More myth than motorcar, the Nissan GT-R, now in its 60th year and sixth generation, continues to hold a special place in the hearts and minds of gearheads everywhere. Project CARS 2 will come with four iconic examples from Nissan’s most beloved line … is your favorite included?
The Nissan Skyline (and its iconic GT-R badge) is a culmination of astute product placement, dominant racing success, and cultural relevance. Choosing which four to ship with Project CARS 2 was a difficult process—one that requires a bit of historic perspective to fully appreciate.
Legends are born, not made
The Prince Motor Company had evolved through two iterations from its days building fighter planes for Japan’s war effort during World War 2 when, from its Toyo-based factory in 1957, it rolled out the world’s first Skyline, a plump four-door sedan. Designed and engineered by Shinichiro Sakurai—a man who would continue to play a key role behind every Skyline right up to his death in 2011 at age 81—the big saloon was well-received, and was soon joined, in 1958, by the Prince Skyline Sport.
Prince, aside from being engineering pioneers, were also marketing forerunners and amongst the first to recognize the significance of product placement. It’s no coincidence that you’ll find a Skyline in practically every Toho-produced Godzilla movie (they produced 28, beginning in the early 1960s). The Skyline was Godzilla’s stomping car of choice, and it has enjoyed a starring role in hundreds of movies and TV shows since, both in Japan, and, of course, Hollywood.
Prince also understood the ethos of the ‘win on Sunday buy on Monday’-style of marketing and were quick to jump onto the burgeoning motorsport scene in 1960s Japan—in ’64, they created a race spec’ Skyline that included a new straight-6 engine, a car that went on to define Japanese motorsport in its infancy—the Skyline 2000 GT. The myth of the GT-R—its movie-star status and racing prowess—had begun.
The 2000GT dominated the Fuji racing scene right from its debut when it went fender-to-bumper with the Porsche 904. Two years later, by government decree (that merged the disparate Japanese motoring companies into five behemoths), Prince was absorbed into the Nissan Motor Company. Nissan’s inheritance, the Skyline, was in safe hands; in ’69, at the Tokyo Auto Show, they unveiled the first Skyline under the Nissan and GT-R badge—the 2000 GT-R (making good use of the legendary status of the racing 2000GT). The first GT-R came to be known as the ‘Hakosuka’ (Hako meaning box, suka meaning skyline), and it established itself as the car to beat in Japanese motorsports—a record of 49 consecutive victories by 1972. The 50th win never came, stopped by a combination of a wet and foggy Fuji, bad luck, and an epic run by the new Mazda RX-3.
Nissan sold 2,000 GT-R sedans. Bolstered by that success, they introduced the coupe in ’71 that went on to be known as the ‘KenMeri’ GT-R (Ken and Mary) from the Japanese commercials. Only 197 units were sold as the international oil crisis dried up the demand for performance, and stomped the GT-R into the ground.
Godzilla would be back—though it would take another 16 long years.
The Return of Godzilla
The return of the GT-R badge was made possible by the 1983 Nissan Skyline 2000RS Turbo. It was the star of the Japanese TV cop show ‘Seibu Keisatsu’, for which Nissan provided most of the vehicles (4,700 or so were destroyed for the show, most of them Nissans, not to mention 400 odd buildings!). It came with a revised air-to-air intercooler that kicked horsepower over the 200hp mark, and was the car that Nissan used for the Super Silhouette Tomica-sponsored animal that raced in the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in the early ’80s.
It remains one of the most astonishing race cars ever produced and, while technically not a GT-R, without it, the GT-R brand would likely-as-not never have returned.
The Hasemi Motorpsort DR30 Skyline in Project CARS 2
The Japanese Super Silhouette series ran at the Fuji Speedway for five iconic seasons between ’79 and ’84 under Group 5 regulations. Those five seasons of Group 5 regs (identical to the European series, which meant even the BMW M1 that comes with Project CARS 2 raced at Fuji) have gone down in history as one of the most extreme eras ever witnessed.
The regs for Group 5 were really simple—the cars had to have the same hood, roofline, and doors as the road version, while everything else was open to modification. The results were extraordinary. The cars sprouted aero’ everything—massive wings and spoilers, overhangs, arches, wheels, tyres, fenders, and chin spoilers that could plow the snow from Tokyo to Fuji.
Everything was wider, bigger, longer, and the fire-spitting turbo-charged engines delivered gobs of garish and raw power that came in like a light switch after genuinely terrifying moments of turbo lag. The drivers, sideways and power-drifting through every turn, became heroes, and no wonder, for these cars were loud, wide and crazy, and the fans at Fuji loved every second of it. Inspired, they began a cultural craze known as the bōsōzoku-style of car modding when they went home after a mad weekend at Fuji to soup-up their Skylines to mimic and eventually even supersede the Silhouette monsters of Fuji.
Nissan were the kings of the Super Silhouette series, and the stand-out car was the Project CARS 2-bound DR30 Skyline driven and tuned by Masahiro Hasemi (the only Japanese driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix—albeit the non-championship Japanese GP in 1975).
Weighing in at 1000kgs and pushing somewhere near 600hp that came in with dollops of louder-than-hell turbo lag, flames, and tyre-smoke, this animal was the absolute fan-favorite. The side-exit exhaust continuously spat out massive flames on each downshift and upshift—try find a photo of this thing without a fiery-exhaust!—and as for that rear-wing, it was HUGE and riveted to the body almost as an afterthought.
The Hasemi Skyline would break traction in almost any gear, the power sudden and explosive. It was a menacing animal, and it will scare you, especially on a damp track; the power, when it comes in after a good old whine of a spool, goes from nothing to ‘Oh my God!’ in an instant.
The success in the Super Silhouette Series, along with the road DR30s, gave Nissan the confidence to bring back a legend.
Deciding which GT-R to bring to Project CARS 2
Japan in the mid-1980s was a living, breathing economic miracle. Over at Nissan, though, things were a little more austere. The Datsun rebranding had seen them lose market share abroad, and at home, their cars were not connecting with a flush-with-cash new reality. That’s the backdrop against which Nissan decided to bring back the GT-R brand which was a much-revered national treasure. In ’85, the R31 Skyline GT-R arrived after a 16 year hiatus. An anemic 210hp inline-6 with rear-wheel drive, it was a throwback to the past, and it flopped.
Nissan went back to the drawing board. Four years later, the GT-R was back, and to understand the cultural and automotive impact of the R32 Skyline would require a book. Or hundreds. It came with all-wheel-drive, all-wheel steering, reworked suspension front and rear, a 2.6-liter turbocharged inline-6 that spooled 276hp stock (aftermarket tuners such as Mine’s and HKS could up that to just south of 900hp!), and hit 100kmh in 5.6 seconds. The all-wheel drive remains a fixture of all GT-Rs to this day (aside from one, which is also in Project CARS 2).
The all-wheel drive system was named ATTESSA E-TS, and it was revolutionary in how it employed its electro-hydraulic clutch: whereas almost every other all-wheel drive system split torque front-to-rear depending on a car’s weight distribution, the GT-R remained rear-wheel driven (to avoid even a whisper of understeer) until the moment the rear-wheels lost traction. It proved enormously effective, winning the 24-Hours at Spa on its first attempt and going on to dominate the Japanese touring car series before heading off Down-under where it earned the moniker Godzilla from the Aussie press when it destroyed the all-dominant Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 (you can drive this Project CARS 2).
The R32 was an enormous success off-track, too, selling 44,000 units. But this isn’t the GT-R that will come in the box with Project CARS 2.
You see, in ’88, and armed with a decade’s worth of racing and winning under its belt, Nissan released a new GT-R—the one many purists feel is the last word in all things GT-R: The Nissan Skyline GT-R R34.
The Tuned and prepped SMS R34
The R34 was an elusive beast—you couldn’t find one in the US or mainland Europe due to emission standards—but its ceramic turbo inline-6 engine that was tunable to over 900hp became notorious all the same. It was the forbidden, just a dream for tuners, midnight racers, and anyone who fancied something non-German to tear up the backroads after-dark.
The R34 came with the all-wheel drive system intact, and added a multifunction LCD display (which was as cool as anything you’d find in ‘Knight Rider’). It was also setup at the Nürburgring where it held the track record for production cars until the Porsche 911 came along. The stock version came in with 276hp (officially) and a six-speed manual, but the ride was lightyears better than the R32—stiffer, lighter (including a carbon fibre rear diffuser) and shorter, it was an absolute world-beater in its class.
And that was stock.
But the reason it became so coveted is what you could do to it. And this is the spirit of the Project CARS 2 version.
The idea behind the ‘R34 SMS-R’ variant is largely due to the tuning popularity. Physics Lead at Slightly Mad Studios Casey Ringley explains the process. ‘We were hunting around at the beginning of Project CARS 2 development for an unmodified R34 GT-R to use as a reference model, and had real trouble finding one. The base car is so strong and willing to accept more power that pretty much everyone has done exactly that … aside from all sorts of other modifications. We thought it over and decided that a better representation of the car, as it really exists in the wild, would be one that was tuned and prepped for track day/time attack styles of action right from the start. A bigger turbo lets ours run up to 700hp through a 6-speed dog-box conversion, as that is a common upgrade on the real car. A mild aero kit in style of the NISMO Z-Tune adds some real downforce, and keeps the look close to the GT2/GT500 appearance of the model’s racing history. If you’re a purist, you can dial-down the turbo for stock boost (around 330hp, which is a more realistic number than the claim of only 276hp), but the chassis really comes alive at 500hp and up.’
The R34 in Project CARS 2 is SMS’s homage to JDM-Culture (in all its turbo and anti-leg machine-gun-firing flaming-exhaust glory), and to celebrate its rich history, iconic liveries from aftermarket companies such as RSR, HKS, Advan, and Takata are included with the R34.
A tuned R34 was one of motoring’s iconic phases in the late ’80s. Five minutes with this thing at the laser-scanned ’Ring, and you will understand why the last of the Skyline GT-Rs is Brian O’Conner’s true love. You, too, will come to love this car—and JDM Culture—deeply.
The R35 in Project CARS 2
The R35 arrived in 2007 and it’s significant for a host of reasons: the first GT-R to lose the Skyline name, the first to be exported to the US, the last GT-R released to this day, and the first of the modern generation to come without all-wheel steering. The engine was a lot bigger, too—a twin-turbo VR38DETT 3.8-liter V-6 hand-built by a chosen few of Nissan’s NISMO engineers, capable of pushing 480hp stock. The manual ’box was gone, too, replaced with a paddle-shifting six-speed dual-clutch.
The version in Project CARS 2 is the 2017 GT-R Nismo because, if you’re going to include a modern GT-R, the fastest ever created should be the one. With 600hp, 0-100 in less than 3 seconds, top speed just south of 200mph, this is your hypercar killing ride of choice, and it’s all yours for $176,685.
The GT-R Nismo is jam-packed with technology, and the grip has to be felt to be believed. The GT-R Nismo, on road tyres, lapped the ’Ring in 7:08.69s, the sixth fastest time ever recorded. Bang-for-buck, it simply doesn’t get any faster—unless, of course, you build a racing version.
The NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT3 in Project CARS 2
For 2017, the GT-R is FIA GT3-bound which means the GT3 in Project CARS 2 is the slightly detuned VR38DETT V6 twin-turbo pushing 500hp with six speed sequential manual gearbox, semi-automatic paddle shift and, in line with GT3 regs, rear-wheel drive only, making it the first GT-R to lose the all-wheel drive traction in three decades. Given the pedigree of all the racing GT-Rs that have come before it, assuming this car is an absolute beast is accurate. Losing the all-wheel drive is a miss, but chances are you won’t even notice because of its race-refined suspension featuring Öhlins TTX-dampers with four-way adjustment. This may well become your GT3 ride of your in Project CARS 2.
Finding the four GT-Rs that have defined this iconic brand was not easy, but here’s the real question—was your favorite included? Let us know in the comments.
Project CARS 2 will be released in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC