburgring. Pictured is the prototype displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show.
To celebrate the Skyline's 40th birthday, Autech released a limited production four-door version of the R33. Based on the V-Spec trim, the sedan came equipped with the GT-R's RB26DETT, ATTESA ETS, and Super HICAS.
Utilizing a tuned RB20DET found in the R31, this Skyline competed in the All-Japan Touring Car Championship in 1986. The GT Passage Twin-cam Skyline made 300 ps from the 2.0L (an increase of 110 ps over stock), allowing A. Suzuki to take the Constructor and Driver's Championship.
European Touring Car Championship entry
For competition in European Touring Car Championships, Nissan Motorsports Europe built an R31 GTS-R (the Group A homologation version of the Skyline), increasing its output from the stock 210 ps to 400 ps, and decreasing its weight from 1,345 kg to 1,160 kg. Driven by A. Grice and W. Percy in the ETCC series, A. Olofsson joined the pair for the 24-Hour Spa-Francorchamps endurance race in Belgium, helping the team finish Sixth overall.
Group A Specifications No. 12 Calsonic Skyline
The R32 GT-R made its motorsports debut at the opening race of the All-Japan Touring Car Championship in March 1990. The 550ps, 1,260kg Calsonic R32, driven by K. Hoshino and T. Suzuki, would qualify for pole position, smashing the track's record by two seconds, and would go on to smoke Toyota Supras and the previous Ford Sierra champs, winning the race, and later, the Championship. In all, the R32 would dominate the four years leading to the final JTCC season in 1993 (Supras and Sierras, uncompetitive, pulled out), winning all 29 races it competed in-a flawless victory, a rare feat in motorsports.
BCNR33 Road Car
To meet the homologation rules for the GT class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this official road car, based on the R33 GT-R, was developed by NISMO. The RB26DETT-equipped Skyline was registered in the UK but was never marketed.
24 Hours of Le Mans Entry
Following their 1989 attempt at 24 Hour of Le Mans in the R89C, Nissans returned to France in 1995 with a pair of R33 GT-Rs netting NISMO a Fifth in the GT1 class and 10th overall. The following year, NISMO entered two RB26DETT-powered R33s again in Le Mans: a #22 car (not pictured) that did not finish, and the 1,250kg #23 car that would finish 10th in class and 15th overall, with K. Hoshino, M. Hasemi, and T. Suzuki taking turns behind the wheel.
Modifying a Super Taikyu-spec GT-R for endurance racing (power increased to 500 ps, over-fenders to accommodate wider tires, and lighter carbon hood, doors, and trunk), Falken Tire entered the 2002 24 Hours Nurburgring endurance race with its 25 km of forest road in an R34 similar to the one in the picture. The last time a GT-R entered was in 1999, where an R33 finished Sixth overall, the furthest a Japanese make has made it. Despite a nudge from another car that sent the Falken R34 into a spin, popping its left-rear tire, the GT-R managed to finish Fifth, bumping the best overall standing from a Japanese car a notch higher.
An S14 purpose-built for something other than drift? Thanks to JGTC splitting their series into two engine classes, GT500 and GT300 (the numbers designating the hp limit), OE flagship models such as the Supra, NSX, and GT-R were reserved for the "higher" GT500 class, while smaller makes like the MR2, M3, and Silvia were commissioned for GT300 duty. While this is a replica of the Xanavi S14, the original was SR20DET-powered and was driven by M. Kondo and T. Aoki and competed rather unsuccessfully. However, we should note the previous year, an S14 piloted by M. Orido (sound familiar?) and H. Fukuyama became the 1997 JGTC GT300 class Champion.
Pennzoil/NISMO JGTC Champion Car
Where the previous S14 didn't succeed in JGTC in '98, this R33 did, with the E. Comas/M. Kageyama duo taking the GT500 class Driver's Championship and giving the NISMO works crew a Team Championship. After missing the title in '96 and '97, the 1,200kg R33 attacked the season with an engine sitting lower and further back, thereby improving its center of gravity. The engine was an improved version of the RB26DETT used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans-spec R33 GT-R LM, with more power and torque thanks to a bump in displacement to 2,708cc.
1999 JGTC Champion Car Pennzoil NISMO
E. Comas, the winning driver from the previous year, partnered with S. Motoyama in the all-new GT500 R34. In a stronger and more compact chassis with improved aero, NISMO converted the R34 from AWD to RWD. Ultra stable, Comas would go on to win his second Driver's title, a first in JGTC.
Nissan entered its third season of JGTC in '03 with three R34s. With regulation changes, the GT-Rs were revised with the front and rear chassis fitted with pipe frame, wider tires thanks to an expanded front fender section, and a rear-mounted transaxle that improved balance significantly. S. Motoyama and M. Krumm in the #23 Xanavi machine didn't win any races, but after a consistent season with eight starts and four podiums, took the Driver's title, giving NISMO its third Team title. With R34 sales having ended the previous year, Nissan would switch to a Z33 the following season.
After a debut year ending with the Z taking both the Driver's and Team titles, S. Motoyama and R. Lyons returned in the #1 Z33 with improved aero, balance, and grip. Powered by tuned VQ30DETTs, the #1 Z33 would compete alongside a #22 Z in a tumultuous season. Although the Motoyama/Lyons team would not add a third Driver's title, both Zs did take home the Team titles.