By on October 14, 2013

Nissan_Skyline_R33_GT-R_001

It’s not just oil, water and other precious resources that we’re running out of here on planet earth. Apparently, we’re a little short on automotive nameplates too. If you believe the reports in industry trade pubs, we’ll eventually be overrun by obscure alphanumerics as the number of trademark-ready monikers gradually thins out. Scarcity isn’t the only factor behind it either. Frequently, nameplates get retired, and an all-new version of the previous car is re-introduced with another combination of numbers and letters – just like Nissan is planning to do with the Skyline after 56 years of production.

Members of the Playstation Generation that still care about cars (yes, we exist, we are legion and we are too saddled with debt to even think about buying a new car, thank you very much) revere the “Skyline” name like a person of faith reveres the Tetragrammaton. It is an ineffable, unknowable bit of four-wheeled technology that we were never privy to, and therefore, it’s reached iconic status among North American car enthusiasts, who were only exposed to the car via Gran Turismo or the Fast and Furious franchise.

Like most instances where the grass is greener on the other side, it turned out the grass was a little less lustrous and colorful once you got over the fence. Canada’s flexible importation laws meant that older Skyline GT-Rs have been flooding the nation’s streets for some time. Driven today, they aren’t terribly remarkable cars, neither particularly fast or involving. I found my friend’s Toyota Celica GT-FOUR (another piece of all-wheel drive turbocharged forbidden fruit, albeit one closer to a rally special than a Grand Tourer) to be a much more compelling way to spend $10,000 and inconvenience oneself with right-hand drive. The breathless Ray Hutton and Don Schroeder reports telex’d from Japan are not congruent with our current reality. I am sure that in the early 1990′s, this car was certainly something compared to the C4 ‘Vette, but there’s a reason why Nissan never sold them here.

The idea of paying between $60,000-$100,000 for a car with the interior from a B13 Sentra and the sex appeal of Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a recipe for commercial ruin.  The 300ZX on the other hand, had the Z car heritage, as well as the rectum-puckering performance, plush interior and removable T-Tops demanded by mustachioed 1990′s sports car buyers. Besides, the Skyline name meant nothing to most consumers.

But it means something to me, and to most readers who got their licenses right around the time the Skyline ceased to exist as we knew it. The introduction of the V35 Skyline, aka our Infiniti G35, brought an end to the familiar Skyline formula, with its naturally aspirated and turbocharged straight-six engines and its rather anonymous salaryman packaging. The V6-powered V35 shared its underpinnings with the Z car – something true Skyline enthusiasts would regard as blasphemy.

The Skyline was originally a Prince product, and legend has it that when Nissan absorbed Prince in 1966, Prince’s products, Skyline included, were regarded as orphans. The Skyline’s racing pedigree was apparently considered both unremarkable and enough of a threat to the homegrown Fairlady Z that they were never imported to America. Within Nissan, the two cars were always regarded as distinct entities, with the Z being the sports car for Nissan. Only when the forces of industry economics were brought to bear on Nissan, in the form of Carlos Ghosn, did Nissan take advantage of any synergies between the two cars.

Now that Nissan is planning to sell the Infiniti brand in Japan, the assimilation is complete. The Skyline nameplate will die alongside the V36 Skyline/G sedan (no word on whether the current G Coupe will carry on the name), and the new Infiniti Q50 will carry that name in Japan as well.

The fatal blow to the Skyline nameplate was delivered when the R35 GT-R divorced itself from the Skyline range upon its 2009 introduction. Without the GT-R, the Skyline is just another anonymous commodity car in its home market, just as the Chevrolet Impala is a rather unremarkable car when the hot SS versions aren’t around. But the reality is that the conditions that helped foment the “golden age of Japanese sports cars” have been absent for a long time now, and we’re now feeling the hangover after years and years of non-stop good times. Combine that with the relentless pressure for greater profits derived via increasing economies of scale in a cutthroat global auto market, and the decision to axe the Skyline name in favor of promoting the “Infiniti Brand” and the Q50 shouldn’t surprise anyone. But it does leave me a little dewey-eyed.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

46 Comments on “Generation Why: The Skyline Fades From The Rear-View Mirror...”


  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I wonder if Nissan could have spun off a North American brand similar to Scion, except leveraging nameplates for the play station generation rather than introducing alpha numeric BS.

    Honda and Nissan really dropped the ball when it came to capturing the hearts and minds of the ‘lost’ generation (Seeing that Scion is dead, I guess Toyota has dropped the same proverbial ball). Most of our parents were impacted by the oil embargo, gov’t distribution of oil fiasco and then the 2nd oil crisis. There are a plethora of kids entrusted to Mom and Dad’s reliable beige toaster-appliance-automobiles that I’m sure would love to buy a Skyline… at 25,000 USD.

    Great article.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Only old people, cab drivers and people that really wish the FR-S was labeled a Toyota buy Scions. Young people can buy Skylines for $25,000, or much less, all day – I would highly recommend a G35/G37 sedan to a young person with the means. Particularly the 6MT.

      A new Skyline for $25K? What an insult to the car’s history that would be. A new Silvia/200SX/240SX for $25K would be doable (as the FR-S/BRZ/Genesis 2.0T prove), and I would love to see that. As a Nissan, not under a different brand. Young people with jobs aren’t working their *sses off to own something from a “youth” brand that some creepy old guy came up with. They want “grown *ss man/woman” cars.

      The Japanese didn’t lose young people through failed marketing. They lost young people liquidating their brand equity to build uncompetitive overpriced products. Opening a huge hole for the Koreans and a domestic resurgence. And they still haven’t learned their lesson. Look at the new Civic, which is just the previous generation Civic, which was actually a really great car, cost cut to death and made crappier in every way. Or the new Corolla, with its scary bumper cover that literally puts gloss black lipstick on a pig.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Toyonda can barely sell Camcords, cars benefitting from immense economies of scale with simple platforms, for $25K. It’s a wonder the FR-S/BRZ came out at even $30K. There is no way they could come out with something worthy of the Skyline name at $25K.

      Manufacturers kind of shot themselves in the foot with all the durable awesome they pumped out in the last 20 years. You could buy a 1993 Supra Turbo today and drive it for another 10 years. After years of old crap my 04 350Z feels like a brand new car. Why would I get a BRZ over something like a similarly priced Cayman S or E46 M3?

      Even in the good old days there wasn’t volume to support the likes of the 240SX. Manufacturers were just cool with throwing money away on niche platforms. They don’t have that luxury today.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    the only real “experience” I’ve ever had with the classic Skyline is watching some dyno queens turn out big HP numbers but had turbo lag which could be measured with a calendar. They just never did anything for me.

    I figure it’s mostly just the whining of snobs who assume that anything not sold in the U.S. is automatically superior to anything in existence.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Infiniti is committing seppuku with its ugly *ss redesigns and ridiculous new naming convention.

    Hurry up and get a G37 6MT sedan and JDM Skyline badging while you still can, it will be a classic.

    The Skyline range was a Japan only BMW 3-series competitor – sedans, coupes, wagons, with the GT-R on top like the M3. It’s a shame we didn’t get it until the G35.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Always thought the R33 was the looker of the bunch.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      I vote R34, it looked good even as a regular sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        +1 racer-esq, BUT… you lost me on the sedan thing.

        34s look very good in turbo trim with their flared fenders all around (GT-T. GT-S, GT-TSTiwhateverlettercombo), but non turbo versions get flat fenders and look as exciting as a fridge.

        The 33 looks good, a bit of a boat and that’s why I like the 34 more.

        The 32 has to be a GT-R for me to notice, and they are rare.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the R33

      • 0 avatar
        Noble713

        That’s interesting. Most people I know consider the R33 the ugly one of the family. Usually it’s R34 –> R32 ————> R33.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Precisely why I commented. Most people don’t love the R33 relative to the R32 and R34. This post being about about skylines as a whole and having the R33 as the header struck me as peculiar. I was basically agreeing with Derek’s unpopular opinion. haha

      • 0 avatar
        vlangs

        Remember how they say, “Never Meet Your Idols”? Well that happened to me with the good ole’ Skyline. I was a Honda J tuner (2nd Gen Acura TL) who always figured that the best car to buy under 50k would be an R34 or R33 GTR/GTS and maintain it and enjoy it. Well I lived in St. Kitts for a year and seeing all the JDM imports made my mind melt and I immediately started the hunt for a Skyline. I eventually got a 4 Door R34 GTS (inline 6, non-turbo, 5 speed, GTR body style) and thought that I’d own it and import it back to US when I was done under the exceptions and store it until it was legal. I then happened upon a R33 GTR on Nevis (the sister island to St Kitts) and couldn’t resist and bought that damn thing too!

        Long story short, after living off ramen for a few months because I spent all my disposable cash on two cars, I started to appreciate just how useless these are as everyday cars. The sedan, being that it wasn’t meant to be a race car, was comfortable enough (and I’m the guy that drives on coils) but the coupe was atrocious to drive on the streets. These were track stars through and through. Apart from the fact that they were super cool (mainly because of GT and Fast and Furious) there was nothing exceptionally pleasing about them. Going fast in them was great, St. Kitts was small enough that anything over 60mph was “fast” and they gripped the ground like glue. But after a month of ownership I sold them off and got something a lot cheaper and a LOT more interesting: a 1990 AE90 Toyota Sprinter Cielo (Geo Prizm GSi in the states) which was a 5 door good looking hatchback with 4wd, a 5 speed, and a 4A-GE (of Initial D fame) I wanted desperately to send it back home with me but I knew imports wouldn’t allow it, so I did the next best thing, took off all the JDM goodness (fender mounted mirrors, toyota grille, badges, radio, head units, gauges) and shipped them off back home ahead of myself, found a Prizm GSi hatch and bought it sight unseen and put it back together. Had a bunch of change left over in my pocket and I have a LHD, CARB legal pocket rocket (seriously, simple mods and it pulled 250 at the wheels!) that is fun and good looking.

        ok so that wasn’t a long story short, but whatever I like that story a lot.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s not that I want one of these cars—I’m not a big fan of tuners, and I’m not *that* interested in a manual transmission—it’s that I’ll lament the loss of Japanese motorsport culture. Japanese automakers are losing more of their individuality as they chase greater volume. But that’s been the case for a long time now, probably over the last ten years. It would just be nice to see the automotive industry not dominated by cars that are either anonymous modes of transportation or Euro-imitators.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    “Playstation Generation”? Okay, but those of us from the Pong Generation, and our older siblings from the Lincoln Log Generation remember the Ford Skyline(r), with it’s hardtop stowed in the trunk. At least you could buy one here, though few were sold and none were left by the time we got our licenses.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      Playstation generation specifically because it’s hard to overstate the impact that Gran Turismo had on our perception of cars and what it exposed us to.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Agreed. I had no idea about some of the JDM vehicles but after virtual drives in Gran Turismo I wondered why we didn’t get such awesomeness over here in ‘Merica land. Back in ’80s we had MR2s, Supras, Starions, AWD Turbo Celicas, 300ZXs, etc. Today we get a Q50? What’s that? At least the GT-R is around but its off in super car world, too crazy in both performance and price. What happened to afford sporty cars like Prelude Si, 240SX and the Eclipse GS-T? Nissan/Infinity really screwed up tossing out the Skyline and G-Series name, would Ford drop the Mustang? I think (hope? pray?) not.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Hey now, quite a few of us learned pretty much everything we thought we needed to know (right?) about supercars from the early Test Drive video games.

        It’s how I learned the Italian shift pattern (first is down and to the left), if you drive fast enough then the cops will stop chasing you, that I wish I had a 959, that redlining your engine makes your windshield crack, and that 1960s American iron could go really fast but wasn’t so great in the turns.

        “Pass any low flying planes?”

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The people who CARE so much about the Skyline name can’t afford to buy a new one anyway, so in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter. I had a G37 6MT that I bought new for a few years and couldn’t care less about the Skyline 370GT name it had overseas. It just didn’t matter to me.

    The Skyline name here in the states would attract the crowd that Infiniti doesn’t want as customers because they dilute the image of the brand. This is why we don’t have a Toyota GT-86, no matter what the internet says.

    You can imagine the look the salesman had on his face at the dealer when I walked in and asked to test drive a G37 6MT coupe and that I already had financing to buy one, at 25. I’m sure I only got taken seriously because I had my uniform on that day.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      “The Skyline name here in the states would attract the crowd that Infiniti doesn’t want as customers because they dilute the image of the brand.”

      Oh my god, suburban kids that read car magazines and play video games? That’s the kind of crowd that grows up to be. . . CPAs. Pretty sketchy. Anyway dilution, if it is a concern, does not come from who wants a car, it comes from who can afford it. Otherwise Ferrari would be a worthless brand.

      The Nissan GT-R of video game fame actually did come over as a Nissan GT-R (although now that it has crept up to $100,000 that appears to be a mistake – I would not be surprised to see Nissan switch channels at some point). The regular Skyline came over as the G because Nissan does not sell that kind of car in the US, and Inifiniti does not sell cars with names.

      The GT-86 came over as a Scion because Toyota needed something to keep Scion dealers from abandoning their Scion dealerships in droves. Not because of “dilution”. It would have been a much needed sporting halo for the Toyota brand, but Toyota was more concerned with saving the Scion brand.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I would think that Honda would be the ones concerned with brand dilution, I see far too many brand new Civics with fart cans and spoilers, heck theres a local Civic dressed up to look like a pace car with fake lights on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Spartan

        “The regular Skyline came over as the G because Nissan does not sell that kind of car in the US, and Inifiniti does not sell cars with names.”

        The regular Skyline from 2003 onward WAS THE SAME AS THE INFINITI G! So I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

        As far as the crowd, I’m talking about the hair gel crowd. Infiniti doesn’t want the hair gel crowd buying their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      kuponoodles

      Uniform… and Rank? These guys know the Mil-Pay charts as well as anyone.. and a copy of your LES will let them know where to garnish your pay if it comes to that… also, how to contact your commanding officer for 1st sgt.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Although I don’t think I’m all that much older than you, now you know how some of us domestic car enthusiasts felt when we lost names like: Pontiac, Bonneville, GTO, Firebird Eldorado, Crown Victoria, Delta 88 etal…

  • avatar
    Travis

    I take issue with several things here.

    First and foremost, the Skyline is a boring people mover that the gofast nerds at Nissan were able to turn into a decent GT and track car. The bulk of all sales were non turbo and 2.0 or 2.5 6cyl models. The G35 sedan and coupe are the true emobodiment of what the Skyline has been for decades, and it did so better than everything else. As it should, considering the time they’ve had to perfect the formula.

    Second – the skyline isn’t fast or involving? Involving I can see. Fast? Maybe what you mean is that it didn’t feel very fast on public roads. The interior is crap. The seats are comfortable. Not fast? Please. Power delivery on those engines got refined over and over and over again to make the most out of what the gentleman’s agreement allowed. On the road, it was stupid fast for 1995. On the track, it was so far ahead of it’s time it’s not even funny. JB can scoff all he wants at ring laptimes, but sub 8min is extremely impressive and was roughly a 30 second difference from the R32. Gaining that much track superiority is incredible considering the car didn’t gain that much power and gained weight. Yay for torque vectoring. It’s still comparable to a base C6 corvette on the track. You take your not very fast nonsense outta here, sir.

    I’m stupid enough to actually considering buying one of things in America, and insane enough to have come REEEEALLY close twice. The first time – a 91 R32 before I bought a 2006 GTO, and again a year ago – 1995 R33 before I got my ’13 Mustang GT.

    The R32 had some breathing mods and a ‘tricked out’ suspension and plenty of rust spots. It was not what I’d call slow, but was a mess and a half overall. You can find similar examples of Civic SIs, Type Rs, and WRXs all over the place.

    The R33 was a prestine example that had recently been brought stateside a few months prior. Completely stock, a little over than 100k KM on the clock. Common sense won the day and I still don’t own a skyline. I just couldn’t justify owning something that old without a reliable dealer network. Taking it to local tuning shops for whatever work it might need wasn’t a very fun prospect, not to mentioned seizure. It’ll happen eventually, I’m sure. R32 and 33 GTRs are available in obscenely high numbers. R34 was much more limited.

    You can find Skylines, Silvias, and other RHD cars available from SOHO imports in Miami. They’re not federally legal in any way, state, or form. Don’t let them make you think they are. They’re still quality pieces if you’re someone who isn’t worried about having a car that could get seized on public roads if the stars align and you come across the right combination of people who want to screw you.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      We have finally reached the point where the golden-age RWD Nissans are beginning to be eligible for full-legal US importation. The stuff that was floating around already- sketchy as hell, but there are a few legit ’88 Silvias and Cefiros out there.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    As someone who grew up on Gran Turismo I was always more interested in the older American muscle cars despite their bad handling, I usually ignored the GTRs. These days I still enjoy crude clunky muscle over the GTRs that do half of the driving for you.

    I hate the new Nissan models, they’re always driven by slowpokes or have a badly installed fart can on them. I liked the Z cars up until Nissan stuck mini-van engines into them.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Z series was dead to me with the departure of the 300ZX, and it’s replacement half a decade later with a silly American version.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Yea that American replacement was the 350Z, it pumped out the same power as the 300ZX but gone were the t-tops, twin turbos, rear-wheel steering, neat styling, and I feel safe in saying that a twin-turbo V6 feels more fun on the road than a lethargic Nissan Pathfinder V6.

        Also, 300ZXs are safer in accidents due to better seat belt mounting weirdly.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “The idea of paying between $60,000-$100,000 for a car with the interior from a B13 Sentra and the sex appeal of Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a recipe for commercial ruin.”

    GM managed to move a lot of Corvettes with that strategy.

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    What I don’t understand is why do the Japanese OEM’s don’t think they can be profitable in a sensible, affordable sports car?

    Ford is doing great with the Mustang

    not sure how Hyundai is doing with the Genesis but I see a lot of them on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      The market just isn’t there. Those who want a Sports car in the US are going with the usual suspects, the Camaro or the Mustang. With those two being as good as they are right now, I don’t see that changing very much.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    I’m sad to see this happen, but it’s not at all a shock. Like many, I had no clue about the Skyline until I played Gran Turismo- the GTR’s would smack up the Camaro Z28 I usually drove, until I switched over to the R32 GTR and ever since I’ve been obsessed.

    Plus the RB26DETT engine just gives me the chills.

    In fact, 2 weeks ago, I was driving home in the Rancho Bernardo neighborhood of northern San Diego late at night on the I15 when I just happened to glance over the lane next to me when I noticed a car coming up fast, it was silver and I knew what it was right when I see the headlights- a R33 GT-R in the sheetmetal, RHD, the real deal. This is exceptional because this is in America. Even had California plates. More then likely one of the very FEW legal Skyline GT-R’s from Motorex, the R33 is the only legal one. As soon as I saw the afterburner tail lights, now I try not to do this while driving, but out came the phone and I started snapping away… to me the Skyline GT-R has an aura about it. Just something about it. I even turned off the radio in my car just to hear the RB’s lusty burble.

    Really thinking about instead of getting a new car, possibly I might to get a R32 GT-R when they’re finally legal under the 25 year rule. The R32 is my favorite- lightest of the modern GT-R’s and visually unassuming, unless you know.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    in the RHD world, for enthusiast, the Skyline died with the R34 with some remnants of the genes still with the V35, V36 and of course the R35.

    Things come and go however. Nissan is a company that will recycle names when it feels the need.

    You can bet that in 10 yrs time Nissan will think its time to get a little of that magic back.

    But as it stands, who cares if the name is dead.

    We have an inexhaustible supply of R32, R33, R34s which you can buy with very little money and in that sense, the Skyline name will never die, just like it never looses.

    • 0 avatar
      Travis

      No. R32 GTRs are just plain ubiquitous. They made mountains of them. Less so can be said of R33 GTRs, but they’re certainly plentiful. R34 GTRs, on the other hand, not so much. Only about 12k were built worldwide, compared to 16k for 33s, and 44k for 32s. They still command a powerful price as well.

  • avatar
    tkmedia

    I like the non GTR R30 skyline the best and have seen quite a few.

  • avatar
    Cris

    I think that the author of this article might want to do a little research. If the Skyline’s racing history is so unremarkable why we they so amazingly successful over the history of the various models.

    A Celica GT4 a more involving drive than a BNCR33? Again that’s a very strange viewpoint. Nothing wrong with GT4s (assuming that the author is referring to ST205s) but they are not the same thing.

    To understand the significance of the Skyline you have to take them in the context of the time they were released. Limiting this to the more modern turbocharged GTRs the BNR32 was released in 1989. It had a six cylinder twin turbo engine revving to 8,200rpm. Destricted it produced close to 400bhp.

    So you’ve got a car with a similar power output to a Corvette ZR1 with about the same weight yet it has four seats, 4WD and 4WS.

    Why didn’t Nissan sell the car in the USA. I guess lack of LHD was the first problem. Maybe federalising the car would have been too hard – were there problems with turbo-charged car regulations in that time period perhaps (I assumin something was going on otherwise the S13/S14 would have had the turbocharged CA18DET/SR20DET). Money had been spent on the Z32 which is very much the Nissan for the USA.

    Furthermore the GTR was the homologation car within the Skyline range. The Skyline range wasn’t sold in the US market. Would the GTR have been able to run in any US based race series?

    Skylines in general are just a BMW 3 series competitor and like the 3 Series the range sometime throughs up some amazing homologation cars. With most racing cars bearing little relation to their road counterparts the need for a homologation model has receeded. This can be seen with the more recent M3s just like the GTRs. Once the link is broken it becomes just another spec level/model. This is happening across manufacturers. Even Ferrari are in on it with 599GTO.

    It’s sad really that this heritage has been lost.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India