If JDM front-wheel drive fans flock to Honda, we could argue rear drive enthusiasts tend to fall into the Nissan camp. S-chassis and Z have long been starting points for front engine, RWD projects on U.S. soil, but in Japan they got an additional option we could only dream about: the Skyline. We realize the GT-R was endowed with AWD in '89 and hasn't looked back since, but in its earlier generations, as well as in non-GT-R spec, the Skyline was and is a classic FR. And when we did some crunching of the numbers about which Nissan feature cars from Japan our visitors checked out the most, the list came back awash with S- and R-chassis.
The tally includes 11 Skyline, 9 180SX/Silvia, and 1 each Fairlady Z and Cima (the title to this piece says 20 but a couple of these stories double up on cars). We found them as far south as Fukuoka and as far north as Nagano, and some of these machines we're certain have gone on to become wallpapers. Teasers and photos are below, as well as links out to each story.
- Hitomi & Masaru Ishikawa's 1996 180SX Type X
- Garage Active's R32 Skyline GT-R
- Masao Otani's 1998 Skyline 25GT & 1995 180SX
- K SHO 1's 1970 Skyline 2000 GT-X
- Kenshi Otake's 1998 Skyline GTT
- Masumi Nakano's 1972 Skyline GT-X
- Tomu's 2000 Skyline GT-R
- Hiroki Koga's 1993 S13 Onevia
- Tomonori Idekawa's 1994 Silvia Q's
- Kyosuke Kubo's 1996 Silvia & Yume Tanichi's 1996 180SX
- Eiji Daito's 1991 Silvia
- Shunsuke Matsutani's 1972 Skyline GTX
- Katsuya Otani's R33 Skyline GT-R
- Takashi Haruyama's 1991 180SX
- Noriaki Miyamoto's 1975 Skyline GT-X
- Yuki Yoda's 2005 Fairlady Z
- Shibata Tatsuhiro's 1988 Skyline
- Kaoru Imanishi's 1994 Cima Limited
- KRC Osaka's 1999 Silvia
- Mao Nakai's 2009 Skyline
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1996 Nissan 180SX Type X (S13) - Happy Wife, Happy Life
If we ever do a top JDM Toyota list, Masaru Ishikawa's wild Mark II wagon would for sure be on it, but since this is a Nissan roundup, the very popular OEM+ S13 he put together for his wife, Hitomi, is where we begin. Build highlights include a tubbed engine bay with a custom strut tower brace that's integrated into a rear shroud, S15 dash in the cabin, and extensive fender work so Masaru could run 19-inch Rays Japan NISMO wheels from the '13-to-'14 370Z. The fenders were sectioned off and additional metal was added to flare them out, resulting in 250 mm wider up front and 400 mm on the rear—that's almost 5 and 8 inches wider per corner.
Tokyo Auto Salon 2018 Spotlight: Garage Active's Carbon Fiber-Bodied Nissan R32
Garage Active's director and president, Kazushige Sakamoto, is a fan of widebody cars that don't look too fat or seem like a departure from what the factory envisioned, and his carbon-fiber kit for the R32 Skyline follows that very aesthetic principle. When it debuted at TAS '18 we were there, and true to form the car's OEM lines seem barely touched, but potential buyers should be prepared to drop a pretty penny if they want it; the whole setup goes for north of $30k US(!)
'98 Skyline 25GT & '95 180SX - There's Something About Nissan
We still think it's crazy that the guy who paints cars for Mazda tuner RE Amemiya—TM Car Body Shop's Masao Otani—is a Nissan fan, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and Otani's color-coordinated Skyline and 180SX are friggin' gorgeous. Fly exteriors is what we expect from a custom paint and body man and Otani delivers; the R34 sports a Top Secret front bumper, Uras fenders, and handmade carbon side spoilers, canards, and diffuser, while the S13 features molded Origin Labo fenders and Otani-san's custom bumper, diffuser, canards, and side steps.
'70 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-X & '75 BMW 2002 - Making Moves
This story was a two-for-one of AP Garage projects, this Hakosuka Skyline and also their BMW 2002, which were both built for the 2018 Osaka Auto Messe. The Hako is indeed beautiful, thanks to new bumpers, fender flares, a flawless paint job, and an outstanding leather interior, but purists might get a bit butthurt by the Skyline's suspension. The old-school Nissan rides on an airbag setup from Pneumatic, AP Garage's own brand, bringing its stance up to modern standards (no matter what the critics say).
1998 Nissan Skyline GTT (GF-ER34) - Young & Determined
An R34 Skyline drift car? Yes, please! In the States, young drifters try to find an S-chassis, BMW E36, or maybe even a Lexus IS or SC as their go-to slide sled, but in Japan there's a less expensive RWD brother to the much revered AWD BNR34 GT-R that's a viable option, the ER34 Skyline GT Turbo. Kenshi Otake's 10th-gen. Skyline GT-T is mash-up of authentic and replica components, featuring NISMO Z-Tune style front fenders and bumper and a booty that mimics the GT-R's. What this build lacks in high-end parts it makes up for unadulterated style.
1972 Nissan Skyline GT-X - Fresh Squeezed
Apparently rebadging non-GT-R Hakosuka with GT-R insignias is a thing in JDM car culture, like Masumi Nakano did with his 2000GT-X, but we ain't mad. His vision of an ideal third-gen. Skyline is our style of outside the box, with an exterior that has race-spec GT-R style front and rear fender flares (the street GT-R only came with flares on the back), all of its chrome deleted, and a distinctly non-GT-R custom orange paint. The engine bay has been done right, too, with an L28 inline-6 swap from USDM Z cars and a really sweet wire tuck.
2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R: The Halo Effect
If you worship at the church of The Fast and the Furious, Tomu's JDM R34 might be one of its biggest shrines. Built as a tribute to the late Paul Walker, who starred in 6 F&F movies and at one point his character had an R34, Tomu's GT-R stays only remotely faithful to the version we saw in the 2001 original film; he's personalized his with SSR Professor SP3 wheels, a VIAIR custom air suspension and some underglow lights, among other mods—but hey, both cars have the same front bumper! That's a NISMO forward bumper cover, but again Tomu has set his apart with some carbon canards from AutoSelect.
1993 Nissan S13 - Super Hiro
The JDM coupe that should have been! Hiroki Koga's Onevia build may look pretty mild on paper but seeing the end result is a revelation. The onetime VIP car constructor aimed for different and hit the mark, developing his own body kit for the S-chassis model mashup and reworking some HKS coilovers for ride height (even though we swear the thing looks like it's on bags). The S13 also has some get-up-and-go, outfitted with a stroked black-top SR20DET and a dogbox transmission.
1994 Nissan Silvia Q's (S14) - Who's the Boss
Tomonori Idekawa's Silvia is one of only a couple Boss Bunny-kitted S-chassis we've seen from a JDM builder and definitely has one of the wildest exterior paint jobs we've ever laid eyes on. The two-tone purple and blue are separated by a gold stripe that is continued in the cabin, while the engine bay pops with a contrasting red hue; and those sponsor logos aren't stickers—they're painted on. Heartbreakingly, four days after the S14's show debut at Wekfest Japan it was involved in a drifting accident, which must suck royally for Tomonori, but at least we have these photos to remember it in its prime.
1996 Nissan Silvia & 180SX - The Rocket Buggies
We've seen S-chassis for show and the circuit, but Japan's also got them for off-road! Kyosuke Kubo's Silvia and his girlfriend Yume Tanichi's 180SX are out of the norm, to say the least, rocking a lifted stance to accommodate some pretty gnarly all-terrain meats at the corners. Top Rankaz 4-wheel-drive shop in Osaka came up with the custom lift kits, and to clear the wide tires Kyosuke opted for Rocket Bunny over-fenders on both cars. Each S14 also has installed LED light bars, push bars to protect the front-mount intercoolers, and matchy-matchy finishes and graphics.
Unbelievable S13 Nissan Silvia With RB25 Swap, Tubbed Fenders & Seamless Engine Bay
If you're familiar with the tuner TotalCreate E.PRiME or saw our recent list covering our most popular AE86 stories, you might already be familiar with Eiji Daito, who is a fabricator of some acclaim and a bit of a maverick, with a stated M.O. to "make things that do not exist." This Silvia is a perfect example; starting under the hood, Daito went for an RB25DE NEO power plant swap that sports, among other unusual mods, an electronic throttle setup from a Z33, a fuel pump out of an R32, an RB26 valve cover, and VQ37 injectors. It's also set up with an R32 Skyline brake conversion; a mix of TEIN, A'PEXi and RS-R suspension; a shaved and tucked bay with inner fender tubs that came from splitting in half a Harley Davidson rear fender; even an entire cabin upholstered in Betty Smith denim. This S13 is absolutely wild.
Born for Battle: 1972 Nissan Skyline GTX
Even though Shunsuke Matsutani's Skyline is pushing 50 years old, he still wants to track the ol' girl (which sorta reminds us of all those Porsche 911 grandpas we see at the road course); in fact, the forgotten chassis was left to the scrapheap before Matsutani saved it and resurrected it to run Suzuka circuit. To do that, the GTX has been prepped with suspension upgrades from Number7 Racing Products, beefy RS Watanabe rims shod in Toyo R888R rubber, and Pandem fender flares to help house everything. The aged power plant wasn't going to cut it, so Matsutani had the L28 bored out and rebuilt by the L-series gurus at Kameari Engine Works, while the cabin features a super-racy Bride Gardis seat to keep pilot locked in place for those side g's with the help of a Number7 Racing harness.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R with Carbon-Fiber Parts and Custom Wide Fenders: Father and Son Project Car
Katsuya Otani's dad, Masao, is number 3 on this list because of his impressive R34 and S13, but not surprisingly the apple doesn't fall terribly far from the tree, as the son also has a build y'all loved. Katsuya's subtly crafted R33 Skyline GT-R stays with the white exterior theme found on his pop's whips and follows a similar track-centric approach, featuring widened metal fenders and plenty of carbon fiber. The composite weave includes AutoSelect front lip and canards and one-off side pieces and diffuser by dad Masao, and the time-attack look is further fulfilled with a set of 18-inch Volk Racing TE37V wheels. The R33 may be the most unloved of modern era GT-R, but Katsuya's makes a great case why it can be the perfect project foundation.
1991 Nissan 180SX - One-Man Wonder
Car Modify Wonder owner Takashi Haruyama's S13 was probably a lot of people's intro to "Saitama street style" (including us), which, if we're pressed, doesn't look terribly unique from personalized Nissan we'd find in Osaka or other parts of Japan. That doesn't mean the D1 GP legend's 180 doesn't stand out, though, because it totally does, partly because of the rear GT quarter-panels that stretch out each back corner by 80 mm, forward GT fenders and flares that extend the front 60 mm, and a far-out twin-blade rear wing. Tying it all together are CMW Glare body styling, which consists of bumpers and side skirts, and some Work Emotion CR Kiwami footwear.
1975 Nissan Skyline GT-X: The Ken & Mary Connection
Be honest—when you hear or see the word "Skyline," you probably think either R32/R33/R34 or Hakosuka, right? The so-called KenMeri Skyline is rarely anyone's first choice to customize, but Common Snapper and Barramundi Wheels boss Noriaki Miyamoto's fourth gen. might change opinions. We were drawn in by the simple yet refined appearance outside, a blend of restored chrome bits and headlights, black fender flares against a background of a repainted white body, and Barramundi "Bester" style wheels in matte bronze at the corners. The engine bay might be this ride's biggest talking point, though, cleared of anything unnecessary and featuring a built and updated L20A inline-6 that's been outfitted with Ignition Projects coils and Jenvey ITBs.
2005 Nissan Fairlady Z (Z33) - Pikachu Z
We called Yuki Yoda's Z33 (the only Z on this list of JDM cars, incidentally) the "Pikachu Z" for its similar coloring to the legendary Pokemon, as well as the owner's history with the fictional character, but would Pikachu actually drive a car like Yuki's? We think yes. Who wouldn't dig the Garage Mak carbon body kit, NOVUM GT fenders, and Mercury rear spoiler? Mr. Pika-pika would probably also be into the Z's respray in Nissan's Ultimate Yellow and contrasting red Volk TE37 Rigid Tune rollers, a version of the iconic TEs that are stronger and optimized for the track. Pokemon time attack, anyone?
R31 Nissan Skyline Fanatic Turned Chassis Rescue Kingpin
Like the KenMeri, the R31 Skyline has been overlooked by tuning trends, but not by Shibata Tatsuhiro. In fact, he's leaned heavily on the seventh gen., trying to convince others of its awesomeness and launching his own R31 House brand for personalizing the Nissan from the late '80s. This built 1988 coupe is a rolling advertisement for Shibata's business, employing an original R31 House Model7 aero kit under that wild JDM livery in addition to R31 House brake calipers and exhaust and burly Work Meister S1 rims in each fender well. The 2.0L RB that was in the engine compartment has been swapped in favor of an RB25 outfitted with a 90mm GReddy throttle body and an R31H intake manifold and equal-length exhaust manifold. Shibata may be singlehandedly putting the R31 on the map.
1994 Nissan Cima Limited (Y32) - Don't Judge A Book by Its Camber
Kaoru Imanishi's Y32 deservedly made our Top VIP Cars list and is probably one of the most extreme examples we've seen come from any VIP community, Japan, America, or otherwise. A set of rare and ultra-wide Work Autostrada Modena wheels sized at a staggering 17x11.5-inch, -45 fronts and 17x12.5-inch, -105 rears are impossible to look away from, housed under some equally disproportionate retrofitted Pandem E36 over-fenders that Kaoru somehow massaged onto the Cima-even the rear doors still open. A little rough around the edges (some TLC for the engine bay could help the RB26DETT swap shine) but still dope.
1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - The Kindred Spirit
KRC Osaka is known for custom body kits that stray way off the beaten path, and its S15 Silvia shop car is like nothing we've ever seen. The coupe's lines, in particular, have seemingly been redrawn via its wild-looking hood, front bumper, and widebody fenders that expose the unibody underneath, which is one of KRC's trademarks. KRC boss Nobutaka Tsutsui is a firm believer in bucking trends and pursing that which is "unique and aggressive, bold and daring," and this unusual S15 is all of that and more.
Mao Nakai's 2009 Nissan Skyline - The Ultimatum
If there are any lessons to be drawn from this list, it might be that most of the love seems to get heaped on the GT-R trim of the JDM Skyline lineup and people forget there are other Skyline that might be just as viable to mod. Mao Nakai's Skyline 370GT (which is akin to the Infiniti G37 we have here in America) is one such specimen, a sedan that initially he wasn't allowed to tinker on because the bosses at his Nissan dealership job wanted all employee vehicles to reflect a certain wholesomeness. Mao is a dyed in the wool enthusiast, though, and actually left the gig so he could modify his prized four-door. The Skyline's spec list now includes a T-Welding one-off exhaust, Airrex air suspension, CCW SP2K wheels, and custom widened fenders by Exceed. When the body metalwork was done, the entire car was smoothed out, resprayed in this custom purple, and the interior re-done in yellow suede. Sugoi!