Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple origins: How the Nissan Skyline GT-R got its most iconic colors

Earlier this year Nissan announced that two colors forever linked to the legendary Skyline GT-R would be making a return. Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple are available as paint options on special editions of the R35 GT-R. We recently spoke with a Nissan spokesperson to find out more details about these historic colors.

Bayside Blue is the hero color of the R34 Skyline GT-R. It made a return for the 50th Anniversary Edition of the R35 GT-R, and now it’s available in 2024 on the GT-R Skyline Edition. That’s right, Nissan brought the Skyline name to America for the first time as a special edition variant of Godzilla.

Everyone knows the Bayside Blue R34s, but according to Kei Yoshitomi, a manager in Nissan’s Color Design Group at the company’s Global Design Center, the hue actually has its origins in the R33.

For two years, Nissan ran an R33 Skyline GT-R at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1995 the No.22 car driven by Hideo Fukuyama, Masahiko Kondo, and Shunji Kasuya came in 10th overall and 5th in the GT1 class. It was quite an accomplishment for an entrant based on a road car, and the four other GT1-class cars that finished ahead of the R33 were all McLaren F1 GTRs, including the overall champion, the Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing F1 driven by Yannick Dalmas, JJ Lehto, and Masanori Sekiya.

To honor the R33’s accomplishment, and to mark a second Le Mans attempt in 1996, Nissan offered a special edition of the 1996 R33 Skyline GT-R called the LM Limited. All were finished in a color called Champion Blue, and were equipped with a unique front chin spoiler and a rear spoiler with an adjustable carbon fiber center section. According to the GT-R Registry, only 188 were built.

Champion Blue was a solid color, which lacked the vibrance and hint of purple found in Bayside Blue. According to Yoshitomi, when the R34 was being planned “an evolved, vivid blue was demanded.” In addition, Nissan spokesperson Jonathan Buhler says that further inspiration was taken from the R32 Skyline GT-R’s Calsonic Blue livery, which twice won the Japan Touring Car Championships.

The R35 GT-R Skyline Edition’s Bayside Blue is matched with a new Sora (Japanese for “sky”) Blue interior. To us it evokes the many blue interiors found on 1980s cars, which makes it a very compelling contrast to all-business black.

If there’s any GT-R color even more desirable than Bayside Blue, it’s Midnight Purple. For 2024, Nissan is offering it with an exclusive Mori (Japanese for ‘forest’) Green interior in the GT-R T-spec Takumi Edition. Created to honor the takumi, or master craftsmen who hand-build the GT-R’s twin-turbo VR38DETT engines, the special edition will come with unique red lettering on the engine badge and a gold VIN plate.

Midnight Purple was first made available on the R35 T-spec in 2021, but it was, once again, introduced with the R33. Prior to its official debut on the Skyline GT-R, purple was for many decades a popular aftermarket color in Japan, particularly among heavily modified bosozoku cars. As Yoshitomi describes, to offer it on a production car was almost considered “taboo,” but the design team felt that purple was appropriate for the “monster-ness” of the new GT-R.

It eventually became linked with the R33, the same way Gun Gray Metallic is with the R32. The difference was, however, that only about 15 percent of R33 Skyline GT-Rs were painted Midnight Purple, while nearly half of R32 Skyline GT-Rs were painted in Gun Gray Metallic.

Midnight Purple proved so popular that Nissan decided to introduce it as a limited edition launch color when they debuted the R34 in January 1999. Called Midnight Purple II, designers added a dash of violet-green color-shift to it. It was the height of the Tuner Era, and chameleon-style paint jobs — marketed under a variety of names like ChromaFlair, or Maziora in Japan — were all the rage, and Nissan’s bold decision showed that it was speaking the same language as the aftermarket.

Nissan built 300 Midnight Purple II R34s, and they were completely sold out in 10 days. In October 1999 Nissan resurrected the color again, this time adding gloss and naming it Midnight Purple III. Though it would have been more appropriate for the Tokyo Auto Salon, the R34 Midnight Purple III was introduced at the more formal Tokyo Motor Show instead, a rare example of tuner culture bleeding into more proper industry ceremonies. It was until the end of March 2000 with only 132 produced, making it the rarest of the three purples.

Japanese carmakers are typically thought of as very conservative, and part of the reason is that, in Japan, large corporations are expected to behave like upstanding citizens. They’re in their positions of power and influence because of the many people who have put their money and trust into their products, so in return they must be good stewards of the nation’s economy, have massive philanthropic programs, and put on a benevolent face, not unlike the royal family.

That’s why it’s shocking that Nissan was, during this time, giving winks and nods to tuners and street racers. After all, the names Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple are references to the illicit high-speed activities of Japanese hashiriya that turned Tokyo’s Shuto expressways into proving grounds after the sun went down. At a time when car companies were still being “responsible,” at least on the surface, by adhering to the Gentlemen’s Agreement of limiting production car horsepower to 280 PS, Nissan was not-so-subtly telling enthusiasts that they were one of us.

Bayside Blue is a reference to the Bayshore Route, also known as the Wangan, that links Kanazawa Ward in Yokohama to Chiba Prefecture, arcing around Tokyo Bay. Certain stretches, particularly between Tokyo and Yokohama, are world famous for being the ground zero of Japan’s street racing culture.

Midnight Purple is perhaps even more subversive. It was well known that such races took place in the wee hours of the night, when traffic was at its lightest. The most legendary racers were a group called the Mid Night Club, whose cars were notorious for being able to reach 300 kph (186 mph) on public roads. Nissan would never in a million years confirm that the name originated here, but the group was famous and anyone with a toe in the tuner world would have known the name. You didn’t hear it from us, but the connections between Nissan and the club may run even deeper than that.

Eagle-eyed observers may note that the revived Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple may not match their namesakes on the R34 exactly. The blue doesn’t have purple in it, for example, and the purple changes color differently. Buhler says that this was done intentionally. “For example, in 2014 Nissan released a GT-R in Midnight Opal that was hand-painted,” he explained. “It used the same chameleon-ized purple that was used on Midnight Purple III, but it flipped differently. In low light it looks identical, but under bright light it’s more orange.”

Like how the original Midnight Purple is different from versions II and III, the revived colors are not meant to be identical to the R34’s. “The GT-R colors are a tribute to Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple III, but modernized,” Buhler said, “Midnight Purple III can stand on its own, and the R35 Midnight Purple can stand on its own. It provides a level of uniqueness you wouldn’t have gotten if you copied directly.”

Not even Nissan’s own photos can do the colors justice. Not to brag, but our photos of the R35 Bayside Blue are a bit more accurate. Like the originals, they must be seen in person to be appreciated. “Body color cannot contribute to GT-R’s performance, however, customers expect an emotional factor on high-performance vehicles,” said Yoshitomi. “Striking body colors are one of the important factors to increase the emotional factor.”

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4 Responses to Bayside Blue and Midnight Purple origins: How the Nissan Skyline GT-R got its most iconic colors

  1. Nigel says:

    Granturismo Six yep, had three R34’s. Two Midnight Purple and one Bayside Blue.

  2. I would love to get more pictures of the Nissan Skyline. I have always loved this car and seen this car a lot when I was living in Oberg Belgium, I lived there for 10 years and always saw this car and yes I was able to drive one when I was there and loved it

  3. Kirk Wolfe says:

    I know that some of you around the world web get discontent and jealous with my sharp comments on automobiles, but… blue and purple technically aren’t the rare colors. Not that I think I can’t reproduce these colors and apply on any car on the road right now, but… somehow people can’t figure out the beauty of a design unless “something special” is attached to it. That’s the problem of not looking at the function instead of the form.

    To begin with, I like every single Skyline since the 1957 models and even the new 2024 ones are superb modern sedans. If I only had the money to buy one… Now, if you really want to be different from the rest, you can try hues in yellow, gold, green and red. Colors usually associated with other brands. Bayside blue and midnight purple became crapshit of mainstream that every single store has a bottle of them. You just add some shiny aluminium powder and voilá! There’s your sedan-34 being more beautiful than any original BNR coupe. Sorry kids. Reality hurts more your imagination than your ego.

    If you really ask me, nowadays I’d rather have one (a sedan ER-34 of course) in KV2 (Athlete Silver) just to be mixed with other cars on the landscape. Yes, I can drive all day long a girly panther pink, but sincerely… Even here in Brazil we call this “Pen Blue”. Crapshit due to mainstream idiocracy.

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