Why Is the Nissan GT-R Called ‘Godzilla?’

The Nissan GT-R is perhaps one of the most iconic cars in the automotive realm. Whether you have seen it in the “Fast and Furious” franchise or know it from your favorite racing video game, you’re probably familiar with this Japanese supercar. You’re also likely familiar with its nickname, “Godzilla.” But why is the GT-R called that?

The reason that the Nissan Skyline GT-R is called “Godzilla”

An R33 Nissan GT-R Skyline drives down a road.
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R | Getty Images

The Nissan GT-R made its initial debut in 1968 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Back then, the little two-door coupe had side mirrors on its hood and looked more like a mini Mustang than a GT-R. It was also powered by an S20 dual-overhead cam 2.0-liter inline-6 engine that made 160 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque. That may not sound very Godzilla-like, but it was the genesis of the fabled coupe and was impressive for the time.

The second generation came and went in 1973. Motor Authority reports that although the new iteration of the GT-R was highly-anticipated, the changing emissions standards made it hard for the second generation to thrive. As such, only 200 units were ever produced.

The third-generation Nissan GT-R was the one that earned the legendary nickname. About 16 years after the second generation car, the Japanese automaker revamped the GT-R. This time, it blessed it with the turbocharged 2.6-liter inline-six engine we know and love today and designated the chassis “R32.” It also pumped out 276 hp instead of 160 hp.

That increase in power led to a quarter-mile time that was a whopping three seconds faster than before. It also allowed the R32 GT-R to win a string of races, most notably the Japanese Touring Car Championship from 1990 to 1993. It also won races in Europe and Australia, which is what prompted one Australian magazine to call it “Godzilla” in a cover story.

Godzilla lives on

1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

From that point forward, the legend of the “Godzilla” Nissan GT-R lived on. The R33 continued to evolve the moniker as Nissan made it faster than before. The car’s torque rating was increased to 264 and 0-60 mph time was decreased to five seconds.

After that, the venerable R34 Skyline generation emerged in 1999. It came with the same power rating, but more torque, a stiffer chassis, and a new six-speed manual transmission. This chassis also gained a lot of notoriety in the years following, mainly thanks to its role in the “Fast and Furious” movies, which introduced the car to U.S. enthusiasts.

Is Godzilla’s soul still alive today?

Nissan GT-R (R35)
Nissan GT-R (R35) | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

The Nissan GT-R officially came to the U.S. in July of 2008 as the R35. This time, Nissan gave it a far more potent VR38DETT twin-turbocharged engine that produced 480 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual transmission was replaced by a six-speed dual-clutch unit, and the car was given a sophisticated suspension for near-physics-defying handling characteristics.

Nissan has improved the R35 GT-R ever since, and the car now produces up to 600 hp, has a top speed of 193 mph, and a 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds. Does Godzilla have a soul? We think so, albeit a high-tech one. Either way, the beast lives on, and now you know how it got its name.

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