How the Nissan GT-R Changed the Rules and Saved Nissan

Little-known facts about how the Skyline R32 GT-R brought Nissan back to its former glory

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The Nissan Skyline GT-R goes down in history as one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars ever made. It managed to not only put Japan on the automotive map more than once but also to save the Nissan company from going bankrupt. Nissan’s strife to create a world-dominating performance car culminated in 1989 with the R32 GT-R, but even more interesting is how the car, which got the nickname Godzilla, came to be. A documentary about the R32 GT-R’s birth from YouTube channel, THE SQUIDD, gives a brief but detailed history lesson on Godzilla’s birth.

Birth of a Legend - This First-Year 1969 Nissan Skyline GT-R Kickstarted Godzillas Legacy
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While the history of the Nissan GT-R is well-known by many, there are some very interesting facts surrounding the emergence of the Skyline R32 GT-R. Of course, we cannot go without mentioning the original GT-R, the 1969 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R, nicknamed "Hakosuka." Like the R32, the 1969 model with internal designation KPG10 (KPGC10 for the two-door version) dominated the racetracks, winning 50 major races before its winning streak was broken by the rotary Mazda RX-3, nickanmed "the Rotary rocket".

While Hiroshi Tamura is known as Mr. GT-R, it’s Yutaka Kume that was responsible for the rebirth of the Skyline GT-R. However, "Godzilla" was preceded by a few failed attempts to put Nissan back on the map. Kume took over as President of Nissan in 1985. Despite the company’s financial struggles, Kume decided to initiate the 901 movement, which was the exact opposite of what financially-challenged companies normally do - cut down on costs. A year earlier, in 1984, Nissan’s motorsport division, NISMO, was created. Yasuharu Namba - Nissan veteran test driver since 1958 - was put in charge of NISMO.

Nissan’s dominance had to start from its home turf, Japan. Nissan entered the All Japan Touring Car Championship, which despite the name, featured numerous foreign manufacturers like Ford, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, and others. The Group 5 Nissan Skyline Super Silhouette was fairly successful, but it was in Group A where it mattered the most. This was due to Group A cars being as close to the factory versions as possible, and in order for Nissan to sell cars, they needed to perform well at Group A. Unfortunately, it was never going to happen with the Skyline DR30.

The Skyline R31 was a fairly good performer that managed to run with brands like Porsche and Ferrari, but it was largely forgotten. Then 1989 came, and the GT-R name was revived, in the form of the R32. The Skyline R32 GT-R was preceded by the mid-engine Nissan Mid 4, which sadly, never made it, and the Nissan 300ZX Z32 debuted around the same time as a more luxurious proposition to the R32, which was a homologation special.

2009 Nissan GT-R
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We won’t spoil all the details, but you probably didn’t know that it was a certain Porsche from the same era that inspired the Skyline R32 GT-R. The same is true for the R35 GT-R, which was built to compete with the Porsche 997 Turbo. The car was also responsible for the creation of the Australian V-8 Supercar Championship. While die-hard GT-R fans may be well-versed in the GT-R’s history, there are some truly interesting facts about the most significant Japanese sports car ever made.

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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