The Nissan Skyline, and particularly its GT-R spinoff, is one of the most respected and coveted nameplates to come out of Japan. For decades, the car was only available in eastern markets, and anyone on the other side of the globe had to deal with secondhand imports in order to get one. American and European drivers finally had their cravings indulged by Nissan in 2009, when the current R35 generation was released as a global platform (via Car and Driver). The GT-R has long been seen as Japan’s attainable" supercar, matching or beating the performance of European competitors several times its price.
At its origin, the Skyline was not a supercar at all. It wasn’t even a Nissan. The Skyline debuted in 1957 as a small luxury sedan produced by an obscure Japanese marque called Prince Motors. Coupe and convertible versions were also produced in the following years. In 1966, Nissan acquired Prince and took the Skyline under its wing. Around the same time, the car received sportier styling and began its long racing career. This all led to the introduction of the first GT-R in 1969. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the GT-R name became synonymous with advanced technology and racing victory.
Now that you know some history, let’s go into greater detail about every generation of the GT-R, and what makes each of them special.
C110 Skyline ‘Kenmeri’ GT-R
This rarest of Skyline GT-Rs ranks last because it’s the only example of the car that can be considered an abject failure. Though intended as a replacement for the very first generation GT-R, the car was almost immediately canceled upon its introduction in 1973 (via MotorBiscuit). Nissan cited the looming oil crisis of that decade as responsible for cratering interest in performance cars, and the GT-R nameplate was unceremoniously retired until its revival in 1989. Car and Driver also reported that the automaker didn’t want to go through the trouble of adapting its older S20 engine to fit new Japanese emissions standards.
With less than 200 produced, you’re unlikely to see an authentic C110 GT-R on the road. Surviving examples currently sell for deep six-figure numbers. In 2020, a genuine, original Kenmeri was auctioned off for ¥47,300,000 (via BH Auction). Roughly $330,000 today.
From a performance standpoint, the C110 was much the same as the C10 it replaced, inheriting the same 2.0-liter engine and five-speed transmission. Styling was a bit more "modern" than the old car, at least for the 70’s, with size and weight marginally increased. The GT-R sedan was also dropped, with only a coupe body available. One significant upgrade this generation got was four-wheel disc brakes, replacing the rear drums on the C10.
R33 Skyline GT-R
The R33 Skyline GT-R is widely, perhaps unfairly, regarded as the awkward middle child between the legendary R32 and 34 generations. Compared to its predecessor, it didn’t bring a whole lot new to the table, with the same RB26 engine and the same electronic all-wheel drive. What it did gain was 250 pounds of weight, which negatively impacted handling, and reduced the car’s racing pedigree. Still, the Skyline was able to beat its older brother around the Nürburgring track by a respectable 21 seconds (via Car and Driver). Styling-wise, the R33 GT-R was also very derivative of the R32, mostly just smoothing out its hard edges.
Since it was introduced in 1995, early examples are fully eligible for U.S. import as classic cars under the 25-year law. A handful of them were also legally imported into the country in the early 2000s by a now-defunct company known as MotoRex. However, the company went under after allegations of embezzling customer money (via HotCars). Data from Classic.com data shows that they can commonly be had in the $50,000 range. Some cars with particularly low mileage have also crossed into six-figure territory.