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GT-R: The Origins Of An Icon – Speedhunters



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The ignition switch on Japan’s first golden age of motoring had just been engaged, but imagination will only take you so far.

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Prince Motor Company would lead the charge, developing their first purpose-built race car, the R380, which won the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix. The model later re-emerged, taking back-to-back victories flying the Nissan banner in 1968 and 1969.

The original 1969 R382 made some glorious noise during some display laps at the Nismo Festival a few years ago.

The data gathered through the multiple successes of the R380 project was being funnelled into a new project at Prince Motors by Shinichiro Sakai and his team. Development of the all-new C10 Skyline was underway, but Prince was no more. 1968 saw the model debut as the Nissan Skyline.

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Although initially released with a simple 1.5-litre OHC G15 motor, the more common 2.0-litre L-series engine was released in October 1968 in both the 2000GT and GT-X models.

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The very first Skyline GT-R went on sale in 1969 (PGC10) as a four-door sedan, equipped with Nissan’s iconic S20 engine. This 2.0-litre DOHC inline-six produced a whopping (for the time) 160hp.

The nickname Hakosuka, meaning ‘boxy Skyline’, was given to the C10 models as a reference to their shape.

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Shinichiro Sakurai’s involvement in designing every Skyline from the Prince GTB right up to and including the next chapter of circuit-crushing GT-R legends, the R32 Skyline GT-R, saw him inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.

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Sakurai-san passed away in 2011, but his impact on the motoring world will echo for generations.

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The four-door PGC10 GT-R won 33 races in a row, and its two-door successor (KPGC10) released in 1971 continued the streak with a further 17 race wins, totalling 50 races to throw into the history books.

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This domination of Japanese circuit-based motorsports immortalised the GT-R name in Japan.

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Conjecture may still remain as to whether Nissan or Isuzu (with their 1969 Bellett GT-R) used the ‘GT-R’ moniker first, but I doubt you’ll find anybody willing to dispute which brand elevated the three letter combination to the legendary status it enjoys today.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

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