We need to go back. Way back.
The 1964 Japanese Grand Prix may have been won by a Porsche 904, but the locally built and developed Prince Skyline S54 GT-B that remained hot on its tail won the hearts of a nation. If this mildly-tinkered-with four-door sedan could mix it up with the European heavy-hitters, imagine what a purpose-built machine could achieve?
The ignition switch on Japan’s first golden age of motoring had just been engaged, but imagination will only take you so far.
Prince Motor Company would lead the charge, developing their first purpose-built race car, the R380, which won the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix. The model later re-emerged, taking back-to-back victories flying the Nissan banner in 1968 and 1969.
The original 1969 R382 made some glorious noise during some display laps at the Nismo Festival a few years ago.
The data gathered through the multiple successes of the R380 project was being funnelled into a new project at Prince Motors by Shinichiro Sakai and his team. Development of the all-new C10 Skyline was underway, but Prince was no more. 1968 saw the model debut as the Nissan Skyline.
Although initially released with a simple 1.5-litre OHC G15 motor, the more common 2.0-litre L-series engine was released in October 1968 in both the 2000GT and GT-X models.
The very first Skyline GT-R went on sale in 1969 (PGC10) as a four-door sedan, equipped with Nissan’s iconic S20 engine. This 2.0-litre DOHC inline-six produced a whopping (for the time) 160hp.
The nickname Hakosuka, meaning ‘boxy Skyline’, was given to the C10 models as a reference to their shape.
Shinichiro Sakurai’s involvement in designing every Skyline from the Prince GTB right up to and including the next chapter of circuit-crushing GT-R legends, the R32 Skyline GT-R, saw him inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.
Sakurai-san passed away in 2011, but his impact on the motoring world will echo for generations.
The four-door PGC10 GT-R won 33 races in a row, and its two-door successor (KPGC10) released in 1971 continued the streak with a further 17 race wins, totalling 50 races to throw into the history books.
This domination of Japanese circuit-based motorsports immortalised the GT-R name in Japan.
Conjecture may still remain as to whether Nissan or Isuzu (with their 1969 Bellett GT-R) used the ‘GT-R’ moniker first, but I doubt you’ll find anybody willing to dispute which brand elevated the three letter combination to the legendary status it enjoys today.