The Truth About Cars » Nissan Skyline The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:22:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Nissan Skyline Generation Why: The Skyline Fades From The Rear-View Mirror Mon, 14 Oct 2013 12:30:05 +0000 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.


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Look What I Found!: A JDM R34 Nissan Skyline in Detroit Tue, 25 Jun 2013 17:05:01 +0000 IMG_0211_revised

People that don’t live in the Detroit area often assume that car shows and similar events in the region are all focused on American iron and Detroit muscle. The fact is that car guys in Detroit are pretty much like car guys everywhere and most can appreciate all automotive excellence. That’s true within the auto industry as well. Engineers and designers working for GM, Ford and Chrysler have respect for the work of their colleagues both across town and across the oceans. The earliest expression of Cadillac’s brand identifying “Art & Science” styling theme was the Evoq roadster concept, designed by Kip Wasenko, now retired from GM Design. The first time that I met Kip was when I pulled up next to his Ferrari Dino on north Woodward a few days before the Woodward Dream Cruise.


Still, like the Suzuka winning tiny little Honda S800, found literally right in the middle of Ford country in Dearborn, now and then you still see a foreign car that you don’t expect to see tooling around the Motor City. To be frank, a “R34” 1999 Japanese domestic market Nissan Skyline GT-R would probably stand out just about anyplace in America, not just in Detroit and not just because it has the steering wheel on the wrong side. The R34 GT-R was never imported to the United States, so it caught my eye when I saw one on display at the 2013 Eyes On Design car show. EoD is held every Fathers’ Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate just north of Grosse Pointe. The show benefits a local vision institute and it’s put on and judged by members of the automotive design community. This year, one of the featured categories at the show was “Tuner Cars”, a phrase often associated with imported car fans, so the presence of two JDM Skylines, this ’99 and a white ’97 from Ontario didn’t really surprise me. When I got around to the back of the Skyline, though, and saw that it had current Michigan license plates, I was intrigued. There is a reason why we don’t see a lot of JDM cars in America – they’re not legal.


The federal government’s rules have been relaxed a little bit, now allowing the importation of foreign cars that do not meet current U.S. safety and emissions standards providing that they’re at least 25 years old but that exemption obviously does not apply to 1999 model year cars, made only 14 years ago. I asked the owner, Daniel Maczan, how he managed to get it registered. He told me that when he bought it, the Skyline GT-R had already been ‘federalized’, that is brought up to EPA and DOT standards, by a company called Motorex.

That means that the blue Skyline is not just a rare car, it’s a rare car with a story, a somewhat notorious story. Motorex eventually flamed out financially and while it was circling the drain they managed to ship cars that had never passed testing, ultimately resulting in the Feds seizing and crushing some highly desirable and collectible GT-Rs. The early Motorex imported cars were apparently kosher so the Feds allowed them to be grandfathered in and they can still be legally registered and driven, but in the wake of the Motorex scandal, no other R34 Skylines have been federalized. I like unusual cars and I’ll walk past a half dozen ’69 Camaros to see a single AMC Gremlin, but I don’t think you can get much more unique than a barely legal right hand drive Japanese hot rod at a Detroit car show.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Fun At Test-n-Tune Night: Quick, What’s This Gorgeous 8-Second Primermobile? Sun, 04 Sep 2011 13:00:05 +0000 Having the Falcon next to it for scale makes identification of this crazy, small-block-Chevy-powered drag car much easier. It’s not the kind of vehicle you expect to see at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway on Test-n-Tune Night.
Yes, it’s an early-70s Nissan Skyline, which the owner imported from Japan in order to create his evil-looking drag car.
I agree that an eight-second Skyline in primer is extremely cool, but I judge it to be only 94.3% as cool as the Saab 900 Turbo-engined Sonett I saw at Bandimere a few weeks earlier. The Skyline was having some engine problems (manifested as a medium-gnarly explosion under the hood halfway down the strip followed by a shutdown— which still produced a 12-second pass) when I saw it run on Thursday, but the owner assured me that this car has run 8.90s at mile-high Bandimere before. The plan was to get some engine photographs between runs, but a screaming windstorm suddenly swooped down off the Rockies (which appear to be looming directly over the strip) and covered the track with gravel and debris, tumbled trash cans and porta-potties all over the parking lot, and generally shut things down for quite a while. The pelting by sand and pebbles was pretty unpleasant for the humans, but even worse for the cars.
Oh, no! After the wind died down, I discovered that my much-traveled ’92 Civic had taken a wind-blown rock to the left rear side glass. I wasn’t going to be able to drive it home like this.
I thought of just bashing out the glass, but you can’t do that without coming across finger-gouging cubes and splinters of safety glass in the car’s interior for the rest of its life, no matter how much you try to suck all the debris out with a shop-vac. The solution: lots of duct tape!
After covering the outside of the cracked glass with a layer of tape, I applied more to the inside. All I needed to do was keep the window from disintegrating until I could get home and pull the whole mess out in one piece.
Ever since we forced Texas LeMons racers to paint “TTAC RULZ” on their cars, I’ve felt that this sort of display is the best sort of advertising for the site. You’re welcome, Señor Niedermeyer!

I wasn’t visiting Bandimere to run my car (which had proven itself to be a low-18-second drag machine at 5,280 feet three weeks earlier). I was there to watch the long-awaited grudge match between Cadillac Bob‘s 454-powered AMC Marlin LeMons car and Rocket Surgery Racing’s mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV.
The Bandimere tech-inspection crew turned out to be the same guys that LeMons HQ hired to work tech inspection at the B.F.E. GP in July. Pass!
After a practice pass apiece, the Marlin and 4CV lined up to do battle.
The Marlin— which weighs in at 3,600 pounds with driver— was running without supercharging, thanks to an unpleasant backfire/explosion incident at the LeMons race. The 4CV gets double-digit horsepower from its Rabbit engine. Keeping those facts in mind, these quarter-mile times are pretty respectable. Victory to the Marlin, by nearly a second.
While the 4CV was the only French car on hand, the Marlin wasn’t the only Kenosha product. This pretty Javelin was running mid-12-second quarter-mile times; at sea level it might have gotten into the 11s.
I’m going to guess that it has more than 343 cubes under the hood, but I can understand the reasons for keeping the emblems; I think this is one of the best-looking engine-displacement emblems of all time.
The combination of front-wheel-drive and absurd turbo boost levels works very well at the strip; these two Colts (well, one Colt and one Mirage) were doing this sort of thing over and over. Yes, they have license plates and full interiors. Why not do this with a Cordia?
When was the last time you were at any sort of car gathering and saw a C2 Corvette with faded, real-world paint and plain steel wheels? Better yet, it’s a factory 4-speed car.
Bandimere’s last Test-n-Tune night this year will be October 5th, and there’s approximately zero chance that I’ll have swapped the GS-R engine into my Civic by then. Perhaps I’ll return and see what the A100 can do.

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