When Nissan acquired Prince in 1966, they did so with the intention of using their large engine luxury cars for racing, more specifically with the Skyline. Originally powered by a meager 4-cylinder engine, Nissan went about translating the larger 6-cylinder engine from the Prince Gloria into the smaller Skyline body. The result was the first time a ‘Skyline GT’ badge was put on the side of a Nissan car.
Using their knowhow from competing with the four and six-cylinder Skylines, Nissan brought out the Skyline GT-R in 1969. Available as a 2-door or 4-door sedan, these small, lightweight, racing cars for the road introduced a whole new type of sports car for Japan. Lovingly called the ‘hakosuka’ which roughly translates to ‘boxy Skyline’, the 1969 Skyline GT-R was the beginning of what would become one of Japan’s most iconic automotive nameplates spawning five more generations and becoming known as ‘Godzilla’. The rest, as they say, is history.
Five decades on and the GT-R is still as legendary and iconic today. Few Japanese cars have a fanbase as passionate as that of the GT-R’s, which is what’s brought us to the 2019 R’s Meeting. An annual event held at Fuji Speedway, this year’s outing was a bit more special celebrating 50 years of the GT-R. Organized by GT-R Magazine, this is very much a fan service event organized by the fans. This isn’t an official Nissan event, though they did show their support by bringing some special cars out of hiding.
The event was split into three sections; the main event area by the grandstands, the main Fuji Speedway circuit, and the car parks. With over 2000 GT-Rs from all eras in attendance, there was a lot to cover.
Out on the track was a demonstration run of the new and improved 2020 NISMO GT-R with old Group A racing cars too. The Team Taisan Japan Touring Car Championship racing car made a special appearance after being sold at the BH Auction at Suzuka last year.
After the ‘official’ cars went out, from noon to 2pm it was a free for all for those wanting to take their GT-Rs out on track. I’ve been to a fair few track driving events at Fuji but I’ve never seen owners drive their cars as hard as these GT-R guys.
I guess when you’ve modified your cars to the brim with every possible HKS product you better know what you’re doing. These guys put all those exotic owners who’ve driven around Fuji to shame. Constant overtakes, fire spitting out the exhaust, and a noticeable difference in driving skill made these free runs all the more entertaining to watch.
Out by the main event area by the grandstands was a display of various GT-Rs from dealers, specialists, and tuners. Every variation of GT-R you could think of was displayed here. Some unicorns included the three R33 400Rs on display in this area, there were a total of four at the event out of the 44 ever made. The holy grail of R34s, the Z-Tune, was also on display here drawing an appropriately sized crowd.
On the complete opposite end of the GT-R spectrum were the usual widebody treatments from Liberty Walk, bright yellow scissor door modified cars, and a whole lot of forged carbon accessories.
It was cool to see the virgin collectible editions amongst the wild modified versions which shows the wide spectrum of the type of people who are drawn to the GT-R badge. When it comes to modifying these cars only your imagination is the limit. There’s no shortage of 800hp 1000hp and beyond engine mods, crazy kits, and wing measuring contests; but at the same time, there’s also a lot of GT-R guys who’ve kept their cars pure and original since they bought them new be it a couple years ago, two decades ago, or even five decades ago.
The endless takes on the same car is what’s made the GT-R community one of the most influential in the Japanese car scene. With one of the healthiest aftermarket eco-systems, there’s a GT-R out there for everyone. But of course, as special as each of these cars were, they weren’t quite as special as what Nissan had brought along for the party.
Nissan plucked three cars out of their Zama Heritage Collection storage facility; a red original four-door Skyline GT-R. Nissan only made a four-door GT-R for two generations, the original and the special 40th anniversary Autech edition for the R33. The second car was the the 1972 2000GT-R made specially for that year’s Tokyo Motor Show. While it had a racing livery, the first ‘Kenmeri’ shaped GT-R never actually raced but previewed the changes that were to come. The second-generation Skyline GT-R would go on sale in January 1973 and would cease by March 1973. Only 197 of the second-generation were made due to the oil crisis. The next GT-R wouldn’t appear for another 16 years with the R32.
Finally, the star of the show was undoubtedly the one-off R33 GT-R LM.
Banking on the success of the R32 Group A racing car, Nissan decided to enter the Le Mans GT1 series with their new R33 GT-R. To be able to enter GT1, Nissan had to make one road-legal version which is the silver car you see above. It’s the only road-legal R33 LM ever made and usually resides inside Nissan’s brilliant Heritage Collection garage. The LM doesn’t get many opportunities to come out so when it does, it’s an incredibly special privilege to see it outside. Unfortunately there wasn’t a chance to see or hear the upgraded 400hp race-tuned RB26DETT come to life as the LM was pushed off a transporter truck when it arrived and pushed back on when it left. The LM racing car never got the same success as the R32s but they, and the road car, remain legends.
As awesome as the event and track action were, and with unicorns such as the GT-R LM, Z-Tune, and multiple 400Rs, they weren’t even all the GT-Rs that were at the 2019 R’s Meeting, there were still many car parks full of GT-Rs to explore.
Ken Saito is a Guest Writer specializing in Automobiles who resides in Japan. With a B.A. majoring in Media Studies with minors in Asian Studies and History from Victoria University in New Zealand, Ken has contributed to motoring websites like DriveLive New Zealand, CarsOfTokyo (Japan), Jalopnik (USA) and Petrolicious (USA), as well as magazines like Lords Magazine (France) and Automobile (USA).
Ken may be one of the few people to have been ‘canyon carving’ in a Cadillac SUV against a Ferrari F40…