By RICHARD BUNNER
Many cars have special places in enthusiasts minds and hearts, such as the Camaro or Mustang for many muscle enthusiasts, or the M3 or RS4 for European enthusiasts. For Japanese enthusiasts, however, one of the most well-known cars is the Nissan GT-R (Grand Touring Racing).
In 1968, the GT-R was released as a performance version of the Hakosuka or “Box Skyline.” The GT-R featured a high-performance DOHC, or Dual Overhead Cam, inline six engines known as the S20, producing a whopping (for the time) 160 horsepower. The engine was also used in a special Fairlady Z model, a series of the car which will be featured in the future, and also featured rear fender flares and intensive weight reduction in order to perform well at the track and other racing events.
The next generation of Skyline was known as the Kenmeri. This was inspired by Nissan’s advertisements at the time portraying a couple, Ken and Mary, driving their new Skyline in the countryside. This generation GT-R carried over the same S20 engine from the Hakosuka but had its own design cues such as a more rounded body and lights front and rear. However, Nissan decided to leave racing, which meant that the GT-R model served no purpose on the market. Due to this, Nissan only sold 197 cars of this model in Japan, making this the last GT-R until 1989. Prior to the release of this in 1989, the Skyline had another performance model known as the R31 GTS-R.
1989 brought forth the famed R32 Skyline GT-R. This model was fitted with an RB26DETT, a twin turbo inline six, producing about 316 horsepower mated to an ATTESA all-wheel drive system. This generation gave the GT-R its Godzilla Nameplate due to the tuning potential of the engine and Australians naming it “the monster from Japan” after it defeated the reigning champion Ford Sierra Cosworth. Plus, in one season, the Calsonic R32 GTR won all 29 races that it had entered in the Group A Touring Car series.
The next generation of Skyline is heavily underrated and degraded by many enthusiasts due to it being the middle child between the R32 and R34, even though it is lighter than the R34 and the R32. Mainly for the R33, not much had changed except for a sleeker, more round body style with larger Brembo brakes, albeit it had the same RB26DETT and ATTESA all-wheel drive system. Although its record was not as perfect as the R32, the R33 GT-R was able to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under eight minutes, becoming the first production car to break an eight-minute lap time.
The last generation of GT-R that still used the Skyline nameplate was the R34. The R34, like the R33 and R32 before it, used the RB26DETT and ATTESA all-wheel-drive system, but this time featured a very dramatic redesign. The R34 features a more angular body style with contrasting edges rather than the smooth, rounded curves of the generations before it. While keeping the four rounded tail lights of the skyline nameplate, almost every other aspect of the car was unique to this generation, including the more square fenders and front fascia. This generation of GT-R was more technologically advanced with an electronic display unit that showed data, such as boost, oil pressure and more.
The newest generation of the GT-R is the R35. After a two year absence from the Nissan lineup, the R35 is both the first GT-R for sale in the United States and the first GT-R that is not a Skyline. The RB26DETT was replaced with a twin-turbo V6 known as the VR38DETT, producing around 570 horsepower, mated to an updated ATTESA all-wheel-drive system with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Aside from the new power plant, the R35 holds the traditional quad tail lights while still being able to hold an angular, but smooth flowing exterior design.
As with any culture, there is always a legend. For Japanese car culture, the GT-R seems to take the top spot, and for good reason.