Ride Onboard The 1968 Nissan R381 'Monster Bird' At Fuji Speedway

Nissan celebrates the NISMO Festival at Fuji Speedway with special onboard footage of its Nissan R381 Monster Bird.

NISMO TV / YouTube screencap

Nissan's most iconic achievement in motorsport may be the dominant 'Godzilla' R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R in Group A, but the brand's racing history began much earlier than that. During December of last year, Nissan hosted its annual NISMO Festival at Fuji Speedway to celebrate the company's rich heritage. Featured race cars include the legendary Hakosuka GT-R, a selection of Z-Cars, Group 5 Super Silhouette cars, TS Cup B110 and B310 Sunnys, and more. But the most interesting race car at NISMO Festival would have to be the 1968 Japan GP winning Nissan R381 'Monster Bird.' 

NISMO TV shared amazing onboard footage of Monster Bird lapping Fuji alongside modern GT3 and GT500 competitors as well as other historic racing cars:

According to the YouTube description, the Nissan R381 is powered by a 5.5 liter V8 and featured "innovative aero stabilizers." The Monster Bird had two independently moving aero elements (left and right), which perhaps provided more stability over high-speed banking corners.

Design-wise, the R381 body lines and aero treatment are strikingly similar to the Chaparral 2E that Phil Hill raced to victory at the 1966 Can-Am Laguna Seca race. But that's not the only similarity the R381 shares with the Chaparral – via Japanese Nostalgic Car, the Monster Bird's power unit is actually a small block Chevy V8, which was built by Mooneyes Japan to produce 450 horsepower. Nissan wouldn't have an in-house engine until the following year when it developed a 600-hp V12 engine for the R382. 

Of course, Nissan's onboard video only shows the R381 making a parade lap. Still, just seeing other GT500 and GT3 race cars fly by at significantly faster speeds is enough to make me feel a bit nervous for the 1968 antique. To see the R381 at full-tilt against the Toyota 7, Daihatsu P5, Porsches, and Lolas, check out the video below: