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MOTOR celebrates 50 years of GT-R

By Dylan Campbell, 19 Aug 2019 Features

Nissan GT-R 50 years celebration MOTOR feature

Nissan's most important badge hits the big 5-0 and the R32 turns 30

The January 1969 issue of Modern Motor has quite the odour. Its fragile, thin, yellowing pages smell of an old library. Yet there on page 47, buried in the stench, is something small, yet important: the first appearance of GT-R in this hallowed tome.

Just one paragraph, and no image, is all the exciting new ‘Nissan Skyline 2000GT’ got in our two-page 1968 Tokyo Motor Show coverage. Yet that’s often the case when a legend is born – it’s just the same as any other similar car. And in our report we described Nissan’s sporting new four-door as “handsome”, briefly also mentioning its motorsport-derived straight-six engine.

Nissan couldn’t have known its new nameplate would still be in use 50 years later. Supposedly, there wasn’t much to the name itself, either. GT meant Gran Turismo, the thinking being an Italian name would sound more exotic and help sales. R stood, appropriately, for Racer. And so GT-R was born.

Themes of technology and motorsport intent were born at the same time. The original GT-R’s 2.0-litre straight-six was, with its twin camshafts and four valves per cylinder, cutting edge for 1969, the most advanced Japanese race engine of the time. There was a five-speed manual gearbox when four speeds was considered high-tech. The fully independent suspension all-round was pretty trick, too.

In Pictures: 50 years of the Skyline GT-R

Quite how it went from a wingless, four-door, rear-drive sedan to the fire-breathing, twin-turbo V6, all-wheel-drive coupe we know today is the objective of the next wekk. From “Hakosuka”, we very briefly give a nod to the ill-fated “Ken Mari”, the second GT-R. Then we fast-forward 16 years, as Nissan did, to the R32 GT-R, whose own 30th anniversary is August 21, 2019. 

In this special feature, we have retold the R32’s story and how it moved the performance car game on. We’ve outlined how no other country outside of Japan has a connection to GT-R like Australia does (up until 2007 we were one of just a handful of countries that officially sold the GT-R).

Classic MOTOR: R32 v R33 v R34 v R35


We’ve interviewed Fred Gibson, Mark Skaife and Paul Beranger, the architects of the R32’s local motorsport and road-going success. We’ve driven some of the most heroic GT-R models, like the R33 400R and Mine’s-tuned R34 – both on Aussie soil – and profiled JUN II, the world’s fastest street-legal Skyline GT-R. From Melbourne and Sydney, we then find ourselves in Tokyo, in the latest R35, hunting down the story of the Mid Night Club and the GT-R’s part in it.

This is not meant to be an encyclopaedic coverage of every little GT-R detail, but we’ve had a big go regardless! So heat up that miso soup, get the chopsticks correctly in hand, maybe crack a Kirin and get comfortable as we take a twin-turbocharged blast down Nissan GT-R memory (pit)lane.

GT-R WEEK: Day by day

Monday August 19: Welcome to GT-R Week

- We dive right into GT-R week with a new temporary website section

Tuesday Aug 20: In the beginning

- Box Fresh: The Hakosuka Skyline

- Kenmeri: What went wrong with GT-R V2?

Wednesday Aug 21: R32 GT-R turns 30

- R32 GT-R went on sale for Japan on this day in 1989

- The Godzilla Story retold

- How the R32 was nearly a mid-engine V6

- Kerry Packer was a secret R32 fanboy

Thursday Aug 22: MOTOR's GT-R edition on-sale

- Our September issue goes on sale to celebrate the big 5-0

- Mark Skaife on driving the Group A R32 and his own road car

- Fred Gibson explains why Australia's R32 racers were better

Friday Aug 23: The new GT-R

- We drive the 2020 Nissan R35 GT-R

- And the others, R32, R33, and R34

Saturday Aug 24: GT-R culture

- JUN II, the world's fastest street-legal GT-R: We jump in at the drags, then head to Maccas

- The GT-R videos that made it a millennial legend

Sunday Aug 25: What's next?

- R36, where are you? We dissect the possibilities of the the next-gen GT-R

- The unofficial reboot; How the R31 GTS-R was the spiritual GT-R comeback

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