To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the GT-R this year, Nissan came to New York with three GT-R crown jewels. Perhaps three of the most priceless cars in Nissan’s own collection, the trio represents three generations of GT-R motorsports provenance and are irreplaceable. Yet Nissan flew them halfway around the world from Japan to New York for the big 50th birthday party.
In chronological order, first up is the stunningly beautiful Tokyo Motor Show Kenmeri GT-R. Fitted with racing flares, gold Watanabe wheels, a chin spoiler, side-exit exhaust, and hood pins, it debuted alongside the stock C110 Skyline at the 1972 Tokyo Motor Show.
Its racing number, 73, marked the year it was meant to go racing, hot on the heels of the Hakosuka GT-R’s years of dominance in multiple touring car series. Sadly, the Oil Shock of ’73 stopped any hope of its participation in motorsports.
As a result, even Nissan’s stock Kenmeri Skyline GT-R ended production with just 197 built, making it the rarest generation of GT-R. Despite never racing, the Tokyo Motor Show Kenmeri is still beloved, a bittersweet reminder of what could have been.
Alongside it was Nissan’s new 2020 GT-R NISMO, the ultimate iteration of the R35. Nissan made numerous incremental changes to the 300kph-capable road car that still allows Godzilla to haunt the dreams of flashier supercars.
Next up, the championship-winning Calsonic R32. Among the most famous and beloved Japanese racing liveries of all time, the bright blue beast bookended the R32’s Group A touring car era, winning its debut year’s Japan Touring Car Championship in its debut year of 1990, as well as the JTCC’s final year in 1994.
Piloted by Nissan drivers Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki, the car marked the return of the legendary Skyline GT-R name that was cut short by the 1973 oil crisis. The R32 Skyline GT-R famously won every single race JTCC race it competed in, and was heralded as an mirror of the Hakosuka’s GT-R dominance in the 1960s and 1970s.
Moreover, the R32’s successses the stage for not only the GT-R’s fame in Japan, but internationally as well, making the name “GT-R” a hallowed moniker for car enthusiasts around the globe. Fittingly, Nissan paired the Calsonic car beside its new Bayside Blue 50th Anniversary GT-R. Though the colors are not identical, in the right light they make a truly epic pairing.
Third from Nissan’s DNA garage was the R33 GT-R LM. The one-off car was created to homologate an R33 Skyline GT-R for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1996. FIA rules required one production car to allow entry to its equivalent race car, another case of the racer coming before the road car.
The genesis of the car was a 1995 Le Mans rule change, which barred Nissan’s prototypes from entry into the famed enduro. Rather than field a factory car, NISMO took up the charge and created both the race and road car. With an estimated 301 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque from its RB26DETT engine, the car was considered a supercar in Skyline clothing back in the day.
At the big race, Nissan came in fifth in its class and 10th overall, a tremendous feat for what is essentially a road car foundation. The R33 GT-R LM was retired after one year, making way for the much more purposeful R390 GT1. According to Nissan, it was the enthusiasm of the fans that drove the company to run the R33 for a single year.
Last but not least was the GT-R50, also built to mark the 50th anniversary of the GT-R. When we test drove the $1.1 million supercar and offered our view on why someone would pay that much for a Nissan, the reaction was mixed. The cars on display here, however, offer a small glimpse on perhaps why someone would want a GT-R instead of a Bugatti. There’s 50 years of unparalleled performance and motorsports history here, and these three cars represent just a tiny fraction of the GT-R’s provenance.
2019 also marks the half a century of the beloved Z-car, so Nissan also has on display a 50th Anniversary 370Z alongside a classic 1970 Datsun 240Z (and a Leaf race car). In a market very hostile to sports cars, few other companies can claim to have two iconic nameplates still in production. It is truly a monumental year for Nissan performance. We have confirmed with Nissan that, unlike in 2016 when all six generations of GT-R were assembled for the first time in America, all of these cars will stay on display through the public days of the New York Auto Show. This is your chance to see these living legends in person.
I was lucky enough to see the Calsonic R32 at the Nissan Heritage museum in Yokohama about a year and a half ago. What surprised me was access: workaday $5000 sedans were roped off behind stanchions like they were the crown jewels, while the race cars were lined up in a row, and a sign encouraged you to get up close. They were not locked. I couldn’t get a picture of an S-Cargo worth a crap (those stanchions must have been filled with concrete, very hard to move!) but I could grind and twerk against the Calsonic R32, a number of JGTC R34s, the R33 Clarion-sponsored LeMans car, and a bunch more.
Well THERE’s an image I won’t soon forget…try though I might.
Wish this would come to Europe.
awesome…just awesome. i wish toyota would do something as cool