Journal: The First Skyline GT Was Born from Racing

The First Skyline GT Was Born from Racing

By Clayton Seams
November 4, 2016

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on June 11, 2013, we’ll be diving into our archives to bring you some of the gold you might have missed from our early days.

The 1960s were a fascinating period for Japanese cars. Manufacturers finally started to break away from simply copying British and American cars and began coming up with original designs. The very ethos and identity of the Japanese automobile was being formed year by year, and in the middle of all this dynamic experimentation was Prince (Nissan) who wanted to make their boxy Skyline sedan competitive in the Japan Grand Prix. This will to win created the first in a long line of world-beating Nissan Skylines.

The year 1963 was a disappointing race season for Prince. After a year of defeat, Prince decided to build an all-out track weapon for the upcoming Japan Grand Prix. Clearly, their stodgy sedans powered by conventional four cylinder engines weren’t cutting it. Their answer to the competition was to shoehorn their two-liter straight six from the larger Gloria into the lighter Skyline chassis.

The larger engine’s 127 horsepower was a phenomenal 40 horsepower improvement over the modest and sensible 1.5 liter four-cylinder that powered most Skylines. Forty horsepower can make a big difference in a car weighing only 2,100 pounds. Fed by three Weber carbs, the Skyline’s engine became famous for its velvety snarl and high pitched wail near redline.

The fascinating thing about the 2000GT-B was how far Prince went to make the big engine fit. The front of the car was lengthened eight inches to accommodate the longer six-cylinder engine. It’s certainly one of the more crude ways to achieve the classic long hood/short deck proportions.

But crude looks have never lost races. Along with the sonorous six, the 2000GT-B was fitted with an advanced for the time five-speed manual transmission, front disc brakes, a limited slip differential and a larger fuel tank for extended range. Much like other 1960s racing specials; little thought was given to cosmetic enhancements or modifications that didn’t help the Skyline become a better race car. Advanced race-ready mechanicals wrapped in tame sheet metal would go on to be a Skyline GT-R trademark and it began all the way back in 1964.

Prince’s muscled-up Skyline fought with the Porsche 904 for supremacy in the 1964 Japan Grand Prix but came slightly short of victory. Skylines placed second through sixth place that year with a 904 taking the top spot. Despite placing second, the Skyline had actually led the 904 for a few laps and was a close contender for the rest of the race. The legend of the Skyline as a giant killer was born and would only grow more infamous as the decades wore on.

As Prince turned into Nissan, the next chapter of Godzilla’s history was unfolding with the no-holds-barred Skyline GT-R. The GT-R would go on to become a pioneering, technology filled flagship for Nissan and today remains a formidable performance car. A few elements of the 2000GT-B would go on to be hallmarks of performance Skylines for decades to come. Right up until the new GTR, performance skylines were powered by straight six engines, filled with the latest in racing technology, and they were built to be fast, not beautiful. Bred from racing since their inception, the GTR can trace its lineage back to the awkwardly stretched Skyline from 1964; the sedan that started it all.

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