When it comes to Nissan’s sublime KGC10 Skyline, outside of Japan, doing anything with this revered platform other than creating a GT-R clone is almost unheard of; and it’s fairly easy to understand why. There’s a certain presence, a muscular, almost pitbull-ish (the dog, not the Cuban gyrating in your mom’s three-quarter length chinos) look to the factory-spec GT-R that just works so well. This begs the question: do these gorgeous Japanese muscle cars need anything else and are you doing the motoring world a disservice by modifying a rare and desirable car further than the accepted norm?
Though the Hakosuka is, of course, just as greatly appreciated within Japan as it is elsewhere, the locals have lived with these cars for over four decades now. So while the genuine S20-powered KPGC10 GT-R certainly commands god-like status, the more garden variety 2000 GT and GTX models, while still loved and greatly appreciated by the Japanese, hold no such ‘don’t mess with it’ status. Go to a kyusha meet anywhere in the motherland and you’ll find rows of heavily modified KGC10s – wild paint, foot-wide fenders, big wings and nearly anything else you can imagine.
Our resident beast-mode photographer, Larry Chen, recently met up with Las Vegas-based Roy De Guzman, who would surely be one of only a small handful of westerners to move past the “GT-R clone phase” as Roy puts it, and take a 1972 Skyline 2000 GT to the next level of aggression.
Instead of showing up in his daily driver, Larry instead fired up his trusty Ole Orange Bang Datsun 240Z, and used the opportunity to kill two birds with one Nissan-flavoured stone: shooting Roy’s amazing Hakosuka and a simple, joyous twilight run up the Azusa Canyon on the outskirts of Los Angeles with a pair of hugely entertaining vintage Japanese machines.
A military man, Roy was based in Japan back in 2005 when he first fell in love with all things Hakosuka. He then spent the next year feverishly hunting the right example down, until eventually finding this cleanly restored ’72 for sale at a workshop at the base of Mount Haruna, in Gunma Perfecture. Despite a few sweat-on-the-brow moments when it became fairly obvious that the shop and its owners were most definitely Yakuza-affiliated and weren’t necessarily going to let a foreigner buy the car just because he wanted to, the Hako’ had everything he was after. GT-R fender flares, RS Watanabes, a nearly-complete interior and most importantly, a howling 2.8-litre straight six L28 to replace the physically similar but much weaker factory-fitted L20 2-litre straight six.
After managing to convince the dozen or so guys, who all apparently considered Lance Nguyen a style icon and had turned up in slammed Nissan Cimas and blacked-out American SUVs, that he should be allowed to buy the car, Roy was able to do the deal and come back a week later to take possession of his new Hakosuka.
The KGC10 was slowly improved piece by piece whilst Roy was stationed in Japan, but eventually the time arrived for Roy to pack up his life and go back home, and he had made sure he was bringing his beloved Hakosuka with him. At the time, around 2007, there were only a very small handful of box Skylines stateside, and the addition of Roy’s car to the American stables was a big deal.
The next few years were spent getting the Nissan closer and closer to GT-R clone perfection – new Watanabes, all the correct trims, badges and fender mirrors – even an extremely rare genuine GT-R steering wheel was sourced and installed. But then, in 2010, Roy was once again posted far away from home, North Dakota to be exact, and had to tuck the car up under a sheet for the next couple of years. It was a tough time for Roy, not only was he once again away from his family, he was forced to watch more and more Hakosukas coming into the country while his own example sat dormant. It was during this time that he decided to do something different, to step away from all the other GT-R clones that had since made his car no longer as special as it once was.Louder, Lower, Wider
Since retiring from the armed forces in 2011, Roy has been able to come back home and finally spend some quality time in the garage, and the last couple of years have been spent taking that one solid step ahead of the rest of the ‘gaijin game’, bringing his Nissan away from pure GT-R flattery to something a little more aggressive.
Roy took inspiration from his time in Japan and all the unique creations he had seen there for his Hakosuka 3.0 build. First, the right set of wheels is really what sets the tone of a car, and although his second set of RS Watanabes looked amazing, Roy wanted to go much more aggressive with the fitment and he wasn’t prepared to move away from the Watanabe, a wheel that is almost synonymous with the C10 Skyline.
A Japan-based friend, John Oshima, personally drove down to the RS Watanabe factory for Roy and ordered the widest, deepest pair of 15s available for the rear – a monstrous 15×12-inches with a -51 offset – and put them on a boat bound for the States.
To save himself from having to order brand new fronts too, Roy instead grabbed the rear Watanabes from the set of wheels the Hakosuka was fitted with when purchased – which measure 15×8.5-inch -6 – and sent them off to have the barrels polished, along with the fresh rears that had showed up from Japan. Once back, Roy’s friend Jon Jon Carino at Squad One repainted all the centres in matte silver.
The width of the new Watanabes meant that the car was beginning to look like someone who had been binge eating for the last four years, but had yet to venture outside and buy new clothes. Quite simply, the GT-R-spec fender flares were now struggling to contain the sticky Toyo R888s Roy had wrapped around his new wheels. So Hakosuka specialists Rubber Soul back in Japan sourced a set of ‘semi-works’ flares – not quite as wide as the items seen on the factory works race cars of the early ’70s – but much wider than the stock examples.
Who could ever say that the resulting muscular, purposeful look is anything short of amazing? Especially with the wheels tucked up nice and high thanks to new HELP 60mm lowering springs wound around GAB Sports struts up front, and GAB Sports eight-way adjustable struts and Circus Magic adjustable platform springs in the rear, which runs a factory semi-trailing arm set up.
There’s still a pleasant little afterglow from Roy’s “obsession with creating a GT-R replica” days and it can be found in the little details. Years were spent sourcing badges, light bezels and grills that are unique to the KPGC10, and they remain on the car today.
Like the very early S30 240Zs, the c-pillar badge is actually a functioning air vent that uses vacuum to draw fresh air back into the cabin (the Z cars changed to a faux-vent in ’71 once Nissan worked out that water would pool behind the badge and rust a pretty-much brand new car from the inside out – the Hakosuka doesn’t seem to suffer from the same problem). Roy has swapped out the original badge vents with these more aggressive FPR Rubber Soul replacements – they wouldn’t look right on a Z, but they definitely work on the boxier Skyline and help to give it a more race-ready aesthetic.
That track feel continues into the interior, where Roy has pulled out the rear seats and trim, and added a passenger-side carbon/Kevlar Bride Stradia to match the driver’s seat he already had. The beautiful seats were taken to Gary’s Upholstery in Vegas, where they have been recovered in red Italian leather for a late-’60s luxury European sports car feel.
The original GT-R wheel that Roy had once hunted so long and hard for has also now been swapped for a MOMO Retro wheel to complete the more sports-orientated living space.
Roy was looking for the perfect touch to liven up his interior and he definitely found it in this unique samurai katana sword beer tap handle.A Sound Like No Other
In terms of mechanical aggression, Roy was already pretty happy with the set up he had inherited when buying the car back in ’06, though he wishes he hadn’t let the excitement of the moment get the better of him, and had asked more questions about the specifics of the Nissan L28 straight six that had been slotted between the front struts in Japan. If you know where to look on these old L28s however, you can find a few clues.
Castings on the block suggest that the bottom end is of the F54 variety, which was fitted to the last of the S130 Fairlady 280ZXs between 1981 and 1983, while a close look at the head reveals an N42 stamp – a motor originally found in the 1975-1980 S30 280Z and S130 280ZXs. This is a fairly popular combination for L28 enthusiasts – the N42 head’s square exhaust ports are the best flowing of the bunch, and thanks to its matching bottom end originally running dished pistons, when you mate it to a F54, which uses flat-top pistons, you get an unusually high compression ratio somewhere around the 10.3:1 mark.
It’s fairly safe to assume then, that there is most likely an aftermarket or re-ground cam of some kind under that brilliant violet cam cover, as a stock set of lobes would cause considerable detonation when matched with this block and head combo.
Kawasaki-san of Rubber Soul, who was and still is Roy’s go-to guy in Japan when it comes to all things Hakosuka, has driven the car and backs this up, saying it ‘feels’ about 200 horsepower at the crank, which, when considering the motor, exhaust and intake set up, would be just about spot on. Normally, quoting someone spouting a seat-of-the-pants, or “butt dyno” power figure as Kawasaki-san puts it isn’t exactly good journalism, but we’ll let this one slide. If anyone is going to have an fairly accurate guess, it’s probably Kawasaki-san, who has been building and working on cars like these most of his life.
People have a tendency to rag on triple side draft carburettor set ups, and especially Mikuni Solex carbs like Roy’s, due to their famously high maintenance needs and supposed ability to be perpetually going out of balance and tune. Like anything though, it’s all about setting side drafts up right, first time. Take Roy’s 40mm Mikuni R-Types for example. Some time had been spent setting these carbs up properly for the motor before Roy bought it, and in all the years since he took ownership of the car, he’s only had to re-jet and re-tune them once.
Though it might seem a little sacrilegious to be using American gear on the KGC10, a surprising amount of Japanese enthusiasts swear by MSD ignition products. Roy has fitted a 6AL digital ignition, MSD Blaster 2 coil and Super Conductor leads, which does away with the original problematic points system and goes a long way towards improving reliability by providing a strong, consistent spark to the NGK-R plugs.
When it all boils down, driving this Hakosuka is about the experience for Roy – the power figures mean nothing. He’s the first to admit it’s not the fastest machine in the world, and he’s also the first to admit he doesn’t want it to be. The torquey L28 is a great balance for the chassis, and for a vintage J-tin enthusiast like Roy, there’s few things better than squeezing on the throttle – slowly, of course, you don’t want the car to stutter – and watching, hearing and feeling that obsolete, heavy and 100 per cent glorious Nissan six roar its way towards 7000rpm.
Roy’s Hakosuka is no longer a faithful GT-R replica and it’s certainly no longer for the purists. It’s low, wide and loud but most importantly, it’s fun. Rare, desirable classics can sometimes end up treated like they’re covered in cotton wool, but this Hakosuka is out there, ripping up the canyon roads almost in spite of its hero status, not because of it.
Roy doesn’t think he’ll ever sell his beloved Nissan and often says he’d like to be buried in it, and after an evening spent following this beautiful, low-slung machine as it screamed its way through the Californian back roads, we can completely and wholeheartedly understand why.
Photos by Larry Chen
Roy De Guzman’s 1972 KGC10 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT
Nissan L28 2800cc straight-six cylinder, triple Mikuni Solex 40mm side-draft carburetors, polished 40mm velocity stacks, SK Racing intake manifold, custom 5-inch cold-air velocity stack intake, Sport Corner headers, custom twin side-exit exhaust by Best Muffler Shop Las Vegas, Nissan KGPC10 GT-R-spec fuel pump, MSD 6AL digital ignition, MSD Blaster 2 coil, NGK-R plugs, MSD 8.5mm Super Conductor spark leads, factory cooling, assorted Earl’s hoses and fittings, GReddy oil-catch can, Rubber Soul carb heat shield, custom painted valve cover and accessories
Nissan B-Type 5-speed conversion, OEM-specification single plate clutch, OEM flywheel, Nissan R180 differential
GAB Sports shocks, HELP 60mm lowering springs (front), GAB Sports eight-way adjustable shocks, Circus Magic height adjustable springs (rear), urethane bushings throughout, Rubber Soul front strut bar, OEM front and rear brakes
RS Watanabe R-Type 15×8.5-inch -6 (front), 15×12-inch -51 (rear), 195/50R15 Toyo R888 (front), 235/50R15 Toyo R888 (rear), RS Watanabe stainless steel lug nuts, RS Watanabe Electron wheel locks, K-Spec 25mm spacers (rear)
Rear steel fenders cut and filled to GT-R spec, Rubber Soul semi-works flares, GT-R-spec fender mirrors, grill, headlight bezels, taillight bezel caps, rear wing, badges/emblems, Circus Magic FRP/CFRP pillar vents, restored FRP hood, clear glass (non-fluted) H4 headlamps with Raybrig bulbs, GE sealed beam yellow fog light, front and rear tow hooks, vinyl graphics by BCR Designs and J Print Graphics
Bride Stradia carbon-Kevlar seats custom re-upholstered by Gary’s Upholstery, Rubber Soul seat rails, four-point Takata MPH341 harnesses, Omori volt meter, Auto Meter monster tachometer, MOMO 360mm steering wheel, FET Sports steering wheel quick release hub, modified Sapporo beer tap shifter, Kenwood headunit and speakers, GT-R spec radio delete plate, rear defroster delete plate and accessory delete cover, Broadway 300mm mirror, Razo aluminium pedals, Rubber Soul dead pedal, electronic LED Japanese ‘road flare’, recirculating 2-speed electric fan, checkerboard floor mats
I would like to thank Jon Jon at SquadOne for helping me to get her to where she is, Freddie at AutoFashion for his support, Stan Chen at Toyo Tires for providing the best tires I’ve ever had and allowing me to represent Team Toyo at various events, Brian Erdner at BCE Designs for his vinyl skills, support and advice, Yossi at J Print Graphics for also providing me with my vinyl needs while in Cali, John Oshima for being my liason in Japan, Mastermind NA for helping me find and purchase my hood, Dino Dalle Cabonare for his first snaps of my car back in ’07 and introducing me to my first encounter with a Hakosuka at the Nismo Festival in ’05, Chris Conley for driving me three hours to find her, Paul Castillo for driving me three hours to bring her back, Tony and Freddie at CCR Motorsports for all their support, my parents, sister and brothers for their help while the car is on tour in California, my wife Linley for her undying support and tolerance and my son Enzo, who is my inspiration.