Friday 23rd August 2019,

Nissan Skyline C10-series “Hakosuka” 1968 – 1972

The late 60s and early 70s really were a very fertile period for great-looking race cars. From the 911RSR to the BMW CSL Batmobile, there was a blissful convergence between the racing rules and function to create (arguably!) the best looking race cars ever made. And if you lived in Japan during that wonderful period, you would be lusting after a Skyline 2000GT-R.

Very much the poster child of the Japanese classic car hobby, the C10 Skyline series enjoys iconic status in its home country as an extraordinarily successful racer. It won its debut race by lapping the first Toyota, not once but twice before taking the chequered flag, and then going onto enjoy an unusually long reign at the top. From 1969 to 1971, Skylines would have an unbroken winning streak in Japan that almost stretched to 50 races. The mighty Nissan marketing machine didn’t allow this to go unnoticed in its home market, and so the works drivers were quickly dubbed “The Seven Samurai”, a big hoo-ha was made in the papers every few weeks about the Skyline’s inevitable steamrollering of its local rivals from Toyota, Mazda and Isuzu, and it was one of those rare instances where motorsport crossed over into the popular culture of the day.

When the C10 Skyline debuted in 1968, the Japanese car manufacturers were mostly focused on making prosaic economy cars that would do well in export markets, but Japan was also being swept by a wave of new-found consumer and cultural confidence. The Skyline was a stylish, premium 100mph sporty sedan that fitted into the mood of the times perfectly. It was an immediate success and enthusiasts would flock to the racetracks in the tens of thousands, to see the howling Skylines demolish its rivals for yet another round.

If the works race cars enjoyed rock-star status, it has to be said that the Skyline range began with more humble roots. The first of the C10 Skylines to be released in mid-1968 was a square-rigged four door saloon, which earned the series its nickname; Hakosuka (“Hako” being Japanese for box). But the range would eventually grow to encompass an estate as well as an attractive pillar-less coupe. The coupe would have much more flowing lines and wasn’t at all boxy, but by then the nickname had stuck and Hakosuka is the shorthand for this Skyline series to this day.

Base models would be motivated by 88 bhp 1.5 litre OHC fours, there was a 105 bhp 1.8 litre intermediate model, while the range-topping 2000GT-X would get a 130 bhp twin carbed 2.0 litre straight six. The chassis would follow the convention of the contemporary Datsun 510, with McPherson struts and disc brakes at the sharp end, and an independent rear setup however of (very BMW-esque) semi trailing arms. The four-cylinder base models would get a leaf-sprung live axle instead, however.

At the time, a great proportion of Japanese cars on the roads were sub 1000cc microcars, so by the standards of the day, the Skyline GT was considered to be a big-engined bad boy that would require a seasoned driver. Nissan didn’t argue with this perception at all, and period commercials would show Skylines competing in hillclimbs and rallies, with an appropriately lantern-jawed and stringback-wearing pilot behind the wheel of course (who then gets the girl at the finish line, naturally). It was marketed as a Man’s Car, back in the days when people were perhaps less offended by what that might have meant.

But for the works racers, Nissan aimed a little higher. The homologation specials were dubbed 2000GT-R, and they pulled out all the stops. The body was bespoke, and had an optional rear wing, cutaway rear fenders, and bolted on flared arches for bigger rubber. The engine was also bespoke, an 160 bhp twin cam, 2.0 litre straight six with four valves per cylinder, triple twin throat carbs, capacitor discharge electronic ignition, 100L long range fuel tank and a limited slip rear end. These features didn’t come cheaply, and the 2000GT-R was an exclusive proposition, limited to just over 2000 examples made and costing well over twice the GT model’s retail price. The works racers would add massive slicks, flared front arches and a front spoiler to create an iconic racing shape that is replicated to this day.

Driving Impressions

Given that C10 Skylines run the gamut of demure stock bodied and hub-capped sedans, to hardcore race replicas, it’s hard to sum up what a typical example might be like. But given that most survivors have been converted to 2000GT-R replicas, an uprated example would be a good place to start.

Walking up to a C10 Skyline, you’re always struck by its compact dimensions. Pictures of the race cars in period lead you to expect some hulking Trans Am style racer, but in reality it’s about the size of a modern VW Golf. And if you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a 240Z, then there’s a lot that you’ll find familiar with the Skyline. Even though there are some differences in hardware, there are many similarities in the meaty weight of the controls, to the way the torquey straight six feels and sounds, and there is an overall air of sturdy unburstability about the way it goes down the road.

This particular example is a cooking GT model, that has been uprated to 270 bhp with the suspension and brakes uprated to fast road spec. The engine tends to dominate proceedings with plenty of immediate grunt and a most pleasant Italian soundtrack from the trio of sidedraught Webers, the straight six feeling smooth and willing to spin out to 7000 rpm without complaint. Handling is very much like a Z, in that there is a little initial push which goes away as you pick up the power, and in long sweepers you can push it to the limits of its light understeer, while in slow corners, there is always enough grunt to tighten the line. The chassis layout of struts and semi-trailing arms served Nissan so well, that it was retained for the subsequent three generations of Skyline without much alteration, and even on bumpy roads, the Skyline is an enjoyably fast, easy and stable drive.

Attend a classic car event in Japan today, and you’ll notice that there will be a disproportionately high number of C10 Skylines. The C10s are well loved in Japan, and have enjoyed a surprisingly high survival rate (much better than the succeeding few generations of Skyline, actually) and most have been converted to become race replicas of some description. The interchangeability and tuneability of the Nissan straight sixes also mean that engine upgrades to 2.8 litres and 200+bhp are almost too easy, and that’s helped in keeping these old staggers useable, and the excellent spare parts support makes them a considerably easier restoration proposition than anything from Toyota or Mazda from the same era.

In Japan, the surviving few hundred 2000GT-Rs have always been investment grade classics, with six-figure selling prices being the minimum. If you really like the look of one, the great majority of C10 Skylines for sale are hot rods built on the six cylinder GT models, which are much more affordable, but still sought-after and relatively expensive.

But…they look great, have a remarkable motorsport provenance, are fast and feel sturdy enough to use everyday. Thousands of enthusiasts are still crazy over these things in Japan, and you might be too.

Nissan Skyline Hardtop 1968-1972
Body Type2+2 pillarless coupe/4 door sedan/estate
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
FrontSolid discs, twin piston calipers
Cargo VolumeStandard usable size
EngineG15 ("1500 Hardtop") OHC single carb
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1483 cc90.5 cui
Power71 Kw95 bhp6000 RPM
Torque127 Nm94 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight101 bhp/t
Top Speed160 km/h99 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph13.9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight945 kg2083 lb
EngineG18 ("1800 Hardtop") OHC single carb
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1815 cc110.8 cui
Power75 Kw100 bhp5600 RPM
Torque146 Nm108 ft. lb3600 RPM
Power/weight105 bhp/t
Top Speed165 km/h103 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph13.4 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight950 kg2094 lb
EngineL20 ("2000GT") OHC single carb
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement1998 cc121.9 cui
Power89 Kw120 bhp6000 RPM
Torque167 Nm123 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight111 bhp/t
Top Speed175 km/h109 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph10.2
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight1080 kg2381 lb
EngineL20 ("2000GT-X") OHC twin carb
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement1998 cc121.9 cui
Power97 Kw130 bhp6000 RPM
Torque172 Nm127 ft. lb4400 RPM
Power/weight119 bhp/t
Top Speed185 km/h115 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph9.9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight1095 kg2414 lb
EngineS20 ("2000GT-R") DOHC 24-valve triple carb
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement1989 cc121.4 cui
Power119 Kw160 bhp7000 RPM
Torque176 Nm130 ft. lb5600 RPM
Power/weight145 bhp/t
Top Speed200 km/h124 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph8.1 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox5 speed manual
Weight1100 kg2425 lb
GD Star Rating
Nissan Skyline C10-series "Hakosuka" 1968 - 1972, 8.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
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About Kevin San

I'm never more at home than when I have a spanner in my hand, and grease under the fingernails. I'm obsessed with classic Japanese cars and the stories they tell, and am always happy to chat about old J-tin.

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1 Comment

  1. joel berg 14. April 2016 at 7:21

    I have a 72 skyline gt 2000, and would love to know more about it. Have the import paperwork and currently registered in California, to the best of my partners and mine knowledge, it is ths only 4 cylinder Prince motor in the U.S. would love to know more. And yes it is running and driving

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