The Nissan Skyline is a range of cars that began as compacts from 1957 to 1989, midsize from 1989 to 2002, and compact executive cars from 2001 to the present. Over the years, several sedans, coupes, vans, and even a crossover SUV used the Skyline nameplate.
The Skyline has evolved from a slightly boxy but classy 1957 four-door sedan to various body styles through the generations. It figured as a 5-door delivery van, a 2-door coupe, and a 2-door convertible, from the boxy aesthetic of the ‘60s to the recent executive sporty look.
The Skyline name is a draw from its Japanese name Nissan Sukurain which is an iteration of the Sakura name, alluding to the Japanese season when cherries blossom. Prince Motors picked the Sakura name when it merged with Nissan. Nissan later adopted the name after taking over operations from Prince Motors.
In the early ‘60s, Nissan launched the first-generation Skyline at the time of the Japanese auto culture explosion. The Skyline was initially designed to be a luxury car. Under its hood was a 1.5-litre GA30 4-cylinder engine that was capable of making 44 kW of power. The base model AL-D1 had a huddle grille at the centre bar with side strips and a Skyline badge while the deluxe version came with a different grille, lengthy fog lights, and a Prince badge in gold.
In 1963, Nissan introduced the S50 Skyline. It came in both sedan and station wagon body forms. It featured a GA-1 engine that replaced the previous GA straight-four engine, paired with either 3-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed flush transmission, with a 2-speed automatic transmission added in 1966. The S50 came with rounded brake lights together with infused taillights. Nissan and Prince came under a merger in 1966, changing the badge in the same year and upgrading the S50 to S52.
S54 Skyline 2000GT
Through the partnership, Prince managed to design a racing Skyline GT, an improved S54 that integrated the G-7 engine previously used on the Gloria S41. The 2000GT ran in the Japanese Grand Prix and won second to Porsche 904. This victory ensured the production of several 2000GT variations, aka GT-A, GT-B, S54A, and S54B. The two versions were:
- S54A – 2.0-liter G-7 single-carburettor straight-six engine with 4-speed manual gearbox tuned to make 77 kW
- S54B – 2.0-litre G-7 triple-carburettor straight-six with 5-speed manual gearbox that could generate a powerful 92 kW
The B variation featured three Weber 40DCOE-18 carburettors, a limited-slip differential, five-speed close-ratio manual transmission, strengthened pistons, conrods and crankshaft, and power brakes. Both the B and A came fitted with dual-piston front disc brakes and rear alloy finned drums.
In 1968, Prince-Nissan developed the C10 and marketed it as a Nissan. The Skyline name by then was used for several releases under the merger. The C10 was dubbed the Skyline C10 to this effect. It had a 1.5-litre OHCG15 inline-4 but featured a 1.8-litre engine variant. The C10 had a station wagon model in its lineup previously named the Nissan Skyway and a convertible added in 1970.
The C10 later received a slight modification featuring square brake and taillights. By this time, the Skyline was wholly owned by Nissan and came as a sport-based sedan, slotting above the pocket-friendlier Bluebird.
In 1971, Nissan planned to produce a sedan version of their 2000GT-X that came with a 2.0-litre L20SU 96 kW straight-six engine. This release was the first of the Skyline lineup, featuring a Nissan engine coupled with an elongated chassis. It was a 2-door model but later expanding to include a 4-door model.
Due to the GT-X’s rising popularity, Nissan decided to reach and make a cheaper, less powerful version named the 2000GT. It was less powerful compared to the GT-X and made a comparative 78 kW. The GT received an automatic transmission variant in 1970 with a 2-door coupe model following soon after.
Nissan’s KGC10 Skyline GT was the release that debuted the GT-X line of Skylines. Fans dubbed the GTR as the Hakosuka as the Japanese iteration of the boxy Skyline, ‘hako’ meaning boxy and ‘suka’ from 'sukairain.' The GTR ran on a 2.0-litre S20 inline-6 that made 119 kW and 180 Nm of torque.
In 1971, the GTR started featuring in races, and the design team opted to save weight by trimming the GTR. As a result of this, the GTR outclassed the competing cars at the track and claimed 33 wins in a two-year track record, outperformed only by the GTR coupe version.
The GT came in many variations, including:
- 1500 – 1.5L G-15 inline-4, 71 kW 128 Nm
- 1500 – 1.5L G-15 inline-4, 71 kW 128 Nm
- 1800 – 1.8L G-18 inline-4, 78 kW 150 Nm
- 2000GT – 2.0L L20 inline-6, 89 kW, 167 Nm
- 2000GT-X – 2.0L L20SU inline-6, 96 kW 172 Nm
- 2000GT-R – 2.0 L S20 inline-6, 118 kW 180 Nm
This new generation was launched in 1972. It was an improved hardtop version of the 20000 GTX-E but sold as the Datsun K with the new models like the Datsun 160K, 170K the 180K and the 240K falling under this hardtop umbrella of products.
The C110 came as a four-door sedan and a two-door hardtop coupe and featured a five-door station wagon later on. This generation C110 had a more conventional design that lacked rear windows. It came to feature round rear taillights and brake lights in 1963 and sported a more Skyline-like design.
This GT-R, named the KPGC110, was first launched during the ‘70s oil crisis. This GTR was Nissan’s answer to the oil crisis that rendered large, powerful engines useless. The KPGC110 was available in the following engines:
- 1600 – 1.6L G16 inline-4
- 1800 – 1.8L G18 inline-4
- 2000GT-X – 2.0L L20A inline-6 (96 kW, 172 Nm)
- 2000GT-R – 2.0L S20 inline-6 (118 kW, 180 Nm)
In 1977, Nissan released the next generation of the Skyline with the C210. This new generation came in the same body form as previous releases, i.e., 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe, and 5-door station wagon. The FR platform underpinned it.
In 1978, the Skyline got a significant facelift, thus the new designation as C211.
The C211 came as the next hardtop version of the Nissan 2000GT. The models were designated as the L16T and L18T, with the T signifying twin carburettors. This GT produced 96 kW maximum power with other powertrains making 83 kW and 96 kW. Later on, the C211 was named the Datsun 240K-GT or the Datsun Skyline. In 1980, the C211 engine got a powerful engine boost that included a 2-litre Z20E option and the 2.8-litre straight-6 GT-diesel engine that could generate 67 kW.
- 1600TI – 1.6-liter Z16 inline-4 (70 kW, 132 Nm)
- 1800TI – 1.8-liter Z18 inline-4 (77 kW, 147 Nm); the similar L18 achieved 57 kW of power
- 1800TI-EL – 1.8-liter Z18E inline-4 (85 kW, 152 Nm)
- 2000GT-EL – 2.0-liter L20E inline-6 (96 kW, 167 Nm)
- 2000GT-EX – 2.0-liter L20ET turbo inline-6 (107 kW, 206 Nm)
- Datsun 240K-GT – 2.4-liter L24 inline-6 (104 kW, 177 Nm)
The Nissan R30 was the first of the Skyline products to be featured in Australia. It was a five-door hatchback with a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. The R30 also came as a sedan in 1982 supported by the C31 Laurel platform.
The R30 was unique in its own way in that it had 26 variations of the same model. This particular Skyline departed from the conventional square shape without turbo or six-cylinder engines fitted inside. It bore more semblance with the Nissan Sunny than any of the previous Skyline models. The R30 came with several powertrain options, including a 2.0-litre SOHC L20ET V6 turbo engine (103 kW).
However, later on, it received the upgrade it deserved with an upgraded FJ20 16-valve engine, which produced enough power to push its massive body forward. A variety of trims were available, featuring adjustable suspension dampers. In 1983, the R30 featured four-wheel disc brakes and the new Z18S 4-cylinder engine. An update replaced this engine with a 1.8L CA18E unit, revised the interior, and fitted the exterior with front and rear bumpers, wing mirrors, and smoked taillights.
In Australia, the R30 was available with air-conditioning, stereo cassette, digital clock, and intermittent wipers. It had a 5-speed manual gearbox offered as standard, with a 3-speed automatic transmission available as an option.
A new version of the Nissan Skyline was featured in a touring race in Australia by renowned racer Peter Jackson. The group participated in the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship. Its driver was George Fury who took the car to win four rounds of the championship. Fury used a revised version of the R1 to clinch four of the six races.
The 254 kW DR30 continued to be used by private racers in Australian touring car races until 1989. The RS range of performance packages included the following:
- 1800TI – 1.8-liter Z18S SOHC inline-4 engine (77 kW)
- later models – 1.8-liter CA18E SOHC inline-4 (85 kW)
- 2000GT & Passage – 2.0L L20E SOHC inline-6 (77 kW)
- 2000GT Turbo, Passage & Paul Newman – 2.0-liter L20ET turbo inline-6 (103 kW)
- RS – 2.0L FJ20E DOHC inline-4 (110kW, 181 Nm)
- RS-X & RS-X Turbo C – 2.0L FJ20ET DOHC turbo inline-4 (151kW, 245 Nm)
In 1986, the R30 was redesigned to be the R31 but still maintained the R30 body form. The R31 was supported with the Laurel platform C32 although it had a slightly wider, boxy shape compared to other Skylines before it. It also came in sedan, hardtop sedan, and station wagon styles.
The R31 saw new improvements in terms of specs, including the new series of engines. These were the RD-28 2.8-litre straight-six engine.
The R31 also featured Nissan’s first four-wheel steering system called the high-capacity active steering. Australia's R31 Skylines were sedans and station wagons, similar in body form to the previous generation R31. However, it did not feature the round brake light at the rear.
Nissan set up an assembly firm in Australia to lower production costs. By locally assembling cars, it avoided high importation taxes implemented at the time.
Due to the racing craze in the ‘80s, Nissan released a tweaked version of the R31 called the GTS-R. It featured RB20DET-R, an engine similar to the R31 but with an improved turbocharger, a tubular steel exhaust manifold, and a larger front-mounted intercooler that increased power output to 154 kW. Further tuning would increase the power output to 321 kW.
The GTS held its own against competitors at its time like the Ford Sierra RS500 and the V8 Holden Commodore. The GS-R was used in the 1990 Australian Touring Car Championship and claimed victory for Jim Richards and Max Keiser.
In 1989, Nissan released the R32 in a variety of body styles, including a 2-door coupe and a 4-door hardtop sedan.
A new GS-R model was also introduced with a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder CA18i engine. The GS-R had two trims available which were the standard and the Type M. The Type M trim featured 16-inch wheels, a series of piston front callipers, and two-piston rear callipers.
In 1993, Nissan introduced the R33 Skyline, a newer version of the R32 that came in sedan and coupe body configurations. Nissan improved the R32 safety standards by integrating a series of newly-designed airbags system. The R33 got a safety reading of 3.8 out of 5.5 due to these improvements. Nissan shifted from its previous use of powertrains and included a series of six-cylinder engines although this was a downgrade from the GTS models.
Later on, R33 came to feature the HICAS four-wheel steering system, which allowed more control on the turning. This advanced controlling system was now computerised by integrating electric accentuators that controlled the rear section. The R33 also featured an active limited-slip differential which locked the rear wheels on slippery terrain. This feature was a standard inclusion on the R33 GTR Skyline with few appearances on the GTS-25t models.
The R33 did not escape the GTR craze. However, due to strict regulations, the R33 GTR was limited in specs compared to the previous R32. The engine was an RB25DET fitted with smart ignition coils and an upgraded turbo with a nylon compressor wheel. It was lighter and more dynamic.
Nissan then proceeded to produce the CV35 under the Skyline brand. It was a two-door sedan and a 2-door coupe that came either with a front-engine rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive layout. The Nissan V35/CV35 rode on the FM platform. It was the first Skyline to feature the 2.5-litre VQ25DD, the VQ30DD and the VQ35DE V6 engines.
This new generation so far was the twelfth of the Skyline nameplate featured in 2006. It featured a new entry, the crossover SUV, which also had a front-engine rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive layout. The CV36 also utilised the Nissan's FM platform but featured the VQ25DD engine.
This generation would see the release of a classy convertible variant, which ran until 2014 with minor improvements over the year’s versions.
In 2014, Nissan rolled out a new 4-door sedan, the first of Skyline’s range of products to feature a Mercedes-Benz 274930 2.0-litre inline-4 engine. However, because Mercedes could not offer a 3.0-litre and 3.5-litre versions, Nissan added VQ30DDT twin-turbo V6 engine and the 3.0-litre version of the VQ35HR V6 to the range, paired with a 7-speed Jatco JR712E automatic transmission.
The 3.5-litre engine was coupled with an electric motor that made it the first of the Skyline hybrids. In 2017, the Skyline released featured updates that included a restyled bumper and an array of new colours that included Imperial Amber. It also got new massive 19-inch aluminium wheels.
The Skyline also had an improvement in 2009 that featured sportier, rounder tailpipes and taillamps and used a 3.0-litre QR30DDT Twin-turbo V6 engine, replacing the Mercedes-Benz 274930 engine.
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