When the Nissan Skyline—the predecessor of the modern Nissan GT-R— was introduced in 1957, it wasn’t actually a Nissan. Japan’s Prince Motor Company built the very first one, and it was a rather modest four-door luxury car.

It would take a few twists and turns—literally and figuratively—to become the 600 horsepower supercar we know as the GT-R today.

The first racing GT Skyline was introduced in 1964, still under the Prince Motors flag. In 1966, following the merger of Prince and Nissan, the Skyline finally became a Nissan.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the first performance-bred Skyline was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. It was still a sedan, but it now boasted an inline six engine and (impressive for the day) 160 horsepower.


That 1969 version of the Skyline was a touring car like no other. Taking cues from the Nissan Prince R380 racing prototype, it relied on a four-valve Dual Overhead Cam engine for power and four-wheel independent suspension for its remarkable handling. The car obliterated the competition in Japan's domestic touring races, winning 52 races in its first three years of competition.

The first two-door version was introduced in 1970. It was a successful launch and a well-received car, but a global gasoline crisis and a move towards stricter emissions standards put the Skyline on the shelf for a time.

From 1972 to 1977, the C110 generation Skyline was produced, this time though it was known as the Datsun K-Series, and four years later it went through another name change – it was now to be known as the R30.

The R30 was a successful and remarkably versatile design, available as a coupe, four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, and a four-door wagon. All told, the R30 was available in 26 variations, none of them really hinting at what the Skyline would one day become.

1986 saw the introduction of the R31. It was a little bigger and boxier than previous models, and was the first to get the famous "Red Top" Skyline engine with red cam covers and the Nissan Induction Control System.

The Skyline had been through many phases, but it was in 1989 that the real precursor to the GT-R of today was introduced. The R32 Skyline had all-wheel drive and the famed Nissan RB26DETT inline six that pumped out 280 horsepower. It still wasn’t sold in America, but the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) model was and still is a legend in the American tuner community, and a lucky few aficionados were able to legally import them to the States and had them modified to meet US emissions regulations.

Evolution of the Nissan Skyline

A stripped-down version of the R32 entered the Japanese Touring Car Championship in 1989 and won every race it started—29 in a row—over the next four seasons. The legend of the GT-R was truly born on those racetracks.

Over the next few years, the GT-R really started to evolve:

1993: introduction of the R33
1998: Introduction of the R34
1999: introduction of the R34 GT-R
2001: introduction of the R35

At this point, the Skyline GT-R was still available only in select Asian markets.

In 2008, the GT-R finally, officially, landed on American roads. Nissan dropped the Skyline name and dropped in a twin-turbo V6 that put out 473 horsepower and propelled the coupe from zero to 60 in under three seconds. It wasn’t your normal car introduction though. Overnight, the GT-R became a legend—a car that could not only compete with, but outperform legendary American muscle cars and German and Italian supercars. They called it "Godzilla".

Nissan Skyline Owners Gallery

Photo credits: Oubai Shoqar, Restauraciones Clasicas, Courtney Cutchen, Simmy Shandu, James Hutchinson, Unknown


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From Skyline To GT-R: The Engine

The first Skyline engine, introduced by the Prince Motor Company in 1957, was a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder power plant that produced 60 horsepower. Yes, 60 horsepower. Things certainly have changed. Today, the GT-R’s engine pumps out about 10X that number – nearly 600 horsepower. To understand what the modern Nissan GT-R is all about, you just have to lift the hood. The engine you’ll see is not a gas-guzzling behemoth, but a remarkable piece of advanced technology generating power from a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6. When a GT-R is being built at our facility in Yokohama, Japan, we don’t let just anyone assemble the engine.

The Takumi

Just four men are trusted with the task of building the GT-R's engine, and they are called "The Takumi". Roughly translated, Takumi means "master craftsman" in English, and master craftsmen they most certainly are. Combined, they have more than a century of experience, and when they finish building, by hand, a GT-R engine, they literally put their name on their work. A special plaque is mounted on each engine, displaying the name of the man who built it.

Takumi: The Master Craftsmen behind Nissan GT-R. On every GT-R engine, the seal of its master-craftsman builder is applied. This is the story of those craftsmen.

The GT-R In Popular Culture

A car—a supercar—like the GT-R tends to draw a lot of attention, and over the years it has popped up in places other than the road. Several GT-R models have appeared in the ongoing video game series Need For Speed. Both the GT-R and Skyline are featured in the wildly popular Fast and Furious movie franchise. Dozens of different versions of the GT-R appear in the revolutionary driving simulator/game Gran Turismo as a virtual car, the response was so enthusiastic that a real concept car was built.

Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo

From virtual to reality.

NISSAN Skyline Versions And Specs

R32 Skyline GT-R Coupe & Sedan RB26DETT 276 hp
R33 Skyline GTS Coupe & Sedan RB20E 128 hp
R33 Skyline GT-R Coupe & Sedan 2.6 L RB26DETT 300 hp
R34 Skyline GT Coupe & Sedan RB20DE NEO 152 hp
R34 Skyline GT-R Coupe & Sedan RB26DETT twin-turbo l6 327 hp
R35 Skyline 250GT Sedan 2.5 L VQ25DD V6 212 hp