Mike Castillo is an old-school type of guy. With preferences for Nissan and Toyota, Mike has owned quite a few sweet older Japanese cars in his day. Working as a Toyota parts counter guy by trade, he has seen it all - and owned quite a bit himself. "I've owned several cars since I first began driving in 1995, including my first car, a '75 Celica with an 18RG motor," Mike tells us. "Then I had a 2.9-liter, Nismo-stroked 240Z, then an '81 [Toyota] Starlet, then a '73 Celica, followed by an '89 turbocharged S13 coupe. Next up was a '73 Nissan Skyline GT." Not a bad lineup in our minds, but everything has been build up for Mike, mere precursors to his current car: a '71 Nissan 2000GT Skyline.
"As a longtime Nissan fan, the Skyline was always 'the car to own' for me, no matter what year it was," Mike says. "The four-door skyline was kind of the car that started it all for Nissan, winning many Grand Prix victories in Japan. This car had it all; I knew the first time I saw one, I had to get one!" Easier said than done when it comes to rare Japanese cars, considering how difficult it can be to locate the right car and trim, not to mention the strict importation laws here in the States. Thankfully, Mike's Skyline is old enough that it's legal to own and drive on public roads in California. After all, it's a certified classic by now! It's also (obviously) right-hand drive, which takes some getting used to, according to Mike.
"The most memorable experience I've had with the car was the drive home when I first bought it. I had never driven a right-hand-drive car before, and going home from San Bernadino to San Diego during rush hour, I learned real quick how to get used to driving on the wrong side," he says with a laugh. "But to sit and own part of Nissan's history? I will never forget that day.
"It took me a long time to realize how I wanted to build the car," Mike remembers. "When I first got the Skyline, it had a built motor with a cam and a few mods, including triple Mikuni 44 carburetors. The car was pretty quick, but I got tired of barely beating civics!" The decision came down to two options for Mike: build the factory L-series motor, or swap in something else. While the Skyline purist crowd will surely shun his decision, Mike knew he had to drop in a different motor to get the results he wanted.
"I had to get more power, simple as that," Mike says. "The RB20DET has a lot of potential and is capable of the horsepower goal I wanted to achieve (with very minimal mods). I don't regret the swap, no matter how many purists told me to leave the car alone. With the RB, I have better gas mileage and more power - can't hate on that!" We agree, the simple setup Mike has chosen proves to be more than ample considering the light weight of his older low-tech car.
The suspension of this Hakosuka has been upgraded in all the right ways to help cope with the increased output of the RB motor swap. TEIN Flex coilovers provide a tightly dialed in ride, paired with Nismo front control arms and Cusco rear control arms. Shod in a set of classic deep bronze RS Watanabe wheels, the car's stance and look are perfect. Low but functional - after all, this is a street car.
On the inside, the Skyline is fairly subtle. Maintaining the full factory interior, the street car roots are as evident as ever. A GReddy boost gauge and R32 oil and water temp gauges are some of the few signs hinting to what lies underneath the hood. A GT-R shift knob is in place, and the Nardi wood grain steering wheel looks right at home. Mike has also included a Carrozzeria stereo system, because after all, a man needs his tunes. Although, before you run out and buy one for yourself, keep in mind that these JDM specials might be hard to adjust unless you can read Japanese.
The exterior is clean and JDM race inspired. The body is straight, clad with a few choice decals and an array of GT-R badges. However, the body itself isn't 100 percent original. That's OK, though. As a custom car that has had many OE pieces replaced (like the motor, for example) it's good to know it has been worked on and repaired with care. Mike tells us a story about the car he heard from its previous owner. "Before I got the car, I learned that it was involved in an accident in Okinawa. As the owners pulled up to a body shop, the shop owner told them, 'Sorry, we're full,' but as they turned around to go try another shop, the body shop owner asked what kind of car it was. All they had to say was, 'Hakosuka' [a nickname for the Skyline, meaning Box Car]. The body shop owner immediately stopped all his workers and pulled the Skyline in and started work on the car same day. These old Skylines get a lot of respect in Japan, as many of them are owned by Yakuza, a Japanese organized crime syndicate."
That's a pretty cool fun fact, which makes Mike's car, quite literally, gangster. And we love it!
Specs & Details
'71 Nissan Skyline 2000GT
Engine Nissan RB20DET turbocharged inline-6
Engine Modifications Custom top-mounted Spearco intercooler; custom coolant reservoir; GReddy Type RS blow-off valve; AFCO aluminum radiator; custom motor mounts; Z31 rear sump oil pan; T3 turbo; Rubber Soul Japan oil cap; custom stainless exhaust
Engine Management Factory ECU; A'PEXi SAFC
Drivetrain SPEC Stage 2 clutch; RB20DET; custom-mounted transmission; custom driveshaft; 3.70 LSD
Suspension TEIN Flex coilovers; Nismo front upper control arms; Cusco rear upper control arms
Exterior GT-R emblems, fender mirrors, grille; Nismo front spoiler; custom fiberglass hood, trunk; Marchal H4 lights; chrome bumpers; JAF emblem, Grand Prix replica decals; Skyline heart decal; Speedshop OSR logo; custom aluminum anodized fuel cap; Skyline trunk emblem; DMV Japan light up front license plate
Wheels, Tires & Brakes RS Watanabe wheels 15x8.5" -6mm (f) & 15x9.5" -19mm (r); Hankook tires 195/50R15 (f) & 225/45R15 (r); custom fitted 4-piston brake kit (f)