Nissan Skyline – 1957

For years, the Nissan Skyline GT-R series has starred in road and track races, and in some of the world’s most successful video games, like Gran Turismo. Its latest incarnation, the Nissan GT-R (the ‘Skyline’ got dropped in 2007) R35 uses ‘launch control’ to achieve 0-60mph (97 km/h) in 3.2 secs, and blasts on to a top speed of over 192 mph (309 km/h).

Appropriately for a Japanese car, it owes much to its ancestors, the Nissan Skyline ALSI-1 and ALSI-2 first introduced in 1957.

Back then, what we know retrospectively as the Nissan was actually a Prince Skyline, made by the Japanese auto manufacturer that merged with Nissan-Datsun. It was a luxury four-door sedan or a five-door station wagon, updated within its first year with a more powerful engine and the first quad headlights arrangement ever seen on a Japanese car. It had all the virtues of contemporary cars designed for Middle America, on which it was based, but not many of their vices.

In terms of automotive history, its success was not just its virtuous good looks or its well-mannered competence (it agreed politely when you wanted to accelerate, then took off, gracefully), but the mere fact of its existence.

The Nissan Skyline set a benchmark by establishing Japanese capability to match worldwide technical and aesthetic auto evolution. Since the ALSI-1, the Skyline’s genealogy has included sports and super sports cars, pick-up trucks, luxury sedans, and one of the finest families of GT cars ever made anywhere.

You still see lots of Nissan Skyline GTs from each of the last three decades, barely resembling anything of their lineage except pure quality of design, and inspirational —sometimes titanic — technology under the hood.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Japan

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1957 (until 1963)

ENGINE:

1,482 cc, 1,862 cc OHV Straight Four

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 87 mph (140 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Though you won’t see it badged on Nissan cars, the Prince marque still exists within the Nissan company. After the Tachikawa Aircraft Company turned from making World War II fighter planes to making electric cars in 1947, it moved on to make petrol-driven cars in 1954 —simultaneously changing its name to Prince Motors to honor the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohita. It still does.

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