Rare Rides: Presenting Your Majesty, the 1966 Prince R380

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides presenting your majesty the 1966 prince r380

This special racing edition of Rare Rides was made possible by the Infiniti Q50 First Drive event in Nashville, Tennessee, which also provided the source material for this Q50 review and this Q60 Picture Time. Our Rare Ride today also happens to be my 100th contribution to TTAC. Time flies!

Let’s have a little look at some Japanese racing royalty, starting with some history.

The Prince Motor Company was a short-lived Japanese manufacturer, producing cars from 1954 until its merger with Nissan in 1966. The company began life as an airplane manufacturer in World War II: the Takichawa Aircraft Company.

Specializing in luxury cars, Prince founded the Skyline and Gloria lines. Two more lasting nameplates, the Homy van and the Laurel sedan, were Prince designs that went into the Nissan merger unfinished and came out the other side as Nissan vehicles. Filtered down through the years, the Nissan Gloria would arrive in North America as the original Infiniti M (eventually the Q70), and the Skyline as the Infiniti G (eventually Q50/Q60).

This R380 was the first (and only) attempt by Prince to create a purpose-built race car. Development started after modified Prince Skyline models were defeated by mid-engine Porsche 904s at the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix.

Under the rear hatch lies a 2.0-liter inline-six engine. The engine used here was the same as in Skyline production models, but reworked to produce a whopping 200 horsepower for race duty. The modified Skyline engine mated to a British Hewland five-speed manual transmission. Hewland is still in business, making transmissions for race series today.

Production of the R380 would take place between 1965 and 1968. Unfortunately for Prince, the first year of production netted only disappointment — the Japanese Grand Prix was cancelled for 1965. Instead of racing, Prince used the R380’s downtime to test high-speed aerodynamics and break some speed records.

The Japanese Grand Prix returned in 1966, and Prince was ready with four R380 examples. Those cars captured first and second place, besting even the newly designed trio of Porsche 906 models.

Nissan took over Prince that same year, and for 1967 reworked the car into the R380-II. But these revisions were not enough to overcome advances made by Porsche that year, and Nissan placed second, third, fourth, and sixth place. Porsche won by a margin of two full minutes.

Nissan continued on to make several racing successors through 1980, all traced back to this original Prince R380. Some Prince structure and influence remained in place at Nissan for several years, as well. In the Japanese market, Nissan maintained a dealership line called the Nissan Prince Store. The line was eventually consolidated into Nissan Blue Stage, though not until 1999.

So long, Prince.

[Images © Corey Lewis/The Truth About Cars]

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  • I saw this at Amelia Island Concours in March. Nice. and Loud. And an acquaintance here near Muncie, Indiana Gary Bartlett could see his car's TWIN... google Bartlett GT40. I thought it WAS Gary's GT40 for a moment. But alas he brought an Eleanor Stang this year. I have video of this Prince. It's pretty nice.

  • Ok, I uploaded my personally taken video of this car passing by me at Amelia Island. https://vid.me/BrlvX

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.