The legendary ‘Hakosuka’ was the first Nissan Skyline GT-R, and now we’ve driven one the DNA is clear to see
Skyline. It’s such a familiar term amongst car enthusiasts and conjures strong images and even stronger reactions. There are lovers and haters. The former, as is so often the case, fuel the fire of the latter. They’re almost religious about the big, complex Japanese coupe and their fanaticism is matched by the blind rage that characterises those who take against the Skyline.
Of course, I’m talking about the Skyline GT-R, the car that arrived in 1989 with all-wheel drive, four-wheel steer and twin turbochargers, and then evolved through two more generations and endless refinements. The car that swept all before it in Group A touring car racing and was inevitably banned. But the Skyline we’re driving today couldn’t be more different: small, light, rear-wheel drive and without even power steering. And everyone seems to love it. This is the 1971 Skyline GT-R. Also known as a KPGC10 or, for many, simply Hakosuka (‘hako’ for box-shaped, ‘suka’ as an abbreviation of Skyline in Japanese).
The early Skyline story is complicated and littered with all sorts of codes unintelligible to the uninitiated. So much so that I hesitate to try to explain it all for fear of our offices being razed to the ground by those who like to quote chassis numbers. Anyway, for the good of the story, here goes…
The Skyline was launched by the Prince Motor Company in April 1957 and featured a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with just 44kW. In 1964 the Prince Skyline GT (SS4-generation) was created and a seed of something special was planted. This new model took the 2.0-litre ‘G7’ straight-six from the bigger Gloria Sedan and was devised to go racing. Prince built 100 road cars (SS4A with a single-carb 78kW engine and S54B with triple carbs and 92kW) and turned up at the 1964 Japanese GP at Fuji to contest the GT-11 race.
The Skyline GT was a narrow, square-edged sedan but in race tune it produced 122kW at 6800rpm and weighed 990kg. It was fast. So fast that for one glorious lap it headed the Porsche 904 GTS that would eventually go on to win the race, while Skyline GTs finished in positions second to sixth. Tetsu Ikuzawa’s overtake on the 904 GTS became the stuff of legend and, perhaps, the Skyline myth was guaranteed. In 1966 Prince merged with Nissan and the former was quickly phased out. ‘Skyline’, of course, couldn’t be erased so easily and in ’68 a new generation – the C10 – was launched. The now iconic GT-R badge was created in February 1969, attached to a four-door Skyline fitted with a 2.0-litre, 24-valve straight-six engine (called the S20) related to the GR8 motor seen in a mid-engined prototype, called the R380, that had finally vanquished Porsche (now with the 906 GTS) at Fuji in ’66. That first Skyline was called the PGC10 and in March 1971 it was joined by a two-door coupe version: the KPGC10. In Japan, the GT-Rs enjoyed a period of complete domination, winning SO races in two years and 10 months with 49 victories consecutively.
Okay, so now you’re up to speed. Or horribly confused. What you need to know is that this particular Skyline GT-R coupe was built in August 1971 and arrived in the UK in January 2016 thanks to the expertise and persistence of Torque GT, who hunted down and imported the car for new owner lan Griffiths. That double-overhead-camshaft S20 engine produces 118kW at 7000rpm and 178Nm at S600rpm and the car weighs around 1100kg. It features struts up front and a semi-trailing- arm arrangement at the rear, a five-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential. There’s no power steering, the brakes are unassisted (and feature rear drums) and it looks, well, boxy. But these cars are rare and highly sought after. You want one? Be prepared to pay $25OK