A history of the giant-killing Nissan Skyline GTR

The Nissan Skyline can trace its roots back to 1957 where it began as a Prince. This iconic nameplate steadily evolved into the supercar slayer we know today

title

1957 Prince Skyline

The very first skyline wasn’t actually a Nissan, instead it came under the banner of another Japanese manufacturer called Prince. Price started out as an aircraft manufacturer in World War 2 before diversifying and producing automobiles. Interestingly, Prince’s first car in 1946 was all-electric.

In 1957 the Prince Skyline launched as a luxury saloon with styling influenced by large American cars of the time. A later variant was also offered in estate form and the 2000GT model even went racing.

title

1968 Datsun Skyline

Still not a Nissan, the Datsun Skyline was the result of Prince’s merger with Nissan-Datsun. Development of the three-box saloon began with Prince, but by the time it was launched the name had been dropped completely. This Datsun’s styling was significantly more modern than its predecessors, as was the optional 1.8-litre engine vs the standard 1.5-litre Prince unit.

1969 Datsun Skyline GT-R

The first Skyline to wear the now notorious GT-R badge appeared in 1969 with a high performance dual overhead cam 2.0-litre engine. The race derived engine produced 160bhp making this one of the world’s first super saloons.

A more focused coupe model joined the range in 1970 making use of the same engine, but doing without unnecessary equipment to make it as light as possible. Both the GT-R saloon and coupe went racing with the former earning 33 victories and the latter 50 in the first two years of competition.

title

1972 Datsun Skyline K-Series

The K-Series Skylines could almost be mistaken for an American car. Gone were the reserved boxy looks of previous models with a bold chromed design replacing them. This incarnation split opinion as the Skyline rather lost its identity in trying to ape another nation's design language.

There was a K-Series GT-R – however, the fuel crisis of the 1970s meant that its production run lasted just one year.

title

1977 Datsun Skyline

Thankfully in 1977 the more reserved styling returned, again being offered as a coupé or saloon. People were wary of performance models as fuel prices continued to fluctuate, but the Skyline GT-EX can proudly claim to be the first turbocharged Japanese production car.

The most potent Skyline of the generation was the 240K-GT that delivered 140bhp via fuel injection.

title

1981 Nissan Skyline

At last! 1981 marked the dawn of the R30 generation of Skyline, the first globally marketed as a Nissan. There was an R30 for everyone with 26 different variations available over its production life.

There was still no sign of a GT-R badged car, but the 148bhp 200RS and 187bhp 200RS Turbo showed that Nissan were keen to promote performance. The 200RS was even pumped up to 202bhp and saw racing success in Australian touring car. The car was further developed into the R31 generation.

title

1987 Nissan Skyline R32

This is where the formula for today’s car began to come together. All-wheel drive was available for the first time and the GT-R sub-brand returned, at last, wielding a powerful twin-turbocharged engine.

Tinkering with Skylines had always been popular, but here is where Nissan performance specialist NISMO got officially involved. The ultimate variant of the R32 was the 1 of 500 V-Spec II with 276bhp.

title

1993 Nissan Skyline R33

Safety was a core focus for engineers working on the R33 Skyline with the introduction of airbags and internal crash structures. Driver and passenger airbags became standard in 1996. Other advanced technological highlights included four-wheel steering for added agility and an active limited-slip differential.

title

1998 Nissan Skyline R34

This is where the Skyline really earned its reputation for punching well above its weight. As well as the more everyday four-door variant, the 1999 GT-R model was rapidly developed over the course of three years resulting in a mind-boggling number of variants — 11 in total.

This was a car with performance to rival a Ferrari, but at a traction of the cost. It instantly became a motoring hero for the masses.

title

2001 Nissan Skyline V35

Can we just pretend this one never happened? The V35 was designed to be exported to America, though it did make its way to other shores. Sadly it fell short in just about every respect. The hope was that the Skyline name would be enough to sell it, but ultimately it was rebranded as the Infiniti G35.

title

2008 Nissan GT-R R35

In 2008 the GT-R badge was back with a vengeance in the form of the R35 car. Just like the R34, this turbocharged all-wheel drive coupé put supercars on notice. The only thing it lacked was the Skyline name.

The R35 has been developed over the years and now produced 592bhp in NISMO guise. No wonder it’s nicknamed Godzilla. This car is still going strong today.

The Nissan Skyline is a cult hero to those who love Japanese car culture. This once humble motor from the land of the rising sun has transformed over the decades, going from four-door premium transportation to supercar slaying coupe. It has been a fascinating transformation that has ultimately made Skyline a household name.

More great Japanese cars

Classic Cars for Sale