The only reason we have the Nissan GT-R is because of the exploits of all those GT-Rs we didn't get, and it started with the first one, a model at the time called the Skyline GT, at the 1964 Grand Prix at Suzuka. It was there that modified Prince Motor Company Skyline sedans, only just homologated and never raced, took the green flag and drifted their way to second through sixth places.

The video also explains how the rivalry between the GT-R and Porsche didn't just begin with competing lap times at the Nürburgring a few years ago. The car that came in first was a Porsche 904 Carrera GTS, and when one of the Skyline GT drivers got in front of it to lead the race, the men in charge decided to keep tinkering with the vehicle that would become the second Godzilla. Scroll down to enjoy the rest of the story in video and a press release from Nissan.




Show full PR text
Start of the Skyline Legend

December 10, 2012 - For more than half a century motor racing has drawn crowds in Japan. But for motorsports fans one grand prix stands out – the 1964 meeting at Suzuka. The Skyline GT lined up for the GT-II race during the 1964 Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka

It was the day the Skyline legend began.

The GT-II race and a team of Skyline GTs lined up. They were souped up sedans but were about to do the unthinkable – and challenge the established champions from abroad. The Skylines nearly didn't get to the race at all. To qualify, a hundred units of the production version of the car had to have been made. Prince Motor Company , later to merge with Nissan, only just made the target.

The Skyline GT had a longer nose, and a straight six, triple-carbureted engine. It was the brainchild of the chief engineer, Shinichiro Sakurai.

Reunited with the number 39 he drove in the race back in 1964, Yoshikazu Sunako remembers that at first the modified car seemed far from perfect.

"We had extended the car by 20 centimeters. The body balance was very bad and the tires were 'out', so that's why we could only drift when we turned. We slipped and drifted because the tires were bad," said Sunako.

"But these issues actually turned out to be good for us," he added.

After a few practice runs, Sunako knew the car was something special.

"We finished a lap in 2 minutes 47 seconds, and at that point I was proud to say this was the fastest car at Suzuka," claimed Sunako.

The saloon model Skyline would have to be quick.

Another late addition to the field was a Porsche 904 Carrera GTS, a German car that came with a fearsome reputation.

The Skyline would not defeat the Porsche, which could hit a top speed over 250 kilometers per hour, but Sunako's driver colleague, Tetsu Ikuzawa, would get ahead for a lap that all Japan would applaud.

"Just before the hairpin curve, Ikuzawa overtook the Porsche, so I thought, 'Wow, he's the man!'" recalled Sunako.

As the Skyline led the Porsche, fans at Suzuka – and around Japan – went wild.

The title ultimately went to the German car, but the Skylines had a clean sweep from second place to sixth. Sunako was in the No.2 spot – and the plucky driving of Ikuzawa had captured a nation's imagination.

Toshiyuki Shiga is now Nissan's Chief Operating Officer. He says that day decided his path in life.

"I was just nine years old at that time but I still remember the big news," said Shiga.

"1964 was the moment Japanese motorization began. Nissan always led the initiative with motorsports. I was so happy. It was my dream, and I wanted to enter Nissan."

Veteran race driver Kazuyoshi Hoshino, who himself would become a national hero at Daytona nearly 30 years later, said the Skyline also fired his imagination.

"This is the car that became a trigger for Japan motorsports and I was obsessed by it. The reason I got into motorsports was because of this 54B," said Hoshino.

"I chose this path in life because of this and if it didn't exist, I would have chosen another path in life."

The Suzuka result in 1964 didn't produce a win, but it did inspire the development of the R380 Series cars that would claim the Grand Prix over Porsche just two years later.

Sunako would be at the wheel of the 1966 Gran Prix champion.

"It was because we lost against the Porsche at that time that the R380 series was born, so it was actually a good thing that we competed against the Porsche Carrera," said Sunako.

Such is the significance of the number 39 that a team of volunteers have put hundreds of hours into restoring it.

Working in Nissan's Zama heritage garage where the car has been stored to make it ready to return to the scene of its greatest success, the Suzuka racetrack.

"It was a very emotional moment, it's really a car that needs to be seen driving on a circuit. As long as it is stored in the garage at Zama, it's as if it's asleep, almost dead," said Shinichi Kiga, project leader of the restoration team.

"But when it came to Suzuka, it was really radiant."

It was the car that started the Skyline story, a legend that has continued through twelve generations of the car.

A fitting memorial to Chief Engineer Sakurai who passed away last year, leaving a legacy of innovation and excitement that endures to this day.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      nej
      • 2 Years Ago
      And reason why there's 500 different versions of the Skyline in Gran Turismo 5 lol
      Hajime1990 #follow
      • 2 Years Ago
      Both of these cars look just so cool.
      inthelv
      • 2 Years Ago
      Jeez Porschehoes let it go. This was a cool video. Thanks AB,
      imag
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is the right way to do marketing. Great video, Nissan.
      RJC
      • 2 Years Ago
      Get real. The Datsun or whatever it was in the day, was being lapped for the ninth time during the race. I don't care how much you warm over a production based passenger sedan, it WON'T compete with a purpose built mid-engine racer. Vintage racing organizations do class vehicles differently for a reason.
        fly by wireless
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RJC
        I call BS. Listening to the Japanese, they specifically repeat "the skyline has taken the top!" The "warmed over production based passenger sedan" raised the hairs of the porsche driver's neck. Deal With It.
        Josh
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RJC
        But that's ok when I can buy 4 of those Princes for probably less than that purpose built racing vehicle. Yes, they DO class vehicles a certain way for a reason - to try to protect their privileged members against upsets like the above. Sometimes doesn't work. BUT not way in cold hell I'd take a 2013 GTR over even a 2010 CPO 911. Somewhere along the way the Skyline lost it's everyman roots, but long live the japanese Mustang.
      David M
      • 2 Years Ago
      Impresssive considering it's just a sedan and that POrsche was a real race car. NIce they came back and beat the car.
        Georg
        • 2 Years Ago
        @David M
        they forgot to mention that the Porsche was private owned raced by a amateur....
          RodRAEG
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Georg
          @ Josh & @fly by wireless The Porsche still won, with an amateur driver. "It was because we lost against the Porsche at that time that the R380 series was born, so it was actually a good thing that we competed against the Porsche Carrera," -Yoshikazu Sunako, one of the drivers of the #39 Skyline GT that overtook for one whole lap. It's greatest sucess was not a win, but inspiration.
          Josh
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Georg
          Who probably paid as much for his (probably) custom built real Porsche race car as Nissan did on at least 4 of those 'race spec' Princes. Get the point yet?
          fly by wireless
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Georg
          Lots of apologies for the porsche fanbois!! LOL. It doesn't matter.
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      One too many Saki Bombs IMO.
      Rick
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm surprised how cheap the interior looks. And Nissan seems to have made the ugly exterior more vanilla? What used to be aggressive and ugly is now leaning towards plain and boring. Oh, that's right, this is a Nissan. Still amazed how such a beast of a car can be so ugly. Now it seems that it's on a path to boring. I'd rather keep the ugly look, at least it makes you mad being beat by such an ugly car.
      RodRAEG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, that 904 was privately owned and driven by a rich amateur. Really it just shows how much driving skill matters in racing. Put one of the factory cars with any of Porsche's drivers at the time and you'd be amazed. Funny that they would talk about the GTR when talking Porsche and not the R380, R381, or R382.
      SAAj
      • 2 Years Ago
      What is Nissan's modern counterpart to that first Skyline GT? Does the company have a modern raceworthy sedan?
        Drakkon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SAAj
        Well said. And a sad commentary.
        barkeep
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SAAj
        Unless you count the upcoming 2013 Nissan Altima V8 Supercar in Australia, there are no raceworthy production car sedan. The closest would be either the Nissan Fuga/Infiniti M, Nissan Skyline/Infiniti G sedan, or to some extent, the Nissan Maxima. Except the latter, they use the same platform as the current Nissan 370Z, which in itself can and is raceworthy.
      LiveandLetDrive
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why must they always screw with good vintage video? Ridiculous splotchy effects (it's the 60's not 1920!!) apparently added with Windows Movie Maker, and virtually no engine sound in the entire clip!!
      IOMTT
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder if that 904 was running the 4 cam Furhmann 4 cyl or the new at the time 2.0 flat six destined for the 911 series? I had to double take on the sedan, I thought it was a 510!
    • Load More Comments