Even though the later R33 model offers several improvements, the Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R has firmly established itself as a JDM icon. However, the R32 isn’t the first car to bear the ‘Skyline GT-R’ name. That would be the ‘Hakosuka’ model of the early 70s. But in-between that car and the R32 came another Skyline, one that’s often skipped-over today: the ‘Kenmeri’ Nissan Skyline GT-R.
The Hakosuka sequel: the ‘Kenmeri’ C110 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Technically, the first Nissan Skyline GT-R wasn’t a Nissan originally, Hagerty explains. The model started out as the Prince Skyline, which tangled with Porsches in the ‘60s at the Japanese Grand Prix. It eventually won the 1966 race with the mid-engine R380 and impressed Nissan enough that it bought Prince outright.
That car became the 1969 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R sedan. It was later available as a coupe and referred-to by its internal code: KPGC10, Car and Driver explains. As for the ‘Hakosuka’ nickname, it’s a portmanteau of hako (‘boxy’) and suka (short for sukairain, the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Skyline,’ Forbes reports).
For the time, the ‘Hakosuka’ Nissan Skyline GT-R was a sporty car with genuine racing technology. It has a 2.0-liter straight-6 engine based on the R380’s engine, rated at 158 hp and 131 lb-ft, Evo reports. And it revs to 7000 RPM, Petrolicious reports, sending power to the rear wheels. As a result, the racing version was extremely successful, winning 52 races in its first three years, Hagerty reports. So, naturally, Nissan planned to deliver a sequel.
That sequel was the 1973 C110 Nissan Skyline GT-R, often called the ‘Kenmeri’ model. That name derives from a series of commercials made to promote it, Road & Track explains. The ads featured a Western-looking couple, Ken and Mary, Hemmings reports. Hence, ‘Kenmeri.’
Compared to the earlier model, the C110 Nissan Skyline GT-R is a bit more luxurious. And its styling owes more to American styling preferences, Hemmings reports. That’s because, reportedly, Nissan was considering selling the C110 model here.
And based on its specs, it likely would have done well.
The ‘Kenmeri’ C110 Nissan Skyline GT-R has race tech but never raced
Like the earlier Hakosuka, the ‘Kenmeri’ Nissan Skyline GT-R has a 2.0-liter straight-6 engine, BH Auction reports. In fact, it’s the same S20 engine, with the same horsepower and torque rating.
Just like in the Hakosuka, the C110 has a 5-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential. Plus, 4-wheel fully-independent suspension, Silodrome reports. But while the powertrain wasn’t upgraded, the rest of the car was.
The C110 Nissan Skyline GT-R was the first Japanese-market car to have 4-wheel disc brakes, Car and Driver reports. It also introduced a styling feature that remains a GT-R staple: the quad taillights. Plus, while the GT-R model was coupe-only, and wasn’t available as a sedan or wagon like other C110 models, it had optional A/C, CarThrottle reports.
The original Hakosuka is still an impressive car to drive, Hagerty reports. Not because it’s necessarily fast, but because of how visceral it is. The S20 engine rasps and roars, Forbes reports, and while the steering isn’t precise, it has a lot of feedback. And it corners well with minimal body roll, Evo reports.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to gauge the merits of the Kenmeri Nissan Skyline GT-R. That’s because, while it shares many of the Hakosuka’s mechanicals, it never actually got to race. Emissions regulations drove Nissan to shut down its racing program and cut many of its high-performance models, including the GT-R, Autoblog explains. That’s why there’s such a big gap between the C110 and the R32.
It’s one of the rarest and most valuable models
Because of those regulations, the Kenmeri Nissan Skyline GT-R is one of the rarest Skyline models, disregarding any limited-edition trims. Although Nissan offered the C110 until 1977, the Kenmeri Skyline GT-R is a 1973-only car. The company made just 197 examples. As a result, C110 GT-Rs are highly-valued and rare, even compared to Hakosukas.
According to Hagerty, a pristine Hakosuka can cost up to $190,000. And in August 2014, a 1972 model sent a record when it went for $242,000 at an RM Sotheby’s auction. But in January 2020, a Kenmeri model went for the equivalent of $455,830 at a BH Auction. And as of this writing, there’s a barn-find model going for roughly $337,300 on a Japanese auction site, The Drive reports.
It seems the Kenmeri might not be forgotten for much longer.
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