The Skyline you're staring at right now is probably not that recognizable to you. In fact, if you're not a close follower of Nissan's Skyline family lineage, you probably have never even seen the KHGC210 variation. It's not a Hakosuka, not an R32, 33, 34, and it's definitely not an R35-heck, it isn't even a GT-R. What it is, however, is a landmark in Nissan's storied history. It may be one of the lesser recognized Skylines but that doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't as important as the GT-R.
You don't hear much about the GT-R moniker from the late '70s and '80s because they didn't exist. Nissan had ceased production of the GT-R in 1973, just four years into its early life. During that time, there was a world oil crisis that hit Japan hard and brought about economic turmoil. Nissan/Datsun began a campaign to produce more efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles. Economy cars were quickly becoming the standard, as strict emissions laws were being put into place and high-performance sports cars were suddenly becoming frowned upon. Nissan had even pulled out of motorsports, so the need for a GT-R just didn't exist.
The year 1977, marked the debut of the 5th generation Skyline. By that time, Datsun/Nissan had firmly made its mark as a huge global export machine and the introduction of their fuel efficient, economy cars were a hit in countries like the United States. The US, which was so huge on domestic muscle in the late 60s and early 70s, was also hit hard by the oil crisis and the "Datsun Saves" program was the perfect opportunity for Nissan to make its mark in the U.S. The mixture of the two might have been an influence on the styling and design of the fifth gen Skyline, and the chassis began to take on a more square-like, boxier design. It took on the name "Skyline Japan", which was a little peculiar because Skylines remained home-based, and global exports never even carried the Skyline namesake. Perhaps it was an indirect jab at their competitors, as Datsun/Nissan had taken a dominant position in global sales and they were proud to wear their country's name on their flagship vehicle.
"One of my favorite aspects about this car is definitely its square shape." John Oshima says. "It just has that American muscle-car look."
John, much like his '77 Skyline, is also a Japanese import. He grew up in Okinawa, Japan and has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for the past 15 years. The Skyline he owns now, actually found its way to America before he did. "A friend of mine that was in the military was stationed in Iwakuni, Japan and brought the car over to the States about 20 years ago. He had the car for all these years until I finally took ownership of it six years ago. I've been hard at work trying to do a full restoration of it ever since. The body was in good condition, with the exception of some rust spots, but restoring it has definitely taken a lot longer than I anticipated."
The problem with restoring something so rare is that the availability of parts is even scarcer. You take a less than popular chassis and combine it with the fact that it is over 30 years old, in a country where it never existed, and you've created quite the headache for yourself. "Most of my friends have told me many times that I was crazy for attempting to restore this car from the ground-up. I figured I would try to do something different. I'm sure this has to be the first KHGC210 to be restored here in the U.S."
"The first thing I did was take the 2-liter L20 engine out and put a bigger engine in it. I decided to go with the larger displacement L28 because it was a more popular, common motor, particularly in the US. Sourcing parts for it is a little easier and I can make more power out of it. I had this engine bored up to a 2.9 liter and I'll probably stroke it to a 3.1 somewhere down the road."
Though many would probably opt for some more exotic like a RB, John chose to keep his Skyline more period correct. It isn't a full restoration to OEM specifications but the modifications performed on it could definitely have been done back in the car's younger years. The L28 motor is upgraded with Schneider Street cams, Wiseco pistons/piston rings, and a Circus Engineering exhaust and header combo. Mikuni 44mm triple carburetors are not only the preferred choice for L28 builders but are proven throughout time as they were used in competition even back in the '70s.
Circus Engineering Low Down springs bring John's Skyline down a couple inches and KYB shocks give this 33 year-old classic a firmer ride. The crusty old sway bar bushings have also been replaced with Circus pieces and a Cusco strut bar provides a sportier ride as he cruises the streets of Las Vegas.
Aesthetically, the Skyline Japan looks as good as the day it rolled off the factory lot. The straight lines and traditional round taillights are a perfect reminder of the styling cues from the late 1970s and John did little to alter the exterior, which he considers his favorite aspect of his car. The only two major modifications on the body of this 2000GT-EX are a custom front lip spoiler and ZG over-fenders. While the fender flares take away from the boxier lines of the original fenders, it gives the Skyline a beefier-look and allows for a much wider overall stance. Seated under the flares are incredibly mint, staggered 15-inch SSR Long Champ XR-4 wheels. John, in his many tireless searches for rare parts, was able to locate this set of gems that also included the Long Champ valve stems, caps, and even the locking lug set! It's not your typical set of old school SSRs that are either missing one cap or so oxidized and worn to the point where they wouldn't be recognizable. "The restoration of this car has taken such a long time because I took no short-cuts. Everything that has been replaced has been done with all brand new Nissan OEM parts. I've probably only reused like one part, which was the brake cylinder. I still need to find more parts, just little things here and there like a bushing or whatever might be missing, but overall, I'm very satisfied with the restoration," he explains.
John has done a remarkable job of restoring an almost forgotten piece of Japanese automotive history. The 2000GT-EX acts as a rolling time capsule that tells a story of an era when times were very different in Japan. Nissan had taken on a different direction from the GT-R and they wouldn't be reacquainted with that namesake until 1989. The KHGC210 was the first Skyline of that decade to not wear the fabled GT-R badge, but it doesn't necessarily mean that this chassis is any less important. It actually marked a huge turning point in Nissan's automotive history. This chassis eventually became the first Skyline to ever be equipped with a turbocharged engine. A decade later, Nissan gave birth to "Godzilla" and the fifth generation Skyline, with its stocky, muscle car-like styling, definitely planted the seeds that made it happen. The rest, as they say, is history.
1977 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-EX
Owner John Oshima
Hometown Las Vegas, NV
Occupation U.S. Military
Engine 1978 Nissan L28 2.8L OHC bored to 2.9L; E88 cylinder head; N42 engine block; Schneider Street cams; Wiseco 60-over pistons and piston rings; Circus Engineering Dual Performance exhaust, LGpower engine conditioner and performance header; Cusco oil catch tank; Holley electric fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator and fuel pressure gauge; JDM Nissan valve cover; Kameari radiator cap, distributor, heat/drip pan, ignition and silver coils; Mikuni 44 triple carburetors; Mr. Gasket Co. triple fuel distribution block; NGK iridium spark plugs; Nology Hot Wires; K&N breather valve; Spectre fuel fittings and stainless steel fuel lines; Optima red top battery
Footwork & Chassis KYB shocks; Circus Engineering Low Down springs and sway bar bushings; Cusco front strut bar
Wheels & Tires 15x8'' SSR Long Champ XR-4 (front); 225/50-15 Dunlop SP Sport 8000; 15x9.5'' SSR Long Champ XR-4 (rear); 245/50-15 Dunlop SP Sport 8000; SSR Long Champ valve stems, super lightweight lug nuts, super lightweight lock nuts, and wheel caps
Interior Carrozzeria KEH-M5000 Head Unit, EQ-6600 Equalizer, GM-3000 Amplifier, CDX-M70 6 Disc Changer, TS-UX55 Speakers, and TS-WX100 10'' Subwoofer