NYIAS: The Evolution of GT-R Shown Within One Thousand Square Feet

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

The newly refreshed 2017 Nissan GT-R on the rostrum drew the focus of many, but it was the five historic vehicles Nissan decided to bring to the New York International Auto Show that shouted for my attention in the crowd.

These five Skylines represent the race-bred heritage of the GT-R, while simultaneously taunting American enthusiasts who could never buy these iconic sports cars when they arrived new to dealerships.

I spoke with NISMO Chief Product Specialist Hiroshi Tamura and asked him what drew him to the GT-R.

“Ten-year-old Hiroshi goes to Fuji Speedway with his older cousin who owned a car. I wanted a Nissan GT-R someday. Unfortunately, for the next thirteen years, I had no GT-R,” Hiroshi said.

He went to work for Nissan, and eventually worked on several GT-R programs including the R34, often known as Godzilla.

The R34 Skyline GT-R shown here today is the M-spec Nur model, a limited edition built for endurance racing. The gold-painted valve cover signifies the N1 spec RB26 twin-turbo engine, still nominally rated at 276 horsepower under the Japanese auto industry’s handshake agreement to not advertise more powerful engines. Anyone who spent any time with Sony’s Gran Turismo knows that there is plenty more beneath that long hood.

The R34 evolved from this 1995 R33 GT-R, famous for lapping the Nurburgring Nordschleife in just under eight minutes. The R33 was itself evolved from 1989’s R32 GT-R, a revolution at the time in Japanese performance car scene. A powerful twin-turbo, twin-cam inline six-cylinder engine motivated all four wheels of these GT-Rs by way of Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system.

These high-tech marvels were a vast departure from the original GT-R. While the racing histories of all five Skyline GT-R generations are dominant, the earliest cars were a bit more traditional in design.

The 1973 Skyline GT-R shown here — known alternatively by the C110 chassis code or the “Kenmeri” nickname after a commercial featuring the car and a young couple named Ken and Mary — is one of 197 produced before new emissions regulations cut off production of the high-performance coupé.

The car that started the legend of the GT-R is the last on our trip down memory lane. The C10 chassis, known as Hakosuka by fans, launched in 1969. Tamura tells me “Hako means ‘box’, suka is short for ‘Skyline,'” which is quite clear after comparing it to the later generations.

2.0-liter six-cylinder engines powered both the Hakosuka and Kenmeri, and were quite advanced for the time with twin cams and four valves per cylinder. These advanced engines produced 160 hp and would rev to 7,000 rpm, making these dominant in Japanese touring car events.

Tamura further emphasized the significance of the four round (usually) taillights as a thread connecting the Skyline generations. He referred to them as “four red doughnuts.”

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Johnny_5.0 Johnny_5.0 on Mar 24, 2016

    Someone line up baby seals for me to club to get that '73, it's freaking boss.

    • Chris Tonn Chris Tonn on Mar 25, 2016

      It was closest to the doors, so I was quite tempted. The Javits Center requires the cars have no more than a miniscule amount of fuel while on the show floor, so I don't know that I'd make it far beyond 34th Street.

  • Stanczyk Stanczyk on Mar 28, 2016

    Previous generations had nice, clean and simple classic 2-door design , this new one is a different, more muscular("bulky") approach - it's got "interesting" side and rear view, but "the face" of this car is rather blunt and lacks personality .. BTW> After all this car needs new replacement, not refresh ..

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.