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Forerunner of the Nissan GT-R. The Skyline 2000 GT and its duel with Porsche

Today it cannot be denied that the initials GT-R are a reference for fans of Japanese sports cars. However, its roots go a long way. Specifically in the mid-sixties, when the duel between the Skyline 2000 GT and the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS aroused confidence in the national industry, knowing that it was achieving technological excellence later embodied in the 1969 GT-Rs.

Although its lines are not at the level of what one might expect, the Nissan GT-R is one of the most successful and intelligent sports cars in the current automotive landscape. Endowed with an excellent behavior thanks to the four-wheel drive, drive his V6 with 570CV in the Track version of the past 2016 It is an act blessed by many of the best testers of the moment. One of the summits of Japanese engineering. Thus continuing a sports saga marked with the acronyms GT-R since 1969. In this way, for lovers of Japanese sports cars, the GT-R is the same as the Mustang or Corvette for those who prefer North Americans.

A symbol. One of the few models that have evolved over decades like the Porsche 911 to define the canon of sportsmanship in its country. However, the most curious thing in all this is that the Nissan GT-R saga originates in a quasi-casual way. In fact, its beginnings are not even at Nissan. But in Prince. And what's more, the bodies that saw the myth take its first steps were saloons and not coupes. Different references and ancestors that have their starting point in 1957 with the launch of the Prince Skyline Deluxe.

1957 Prince Skyline Deluxe

A sedan with Americanized lines and four-cylinder engine. Which moved in the upper range of a Japanese motoring still not fully recovered after the destruction of the Second World War. Nevertheless, was innovative by mounting the De Dion system on the rear axle. As well as offering benefits that were not a bad base to gain grip in some races on the national scene. An unexpected starting point for what would happen to the Prince Skyline 2000 GT on May 3, 1964 at the Suzuka circuit.

Prince Skyline 2000 GT with number 39. The unit that shone at Suzuka with 2nd place

PRINCE SKYLINE 2000 GT, THE AWAKENING OF JAPANESE SPORTS

Although Prince was a rather down-to-earth and conservative manufacturer, he surprised the press with the coupe variant of the Skyline. The Sports 1960. In fact, knowing the unexpectedness of the model, she presented it at the Turin Motor Show. A way to draw the world's attention to what was happening in Japan. So things, It was clear that the Japanese automobile industry had left behind its limitations. Being able to produce models with the same charm and performance as Westerners. However, even if this is true, the hand of Giovanni Michelotti in the design of the body must also be recognized.

First of the many careful creations that emerged from the collaboration between an Italian bodybuilder and brands such as Mazda or Nissan during the sixties and seventies. Anyway, Although Skyline Sports took a giant step forward for Japanese sports cars, this was not a race car. Something that Prince actually yearned for. Aware of the rise of the circuits in Japan and how the victory in them always encourages the sales of the series models. For this reason, ahead of the 1964 Japanese Grand Prix, they developed a vehicle for the GT-II category.

At which point the idea for the Prince Skyline 2000 GT was born. A small racing sedan of which the hundred units required for homologation were completed just three days before the race. Something that already puts us on the track of improvisation and the prevailing lack of means. Conditions that give even more merit to this model. Which It was based on the second generation Skyline by lengthening the chassis and nose by about twenty centimeters to be able to locate the six cylinders in line coming from the much more powerful and luxurious Gloria.

A delicate process led by engineer Sinichiro Sakurai. One of the characters that would become fundamental in the creation and development of later GT-Rs. Someone really bold. As On the scarce 980 kilos of a Skyline it managed to incorporate the 150CV of the engine powered by triple carburetion. Data showing a good power / weight ratio. Although the most characteristic in its handling was something that, in truth, was not sought in a premeditated way. Its facility to draw curves while skidding.

First GT-R. Already with Nissan in 1969

SUZUKA 1964, DUEL WITH PORSCHE

Reviewing interviews with Japanese drivers, there are references to the race held at the Suzuka Circuit on May 3, 1964. A date that marked the awakening of Japanese motor racing. Presenting on the starting line up to 20 units of the Skyline 2000 GT. Cars that with their sedan look did not herald the potential hidden under the hood. Something that caught drivers with such performance cars as the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS unexpectedly. A model made by and for racing, which maintained a tough fight for the lead with the Skyline 2000 GT.

Especially with the one worn by Tetsu Ikuzawa. Driver of the official Prince team who unleashed the euphoria of the public when he passed the Porsche in a curve. And it is that the Skyline 2000 GT found its strong point in the curves, which took skidding with great ease due to the weakness of its tires. A problem that ended up being a virtue thanks to the expertise of pilots like Yoshikazu Sunako. Able to solve the stability problems of the car with courage and creativity behind the wheel. Ultimately, the Porsche won the race but the Skylines took all places from second to sixth.

Nissan team in charge of restoring the model

Fact that unleashed joy among national fans, showing the slow but steady advances of Japanese motorsport. In fact, by the mid-sixties the government favored the merger between companies to put its automotive industry in a stronger position to compete abroad. Context in which Nissan acquired Prince in 1966. Thus, in 1969 the first GT-R in history was presented with a Skyline saloon body that repeated the formula devised five years earlier.

Moment in which the mythical sports saga was born. Not without first having gone through the experience of the Skyline 2000 GT as a clearer precedent. Furthermore, the confidence gained during the Japanese GP at Suzuka led Prince to develop the R380. A sport prototype in the form and manner of the Porsche 904. Another of Sinichiro Sakurai's sports creations. An engineer that all current Nissan Skyline GT-R owners should know and take into account. After all, the very particular way of understanding sports cars in Japan did not come out of nowhere.

Photographs: Nissan

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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