Outside of Japan, most enthusiasts’ first encounter with the legendary Calsonic Blue livery of Nissan’s touring cars was likely in Gran Turismo. Specifically, it graced the R32 Skyline GT-R of the Japan Touring Car Championships, and while Godzilla notably won every single JTCC race it competed in from 1990-93, the Calsonic liveried cars were the winningest, taking the championship in both the first and the final seasons. The JTCC R32s were what made the livery famous, but this wasn’t the first use of Calsonic Blue.
Before we delve into the history of the livery, it might be a good idea to explain exactly what Calsonic is. The company actually has a long history with Nissan that goes back long before the instantly recognizable blue livery, almost 80 years to be specific.
Founded in 1938, the company was originally called Nihon Radiator, or Nichira for short. As the name implies, their specialty was heat exchangers, radiators, and air conditioning units. One of their first products was for a Nissan 180 truck. Eventually, they became the primary supplier of radiators for Nissan, but moved into producing gauges and catalytic converters as well. They were sponsoring Nissan race cars campaigned by Kazuyoshi Hoshino — whose team was called Impul (yes, that’s where the wheel name comes from) — as early as 1982, most prominently with the Super Silhouette S110 and S12 Silvia.
In 1988, the company merged with another automotive supplier called Kansei Corporation to form Calsonic Kansei, headquartered in Saitama Prefecture. The new company needed a new corporate look, the Calsonic Blue livery was born. At a time when many teams were using brighter and multiple colors, the stark all-blue with white lettering graphic scheme was quite unique. The first car to wear it was the homologation R31 Skyline GTS-R Hoshino drove with Moto Kitano.
A year later, the iconic R32 Skyline was introduced. The return of the legendary GT-R name not used since the early 1970s was a huge deal in Japan and sponsorship of Hoshino’s team continued, giving us the iconic Calsonic R32 Skyline GT-R.
In its first season, the car nabbed the pole position in all six races and outright won five of them. It was an echo of the glory days of Japanese racing, when the Hakosuka GT-R similarly ruled the racetrack to achieve its famed 50 victories. The races drew massive numbers, and it is said that at 1990’s last race at Fuji Speedway, 87,000 spectators saw the GT-R dominate once again.
The R32 Skyline GT-R in general would go on to win every JTCC race it competed in over the next four years. 1994 was the last year before the R32 left the series to take on the new All-Japan Grand Touring Championships, where the cars were no longer stock bodied. As a last hurrah, Hoshino and Masahiko Kageyama once again pulled out a series championship with the blue beast, bookending one of the greatest eras of Japanese racing.
At the same time as the Skyline GT-R’s switch to JGTC, Nissan came out with the R33 Skyline GT-R. Team Calsonic Impul continued its streak, taking home the series championship in 1995. From there, the bright blue livery would be a staple through the many evolutions of Japan’s automotive scene.
It graced the R34 when it made its JGTC debut in 2000, and continued to do so until 2003, even after the roadgoing R34 Skyline GT-R was so cruelly axed with no successors. Hoshino himself retired in 2002, but the team lived on. Without a GT-R as Nissan’s flagship, the Z33 Fairlady Z became the bearer of banner blue. Then, nearly a decade after the R34’s introduction, the R35 would emerge to carry on the GT-R legacy without the Skyline name, and Calsonic was there as well.
Though the team would achieve sporadic victories here and there, it never quite returned to the unbeatable status it enjoyed during its heyday. Still, simply because of what it had already achieved, the Calsonic livery remains among the most beloved in Japanese racing. And since it is still being used (the photo above was captured during team practice at Fuji Speedway last summer), it may return to glory yet.
Nissan has just published a video of the Calsonic R32 Skyline GT-R tearing around Fuji Speedway during last year’s NISMO Festival. With the roar of 550 PS cranking from its RB26DETT, it doesn’t sound like your typical R32. It’s easy to see why it captured the imaginations of legions of racing fans.
Calsonic’s support of Hoshino’s team Impul has yielded another victory of sorts. Calsonic Kansei boasts that they are the longest running title sponsor of a racing team in the history of motorsports. We certainly can’t think of another company that has committed support to a race team for 35 straight years. That’s a lot of blue paint.
Bonus Images: Though Skyline GT-Rs were some of the most famous racing machines to wear Calsonic Blue warpaint, they’re by no means the only ones. Below are just some of the other cars to have done so.
Images courtesy of Nissan, Calsonic Kansei.