The R35.5-generation 2017 Nissan GT-R is a truly impressive piece of artillery in the supercar wars, but long before this week’s debut, Nissan was cooking up hot Skylines to win races and set new benchmarks for street car performance. To honor that heritage, the company brought five pristine examples to the New York show, from the ’69 Skyline 2000 GT-R to the 2002 R34 Skyline GT-R M Spec Nürburgring.
The 1969 Skyline 2000 GT-R is the true classic of the bunch, wearing its crisp lines and sleek late ’60s style with a minimalist, purposeful air. Packing a 2.0-liter S20 inline six-cylinder rated at 160 hp routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission, the first GT-R’s top speed was a relatively low 121 mph — but despite its early vintage and rear-drive design, it hinted at the technological test bed the GT-R would later become.
The 1973 Skyline 2000 GT-R gave up some of the sleek good looks of the original for a larger fastback body that traded ’60s style for ’70s funk. A short production run followed by a 16-year hiatus meant this was the last of the GT-Rs until the R32.
Fortunately the R32 was worth the wait. Debuting in 1989, the R32 was the first of the modern GT-Rs, pairing a twin-turbocharged 2.6-liter RB26DETT inline-six with ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive. Rated at 276 hp in production trim (like all Japanese performance cars of the era), the racing GT-R this homologation special was based on was undefeated in the All Japan Touring Car Championship.
The success of the R32 evolved into the even more capable R33, which expanded on its predecessors’ capabilities through a more rigid structure and greater technology, including an active limited-slip rear differential, better traction control, and better weight distribution. The result was a 21-second faster Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time, bringing it to 7:59. This is the actual car that set that sub-8-minute time – it’s a completely stock GT-R aside from the roll cage added for safety.
In 1999, the R34 generation brought the GT-R even farther into the high-tech realms. While the current GT-R has often caught flack from critics for its “video game-like” display of data on its cockpit screens, that’s actually a tradition born of the R34’s 5.8-inch display, which showed a live feed of seven different engine and performance parameters. This example is outfitted in M Spec Nürburgring trim, meaning it was tuned for a more supple ride to aid survival of the Nürburgring 24-hour race. Limited to just 1,000 units, it wears a special gold-painted head cover on its N1-spec RB26DETT engine.