The GT-R legend was born in 1969, when Nissan created a special, high-performance version of its range-topping Skyline sedan. That first Skyline GT-R (above) had a 2.0-liter DOHC engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission that drove the rear wheels. Output was 158 horsepower and 131 lb-ft of torque. A two-door hardtop was added in 1970. The first-generation GT-R, code-named C10, racked up 50 race wins in less than three years.
The second-generation Skyline GT-R, aka C110, used the same powertrain as its predecessor and was produced in a single body style — a two-door fastback — for just one model year, 1973. Nissan built only 197 C110s before rising oil prices killed the market for high-performance cars.
Sixteen years later, Nissan resurrected the GT-R nameplate, but this time on a very different Skyline. Code-named R32, this GT-R set the template with a twin-turbo, inline six-cylinder driving all four wheels. Other advanced features included four-wheel steering and disc brakes all around. The 2.6-liter straight-six produced 276 hp and 260 lb-ft, good for a 0-to-60-mph time as low as 4.9 seconds. The R32 GT-R would prove far more successful than the previous cars, selling 43,934 copies during its six-year production run and posting 29 straight touring-car race wins.
The follow-up R33 model appeared in 1995, with essentially the same mechanical layout, although Nissan for the first time offered an active limited-slip rear differential. The 2.6-liter had a bit more torque, and improved aerodynamics helped the car’s top speed climb significantly. The R33 GT-R set an unofficial Nürburgring lap time of less than 8 minutes.
The R34 model GT-R ran from 1999 to 2002. Although its running gear largely remained the same, this GT-R upped the tech factor with the introduction of an in-dash display that could monitor various performance stats.
Five long years after the departure of the R34, the still-going GT-R (R35) made its debut at the 2007 Tokyo auto show. The first to drop the Skyline name, this GT-R also broke with recent tradition by switching from a straight-six to a V-6 and by ditching four-wheel steering. Engine output, however, climbed massively to 473 hp and 434 lb-ft. The even better news for American car enthusiasts was that the R35 GT-R would come to the United States, which it did in July 2008.