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Godzilla and me: The story of the Nissan GT-R

1 year ago

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Gavin Green | Journalist


28 April 2023

Nice surprises are always welcome, and the biggest I have experienced in 40 years of testing cars was the Nissan Skyline GT-R I drove in the autumn of 1989. My expectations were low. After all, in 1989 Nissan in the UK meant Bluebirds and Sunnys and Maximas. The return-to-form Z car, the Z32-series 300ZX, was still a few months away. Plus, the Skyline GT-R used a regular Skyline bodyshell: it looked more Tokyo minicab than Japanese supercar.

Yet Car magazine’s Japanese editor Kevin Radley was raving about it. ‘Possibly the greatest road car ever to come from Japan,’ he said, after testing one on a track in Japan. Indeed, he liked it so much he immediately bought one. Kevin urged me to drive one, and even arranged for me to gatecrash a test session for Japanese journalists at the Nürburgring. (There was no UK press launch, for the R32 version of the GT-R was never officially sold in Europe.)

I nearly pulled out at the last minute and somewhat reluctantly boarded my flight to Cologne. It’s true that 1989 was indeed Japan’s sports car annus mirabilis, starring the Honda NSX, Mazda MX-5 and Skyline GT-R, three of the greatest drivers’ cars of all time, launched in a heady 12-month period. But when I flew to Germany, the only mould-breaking Japanese sports car I’d sampled was the NSX. And that was from Honda, a car maker well known for powering Senna in a McLaren rather than learners in Micras. (I would drive the MX-5 a few months later.)

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