Where the Legend of the Nissan Skyline Was Born

The Nissan Skyline is one of the most legendary cars in history but where did it all begin?

The beginning of the Skyline legend
Nissan—©2017 Nissan

For years the closest Americans could come to the legendary “Godzilla” was in a video game. Short of finding a clever way to import an old Skyline, U.S. consumers were out of luck. That’s why when the Nissan GT-R finally showed up on our shores it was met with so much fanfare. But where did this legend begin?

According to Nissan, it all began at Suzuka Circuit in 1964. The new Skyline GT has just been homologated, with a hundred units finished just in time for the race. The new Skyline GT had a longer nose and a straight-six engine with three carburetors.

Famed driver Yoshikazu Sunako hopped in for the first practice laps and immediately knew he had something special on his hands. Coming out of the practice session, the car had turned in the fastest lap at 2:47. When it came time for the race, the Skyline took second place to the dominant Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. However, for one fleeting moment, the Skyline had the lead. Just before the hairpin turn, the Skyline led the Porsche, causing an eruption in the Japanese crowd.

Ultimately the Porsche, with a top speed of more than 155 mph took the race but the Skyline had arrived. For many Japanese motorsport fans, it marked an important moment in history. Toshiyuki Shiga, former Chief Operating Officer of Nissan, said, "I was just nine years old at that time, but I still remember the big news. 1964 was the moment Japanese motorization began. Nissan always led the initiative with motorsports. I was so happy. It was my dream, and I wanted to enter Nissan."

Here we are 53 years and 11 generations of Skylines later. Nissan is remembering the Skyline as part of its NISMO Festival this year, an annual fan appreciation day first held 20 years ago. And to think, it all started with a second-place finish so many years ago.